MEETING HELD AT THE CALEDONIAN STATION HOTEL,
Edinburgh, on Friday, March 5th, 1909
Mr. John S. Ford in the Chair.
The following paper was read and discussed:—
A Few Extracts from Old Books on Brewing and the Excise.
by Wm. Schofield
In all ages and amongst all nations methods have been known of exciting certain pleasurable sensations of the mind, derived from artificial sources. These methods are so various, and in many cases so obvious, that it is not surprising, when the effects from them were once known and experienced, the mode of producing them should be treasured up and handed down to posterity. Civilisation might be blamed for this knowledge were it not for the fact that most savage nations have been found in possession of the secret. Numerous means have been discovered and resorted to of accomplishing these objects, the diversity originating in the circumstances of the case. In some countries, the grape and other fruits afforded an easy and obvious method of attaining mental stimulation to any required degree, and in other parts a wine made from grain answered the purpose. The plant called wild hemp is manufactured throughout Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Hindustan into a substance called “bang,” and acts as a powerful and peculiar stimulant.
In some of the South Sea Islands the natives prepare an intoxicating liquor from a pernicious root called “kava,” which is a species of pepper. In the islands of Java and Sava the natives make a wine called “tuac” from the fan palm; and in parts of India a spirit is prepared from the liquor of coconuts. In Persia the juice of peaches is the basis of an alcoholic drink, as it is in South America; but by far the greater part of the latter’s ardent spirit is procured from the juice of the sugar maple tree, which is fermented and distilled. The Chinese distil a spirit from millet and rice. They also make a beer from rice, in which they sometimes infuse the seeds of the thorn-apple. Other intoxicating liquors are obtained from mares’ or cows’ milk, Indian corn, rhododendron, and various grains and seeds.
The invention of an intoxicating liquor from corn has been attributed to the Egyptian deities, Isis and Osiris. It is said that Bacchus (whom the Greeks identified with Osiris) having discovered the management of the grape and the properties of wine, taught mankind how to make a drink from barley, called by some “Zythura,” not much inferior to wine in flavour and fragrance. Osiris is said to have reigned about 2180 B.C., so that beer would therefore be an invention about 4000 years old, it being understood to mean un-hopped beer or barley wine ; hopped beer is a modern improvement.
A Professor Donovan (Professor of Chemistry to the Company of Apothecaries in Ireland in 1830) attributes the word “beer” to the Hebrews, whose language he says modified itself into the Phoenician and that again into the Saxon. The colouring given by the ancient Saxon to the languages of Europe is perceptible in many words as in the English “beer,” the French ” bière,” and the Italian “birra.”
It is only in an indirect way that we can learn anything concerning the quality of corn wines of antiquity, because we know nothing of the mode of preparation. The chief fact of which we are ignorant is whether or not any ferment was made use of. Without yeast the slight fermentation which takes place spontaneously in corn liquor would afford a poor, vapid, acidulous drink with very little exhilarating power, and to our taste would prove not a little disgusting. Yeast was certainly known to the ancients, for Pliny says, “The frothy head of all these liquors is used by ladies for beautifying the skin of their faces,” but he does not say it was used for brewing. It is believed that the barley (whatever state it was in) was bruised, then malted and ground, an infusion was made with water, then perhaps yeast (certainly known at that time) was added, after the proper bitter had been communicated, and the fermentation then proceeded. This is practically the same process as is gone through today.
A Dr. Thompson says that “In the time of Tacitus, whose treatise on the manners of the Germans was written about the end of the first century of the Christian era, beer was the common drink of the Germans.” He also says that (according to Mungo Park) in the interior of Africa beer is made from the seeds of the Holcus spicatus (the bearded wall hardy). Pliny mentions that beer was employed in Spain under the name of “coelia,” and in Gaul under the name of “Cerevesia.” This word “Cerevesia” evidently takes its name from Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, or corn in particular. Plautus calls beer “Cerealis liquor,” that is, liquor used at the harvest feast in honour of that goddess; and we know that the modern harvester, though he has probably never heard of the goddess Ceres, is favourably disposed towards the perpetuation of this ancient custom. Authors write that when the Romans were in Britain—though some maintain that Germany is meant—they found there a species of wine made from barley called “baer,” which in excellence of flavour and quality surpassed all the wines of Rome. A record of brewing in the fifth century says that the grain was steeped in water, made to germinate, and afterwards dried and ground; after which it was infused in a certain quantity of water and then fermentcd; when it became a pleasant liquor—warming, strengthening, and intoxicating, and that it was commonly made from barley, though sometimes from wheat, oats, or millet.
During the Roman rule of Britain, ale or beer became the common drink of all the British nation, as it had long been of all the Celtic people on the continent. Ale is therefore a beverage of great antiquity in Great Britain and Ireland, but we must remember that until the sixteenth century it contained no hops. It is said that St. Finnian of Clonard, who died a.d. 552, “was distinguished not only for his extra-ordinary learning, but for his sanctity and austere mode of living. His usual food was bread and herbs—his drink water, and on festival days a little fish and a cup of beer or whey.”
