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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Thursday, 12 January 2012

Some thoughts on writing about beer history

As I emerge from the British Library, blinking like a mole in the winter sun, I see Martyn Cornell has been doing what he enjoys best, demolishing a passing historical claim that someone else has made.

There was a spat before Christmas about the excellent Oxford Companion to Beer.  Many in the beer blogosphere were queueing up to find errors and cite them as proof that the book is worthless, or at the very least, deeply flawed.  This turned into a rather worrying witch hunt where almost any positive mention of the OCB online was rooted out and lambasted (one beer writer was even attacked on his Facebook page for posting that he was looking forward to reading it).

My response to this was along the lines of 'of course there are errors - but if you take the thing as a whole, it's a great piece of work'.  This was (mis)interpreted by some as me saying that errors didn't matter, and the pursuit of truth, of fact, in beer history was unimportant.

That is not what I meant at all.  If I did mean that, I wouldn't, for example, have spent all day yesterday in the London Metropolitan Archives reading through letters sent between brewers Flower & Sons and their lawyers regarding their taking over the lease of the George Inn, Southwark - something that will surely take only a line or two in my new book, but which I took a thousand words of notes on, because I want to make sure I get it absolutely right.

What I do think, though, after spending nearly a year doing research that is as forensic and detailed as I can possibly do on the history of coaching inns, pubs in general and one pub in particular, is that some who are interested in the history of beer are in danger of strangling the study of it by imposing standards that are too strict, that are tighter than any proper academic historian would insist upon.

If you're not that bothered about the study of beer history, please stop reading now, because you're going to get really bored if you don't.

First, a few caveats:

One, I greatly admire the work that people like Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson do.  I know from great experience myself that it's not exactly easy, fun or rewarding to trawl through historical documents in search of the truth.  It's much easier to simply cite what some bloke said in a book eighty years ago without checking where he got it from.  Standards of beer scholarship are improving, and people like Martyn and Ron are playing a significant role in this.

Two, I don't want to excuse errors - where they are in fact errors, as opposed to differing interpretations.  And I'm not here to defend the OCB's entry on the yard of ale.  I actually agree with Martyn that the original yard of ale entry in OCB looks like it's wrong, though I believe that it's the result of a simple confusion with the 'stirrup cup', which is a similar shape to the yard, but smaller - still wrong and in need of correction, but not exactly the biggest controversy ever to rear its beery head.

Three, although this post was prompted by Martyn's latest, it shouldn't be read (just) as a criticism of Marytn - he makes points similar to those below towards the end of his post, and I agree with a lot of what he says there.  What follows has been inspired by Martyn's post - and other comments he's made previously - rather than being a direct rebuttal.  I'm sure he would agree with much of what follows.

With those out of the way, my main beef is this: there seems to be a growing view that if there isn't definite, written, primary source proof of something, than we cannot assert that it is true in an historical context, and we shouldn't be saying it.

I'm sorry, but that's just not right.  If real historians behaved like this, we wouldn't have any history at all.

Having come fresh from the coalface, here's how written historical sources work: since the mid-twentieth century and the age of mass communication, you can find lots of references to pretty much anything if you know where to look.  The biggest problem facing future historians looking at the early 21st century will be too much material relating to any subject, not too little.

Go back to the nineteenth century, and it's a bit harder.  There are newspapers and magazines - quite a lot of them - and if you're lucky enough to find databases that have them as word-searchable PDFs, you can fillet all mentions of your chosen subject from tons of last century's chip paper within minutes.  The trouble is, you know how now, the mainstream press don't write much about beer?  Well, they didn't much then, either.  For example, over 99.9% of the 16,000 mentions of 'India Pale Ale' in the Burley Collection of 18th and 19th century newspapers are in the classified ads section, and while the first few you look at are very revealing (that's where I discovered the earliest actual mention of 'India Pale Ale' for example) after that, they're all the same.

