Thursday, 6 May 2021

The History of Hop Growing in Ireland - Part 1: The 17th & 18th Century

Historically, hops were not grown in Ireland ...”

Or so says an online encyclopaedia entry on hops, and although some people know this was not true, the sentence is so often repeated in similar words that I thought it would be best to do a little more myth-busting to highlight that hops were grown in this country in various quantities and were certainly used in commercial brewing.

This is the first of a three-part series on the history, mentions and other snippets pertaining to hop growing in this country, where I will prove for once and for all that we have been growing hops in this country for probably the last 400 years at least in varying amounts and with various degrees of success, albeit not on the same scale as the bigger hop growing countries.

In this first article I will cover the 17th and 18th century and will be doing so in a chronological timeline which might help other who are interested in the subject or need to reference it – I only ask that you credit me and my website if you use any of my research.

So, where do we start – the first date I can find mentioning actual hops is from the first half of the 17th century…

 

1632 - A quote in an article in The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Volume 17 first published in 1830 and quoting an earlier source says that hops, along with other crops, were introduced to Ireland in 1632 'and grew very well.' Not exactly a verifiable source but it is certainly very conceivable that hops would have made there way here by this time, if not before.

1689 - The Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin from this year and published in 1895 states that 'Flemish hops by retail not to exceed eighteen pence per pound. And English and Irish hops not to exceed two shillings and three pence per pound.’ This price fixing exercise mentions the term Irish hops as distinct from Flemish or English ones, so is this an indicator of a reasonable crop being grown here? Perhaps not but it is a worthy reference...

1699 - A mention of ‘a duty on Irish Hops’ in this year in a version of The Continuation of Mr. Rapin's History of England from the Revolution to the Present Times by an N. Tindal and published in 1761. This duty could of course be covering the possibility of hops being grown here and exported but it certainly hints at there being a trade in Irish hops.

Pre-1727 - A comment from an English parliamentary discussion published in an English newspaper in 1886 says that 'In the reign of George I [1714-1727] a duty was imposed on Irish hops...' This might be confusion with an act passed in 1711 that prohibited the importation of hops into Ireland from anywhere except England but could equally refer to the above mentioned earlier duty. It is worth noting here that some of these references are looking back at events in the past so their accuracy must be questioned a little.

1729 - In his publication on the trade in this country John Carteret asks why we cultivate so little hops in Ireland given the huge quantity we import, and he states that we could raise good hops in the southern part of the country. He also says, 'that with some it has succeeded well', which would let us believe that there is a certain amount of production. He also claims that the issue of the lack of hop growing lies with the want of hop-poles as 'there are so few plantations or trees to be met with' that produce suitable hop-poles in Ireland.

1729 - In the same collection as above from that year Arthur Dobbs in his Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland makes similar comments. He mentions that hops have been 'tried in several more northern counties with tolerable success.' He also goes on in some detail regarding the benefits of growing hops for both trade and employment.

1733 - The Dublin Society published a book of instruction on hop cultivation. From the tone of this volume it appears that hops were not very common or plentiful here at this time, but certainly known. It also points out that hops were quite expensive to import and gives details of potential returns and instructions on raising poles for support, harvesting and packaging. (The images both top and bottom of this post are from this book.)

This is probably a good time to mention the Dublin Society who feature heavily in the coming years. It was founded in 1731 and its remit was to encourage new trade and enterprise and in doing so create more local industries to replace imported goods, and therefore create more employment here too. To aid in this it created what it termed ‘Premiums’ or rewards for those who achieved certain criteria of volume, application or excellence of certain Irish goods and produce. Its name was changed to the Royal Dublin Society in 1820, and most Irish people would be familiar with the acronym RDS.)

1736 - In the Dublin Society's Weekly Observations published in 1737 there is a letter - one of many - that mentions beer made with 'Irish Hops and Irish Malts.' The writer goes on to say that in this country 'we are not arrived to any great perfection in the culture and management of hops; nevertheless, the year 1736, gave us sufficient proof that in a good season we may be supply'd [sic] from among ourselves with that valuable commodity.' The writer then goes on to extol the virtues of said Irish hops by comparing them with Kentish and Worcester hops and finding them equal of better. (He goes on to discuss boiling times and bitterness of hops - and hop stalks!)

1737 - Another writer in the same publication as above gives extremely detailed directions on 'the raising of hops in red bogs' in two letters, where he had 'reared them with most success' for the previous 15 years. He appears to have sold the hops as he says that 'the profit has for many years fully answered my expense.' This may be the first mention of commercial reward for a crop of hops in Ireland. Those 'red bogs' - seemingly - could not be reclaimed or used like 'black bogs', so they were ideal for the venture. He also mentions that these 'Bog-Hops' (His name for them …) were less prone to 'swarms of insects which too often infest our upland hops', implying that hops were being grown on other sites in the country.

