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). 

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

What's in a Name? Irish Pub Signage and that 1872 Licensing Legislation...

The internet is for sure a wonderful resource for writers and researchers - it's full of books, articles and news that can be accessed at the click of a few keys. It's quite easy to lose yourself in an archive or scroll almost endlessly through social media posts relevant to your interests and hobbies, but it can also make the perpetuation of the most infamous of news - fake news - easier, quicker and more easily believed, as a so-called 'fact' can work it's way around the world at lightening speed, growing exponentially with each retweet or share.

This effect also causes issues in the world-within-a-world of beer, public house and brewing history, where a erroneous story published in one article or book gets repeated to the point where it becomes ingrained in the folklore of beer history - and we all know examples of this kind of  problem, as many have been well documented and exposed by others.

As an example of this issue from closer to home I'd like to delve into some comments I've spotted recently regarding as to how almost all Irish pubs came to have a family name emblazoned in big letters along their frontage. Here are some examples from books, articles and social media, which are often accompanied by questioning titles such as 'Why Irish pubs have family names over the doors?'

"I know the act of 1872 meant that pubs were forced to use their family names..."

"In 1872 it became a legal requirement to display the proprietor's name over the front door of the premises. The legacy of this is that often a pub today operates under a long-obsolete family name."

"... pub names in Ireland tend to bear the name of the proprietor, [...] a result of the requirement to do so  [in] the Licensing Act of 1872."

"Legislation passed in 1872 meant that it was a legal requirement for the owner of the premises to have their name over the front door. The legacy of this law has forward-rolled into something of a tradition, and a unique feature for Irish pubs around the world."

These examples could be read in different ways of course, but taken as a whole and within the context of where they appear, and combined with the images of pub fronts that accompany some of the articles it is quite easy to infer that they mean that Irish publicans after 1872 had to put their names big and bold on the front of their buildings because of this legislation, regardless of whether this was the implication of the wording of the writer in some cases.

This all seems to stem from Kevin Martin's excellent and must-read book 'Have ye no Homes to go to? - The History of the Irish Pub' where he states the following:

It became a legal requirement to display the proprietor’s name over the front door of the premises after legislation passed in 1872. The legacy of this law is often cited as one of the unique features of the Irish pub. Often, a public house operates under a long-obsolete family name – a signature feature in the boom of “Irish pubs” outside Ireland. This change in legislation limited the previous inventive array of names: in Dublin, The Sots Hole in Essex Street, The Wandering Jew in Castle Street, Three Candlesticks in King Street, House of Blazes in Aston Quay, The Blue Leg in High Street, The Holy Lamb in Cornmarket and The Golden Sugar Loaf in Abbey Street are all long since defunct. Some pubs, such as The Bleeding Horse and The Brazen Head, kept both a family name and original title.

It seems to be that this has been pulled out of context (in some cases repeated-but-twisted almost word for word) to stretch the author's meaning to fit a simplified narrative as to how we came to have pubs called McDaid's, Tully's, Kehoe's or whatever, when in fact it appears to just mean the smaller signs that you can see directly over doors (or windows as in the example at the top of this piece) and that you still occasionally see on older pubs, such as the example here below.

This image combined with the actual wording of the legislation here I think you can see what was actually meant, as compared to what is often touted as the reason for those bigger signs.

 Names of licensed persons to be affixed to premises.

11. Every licensed person shall cause to be painted or fixed, and shall keep painted or fixed on the premises in respect of which his license is granted, in a conspicuous place and in such form and manner as the [licensing justices] may from time to time direct, his name, with the addition after the name of the word “licensed,” and of words sufficient, in the opinion of the said [justices] to express the business for which his license has been granted, and in particular of words expressing whether the license authorises the sale of intoxicating liquor to be consumed on or off the premises only, as the case may be; and no person shall have any words or letters on his premises importing that he is authorised as a licensed person to sell any intoxicating liquor which he is not in fact duly authorised to sell. Every person who acts in contravention of the provisions of this section shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding for the first offence ten pounds, and not exceeding for the second and any subsequent offence twenty pounds.

Another error sometimes repeated is that this was just an piece of Irish legislation. It wasn't, the same passages is still in the British records, although the words 'Commissioners of Inland Revenue' was changed to 'Justices' in Ireland at a later date - 1874 I believe. We don't see the same 'forced' name changes over there when they had the same law, so I think there were other more complex reasons for the appearance of these name signs and I believe that this 'Irish Pub Look' comes about because of a number of factors.

Firstly, the older names such as 'The Yellow Dragon' and 'King's Arms' were predominately used for the coaching inns in this country, especially in the smaller towns that were dotted along the coach roads between major cities. Many of these names died out with the coming of the railroads which caused many inns to close or become repurposed, as can be witnessed in my home town - and I'd imagine many others too. That is probably why we see more of these types of names, versus surnamed properties, even to this day in the larger, busier towns and cities where these businesses survived, or on old rural established properties that operated as inns for longer than those in towns and that date back centuries.

Secondly, because of this change, what remained of course, along with public houses, were the spirit grocers. These were effectively food provision shops that also sold alcohol - or perhaps vice-versa - which was supposedly for drinking off of the premises, although this wasn't strictly enforced from what I've read! These businesses by and large didn't have these older names and signage and instead relied upon the the name of the proprietor when being discussed or mentioned, and it is these establishments that eventually and effectively morphed into many of the well-known the pubs we know today - so they simply never had other inn-like names to begin with.

Another reason for change probaly came because of pride, with the new owners of businesses wanting to put their names over their doors. In Britain many of the pubs were brewery owned - something that was quite limited in Ireland - so therefore the landlord or landlady could not - or would not - do the same, which might also go a certain way towards explaining the divergence in naming rituals.

