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

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