The strange story of Guinness’s brewery, Melbourne

Less than two years after Arthur Guinness took over the lease of the St James’s Gate brewery in Dublin, in May 1761, aged 37 or so, he married Olivia Whitmore, a young lady “of distinguished merit, with a real fortune of 2000l.” Olivia was 19, almost half her husband’s age. Her father William, a wealthy… Read More The strange story of Guinness’s brewery, Melbourne

So how much ale did a medieval peasant actually drink? Much, much less than you think

I had a run-in with a clown on Quora recently who was repeating the myth that medieval peasants never drank water, only ale. After I smacked him hard with actual statistics, strangely, he never came back. Pity, really, I’d have appreciated at least an apology. The usual argument for debunking the Great Medieval Water Myth… Read More So how much ale did a medieval peasant actually drink? Much, much less than you think

The brief and fashionable life of London Cooper, 1860-1915

If it wasn’t for the fact that Cooper, a mixture of porter and stout, is mentioned in one of the best-known antiquarian books on drink, John Bickerdyke’s The Curiosities of Ale and Beer, published in 1889 it might be as completely forgotten today as other mixed beers, such as brown-and-mild, or light-and-bitter. A mixture of… Read More The brief and fashionable life of London Cooper, 1860-1915

Why am I so much more popular in Brazil than I am in Britain?

It’s not that they’re chanting my name in the favelas of Rio, or painting my portrait on walls in Salvador. But I don’t get dozens of people at a time in Britain queueing up to get me to sign a copy of my latest book, and have a selfie taken with me, Britons by the… Read More Why am I so much more popular in Brazil than I am in Britain?

Traditional brewing in Myanmar: an amazing heritage

There are many dozens – probably hundreds – of brewing traditions around the world, from the umqombothi of South Africa to the tiswin of the Apache, the kveik beers of Western Norway to the chicha of Latin America. Most are pretty much unknown to the barley beer drinkers of the Western European tradition. Few are… Read More Traditional brewing in Myanmar: an amazing heritage

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