Of course it is also more than possible that either the proprietors or those in charge of the enforcement misunderstood the legislation and believed that the bigger signs were needed, as per the line in the wording that says, ' ...such form and manner as the [licensing justices] may from time to time direct ...' and if one establishment did it then there may have been a copycat approach throughout an area. This is borne out in an write-up in the Ballinrobe Chronicle and Mayo Advertiser of the 19th of February 1876, where the licencing justices issued their own further directions and clarification to public houses of the, albeit with equally vague wording, where they direct that:

... the full name of every person person licenced to sell wine, spirits, beer, ale, or cider by retail, to be drunk or consumed on the I premises where sold, within the said County and Division, which is required by the said provisions to be painted or fixed on the premises in respect of which his license is granted: and also the following words to express the business for which his license has been granted - namely, "Licensed for the sale of wine, spirits and Beer for Consumption on the Premises," shall be in Roman Capital letters, or other distinct form of letters, not less than one inch in height and three quarters of an inch in breadth, In a back ground so different in colour as to be easily read by persons passing by, and be on the front over and close to the top of the principal door or entrance to his said premises, and as as to be distinctly seen by a person entering the said door or entrance.

The more you read the more that certain phrasing comes down to interpretation to a huge degree, perhaps giving a little credence to the belief that the name needed to be bigger than the licensing wording...

Lastly there was probably a degree of 'Anti-English' bias towards certain names with a strong royal or British connection that some of the more independence-minded owners didn't want associated with their businesses. So a simple way of showing their allegiance was ditching a name like 'The Red Duke' and calling the pub 'James P. Murphy' for example.

So that's my take on it - I believe that these reasons are why we ended up with surnamed pubs in Ireland, not one cause but a multitude. Perhaps - and probably - the legislation acted as a catalyst for change but only in that nameboards suddenly appeared on liquor sellers' storefronts, as they could  then achieve two things - advertise their business and be in line with that legislation in one fell swoop.

But they could also - and did in some cases - keep their old tavern or inn name and just put the required sign up over the door in small writing, there wasn't a need for this sudden change that appears to be implied by the above mentioned headlines and comments. Real proof that it wasn't 'forced' is how many pubs to this day still carry an old non-personal name not a family name, although in fairness in some cases they carry both.


Personally I'm a little sad we have lost this older way of naming pubs, which was based on a sign that those who could not read could identify. It gives me an unexplainable sense of nostalgia to be drinking in such places. In my home town we lost names like The Sheaf of Wheat, The Green Dragon, The Yellow Lion, The Harp, The Beehive and many more - although I can still drink in The Plough which is as far as I know the last of the drinking and sleeping establishments to still carry its pre-twentieth century name ... and its hanging sign.

Liam

1) I haven't chased up when this law was changed or removed, I don't think it ever was and I think is just ignored now and replaced with other checks and records.

2) I may have missed further legislation 'forcing' the use of surnames, I did put out a call on Twitter but didn't receive any additional information - yet!

(All written content, images 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. Images via Dublin City Library's Digital Repository)

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Cherry's Draught - An Irish Brewery's Bitter Ending?

Personally I don't remember 'The Great Bitter Widget War' that raged in the UK in 1994 and 1995, being separated from it by an actual interest and the expanse of water that is The Irish Sea, but it seems that Ireland played its part on at least one front - in the form of Cherry's Draught Bitter.

I was unaware of any of this until I came across a mention in the Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal of the 29th July 1994 about a new canning line in Dundalk county Louth, which mentions the following:

'The plant brews its own label [Macardles] along with Smithwicks Ale and Barley Wine and Cherrys Bitter for the UK market.'

Fair enough about the Macardles, Smithwicks Ale and Barley wine, and although it is interesting - but not surprising seeing as they were part of the Guinness's portfolio - to see the Smithwicks ales being brewed in Dundalk, what really caught my attention was the Cherry's Bitter.

A little more searching didn't throw up much more information but it seems that it was a widgetted bitter budget brand launched by Guinness into the UK market in January 1994 according to the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, which states:

'Tyneside's army of armchair drinkers are bracing themselves for the war of the widgets. A canned beer price war is about to come to a head after Guinness launched a new cheapie brew featuring the revolutionary little gadget. Cherry's Bitter is yet to hit the shelves but its arrival is near and the North east is licking its lips in anticipation.

Guinness claim their new ale - named after an historic family run brewery in Waterford Ireland - will be up to 20p a can cheaper than rival widget brews.

[...]

The new Cherry's beer has an ABV of 3.7 per cent and is described in taste as "refreshingly smooth"' 

So there you go, Cherry's - a brand and brewery swallowed up by Guinness, and with a ton of history behind it - became a cheap bitter to compete against the likes of John Smith's, Boddington's and others. Guinness had their own branded 'premium' draught bitter at 4.4% abv already on the market, but presumably wanted to fight the war on two fronts.

The use of 'Established in 1792'* is particularly galling as I'm sure that refers to the establishment of Strangman brewery in Waterford city that would certainly become a 'Cherry's' brewery in the 1950s under Guinness's direction - I wonder why they didn't brew it there to at least give a vague nod towards provenance? But then again, why would they when marketing comes before historical accuracy in the majority of breweries, a common problem even today and not just with the big companies...

But poor Cherry's - what a way to go.

Liam

Footnote: Cherry's did make one final appearance in this commemorative ale brewed in 2013 ...


* There were Cherry's brewing in Waterford city in the late 18th Century but I don't think this date refers to them...

(All written content, images 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.)