Go back before that, and most of the population were illiterate.  Newspapers die out altogether when you reach the seventeenth century.  Now it gets trickier.  There's the odd diarist whose work has survived, which is why if you read anything historical about the seventeenth century (including my new book) you will unfailingly discover what John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys thought about the subject at hand.

Before that, anything that the Church had direct involvement in, you're laughing, because they kept copious records of everything.  Anything the monarch did, you're on safe ground.  But social history?  Stuff that everyday people did?  That gets tricky.  There are legal records if your subject got into trouble.  But unless the Church or the law were interested, written records start to become very thin on the ground.  You're relying on diarists, the odd pamphleteer (who usually had a particular view on his subject - many of our best descriptions of Elizabethan alehouses come from Puritans who thought they were the 'nests of Satan') and the occasional, isolated traveller or chronicler, and you kind of have to go with what those individuals say.

In terms of tangible fact, this is then supplemented by archaeological evidence.  This is incredibly useful.  But foodstuffs, clothing and almost anything else soft and perishable haven't survived.

Our accurate record of what Elizabethan theatres looked like inside rests on a one page description and a drawing done by a Swiss traveller in 1594 - the rebuilt Globe Theatre relied on this, and the partial foundations of the original.  There are three surviving portraits which we think are William Shakespeare, and scant references to him in legal documents.  There isn't even a definitely agreed version of his complete works, as whole plays were rarely copied.  Bill Bryson set out to write a book on Shakespeare that just stuck to the known facts.  It's less than 200 pages long, and he's padded it out with all sorts of more general stuff about Elizabethan England.  And this is Shakespeare - not some pub, brewery or drinking custom.

So when primary source stuff gets thin, what do you do?

You do not 'make things up'.

But you do become flexible.

Martyn regularly pours scorn on historical claims that are made long after the fact.  But the first real account of the Battle of Hastings (leaving aside the Bayeux Tapestry) was written by William of Malmesbury over a century after to happened, and historians accept it as definitive.  Historians haven't always provided academic references and footnotes - that doesn't mean their work is invalid.  Also, when most people were illiterate, much history was handed down orally before someone put it to paper.  Inevitably, this introduces an element of Chinese Whispers.  But it's that or nothing - and academic historians, while not always accepting such accounts as gospel (now there's an interesting example) will usually at least take the gist of it to be true, or use it as a guide.  So while I'm not saying (because I don't believe) that the yard of ale was invented for stage coach drivers, I am arguing that the fact that this claim wasn't made until the 1950s is not on its own sufficient grounds to dismiss it.

Martyn's other maxim is along the lines of 'the first law of history is don't assume'.  I'd like to see where these universally agreed laws of history are written down, and have a look at what the others are, because in the history I've been reading - mostly books written by academics who work in history departments in reputable universities - educated, reasoned assumptions are being made all the time.  'Could', 'might', 'perhaps,', 'possibly' and 'maybe' are some of the most popular words in academic history.  Where I would agree with Martyn 100% is that if it is a 'could' or a 'might', any writer - especially one working on something as illustrious as the OCB - has an obligation to make this clear rather than writing 'was' or 'did', and this is a sin of mine that I've now resolved to fix. But I'd argue that this is the main area where standards need to be improved.  The simple 'there's no written evidence so we must assume it's wrong' approach simply is not how history works.

These issues have particular relevance for the study of beer and pubs, because at the time, a lot of this shit just didn't get written down.  Whenever the yard of ale was invented, and for whatever purpose, no one whose work survives thought it worth recording.  So what are you going to do?  It obviously was invented by someone, at some point, so we are not wrong to speculate on what did happen.

If we don't, we reduce history to virtually nothing.  And we have to look in a broader context.  That first mention of 'India Pale Ale' came at least seventy years after strong, hoppy pale had been exported to the Indian market - so how can we assert when this beer called 'IPA' first appeared?

The now pretty-much dismissed claim that George Hodgson began exporting pale ale to India in 1785 is based on this being the date it was first advertised in the Calcutta Gazette.  But the reason it wasn't advertised before then is not that the beer didn't exist in India, but that the Calcutta Gazette didn't.  So when did Hodsgon first export his beer?