1740 - A newspaper article from 1963 states that hop growing in Ireland goes back to about 1740 and the main centres were Offaly, Laois, North Tipperary and Kilkenny but it gives no references and so must be treated with caution, as it was being reported more that 200 years after the time, although it could be based on the  Dublin Society reports that follow ...

1741 - A ‘Premium’ or reward is offered by the Dublin Society for '200lb weight of the best hops of Irish growth for that year’. - via The Gentleman's Magazine(This award appears to have started in at least 1740 from snippet sources elsewhere online ...)

1741 - In December of this year the members of the Dublin Society met in Market House Thomas Street in Dublin to examine hops and give out premiums for the best and second-best parcels of Irish-grown hops. There were 22 candidates, so I presume 22 actual growers. 12 were judged not quite up to the standard of the 10 best, and those 10 were further examined for ‘Colour, Smell and Feeling’. They awarded first place to Mr Humphry Jones of Mullinbro in Co. Kilkenny, near Waterford and the second to Edward Bolton of ‘Brasil’ (Brazil near Swords?) Co. Dublin. ‘The judges declared that Mr. Jones’s hops were as good as they ever saw brought from Kent.’ The total quantity supplied from all the entries was 45 cwt (Over 2,250 kg?) and apart from 2 parcels all the rest were as good or better than those imported. Three other growers were singled out as next best - Anthony Atkinson from King’s County (now Offaly), Mr. Lee of Wexford and Samuel Ealy [Ely?] of Ross in County Wexford.

(The above was from a nice reference I found of a reprinted report by the Dublin Society in a newspaper from January of 1742. This and the other reports certainly shows we had a decent geographical spread of hop farms of a reasonable size – perhaps – around parts the country.)

1742 - The following year Mr. Humphry Jones again had the best parcel of 2 cwt (2 hundredweight or approximately 100kg) of hops and received an award of 20 pounds. He had grown ’65 C. 6 lb’ of hops (Is the C in this case an abbreviation for Stone? I am not sure…) Most of his hops were sold to ‘brewers in Dublin’ and that they were ‘equal in all respects to any English or Irish Hops they had ever before made use of.’, which suggests that they were of good quality and that Irish hops had been used by commercial breweries before this time.

1743 - In an 1861 reprint of a report from this year Humphry Jones again took first prize, second was Samuel Ely, Ross, Co. Wexford and third was Mr. Sutton – no address given. The same report also gives an award to Thwaite’s brewery, Dublin for using ‘10 tons’ of Irish hops in their beers, William Bererton came second using '3 tons' in his brewery. More proof that Irish-grown hops were used in Irish beers in the 18th century.

1744 - The same reprint of above gives the award in this year to Samuel Ely and second place to Ephraim Dawson (no address given) – no sign of Mr. Jones!

c. 1746-1786 - A gentleman called George Stoney from 'Grayfort, near Borrosakean' wrote to the Dublin Society in 1786 saying he had a 'small plantation' of two acres of hops laid out 40 years previously by 'an Englishman' from which he gets two hundred weight of hops. He goes on to say, 'If planting hops were carried on to proper effect, Ireland might well supply itself, and I experimentally know, that, when well cured, we may have as good as England produces. I yearly have brewed for my house upwards of forty barrels of malt, with my own hops, and my beer keeps as well, and is as well flavoured, as it would be with English hops.' - via Transactions of the Dublin Society, Volume 2, Part 1- 1801

1748 - A snippet mention in The Scots Magazine about a person needing to buy up a great quantity of 'Irish hops' - not less than 4 ton.

1748 - Again the Dublin Society offered a premium ‘to the person who shall produce the best parcel of hops, not less than 200 weight, of the growth of 1748’ and also ‘to the person who shall buy up for sale, the greatest quantity of Irish hops of the growth of 1748, before May 15, 1749, not less than 4 tun. [sic] and finally ‘To the person who shall make use of the greatest quantity of ditto in brewing before June 1st 1749, not less that 3 tun, but no one person shall get both said premiums.’The Scots Magazine

1749 - A newspaper report states that Darius Drake of Camlin in Wexford won a reward from the Dublin Society for planting in 1747 'seven plantation acres and tree perches' with hops 'four to a hill, and 7538 hills at 8 feet distance from one another, and that they are in a thriving condition.' At the time this was alleged to be the greatest quantity of land given over to hop production by one person in the country. Mr. Drake produced poles for other growers in the country before deciding to grow his own hops - his own plantation required between '20 and 30,000' poles. It is claimed that many of his neighbours had large plantations also, just not large enough to win this 'premium' from the Dublin Society.

1749 - The premiums for the three best parcels of hops were awarded this year to Humphrey Jones yet again, William Hamond from Ross in Wexford and Thomas Sutton from Wexford. They had 'good colour, flavour and strength.’ It was mentioned that Mr. Sutton dried his hops with both Kilkenny (Castlecomer?) coal and with charcoal, and those dried with charcoal had much better flavour!