The Saxons drank mead and oellc as their common beverages, using wine only as a medicine or a luxury. From this word “oelle” Dr. Johnson derives the more modern ale, which is still pronounced “yell” or “yall” in the northern counties, where many relics of Saxon manners, customs, and language remain.
Ina, who was King of Wessex about the year 689, names the beverage “oelle” in his laws, which restrict the use of it; and by a law laid down by King Edgar in 975, the guests and huscarles were limited to half a pint at each draught. Tankards were made to hold two quarts, each having pegs fixed one above another at proper distances dividing the measure into eight equal portions, and certain punishment was inflicted on anyone who drank beyond his peg. Ale was one of the articles of a royal banquet provided for Edward the Confessor about the middle of the eleventh century. Till as recently as the reign of Edward III women were the brewers; and if a man attempted to bake, brew, or dye, he was considered an innovator. Chester ale seems to have had a great repute, for the Danes decreed that any inhabitant of the city brewing bad ale should be placed in a ducking chair and plunged in a pool of muddy water, or should forfeit four shillings. Fortunately the modern brewer need never fear such a punishment, as—so we are told—there is no bad beer nowadays. About the year 1050 the best ale cost 8d. per imperial gallon of the present day. This was spiced ale, and was double the price of the common ale. Ale was spiced for the sake of flavour as well as for preservation, and cloves were said to prevent the souring of the liquor. In 1251, in the reign of Henry III, the price of ale was regulated by that of corn and wine, and the women who brewed it sold two gallons of ale for a penny in cities, and three or four gallons for the same price in the country. I find the value of a penny in those days was 1s. 8d. of our present money, so that ale would then cost about 10d. per gallon. We read that a certain Bishop of Ely, in the reign of Henry I, included ale amongst his beverages, and that in the reign of Henry II the richer subjects regaled on wine and mead, but the poorer classes drank cider and ale. Later, the old British word “beer” was revived, for we find in the reign of Edward I, 1289, amongst the charges for a man of rank travelling from Oxford to Canterbury with six attendants, “6d. for beer and ½d. for apples,” and the next day, being Sunday, there is a charge of “12d. for beer for my lord at Westminster, when he held a breakfast there for knights, clerks, and esquires, besides two gallons of beer for the boys, 2d.”
Old writers enumerate many sorts of ale, on whose variety and richness our ancestors prided themselves. Amongst others we find Cock, Stopney, Stitchback, Hall, Derby, Northdown, Nottingham, Sandbach, Betony, Scurvygrass, Sage, college, china, Butler’s London, Windsor, Welsh, Wurtenberg, etc. The London porter of a later date was particularly famous and esteemed a luxury in regions as diverse as the banks of the Delaware and the Ganges. In the time of Richard II, malt liquor was, drunk at breakfast, and this custom became common among the gentry. The monasteries grew into great note for their superior brewing, as did the colleges after them; the men becoming brewers, having taken pattern from King Richard’s 2000 cooks. In an inquisitio post mortem into the goods left by Lawrence Le Long, brewer, of the parish of St. Martin’s, Ludgate, in 1335, we find that the plant of the departed consisted of 2 leaden vessels, 1 leaden cistern, 1 leaden tap trough, 1 old chest, 1 mash vat value 1s. 6d., 1 finings vat value 6d. 1 trestle for barrels value 12d., 3 sets of hand mills vulue 4s., 1 piece of lead pipe value 2d., 1 tun and 1½ tun value 8d., 1 ale vat value 1s. 6d., 5 kemelynes value 10d., 1 clensing buche value 4d., and 1 ale giste value 2d. The brewhouse and 3 shops were valued at 40s. net after deducting 22s. 6d. quit rent due to the Church of St. Paul and 13s. quit rent due to the abbot of Westminster. The stock of a city brewer at this time was therefore humble and his working expenses and rent were correspondent, yet Mother Church took her toll from him in a fairly bountiful manner.
In 1421, one William Payne of the “Swan” in Threadneedle Street, London, refused to send a barrel of ale to Henry V (then in France), and report says that in the following year the celebrated Whittington (who had been Lord Mayor in the last year of Richard’s reign) informed against the Brewers’ Company for selling their ale too dear and had them fined £20. From this time ale conners were appointed to inspect the measures. In the reign of Henry VI (1437) the Brewers’ Company had grown of sufficient consequence to be incorporated under the title of “The Masters and Keepers or Wardens and Commonalty of the Mistery or Art of Brewers of the City of London.” In the reign of Edward IV, at the installation of Archbishop Neville of York, among other items enumerated are 300 tuns of ale, and we understand it was provided regularly on the King’s breakfast table. He dined at 10 o’clock, and wine and ale were handed to the guests in goblets of pewter, wood, or horn; for supper, beer and spiced wine were served and there appears to have been a difference between the ale used for breakfast and the beer served at supper.
It is therefore evident that ales and wines wore as certainly a part of a breakfast in those days as tea and coffee are at present—even for ladies. The Earl of Northumberland, in the reign of Henry VIII, had a household of 200 people, and each was allowed a quart of beer for breakfast and another for dinner. The Earl lived in the following manner. On feast days through the year breakfast for my lord and lady was a loaf of bread, two manchets, a quart of beer, a quart of wine, half a chine of mutton or a chine of beef. On meagre days no meat appeared in the menu, and during Lent fish was substituted, the only unvarying items being the beer and wine. It would be difficult to imagine a modern countess having a pot of beer on her breakfast tray, but in those days there was no substitute.
