A marvellous and stirring long-lost Scots ode to ale from the 18th century

Beer poetry is pretty much always rubbish. Books-full of fine prose have been written about beer, and a fair few excellent aley folk-songs still survive, but plain versifiers seem only to produce dull, plodding rhyming tedium on the subject of malt and hops. I was delighted, then, to stumble serendipitously (I was looking for examples… Read More A marvellous and stirring long-lost Scots ode to ale from the 18th century

Why Jonathan Swift said English porter was only fit for swine

In October 1736, Jonathan Swift, dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, and the foremost satirist of his age, published an attack on English porter, which was made, he said, of “the worst Malt, which is sent from all parts of the Country for that Use, and consequently nothing but Gin exceeds it for Badness.”… Read More Why Jonathan Swift said English porter was only fit for swine

Happy Fuggleversary, 150 years since the birth of a classic hop

Today, November 8, marks 150 years  since the Fuggle hop first went on sale, in a field in Paddock Wood, Kent, after Richard Fuggle and his brothers Jack and Harry had spent ten years propagating the variety until they had enough, 100,000 sets, to sell commercially. Their hop, found growing in a flower garden around… Read More Happy Fuggleversary, 150 years since the birth of a classic hop

How many cats can YOU spot in the brewery cellar?

This is a fascinating picture, and not just because of the cats: it depicts the sort of labour-intensive cellar practice that the Burton union system was invented in the 1830s to eliminate, though this engraving  dates from 1875. It illustrates the scene in the cellar at Thomas Aitken’s Victoria Parade brewery in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia,… Read More How many cats can YOU spot in the brewery cellar?

How one Irishman’s ginger beard helped launch an entirely bogus style of beer

If a mediumweight French brewery had not been looking for another beer to add to its portfolio in the early 1970s, and if the owner of a drinks distribution company in County Wexford had not also owned a striking ginger beard, we probably would not now have that totally fake beer style, Irish Red Ale.… Read More How one Irishman’s ginger beard helped launch an entirely bogus style of beer

Yes, London’s big brewers happily used Thames water to make beer from

The canard that brewers in London did not brew with water from the Thames because the river was, supposedly, full of sewage and dead dogs quacked up on Beer Twitter last week, so I thought it would be useful to run an extract from the (long-overdue) Great Porter History Book to try to squash this… Read More Yes, London’s big brewers happily used Thames water to make beer from

A Canadian visits four of London’s biggest porter breweries in the reign of William IV

Descriptions of London’s big porter breweries in the 19th century by an actual brewer are exceedingly rare. One of the few such reports was made by a young Canadian named William Helliwell, who visited four of the capital’s big breweries in the summer of 1832, and left his impressions in a diary. William’s father, Thomas… Read More A Canadian visits four of London’s biggest porter breweries in the reign of William IV

The one where I start an argument with a professor

It’s not necessarily a great idea to start arguing with an actual professor of history over matters historical when one is, let’s be frank, an amateur with no actual qualifications in the subject. Still, here we go: Richard Unger, distinguished scholar, professor of medieval history at the University of British Columbia, former president of the… Read More The one where I start an argument with a professor