1756 - Newspaper announcement for the reward for the best 3 parcels of hops not less than 200 weight and grown in that year.

1757 - Three bags of hops produced for a competition by the Dublin Society, each weighing 2 cwt. The best was judged to be from a Mr. Nicholas Lanigan of Co. Kilkenny, second place went to a Mr. Christopher Antisel(?) of Tipperary, and the last parcel was unclaimed. The judges declared the first two parcels of hops equal to those imported from England.

1786 - There is a brief mention in an English newspaper of the bill to regulate the importation of hops from Ireland. This might not mean Irish grown hops of course - maybe just those passing through?!

1786 - Person named Bonner had a 4-acre hop yard in Naas according to an article called 'Ancient Naas and Neighbourhood’ by T.J. de Burgh written in 1893 and published in a Kildare newspaper that year.

1797 - The Dublin Society would be offering a premium for ‘beer brewed with Irish hops of the growth of the years 1796 and 1797, for private use or sale. The claims to be made by oath before 25th March 1797’ according to Walker's Hibernian Magazine or Compendium of the previous year.

So that finishes the 17th and 18th centuries, and we can see from all of these reports and mentions, and specifically those from the Dublin Society, that there was quite a decent amount of hops being grown in this country, particularly in the middle of the 18th century. The quantities were more than likely being dwarfed by the imports from elsewhere, but there were still some notable quantities and acreage. Also, I think it is safe to assume given some of the comments above that much of it was used in commercial Irish brewing.

Why mentions of hop growing in this country appear to have become rare towards the end of the century I am not sure – it is quite possible that I just haven’t come across the Dublin Society reports. It is possible - or perhaps probable - that it was either not commercially viable or that there were a number of poor years that affected the crop and disillusioned the farmers. It is certainly something I will revisit in the future, but next up will be what was happening with Irish hops in the 19th Century.

Liam

P.S. I have purposely omitted the actual sources of exact newspaper mentions as there are quite a few and it was pain-staking research, but if anyone needs them please email or DM me and I’ll send you on the details.

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Much of my newspaper research was with via The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk). 


Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Perry's of Rathdowney's N.D. Pale Ale - Clear Innovation

In 1900 Robert Perry & Son Brewery in Rathdowney in Co. Laois - then Queen's County - were advertising an ale that contained none of the usual sediment associated with bottle conditioned beers. It is claimed that they were the first brewery in Britain or Ireland to do so, but I have no proof apart from a comment behind a paywall - and seemingly there was another in 1899 (I can't confirm when Perry's started production.) according to this Zythophile article here.

It was a pale ale and served in clear glass, screw stoppered bottles if illustrations I've come across of said bottle are to be believed. Were these force carbonated in some way? I'm not sure but Sierra Nevada bottle/can-condition their Pale Ale and there is virtually no sediment from what I remember - perhaps they use a similar process?

Anyhow, certainly something of interest and definitely a first for this country - and once again the ubiquitous Charles Cameron gives is opinion ... 

Liam

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Newspaper image © The British Library Board - All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk from whom I have received permission to display here). 

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Greenmount's XXXX Strong Mild Ale

A short one ...

I've mentioned this before on Twitter, but here is a nice advertisement showing Greenmount Brewery in Dublin brewing a XXXX Strong Mild Ale in 1870, and below is a nice facsimile of their Pale Ale label that I found in the Perry's Brewery of Rathdowney files in the local history section of Portlaoise Library.

(I do have more information on the brewery including a write-up and description from 1867, which I'll get around to transcribing at some point!)

Liam

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Newspaper image © The British Library Board - All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk from whom I have received permission to display here). 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Pub Fiction: Plink ...

Plink

Plink

Plink

The drops fell rhythmically into the basin of water below.

‘Edward, put your hand to that tap will you please?’

‘Sorry, yeah. Now. There.’

Jacob sat on his bar stool, one foot resting on the brass rail that ran along the length of the counter. His elbow and forearm leaned on the sticky, cold dark marble and the back of his index finger dragged the condensation from his too-cold pint down into the soaked beermat. His other hand was gripping the armrest as he edged forward to get into as comfortable a position as he could. His mind got lost among the bubbles breaking in succession on the top of his pint, the long fringe of his dark hair hanging forward almost touching the rim of the glass. The scream of the coffee machine springing into action broke through his thoughts and he scrunched his eyes so tightly closed that when he opened them he saw dark stars falling onto the bar before vanishing into the black marble surface.