Brayley in his Londiniania, 4, tells us that in the Churchwarden’s account of All Hallow’s Staining, in London, in which the Ironmonger’s Hall stood, is the following entry made in 1494:—”Paid for a Kylcherkyn of good ale, wyche was drunkyn in Irynmongers’ Hall, all charges born, 12s. 2d.” The same author has also discovered that in a bill of fare of the Salters’ Company, dated 1506, is the item “one kilderkin of ale 2s. 3d.” I cannot find any reason for this great difference in price.
There must have been a number of breweries in 1422, else Whittington could not have turned informer against the Brewers’ Company.
In the year 1524 Alderman George Monoux was elected Mayor of London, but he neglected to appear and was fined £1000. In the following year, on his petition, alleging great age and feebleness and offering to give up a brewhouse, adjoining to the Bridgehouse in Southwark, in consideration of being discharged from office, he had the decree revoked. This notable brewhouse, the “Anchor,” at London Bridge end, was still standing in 1850, and had therefore been in existence for more than 320 years.
In the grand carnival when Robert, Earl of Dudley, entertained the queen at Kenilworth Castle, in 1575, the ale consumed was 365 hhds., the value of which, according to Holingshed, was 5 galls, for a 1s.; and in 1586, when the Queen of Scots was in Tutbury Castle, the conspirator Babington, of Dethick, contrived to convey letters to her, the messenger being a brewer who supplied the house with ale. At that time, Derby, whence the brewer probably came, had acquired a celebrity for its ale, for Sir Lionel Rash, in one of Greene’s comedies, says, “I have sent my daughter this morning as far as Pimlico for a draught of Derby ale, that it may fetch a colour into her cheeks,” a proof that this beverage was accounted medicinal.
Before the Reformation money was obtained for repairing churches and for charitable purposes by a feast at Whitsuntide called Church Ale. The wardens brewed the ale and the countryside joined in the festivities—music, bull-baiting, dice, and dancing. The feasts were originally held in the church and afterwards in tents in the churchyard, but the practice died out after the Reformation.
Hops were evidently known at an early date, as Pliny describes the plant as being reared in Germany and used as a pickle or preservative in beer.
They were, however, first introduced into England as an article of commerce in the reign of Henry VIII, 1524 (some say 1530), from the Netherlands, and after their introduction the quality of all English malt liquors was much improved and they became more extensively used.
Hops are first mentioned in the English statute book in the year 1552, and by an Act of Parliament, in 1603, it appears that they were then produced in abundance in this country. Such was the demand for the hop when first introduced that it was feared that its use in beer would shorten the days and ruin the posterity of the consumers; so an Act of Parliament was shortly afterwards passed to prevent its further use, but the stricter the prohibition the greater was the desire to use it, and in 1643 an excise was put on beer, and brewers were forbidden to use any bitter or drug except hops.
Lance, in his Hop Farmer, published in 1838, gives the following extract from a curious old book by Reynolde Scot, dated 1578: “The hoppes shall be wholesome for the body and pleasanter of verdure and taste than such as be disorderly handled. You cannot make above 8 or 9 gallons of indifferent ale out of 1 bushel of malt, yet you may with the assistance of the hoppe draw 18 or 20 gallons of very good beere; neither is the hoppe more profitable to enlarge the quantity of your drinke than necessary to prolong the continuance thereof, for if your ale may endure a fortnight, your beere, through the benefit of the hoppe, shall continue a moneth.”
Lance also speaks of a dealer being convicted in 1795 and fined for scenting or adding drugs to his hops.
I find that in the year 1711 a duty was imposed on hops of 1d. per 1 lb. This rose in 1801 to 2½d., but in 1806 it was reduced to 2d., at which figure it remained till 1840. It fell in 1860 to 1½ d., and was repealed in 1862.
The highest price I can find recorded is £31 per cwt, which was given in 1818. This may justly be called a fancy price and quite overshadows those obtained in that expensive year 1904, when the average was £9 12s.
The first attempt to introduce the Excise in England was in 1626 by a commission under the Great Seal, but Parliament having remonstrated against the measure, the Commission was cancelled and when the duty was again temporarily imposed, it was continued only from month to month and was collected with the greatest difficulty. Definite Excise duties were first levied in 1643, when the duty was 1s. per barrel on 8s. ale, which was paid by the first buyer. Alehouse keepers who both brewed and sold it paid 2s. on ale and 6d. on beer per barrel.
In a few years, when the public had become accustomed to these duties, the Excise was found too productive a source of revenue to be again relinquished and in 1649 the Parliament declared that “the impost of excise was the most easy and indifferent levy that could be laid on the people.” This declaration ill agrees with Sir Wm. Blackstone’s statement “that from its first origin to the present time the very name of the excise has been odious to the people of England.”