Another useful example for me is the story that IPA was first introduced to Britain in 1827 when a ship bound for India was shipwrecked off Liverpool, the casks washed up on the beach, and were auctioned by the ship's insurance company, and the locals loved the beer and started demanding it at home.  Martyn has dismissed this as 'myth' because the claim was made fifty years after the fact, and it's not mentioned anywhere else.  He says it never happened. Now, if we're talking about how IPA was introduced to Britain, I totally agree.  A quick look at Peter Matthias's brilliant brewing history shows that Bass and Allsopp were advertising pale ales domestically in the early 1820s.  In the 1830s, IPA became popular in Britain among families returning from India.  Hodgson, while being squeezed out of the Indian market, saw an opportunity back home and started advertising his beer as the taste of India.  But to say the shipwreck never happened?  That's an even bolder claim than the original assertion.  Visit any Cornish coastal pub, for example, and you'll find walls decorated with facsimiles of posters advertising auctions of cargo from shipwrecks from the early nineteenth century.  They happened all the time - surely at least one of these auctions would have included India-bound beer.  I'm certain that the 1827 shipwreck did happen, that India-bound beer was sold to Scousers and that they loved it.  After all, why would anyone simply make up such a story from their imagination?  But this is not how IPA was introduced to Britain.  It's an important distinction in how we read historical data, how we interpret it.

Writing history is all about interpretation, and we have to make assumptions, especially when studying the history of the beer and pubs.  For example, I will be claiming that inn-yard theatre happened in the George Inn, Southwark, despite a complete lack of evidence that it did.  Why?  Because there are records of it happening in inn-yards across London and all over the country.  It often happened when there was a big fair.  It happened in larger inn-yards.  The George had  a large inn-yard.  Southwark Fair was one of the biggest fairs in the country.  Plays happened in the yard of the Queens Arms just down the road.  Therefore, I can assume, with a high degree of confidence, that plays also happened in the George.

One final point - and forgive me if this sounds defensive.  As a historian, you have an obligation to be as thorough in your research as you can be.  But as a writer aiming at a mainstream audience, you have an obligation to be as readable and interesting as you can be.  For the mainstream writer, in any discipline, it's a balance between the two, and Bryson's Shakespeare is a perfect example of how to do it brilliantly.  Just because the detail isn't on the page in front of you, doesn't mean it's not there.

At the end of Martyn's yard of ale post he gives a brilliant acknowledgement that we cannot research every single last fact back to primary sources, so I don't think we're that far apart in the overall scheme of things.

But please - even on the big stuff, sometimes, just because there is no primary source, that doesn't mean it's wrong.  Sorry, but that's not how history works.

=/=

If you've read this far, then you're obviously pretty interested in beer history.  So I'd just like to give a plug to the Brewery History Society.  Membership is only £15 a year, and you get a lot for your money. Martyn is on the editorial board so he would definitely agree with me on this!

21 comments:

ted said...

Not a boring blog at all, Pete, but a splendid exposition of the difference between history and historiography. Any written history stands or falls on the quality of the underlying historiography, and you produce two particularly fine instances of the interaction between historiography and history in your references to the Calcutta Gazette and the George, Southwark. Having said that, historiography is not history but only one pillar of it. In my view it should really only intrude into a general history where an assumption is made that doesn't rely on direct evidence (such as the staging of plays at the George). But on those occasions the historian owes it to the reader to explain in precise detail what supporting evidence or context the assumption rests on - which is precisely what you've done in your not at all boring blog and what Martyn always does. (He also does a fine job of demolishing unsupported assumptions, which is the most fun a historian can have with his/her clothes on). Finally, Pete, never take blogs etc about your own work to heart. Once you've released a book into the world it has to stand on its own two feet. None of the people who slag it off will have done anything like as much research as you have but simply hate having their cosy preconceptions and cherished ideas debunked. But however indignant and ignorant they are, at least they'll have bought the book. Kerching!

James Simons-Boswell said...