At the other end of the counter the barman, Edward, was creating some over-complicated boozy coffees for a too-loud man and woman who lounged drunkenly against the counter. They touched each other lightly when they spoke, the way new couples do, as if afraid that without these tactile, reassuring probes the other would seem less real or perhaps fade away, just becoming a pale shadow, and they would be left alone and incomplete. Edward placed the coffees on the bar in front of them, turned and wiped the top of the coffee machine from habit, before flicking his tea towel and shoving it into its usual resting place in the belt loop of his trousers. Some small motes of dust were caught in the low sunlight which angled through the huge windows that looked out on to the busy city street from two sides. The specks wandered lazily in the air towards Jacob before getting lost in the relative darkness that existed at his end of the bar.

Jacob returned to looking at the pint glass on the countertop, his finger had stopped halfway down the glass and tears of condensation had appeared either side of it running downward. He pulled his hand away and wiped them on his jeans, then shook his head and tried to focus on his book. He liked coming to this bar at this time of the day as it was quiet and very few people wandered in from the street, and certainly none that he knew. So apart from the interactions with the barman he could sit alone and think, or like today just try to read one of the more harmless volumes in his collection of science fiction books. Lately he had begun to reread some of those he was most familiar with, as there was a safety in the half-remembered plot that meant he did not have to focus too much on the actual words and could just let his eyes scan the storyline, filling in any small gaps in the plot that his brain had forgotten.

He glanced up from my book and Edward was looking at him with a sheepish grin, his broad flat face framed by a mass of fuzzy dark hair that appeared to have a life of its own, as it seemed to move independently at times, usually out of sync and slightly behind the rest of his body.

‘How’s that beer?’

‘I haven’t tasted it yet Edward.’

‘Oh right, yeah. Okay …’

It was clear that Edward was not going to move until he got an answer, so Jacob took a fair sip and carefully placed his pint back exactly in the centre of the coaster, twisting the glass so that the logo faced towards him.

‘Well?’

‘It’s grand Edward, nice.’

‘Ah good, it just went on there this morning, yeah.’

‘Mmm, hmm…’

Jacob focussed intently on the book and hoped that Edward would get the hint and leave him in peace. Edward was okay really. He worked in the bar every Saturday afternoon, so he was regular company for Jacob, but he did not seem to understand the concept of someone wanting to sit alone and just read in a pub, enjoying the solitude and peace. This was Jacob’s chance to recharge, unwind and get into the right frame of mind for another week of work that would quickly come back around on Monday. But Edward seemed to think it was his singular task to engage him in conversation on any subject he could think of to ‘cheer him up’ as he had said on his second week working here. Jacob had gone to pains to repeatedly explain to him that he did not need - or want - any cheering up and that he just wanted to drink his pint in solitude, apart from the company of the familiar characters in his book. Edward took this as a challenge and every week since, for the last four months, he would try to get him involved in a talk, and every week Jacob got slightly ruder and ruder in his responses, in his own mind at least.


One of the couple down the bar let out a shrill laugh that drowned out the jazz music playing in the background. Edward had managed to squeeze out of Jacob a few weeks ago that he liked this genre of music and now every Saturday afternoon he was greeted by Mingus, Monk or Davis, or another of his jazz heroes when he walked through the door. The drunken woman of the pair looked down the bar at Jacob and whispered something to her partner, causing him to look at Jacob and blurt out a laugh that he half-heartedly attempted to cover with his hand, before turning away with his shoulders shaking. Jacob shifted uncomfortably on his stool and felt his face go bright red, because he knew why they were laughing.

Jacob was fat. I was odd that he used to be quite comfortable with that word, and it was how he had always been described, or at least for as long as he could remember, and there were far worse words. As a child he had been christened ‘sausage’ by the other children in his class at school, based on a rotund character in a book they were reading on a wet miserable day that Jacob had never forgotten. One of the other children had shouted out that Jacob resembled the unlikely hero in the book size-wise, and everyone had laughed, including the teacher. Jacob had laughed too even when they all chanted his new name and pounded their tables until they teacher finally made them quieten down, as it seemed the best thing for him to do. He had laughed off all these types of names and comments ever since but lately he found himself getting embarrassed or angry if he heard or even perceived a comment about his weight. A lack of confidence had crept into his world and he seemed to always think the worst of people, as paranoia - often misplaced - seemed to be taking a bigger grip on his life than ever before. His age was not helping either, as now that he was in his forties his joints ached more than ever, and his back was almost constantly in pain. Jammed into a barstool and leaning on the bar at an odd angle, even if he looked wedged and stuck there, helped his physical discomfort – and this was the appearance that was causing amusement to the couple at the other end of the bar.

Edward glanced at Jacob and then looked down at the couple and stuck his jaw out. In his own way he was quite protective of his customers, so he strode down to the other end of bar and started to clear the not quite empty glass mugs away from the couple, much to their bemusement.

‘Now. There you go. Okay?’ He stood with his arms folded staring at them.

They looked at Edward and back down at Jacob, who pretended to read his book. Then without a word they got up and left, the man laughing again at some whispered comment just as they pushed through the door and staggered out onto the busy street. Edward washed the mugs at the basin in the sink, dried them and placed them back on the rack over the coffee machine. He dried his hands in the towel in the belt loop of his trousers and leaned on the bar staring out the long side window at the people doing some last-minute shopping prior to heading home for a night in front of the television, or before getting ready for a night back in the town.