In the year 1660 an act was passed which is usually considered the foundation of the present Excise Laws. This act granted to King Charles II during his life certain rates of excise on beer, ale, and other liquors, and obliged all common brewers to make entries weekly under a penalty of £5. An innkeeper brewing for sale by retail was under the same obligation to make entry and subject to the same fine; and a victualler or other retailer was subject to a 205. fine. The duty had to be paid by tho brewer within one week after entry. The Commissioners of Excise were empowered to appoint gaugers who could enter alone by day (or at night in the presence of a constable), any brewhouse, distil-house, and all places kept by any brewer, innkeeper, victualler, or other retailer, to gauge their vessels and take account of their liquors; 36 gallons of beer and 32 gallons of ale each equaled 1 barrel within the London district. To encourage brewers to pay promptly, waste and leakage were allowed, 3 barrels on every 23 of strong or small beer and 2 on every 22 of ale. In 1663 it was made law that no one could erect any vessel in the brewhouse without first giving notice under a penalty of a fine of £50. No brewer was allowed, without giving notice to the officer, to deliver drink to his customers except between the hours of 3 in the morning and 9 at night, from March 25th to September 29th, and in winter from 5 in the morning to 7 at night under a penalty of 20s. per barrel. At this time colleges and halls in universities who brewed beer and ale for their own members only were not liable to the duty of Excise.
In 1670 the mixing of beers was made an offence and in 1688 it was ordered that 34 gallons of beer or ale constituted a barrel in the country. The allowance for filling, waste, and leakage was 2½ in 23 barrels. After September 1st, in 1689, any brewer using molasses, coarse sugar, honey, or extract of sugar was liable to a fine of £100. In 1696 it was made lawful for the ganger to taste drink upon any brewer’s dray and he could also, in the presence of a constable, break up any ground to search for any private back, tun, vessel, or pipe in any brewer’s premises, as great frauds had been committed upon the Revenue. The penalty on the brewer, if guilty, was £100.
Four years later (1700), it was declared that innkeepers, alehouse keepers, and victuallers, should sell their drink by the ale quart, according to the standard kept in His Majesty’s Exchequer, and that their selling ale and beer in uncertain measure, less than the standard, prevented the consumption of malted corn and lessened the revenue of Excise and all measures had therefore to be stamped. Present day objections to the “long pull” present a striking contrast to this old time regulation.
In 1701 the use of sugar, honey, foreign grains, guinea pepper, and essentia bine having become an evil practice, they were again forbidden, and in 1710 it having been found by experience that hops used in the making of malt drinks were more wholesome than other bitter ingredient, the use of broom and wormwood was prohibited.
In 1750 the Excise office hours (which were from 9 to 12 in the morning and 2 to 5 in the afternoon), having been found inconvenient and attended with extraordinary expense to the subject, were altered to 8 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon, and no longer.
The duty on small beer in 1760 was 1s. 4d. per barrel, and on strong beer 5s. This was an increase of 4s. per barrel on the first duty levied in 1643, and it appears as though the Government even in those days, considered that “The Trade” could stand almost any degree of taxation.
It was observed in 1736 that the constant and excessive use of gin and other spirituous liquors amongst the lower classes was not only destructive of their health but unfitted them for useful labour, debauched their morals, and excited them to all kinds of vice. To remedy this, no person could sell any less quantity than 2 gallons of spirit without first taking out a licence. This licence cost £50 in London and within the limits of the penny post. A duty was also laid of 20s. per gallon on all spirituous liquors. Two years later it was found that as persons of little or no substance transgressed this regulation and clandestinely retailed liquors without a licence, being hid behind some wainscot, curtain, or partition, further penalty was necessary, and such was therefore fixed at £100. About this time, there being many instances of persons assaulting and almost murdering Excise officers whilst the latter were bringing offenders to justice, it was ordered that anyone so convicted be transported for seven years. It was illegal at this time to hawk spirituous liquors in a wheelbarrow or basket or on the water in a boat. In 1743, the endeavours to restrain excessive drinking of spirits being still ineffectual, the duty was taken off the retailer and an additional 6d. per gallon put on the distiller. It was necessary at this date to obtain a Justice’s Licence to retail spirits before one could obtain an Excise Licence, and no retailer could sell more than 1 pint at a time. Another regulation was that any person found drinking or tippling in the house or shop of a distiller after the 24th June, 1747, was liable to a penalty of 20s.
In 1751, it being declared that drinking spirituous liquors had of late years increased to the detriment of the common people, further duties were imposed. In the same year it was decreed that brewers, innkeepers, and distillers, or anyone interested in those trades, should not be capable of acting as a Justice of the Peace in any cases relating to such trades, or the granting of licences in connection therewith.
From this it appears that the disqualification clause in the 1872 Licensing Act is by no means novel. A Justice’s Clerk in those days was entitled to charge 2s. 6d. for a licence. Justices had power to order that anyone convicted of retailing spirituous liquors without a licence should be “sent to the House of Correction to be kept to hard labour for two months, and that before his discharge to be stripped naked from the middle upwards and be whipped till his body be bloody.” A somewhat barbarous punishment, which modern ideas of justice would reserve for cases of cruelty or brutality.