Good post Pete, I sometimes think that some peoples main purpose in life though is to try to find fault in the work of others and that they get far too much pleasure from it!
I love reading about the history of beer and enjoy trying to replicate old styles of beer too, sometimes you find that there are differering accounts, but as far as evidence is concerned they are both right.
I look forward to your new book and thanks for your link to the history society, off to join now.

Bailey said...

Pete -- more-or-less agree with most of this. (Although I don't think you can set too a high a standard for serious academic study.)

The key points are that, when making assumptions or taking a leap without evidence, that must be flagged IN BIG FLASHING LIGHTS. The best historians, when using unreliable sources, especially those written well after the fact, will usually provide plenty of background on the source, why they're using, how they're using it, and underline that they are interpreting/guessing/filling in blanks. That's all I, as a punter, expect, if primary sources really aren't available.

Martyn does some assuming in the History of the Pint, but he explains very clearly that that's what he's doing, so no problem there.

The Beer Nut said...

I don't think your criticism of the criticism of the OCB is entirely fair, at least regarding the criticism of it that I've seen (I'm not on Facebook, I'm happy to say).

Of course you need the historical Polyfilla of 'could', 'might', 'perhaps,', 'possibly' and 'maybe', and it's fair game to apply it more liberally in journalism and other mainstream writing as opposed to in academe.

The problem I've seen pointed out more in the OCB-criticism I've read is the repetition of myths that have already been publicly refuted. Basically, if you're writing beer history and you're not following the stuff that the likes of Martyn and Ron are writing then you're not keeping up with the current research in your field. Research which is free (or £15 for the premium service, as you say) and readily available.

And if you don't agree with a writer's dismissal of something they regard as a myth, I think you really need to make the case against the evidence they've presented, or at least refer to it as an alternative interpretation. The worth of the article suffers if editorial space is not made for this.

What made things worse with regard to the OCB was the response of some of the writers to the criticism: it seemed to be less "Oh, I hadn't read that, I'll take a look, thanks", or "Yes, I know, but I couldn't fit that in", but more "Don't you know that I'm one of the most respected writers in this field? Who the hell are you?"

I don't think anyone (sane) is saying that everything must have primary-source evidence to back it up. But when there is primary source evidence presented in the secondary literature it is a mistake to ignore it.

Pete Brown said...

Commenter Owen: if you see this, I just accidentally hit 'delete' instead of 'post' on my iPhone. Any chance you could repost? Don't want you to think I was censoring just cos you were critical.

Ed said...

You're not wrong about the masses of information now easily accessible. I'm currently researching the history of an early hop variety and I keep getting drawn off in all directions.

As to the OCB though, it's not just the history that isn't up to scratch. I've only looked at a few entries and they range from things written by world class experts in their field to things that look like they were written after a quick google. The editing just looks sloppy too as some entries are duplicated.

Owen said...

This is as close to what I said as I can remember (with some added expansion):

I find it slightly (only slightly) alarming that a scant two paragraphs after resolving to fix the fault of saying "was" when you rightly should say "could have been" you then go on to unapologetically say you're going to claim something with no direct evidence.

Of course, without reading your new book I can't know that you haven't couched the claim in "could haves", "might haves" and "it's possible thats", but the representation of it here is that you're going to assert it as fact.

Oh, and when Martyn says the shipwreck didn't happen, he's not saying that no ship was ever wrecked that carried IPA, only that it's irrelevant. The only significant aspect of the story is the claim that it introduced IPA to Britain. Take that away, and it's just one wreck among many with only parochial significance (though the ship's owner may disagree).

As others have said, speculation must be absolutely clear that it is speculation. If you're 90% sure that something happened, and can prove that confidence, then say so, but don't fill in the other 10% with "of course it was, just look at the evidence!"

Claire said...

Another great read!

By the way just for accuracies sake I *think* you mean the Burney collection (18th & 19th C Newspapers) not the Burley collection.

Sorry - I'm a detail obsessed librarian at the BL!

Martyn Cornell said...