Plink

Plink

Plink

Jacob winced.

‘Edward, the tap …’

Edward turned back around and tightened the tap again until the drip stopped.

‘Ah, sorry now. We must get someone to fix that.’

There was a rap at the window behind Jacob and he turned around to see the coffee drinking drunken woman wobble slightly before puffing out her cheeks and raising her arms by her sides, causing her coat to swell out. Jacob turned back to his pint and picked it up, taking a huge gulp, but he could still see her smirking at him in the old whiskey mirror that sat behind the bar, just before her partner pulled her away from the window. She batted him with the back of her hand and they staggered down the street, hailing a taxi as they went.

‘She was some piece of work Jacob, don’t mind her. Sure, isn’t it better to say there you are than where are you? Eh? Anyway, she’s no oil painting herself, is she now?’

Jacob did not look up. He stared at his pint, wishing he could get lost inside the glass again. To dive in like a cartoon character he half remembered from a television show from his childhood, but to never resurface, or if he did then to return as a skinnier version of his current self, or perhaps just one that was at least comfortable once more in their own appearance. He did not like feeling this way, it seemed alien to him, he was no longer the bullet-proof person he had been for many years since his childhood.


‘She’s a bitter feckin’ shrew is what she is!’

A woman’s voice had come from the top corner of the bar, out of sight of Jacob although she surely must have been there when he entered. She stood up, drained the last of her pint and banged it on the counter, clearly annoyed.

‘I know her, I used to go to school with her years back. She’s always been a bit of a stuck-up ignoramus. Her name is Catherine – she calls herself Cathy now – and that’s her new partner she’s trying to impress. She changes them quite often, always seeking perfection, not realising that she’s the feckin’ issue. She likes to make fun of others to make herself feel better about her own fractured, unhappy life.’

‘Another please Edward,’ she said, picking up the pint glass and jiggling it at him.

‘Sure Annie, what will it be this time? That’s Jacob there by the way …’

‘And what is Jacob drinking might I ask?’

‘That’s the new pale ale from the lads out by the bridge - he said it was grand or nice or something like that,’ replied Edward with a grin.

‘Wow, with a stunning review like that I’ll have to try one, thanks Edward’.

Jacob smiled at the comment and looked away.

She came around the bar and leaned against the corner as she waited for her drink. She was tall like Jacob but not quite so large, her long dark hair falling over the right side of her face like a now forgotten film star from the forties, causing her to grip it with her left hand and drag it back over her shoulder each time she raised her head, which she did now. He recalled seeing her here before, studying her phone intently as she sat in one of the front windows.

‘Ah, so you’re the Jacob who’s responsible for the decent music?’

Jacob glanced at Edward who did not look up from pulling the pint but just shrugged. ‘She asked me why I’d changed the music and I told her.’

‘Well thanks, it’s a big improvement on that hip-hop rubbish that Edward used to play.’

‘Hey!’

She laughed and looked at Jacob again as Edward placed the pint in front of her. She came closer and raised it to Jacob.

’Well, here’s to grand and nice beer.’

‘Cheers,’ said Jacob, raising his glass.

Just then the song changed, and a few unmistakeable opening notes drifted from the speakers.

‘Gotta love a little Brubeck,’ Annie and Jacob said absentmindedly and in unison.

They stared at each other.

Edward smiled and turned to the sink, pretending to wash up more glasses and cups.

‘Can I join you Jacob? I don’t want to impose if you’d rather be alone – I know what that’s like.’

‘No, that’s fine. In fact it would be great.’

Jacob closed his book and swivelled on his stool to face Annie, feeling more comfortable and at ease than he had in a long time.

Plink

Plink

Plink

‘Edward …’

‘Christ, okay. I know. The feckin’ tap...’

‘No.’

‘What then?’

‘Just … thanks.’


Liam

(All written content is my own and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Stoer's Irish Lager - Bavarian Beer from the 'Banks of the Dirty Dodder'

In late January of 1891 the licensed trade notes of The Sportsman - a London newspaper - carried the following snippet:
Next month the good burghers of Dublin will be sipping their own lager beer, a brewery having been started by Messrs. Stoer and Sons at Dartry on the banks of the dirty Dodder. Heretofore the Amstel Lager Beer Brewery held the Irish field pretty exclusively, but now the brewers of Amsterdam will have to tackle Pat on his own land.