Smuggling was much in vogue in these days, and I find that any person running spirits was liable to transportation for seven years. If, however, he had his face blacked whilst committing the offence, he was to suffer death if captured. Great inducements were hold out to informers against any person who committed offences against the Excise Law, and usually a third or half of the fine went to such informer.
In 1760 the instructions to officers of Excise respecting hop plantations were very definite. Hops were subject to duty, and the officer had to frequently survey the grounds till the picking began and also during the picking season. He had to enter in his books the condition in which he found the grounds, whether picking, silent, or all picked. During picking each ground had to be surveyed daily, and he had to have notice from the planter when any bagging, casking, or weighing was to be done.
The planter had to provide just weights and scales and 10 per cent, tare was allowed. The officer had to mark on each pocket the number, net weight, and year, and with his brush had to make black strokes across the sewing at the top and bottom of the pocket so as to prevent more hops being added duty free. Some growers of today mark their pockets at the top in a similar manner to show that they contain the hops originally packed.
The supervisor of that day had to exert his utmost endeavour to obtain of all distillers, common brewers, and victuallers the best lengths, and to see that the quality and quantity of the drink charged corresponded with what he might reasonably expect. He had however, no method of testing the strength of the ale beyond tasting it, and it can easily be imagined that disputes between the Excise and the brewer were many and frequent. He had also to examine the contents of all open vessels at least once a year, and to see that the dipping places were properly and truly fixed. When he attended the collector he had to ride with pistols. Stirring times those!
I find one little item regarding the collector that may interest you. This personage at all hearings of appeals had to be frugal in his expenses, and was not to entertain at the expense of the Revenue persons who were not concerned in the cases.
When the Excise came into existence it was naturally necessary that accurate methods of “gauging” should be found, and the Excise officers soon became very proficient in mathematics as applied to their particular calling. Gauging was well understood in 1750, as is evidenced by a book in my possession, entitled The General Gauger; or the Principles of Gauging Beer, Wine, and Malt, by John Dougharty, Teacher of Mathematicks at Worcester, and published in that year.
Cask gauging receives special attention, and the use of the slide rule is also explained. In 1782, Win. Symons, collector of Excise, published his Practical Gager: or the Young Gager’s Assistant. This was a much more advanced treatise than Dougharty’s, and Symons went very thoroughly into the question of gauging all kinds of brewers’ vessels and casks in various positions.
Towards the end of the seventeenth century the publican began to take in larger stocks of beer, but so little idea had the brewer or his customer of being in charge of large stocks that it gave room to a set of monied people to make a trade by buying beers from brewers, keeping them for some time, and reselling them when stale to the victualler.
The term “stale ” evidently meant “matured.”’ Some people drank mild beer, others “three threads” at 3d. per quart, but many used “stale ” beer at 4d. per quart.
It is said that the Londoners as well as the Scotch people had three qualities of malt liquor, distinguished as ale, beer, and twopenny, which last was in Scotland a pint containing nearly two English quarts, till the establishment of a Court of Exchequer under an Article of the Union with England in 1707, subjected the Scotch loomer to a licence or a penalty, besides which a heavy tax was put upon malt. By the way, I must admit my failure to trace the meaning of the word “loomcr,” so perhaps some of my hearers can enlighten me. In London, the people having accustomed themselves to indulge in half and half, and in three threads, found that the admixture could not be relied on. An ingenious brewer, named Harwood, contrived, about 1730, to brew a liquor “all one way,” which had the conjoint flavour of the whole “three threads,” and which he called “Entire Butt.” It was said to be a very hearty and nourishing liquor, and was a very suitable drink for porters and other working men, whence it obtained the name of “porter.” There are, however, several versions of the origin of the word “porter,” and its identification is therefore vague. In 1780 beers were brewed at the following weights: Burton ale at 40 lb. per barrel; country ale, 26—32 lb.; porter, 22—26 lb.; and I note that porter cost 30s. per barrel. In 1799 it was retailed at 3½ d. per quart, but in consequence of malt rising to £5 per quarter and hops to £30 per cwt. the price rose to 35s. per barrel, and by retail 4d, per quart. Ale also rose to 52s. 6d. per barrel. In 1802 porter rose to 40s. per barrel, and an additional ½d was put on the retail price. Ale rose in London to 72s. per barrel, retailing at 8d. per quart; and table beer then cost 20s. per barrel.
I have not been able to get much information respecting export beer, but it appears that previous to 1816 the demand for English beer in India was practically nil. In 1821, however, Hodgson, of London, enlarged his brewery, and for some time held the market at a price of £16 per barrel, and it is stated that in 1825 Alsop and Son, Bass and Ratcliff, Ind and Smith, and Charrington tried the market, met with fair encouragement, and the price became lower.
There also appears very little to be gathered as to the early history of brewers’ vessels generally, but I learn that the dimensions of the London casks were established by an Act of Parliament under a statute of Henry VIII. Coopers were fined 3s. 4d. for each case where the specified measurements were not observed; but how long this Act remained in force I am unable to trace. In London, 1760, the common brewers’ coppers were made with rising crowns, which they tell you are made so that the liquor and wort may boil the sooner.