Leaving aside the snide comments and latent racism, it is of interest that the news of an Irish brewed lager had made its way across the Irish Sea. This comment was probably taken from the following report from The Irish Times the 9th of January in that year, which is the first mention I've found regarding yet another chapter of Ireland's brewing history:

A new industry, capable of much development, has just been commenced in Dublin. During the present week Messrs. Stoer and Sons have started a Lager Beer Brewery at Dartry on the River Dodder, where they have been busy for the last four months rebuilding an old mill destroyed some ten years ago by fire. The premises have been fitted up with a view to meet the present demand for Lager beer in this country. A large water wheel, one of the largest, we believe, in the country, is attached to the brewery, and will be utilised to a considerable extent in working machinery. One of the special features claimed for the new beer will be its freedom from injurious clarifying ingredients which are so much used in many other beers and as the management have had large experience in Bavarian and American breweries they confidently expect to turn out a good article. As Lager beer takes some weeks to mature it will probably be the middle of February before the public are given an opportunity of sampling the new brew.

In April the same newspaper could give is a little more insight into the history of the owners and also the actual construction of the brewery itself. It was reported that a senior partner in the firm was a native of Bavaria and that this, 'the first brewery of its kind' in Ireland, occupied a 'highly desirable site on the outskirts of Upper Rathmines', as the proprietors wanted to get well away from the dust of the city to carry out their business in the 'pure air of that salubrious district.' A similar report was carried by the Dublin Daily Express on the 1st of May and from both of these write-ups a description of the brewery can be obtained.

The site itself consisted of a brewhouse with a mash tun and coppers 'of the newest and most improved patterns' in a 'large, square and lofty building.' An ice house adjoined this building with walls two and a half feet thick, which were packed in the centre with a 'non-conducting substance' for preserving the ice, and above this was a double-floored hop-room. Over this were the offices and above that again was a large twelve-windowed store that was used as a malt floor, store and grinding area. At the very top of this were the refrigerators for cooling the liquor, the report states. Much of the machinery and appliances were made in Ireland but some of equipment also came from Germany including a machine for filling the lager beer into 'casks and kegs' from Henry Stockheim, Manheim, Germany. The cellar that adjoined the kegging room was kept at about 36 degrees Fahrenheit and the beer was lagered in 300 gallon barrels. (As ever, we need to take care when assuming this was an exact description, as it may have been embellished or misreported.)

The writer of the piece had 'no reason to doubt that the [...] lager will hold its own in the Irish market with any beer [...] imported from Germany, Holland or elsewhere' and he goes on to say that it was made using the finest malt and hops without the addition of any ingredient to clarify or preserve the beer and that the result was 'a wholesome and nourishing drink'.

Newspaper advertisements from this period advertise it as an 'Irish Lager Beer' but also state perhaps a little contradictory sounding that it is a 'true German beer as consumed in Germany'. They were supplying hotels, grocers and wholesalers in the city and advertising quite heavily during this early period. By June of 1893 they were still advertising 'Stoer's Lager Beer' as being of home manufacture and as 'a good tonic' along with it being strong, refreshing and wholesome, and the purest drink on the market! In August of the same year John Bebe & Co. at 18 Thomas Street in the city was selling their Irish lager Beer at 1s 10d per dozen bottles, a little cheaper than its imported rivals Martlet, Amstel and Royal Pilsner that sold at 2s or 2s 2d per dozen bottles.

Unfortunately in that same month the brewery appears to be up for sale as a going concern - the previous week the company was still advertising its lager beer for sale - and being called 'The Dublin Lager Beer Brewery'. The tiny advertisement* in the back of the Irish Times goes on to say that:

... an enterprising party with capital would find it a very good investment. Half purchase money could remain, or would be taken in shares. For particulars apply to John Stoer, Hanover Quay, Dublin.

So what do we know about this John Stoer? 

John Michael Martin Stoer was born in 1824 in Bavaria. His father was called Martin - or John Martin perhaps - and was a brewer, perhaps around the Ansbach area where he was born. (It is possible he worked at the Hürner Brewery, as Martin married an Ursula Margaretha Hürner according to one ancestry website but this may be coincidental.) John junior was in business in London with his brothers before moving to Dublin some time after that partnership dissolved in 1860. His first wife Mary Gawler(?) died in 1873 and the sons referred to in the brewery name were Charles (Who worked in the Irish Times, which might explain the attention at its opening!) and Fredrick from that marriage, he also had a daughter Mary, and a son John who died young. He married again in 1874 to Emilie Hogan and had at least six more children with her. He was the manager of Bethel's Tar and Creosote Works at 6 & 7 Hanover Quay in 1885 and appears still had the same job in 1890 when Mary was born. My assumption is that he retained this job and operated the brewery with his sons as an ambitious side-line perhaps, with a manager and brewers installed from America and/or Germany as was mentioned in the early reports. (There was a John F. Stoer on the board of the Bergner & Engel Brewing Company of Philadelphia in the late 1800s and our John's other brother was a John Jacob Fredrich so I wonder is that another connection?) John Michael Martin Stoer died in 1907 at his home, Newgrove House, in Sandymount, Dublin in 1907 and is buried in Mount Jerome cemetery with his first wife and some of their children.