A word in passing as to licences. Tyzard, in his book on brewing (1850), says that the first licence for the sale of beer in England was granted in 1552, and we read that about the year 1802 the cost of licence to retail wines was £5 4s.; for spirits, up to £7, according to the rateable value of the premises used. A full licence cost up to £10, and all licences were granted from October 10th in each year.
Tyzard gives an interesting explanation of how we come to use the sign X on our casks. He says that X was first stamped by the Excise, or with their authority, on all casks and stores containing beer which was deemed to be worth 10s. per barrel, to denote that it was strong and chargeable with duty accordingly. This was, however, rendered unnecessary when the beer duty was repealed in 1830, but the custom has continued to our day.
It is particularly interesting to trace the history of the taxation of malts, for we find that from the middle ages it has been a continual source of revenue. It appears that it was first made dutiable in 1367, when the tax was 4d. per quarter. In 1696 the tax rose to 6d, but anyone making malt for his family use only had the liberty to compound at 5s. per head per year. The tax gradually rose until 1841, when it was 2s. 7d. per bushel. In 1854 it was increased to 4s. on account of the Crimean War, but it was reduced to 2s. 8d. in 1856, at which figure it remained until the abolition of the duty in 1880. Malt, when it became dutiable, naturally required a standard measure, so the Winchester bushel was fixed in the year 1470 on the following basis :—
“The measure of a bushel shall contain 8 gallons of wheat, and that every gallon shall contain 8 lb. troy of wheat, and that every pound of wheat contain 12 oz. troy, every ounce contain 20 sterlings (now penny weights), and every sterling to be the weight of 32 corns of wheat that grew in the middle of the ear of wheat.”
This bushel was to be kept in the King’s Treasury for over, and new bushels and gallons were ordered to be sent to the several cities and boroughs and the old ones brought back and broken. The Winchester bushel, however, and all local and customary measures were abolished in the reign of George IV, and an Act fixed the standard of all weights and measures. By the way, the brass imperial standard gallon of today contains 10 imperial standard lbs. weight of distilled water, weighed in air against brass weights, with the water and the air at the temperature of 62° F., and with the barometer at 30 inches.
I may mention here that the average yearly consumption of malt for 50 years to 1819 was 3,528,702 quarters, and this rose in 1849 to 4,723,112 quarters. In 1880 (the last year of the malt tax) the figures were 51,756,515 quarters, and I consider this a striking proof of the improvement which had taken place in brewing during those last 30 years.
We all know that there is more danger of fire in the grinding room than in any other part of the brewery, and it is on record that Barclay’s brewhouse in London was destroyed by fire in 1832. This calamity was attributed to the accident of a man happening to lift off one of the covers of a malt conveyer and thrusting a lighted candle amongst the malt dust.
Speaking of malt, our thoughts naturally turn to extracts and the saccharometer. The hydrometer or water gauge which laid the foundation of the saccharometer was invented by Martin, the Fleet Street mathematician, and a brewer named Baverstock purchased one in 1768. In 1785, Troughton’s was in favour, but about the same time Richardson, a brewer of Windsor, constructed an instrument with a scale expressly calculated to show the excess of gravity possessed by a barrel of wort over the same quantity of water. This instrument, which he named the saccharometer, was the original of the one we use today. Other similar instruments were invented, and in 1816 the Scotch law of George III laid down that Allan’s saccharometer should be used. In 1823, the English Excise followed the Scotch example and ordered that none but saccharometers and hydrometers made by R. B. Bates, of the Poultry, London, should be used.
Richardson, in his Philosophical Principles of the Science of Brewing, first published in 1788, mentions that extracts in 1781 ranged from 82 lb. per quarter from North Lincolnshire malts to 56 lb. per quarter from Herefordshire malts, but the average extract generally obtained was about 80 lb. Pale malt in this year cost 41s. per quarter, and good brown (but blown) malt from Ware 28s., but in 1791 best malt rose to 47s.
“Patent Malt” was originally so called on account of a patent granted for the invention and manufacture of black malt in 1817 to Daniel Wheeler, of the parish of St. George, Middlesex. The patent has, of course, long since expired, but the term remains, and is still extensively used. This patent malt superseded the use of the concoction known as “essentia bine,” to which I shall refer shortly.
Alexander Morrice published in 1802 his Treatise on Brewing, wherein is exhibited, according to the title page, The Art and Mystery of Brewing. He evidently believed in careful collar management, for he says: “Beer is frequently spoiled by carelessness, obstinacy or ignorance of the storehouse cooper. Many victuallers, when a butt wants fining down, appoint a servant girl to perform the office, by whom the bungs are left out and many other acts committed, which all tend to discredit the brewer, although he does not deserve it.” He states that in King William IV’s reign (and it must have been in the early portion of the reign) the duty was 1s. 3d. per barrel. Brown ale was sold at 16s. per barrel, and small ale (which was made from the same grains) at 6s.
He adds: “These were mostly fetched by the customers and paid for with ready money, so that the brewer kept but few servants, fewer horses, had no stocks of ale by him, and no purchasing of leases of public-houses.” The question of a tied trade is evidently of greater ago than we are usually led to believe. The clear duty paid by the common brewer in the London district in 1801, with the malt allowance deducted, was 5s. 7½d. per barrel on strong ale, 2s. 7½d. on table beer, and 10d. on “Vi” or small beer. The duty on beer was repealed on October 10th, 1830. In 1840, the cost of a brewer’s licence was according to the number of barrels brewed in a year, and ranged from 10s. for 20 barrels up to £78 15s. for over 40,000. Retail beer licences then cost practically the same as at present.
One example of a brewing of ale, according to Morrice (1802), will suffice. The ale in question is termed Windsor ale, and was much favoured at the time as a pale ale. The ingredients required were 25 qr. best pale Herts malt, 2 cwt. of hops of the best quality, 40 lb. of honey, 4 lb. coriander seed, and 2 lb. grains of paradise. The hops were put into the copper the night before brewing to soak; the first mash was at 178°, the second 186°, and the third at 160°. The first wort was boiled nearly an hour, the second two and a quarter hours, and the honey was not added until just before the liquor was turned out. Two and three quarter barrels per quarter was the estimated length, but this was governed by the price of malt and hops. Tho tun was pitched at 62° and cleansed at 80° on the third day after, with salt and bean flour.
I will mention one or two other recipes to show you that beers were far from being brewed only from malt and hops in those days.
Würtemberg ale required 16 qtr. pale Herts malt, 4 qtr. amber malt, 188 lb. of hops, 28 lb. of honey, 20 lb. of sugar, 4 lb. hartshorn shavings, 4 lb. coriander seed, and 1 lb. caraway seed.
Scurvy grass ale was brewed from 3 qtr. pale Herts malt, 3 qtr. amber malt, 25 lb. hops, 10 lb. molasses, 5 bushels garden scurvy grass, 2 lb. Alexandrian senna, 1 lb. scraped horse-radish root; and the ingredients for brown stout were 12 qtr. brown Herts malt, 4 qtr. amber malt, and 4 qtr. white malt, 2 cwt. hops, 4 lb. Coculus Indicus berry, 28 lb. sugar, 14 lb. Spanish juice, 6 lb. Fabia Amara, 2 lb. ginger, and some salt and flour for cleansing.
Morrice also gives a recipe to make up a vat of 150 barrels of Common VI or returns of Table Ale (mixed to double its value):—
“Use ½ barrel of colouring, ¼ cwt. of ground alum, 1 lb. salt of steel, and 2 barrels of strong finings.” These were to be mixed with the beer, and in a fortnight it would be fit for use. One other recipe worthy of mention is for bringing several sorts of beer (mixed together in one vat) to one taste and palate. For every 100 barrels of beer add 6 1b. porter extract, 6 lb. ground orange pea, 1 1b. of alum, 1 lb. of heading, 6 lb. of India bark, and 1 butt of finings. These items were roused with the beer, the vat was left open for three days, then covered and sanded over, and was ready in a fortnight.
It will be noticed that in these recipes substitutes and adulterants play an important part. Richardson, in 1798, recommended the use of socotrine aloes for flavour, salt of steel for a retentive head, and afterwards quassia and copperas. Of other substitutes and adulterants liquorice root, powdered black Spanish juice, and essentia bine were three of the most prominent. Black resin was a flavour. Honey, molasses, and sugar were used as sweets and preservatives. Malted beans and peas were substitutes for malt, and jalap was used for effervescence. Coculus Indicus, opium, Calamus Aromaticus, sweet flag, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, orange peel, long pepper, alum, ginger, hartshorn, wormwood, mugwort, broom, buck bean, hyssop, gentian, horehound, chirayetta, tobacco, and bitter bean all had their uses. Marble dust, crabs’ claws, and oyster shells were also used as ant-acids. If ever a pure beer Bill was necessary, I think it will be admitted that it was at the end of the 18th century, considering the foregoing list, as some of the items therein are poisons.
In 1810 the use of adulterants had become so great, especially in brewing from raw grains, that the malt revenue declined more than 28,000,000 bushels in the 10 years preceding. Parliament, therefore, in 1811, passed prohibitory clauses against the practice of mashing with raw grain or sugar. In 1812, sugar was again allowed to be used; but in 1816, as the duties did not increase, Parliament again interposed, and put down all ingredients in the brewery except malt and hops. Yet with all these enactments people still continued to use substitutes and adulterants, as is evinced by the books published about this time.
It is interesting to note the enormous advance in the amount of duty paid by the Trade. The duty on beer, malt, and hops for the year ending July 5th, 1784, was £3,759,346, being produced from about 8,000,000 barrels of various beers. In 1908 the duty realized £13,116,965, and the number of barrels brewed was about 34,000,000.
Although the duty was only small in 1786, some brewers had very extensive businesses. Richardson, in his Philosophical Principles, gives a list of London brewers for the year 1786, and amongst the names we find those of John Charrington, who brewed 25,965 barrels; Richard Meux, 58,534 barrels; William Truman Read, 121,021 barrels; Esther Lynch Thrale, 160,024 barrels; and Samuel Whitebread, 135,236 barrels.