Curiously and somewhat morbidly, one of his nephews Hermann Stoer, a poet and son of another of John's Brothers - Charles Martin - killed himself and his wife in June of 1893, the facts of which were widely publicised in a number of newspapers both here and abroad. This dreadful event happened not long before he put the brewery up for sale, so I wonder did this tragedy have some affect on him, or was the sale just down to purely commercial reasons?

I am unsure of when the brewery actually ceased brewing but an Irish lager beer was still being offered for sale in advertisements in December 1894, so perhaps the brewery limped on for a while, as it appears no buyer or investor was found. It is also possible - and likely - that wholesalers were just clearing stock or not updating advertisements.

Where was the actual brewery situated? There is a clue in the description of the brewery I previously quoted from, where it says it is 'at the head of Upper Rathmines, immediately adjacent to the River Dodder.' which seems to point at this position, very close to the handsome Dartry Dye Works building from 1895, which ties in closely with our timeline too. Presumably this enterprise took over the site and perhaps used some of the buildings. Older Ordinance Survey maps show a mill on the river at this site too, which ties in with the comments above about it being renovated from a burned down mill. That mill was probably a three storey oil and colour mill owned by a Thomas Panter which burned down in December 1879 according to newspapers of that time.

As ever, I haven't succeeded in filling in all the blanks but at least it is another part of our brewing heritage that has a little more flesh on its bones - and we have a nice image of a lost label!

I may need to have an Irish lager this weekend...

Liam

*This I wouldn't have spotted except The Beer Nut Mentions it here. Thanks John!

(The facsimile of the label at the start of this post is one from a newspaper advertisement that I have cleaned up and enhanced as best I can...) 

As ever, if you can add to the story or spot any errors please let me know and I'll amend the post.

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Newspaper image © The British Library Board - All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk from whom I have received permission to display here). 

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Anderson's Irish Ale - A 'Brilliant & Tempting' Pale from Lough Gill Brewery in 1888

In March of 1888 a mention of the export of Anderson & Co.'s shipment of porter - 2 hogsheads and 7 barrels - in a trade report in The Freeman's Journal prompted a reporter in The Sligo Champion to comment on how he was surprised that a Sligo brewery were 'seeking fresh markets for their products across the "silver streak."' ( A new term for me for the Irish Sea ...) This in turn prompted a visit to the brewery and an interview with a Mr. Foskey the brewer at Anderson's about this new export market. Sadly this discussion didn't end with the big news of Sligo porter ending up in some far-flung destination via Liverpool or Bristol, instead the reason for the porter being shipped from Dublin came down to something more basic - shipping costs. It seems that it was cheaper to send the porter to the North Wall by train and from there send it via the City of Dublin Steam Packet Co.'s boats to ... Belfast!

While at the brewery the reporter took a chance for a tour and an inspection of the production, and the beers being brewed at that time. The brewery in 1881 consisted of a few steam pumps, a  mash tun and three copper boilers, a shallow 2,000 gallon cooler and a refrigerator unit for cooling the wort, from which it flowed into one of three 2,000 gallon fermentors where the yeast is added and where most of the fermentation took place before being transferred into 'large puncheons containing some 250 gallons each placed upon substantial 'stillions' or troughs, with which the ground floor cellar is filled' - this sounds suspiciously like a Burton Union System, but maybe not - before being racked into casks.

After the tour came the tasting and first up was the stout which 'as regards flavour and condition, to be able to hold its own against the most celebrated brands - not even excepting the most celebrated one itself.' More important than this for me and my never-ending quest to champion the historic Irish Pale Ale comes the next beer, where the writer of the piece goes on to say:

'But we were more than surprised when this was supplemented by one of the most brilliant and tempting looking glasses of pale ale it was ever our good luck to see. Irish pale ale for some reasons seems an anachronism, yet we do not hesitate to say that this sample was fit to go anywhere, and to hold its own against all comers. With such articles as these Messrs. Anderson may safely push as far afield as they desire. [...] We cordially hope that long before the close of the 19th [century] Lough Gill Ales & Stout may be drunk and appreciated in many scores of places where they are yet unknown.'

A glowing report for another Irish pale ale it seems, and worth noting that there wasn't a red ale in sight!

Here is some history for Anderson's brewery - aka 'Lough Gill Brewery' - from an extensive newspaper article from 1899 that accompanies the above image of the brewery, and other similar newspaper and book sources over a period of one hundred or so years. Keep in mind that paper never refused ink so some of this may be a little inaccurate but most is correct from what I can see and could research.