Many of us present-day brewers would be glad to do trade like these pioneers. The names of Charrington, Meux, and Whitebread are familiar to us today. Esther Lynch Thrale, widow of Henry Thrale, a brewer, was a woman of great literary attainments and a friend of Dr. Johnson. She was the predecessor of Barclay, Perkins and Co., Ltd. It appears that until the sale of her business to Mr. Barclay she carried it on jointly with her manager, Mr. Perkins, and under the financial advice of Dr. Johnson at, I believe, the “Anchor Brewery,” Southwark, which I have previously mentioned. She was afterwards known as Mrs. Piozzi, and in her autobiography we find the following extract from her diary of September 28th, 1773. “Careless, of the ‘Blue Posts,’ has turned refractory and applied to Hoares’ people, who have sent him in their beer. I called on him to-day, however, and by dint of unwearied solicitation (for I kept him at the coach side a full half hour) I got his order for 6 butts more as the final trial.”
Richardson mentions that one method of testing the heat of the water for mashing in his time was to turn the boiling water into the mash-tun and suffer it to remain till the brewer could see his face in it before the malt was put into it. I have some memory of hearing that this practice held good until a few years ago with some of the Yorkshire home brewers. He says the finger was also used as a test, and another method was to immerse the hand in the liquor and then to make a short revolution in it. If only one or two revolutions could be borne the liquor was too hot, but if three could be accomplished it was in a proper state for mashing.
Brewers knew very little of the science of their business in his days, and he gives a striking example of this lack of necessary knowledge. It was observed to a brewer that his underback was leaky and that he was subject to a daily loss in the quantity of wort wasted thereby. The other exclaimed “not at all, I lose nothing by the little wort that runs out for I always draw my usual length.” In other words he made up with water what he lost in wort and so thought himself no sufferer. As regards water, Morrice says “that the commonly received opinion that Thames water was absolutely necessary to the brewing of good porter is a mistaken idea, as some of our principal brewers use the New River.”
Brewers and officers of Excise of Richardson’s time had frequent disputes, as I have mentioned, on the subject of distinguishing worts chargeable with strong beer duty from those charged only as small; consequently, an Act of Parliament was passed which compelled the brewer to brew his table beer alone, so that the officer might not be puzzled in employing his only means of discrimination (consisting of dipping his finger into the wort and tasting it). Mixing small and strong beer was also prohibited, and Richardson adds “were the duties charged according to the specific gravity of the wort, these altercations would immediately vanish, the Revenue would be increased, the brewer would be at liberty to make, alter, or compound his liquor into as many and as various sorts as he had palates to please without subjecting himself to the interference of the officer or the lash of the law.” This is in itself a remarkable statement in view of the fact that it was not until nearly 100 years afterwards, 1880, that this very system of collecting duty was adopted.
I possess a very interesting little pamphlet entitled The Complete Family Brewer, by Thos. Theale, Brewer, and dated 1802. He suggested that all families should brew at home and thereby save 6 or 8 shillings per barrel, and he advised the chandlers “to sell treacle beer instead of rot gut stuff imposed by them under the name of small beer.” Malt; he.says, “is of two sorts in general use, pale and brown, the former is most used in gentleman’s houses and private families; the latter in public houses, as it seems to go farther and makes the liquor high coloured.” As to water, he says, “that out of rivers is best, or out of a pond fed by a spring will do, or rain water, in fact all water that will raise a lather with soap is good for brewing.” New casks, he remarks, should be half buried for a week in the earth with their bung-holes down to season them. In the process of manufacture he suggests using powdered ginger to assist the working of the liquor, and he also states that cherry brandy will stop the fretting of the ale in cask. One can picture the present-day brewer going round his cellar with a bottle of cherry brandy in one hand and a liqueur glass in the other, and I wonder how much would really find its way into the barrel. His recipe for home-brewed porter is 1 quarter malt, 8 1b. hops, 9 lb. treacle, 8 lb. liquorice root, 8 lb. essontia bine, 8 lb. of colour, ½ oz. of capsicum, 2 oz. Spanish liquorice, ¼ oz. Cocuhis Indicus berry, 2 drachms salt of tartar, ⅛ oz. powdered alum, ⅛ oz. copperas, 3 oz. ginger, 4 oz. slacked lime, 1 oz. of linseed, and 2 drachms of cinnamon; a truly wonderful concoction.
Another pamphlet is entitled A New Method of Brewing Malt Liquor, by J. Rawlinson, and dated 1807. You will agree with me that a new method was evidently needed.
Samuel Child, a brewer, about the same date, explains the art and mystery of brewing in his pamphlet Every Man His Own Brewer. He gives more recipes for using many of the roots and seeds before mentioned, and he also makes the following suggestions :— “To make beer older, use oil of vitriol. To make beer fine quick, boil it in hartshorn shavings. To soften beer, mix with it a little salt of wormwood or a little oyster shell powder.”
He further adds that brewing at home “would only hurt the great brewers who had large fortunes, and the small publican, the number of whom the legislature and police seem apparently equally anxious to diminish.” This latter portion of his remarks seems to apply as aptly today as it did 100 years ago.
After some interesting remarks by Mr. Montagu Baird and the Chairman, a hearty vote of thanks was accorded to Mr. Schofield.