None of the newspaper or book mentions for Anderson's & Co. give an accurate start date but it was prior to 1828 and various advertisements mention 1710, 1721 and 1770, but some of these appear to be in connection with a Richard Anderson who was a brewer at Farmhill, where he appears to have operated on the site of a much older brewery. I'm not sure if they were related, but Anderson & Co. disavowed any connection with the brewery at Farmhill in one early newspaper advertisement. J & J Anderson moved into 'extensive premises close to the River Garvogue - on the north side - where they erected a new brewery' west of Bridge Street in 1849 having previously been brewing at Water Lane - this seems to have been an existing brewery operated by a Vernon Davys (Davis) and John Cochran(e) 'known as the Lough Gill Brewery', so they appear to have inherited the name from the previous owners. How much was rebuilt and how much was just renovated before the moved their equipment from their old brewery isn't clear but I believe they made substantial changes. (By the way, the brewery was almost destroyed by fire - twice - in 1869!)

Their ale was seemingly popular all over the north west of Ireland and 'no other ale was drank but Anderson's ale made in Lough Gill Brewery.' (I'm sure can appreciate that any of these newspaper articles need to be treated as advertisements - I'd imagine Bass and other might have trouble with that statement - although the commenter may have meant ale on draught as the next excerpt mentions.) The writer of the article states that 'at the time we speak of [1850s], ale on draught was the article principally consumed throughout Connaught. And the population found in ale manufactured in the Lough Gill Brewery, a wholesome pleasant liquor which quenched the thirst and proved an excellent aid to digestion at dinner or supper.' Porter and stout started to be more popular from the last quarter of the 19th century and Charles Anderson, who succeeded John Anderson, began expanding into the greater supply of that beverage as demand increased. Incidentally, their porter was 6.5% abv in 1883 according to a ubiquitous Charles Cameron report. In 1884 the brewery was improved to what we have seen in the above description with the equipment supplied by the firm of Llewellyn & James of Bristol.

The brewery was purchased by Messrs. E. J. Foley in 1893 and it commenced brewing again having been derelict for a number of years with more improvements and renovations being made - the image at the top of this article presumably show the brewery at this time. Brewing was under the supervision of Mr. H. Hulme Beaman who had worked for Bass in the past. It appears they were just brewing double and single stout by 1899, although late that year they did (perhaps very briefly) reintroduce an ale again, and they were producing a product called 'Double Crown Stout' in 1910. The brewery site also produced non-alcoholic hop bitters, soda water and other minerals but appears to have ceased actual brewing and just became bottlers some time before 1915.

So, sadly it doesn't appear that Anderson's Pale Ale or any version of it saw any part of the 20th century, getting lost to history until now ...

Liam

Brewery image Sligo Champion - Saturday 23rd September 1899 - Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Newspaper image © The British Library Board - All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk from whom I have received permission to display here). 

Monday, 1 March 2021

Strangman's 'Export' Ale - From Waterford to Christchurch

When we think of beer being exported from Ireland in the past we tend to only think of the strong stout porters that we exported to the West Indies, or those ubiquitous Guinness Stout advertisements that appear in papers from almost all corners of the world, but it is worth noting and highlighting that we also - unsurprisingly - had a trade in exported ale from a few Irish breweries, and quite recently I spotted the above advertisement for 'Strangman Irish Ale' in the Lyttelton Times published in Christchurch New Zealand on the 15th July 1863. (Davis, Strangman & Co. were a brewery based in Waterford City and you can read more about both the Strangman family and the brewery here in an excellent piece on the Waterford Whisky website, who are the company that currently occupies the property where the brewery was situated.)

A month later the following notice appeared in the same newspaper, now giving the brewery its full title and for 50 hogsheads of ale this time ... and what is of interest in this advertisement is the name of the reseller in New Zealand - a J. Strangman.


Following a little more research I found out that John Strangman was an agent and commission merchant for The Christchurch Company on Colombo Street North in the city. He arrived in Christchurch on a ship via Bristol in 1860 with his wife and family to set up a business there. His wife - a Marianne Fitzgerald from Tinnahinch in Carlow who he married in 1846 - and some of their children appear to have left again in 1862 on a ship bound for London but two sons at least remained an Augustus Fitzgerald and Gerald. John died in 1881 at the age of 72 and his death notice in the The Press (Christchurch) in that year states he was the son of another John Strangman from Summerland House in Waterford - which I am pretty certain cements that Waterford Strangman's connection to him without digging much deeper.

Davis, Strangman & Co. were a big brewery back in the 19th century with excellent trading connections and were practically situated on top of one of the largest ports in Ireland so it is not surprising to hear about something like this, but its still nice to see it in black and white. As to what type of ale it was it is hard to be certain, as advertisements in Ireland and elsewhere at this time or a little earlier just mention 'Waterford Ale', 'Sweet and Bitter Pale Ale' or superior ale, or equally vague mentions of beer, porter and brown stout.

I'd like to think that it was a nicely hopped, superior, Irish export pale ale - although it would be difficult to make a clever acronym from that description...

Liam

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Newspaper image © The British Library Board - All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk from whom I have received permission to display here).