I agree with pretty much everything you say, Pete (although not the bit about my greatest joy coming from proving others wrong: I don't believe I'm that much of a miserable arsehole. It actually annoys me intensely to have to waste my time constantly repeating myself - my REAL great joy is uncovering fresh fabulous new facts, not trying to keep zombie myths dead and buried.)

Ultimately, it's down to what you, the reader, care to believe after being presented with the evidence. As you correctly say, for much of history, we do indeed have little to go on except what was written down decades - even centuries - later. But on the yard of ale, for example, a great deal was written about the "long glass" at the time coach drivers were around or very soon after they vanished, and none of that contemporary comment on yards of ale mentioned coach drivers using them. It seems to me that such a great story would surely have been mentioned by at least one of the Victorians or Edwardians who were writing about the yard of ale glass. So do we believe a story that only seems to surface a century later? Over to you, the jury. My verdict is "no". Your verdict may differ. But to me, it's like we had a dozen or so accounts of the Battle of Hastings all written within 10 to 50 years of 1066, none of which mentions Harold getting an arrow in the eye, and the arrow story only surfaces a century after the event.

On the "plays in the George Inn yard" idea, I'd say you were correct, given all the evidence about what went on elsewhere, in suggesting that it's extremely likely plays DID take place there - indeed, I'd almost say it would be up to others to prove plays DID NOT take place there. That's a fine example of legitimate speculation, based on good evidence.

On the "shipwreck" story, though: "Martyn has dismissed this as 'myth' because the claim was made fifty years after the fact, and it's not mentioned anywhere else. He says it never happened." - well, no, I don't say it never happened, I say there's no evidence (yet) that it happened, and, as you point out, it's not necessary anyway to explain the rise in popularity of hopped pale ale. The shipwreck may well have happened, it may still pop up in a contemporary newspaper account somewhere, and someone who read about or heard about some shipwreck that saw IPA auctioned off afterwards may well have thought that the shipwreck and subsequent beer sale was how India pale ale first became popular. But I just don't like too many stories with "may" in them.

"We are not wrong to speculate ..." Well, it's great fun to speculate, and speculation based on solid evidence is fine, but speculation in an evidence-free zone is 99.99% of the time, in my experience, later proved wrong when facts finally do turn up. It's an exaggeration of my position to declare that I say: "There's no evidence, so it didn't happen." What I say about stories such as the yard of ale and the coach drivers is: "There's no evidence, so don't talk about it as if it did happen, or as if people who were writing a century later must be right about it happening."

Meanwhile I look forward greatly to reading your new book, and do pop over in a short while (after I've posted it) to the Zythophile, where you will see an account of an event involving a brewer that took place in front of thousands of witnesses, where nobody could agree afterwards about exactly what happened, not even the participants, let alone the historians.

Alan said...

I agree in large part, Pete, but with one caveat. I started the OCB commentary wiki to see if my own thoughts as a reader were correct, my suspicions that I was reading errors. What I have found is that, yes, there are errors but errors come in many forms including historical inaccuracies, various levels of abstraction, summation and typos. I like your idea that popular history has a different job. And it is important. But it has to be flexible and informed by the most up to date academic histories possible. And it has to be obviously self-aware.

For example, through following on the "Canada" entry, I was able to see that there was earlier brewing in Canada than the generally reported brewing in New France. There may have been brewing in Newfoundland in the late 1500s. So it is wrong to say that there was no brewing before New France but the entry by Josh Rubin covers that perfectly with the simple use of "probably."

So, if there is to be less than absolute drill down or a lack of primary material is all there is at hand, all the popular historian has to do is acknowledge it. Then the reader knows.

Steve Parkes said...

I wrote fifteen entries in the OCB, all of them technical, and since I've been a brewer for 30 years I was able to act as the primary source for several of them. As a contributor to a brewing textbook in the past however, I have been very careful to point out brewing science dogma whenever I describe it. The sensory quality of hop bitterness, the effect of chloride and sulphate ions on beer flavor, the role of proteolytic enzymes in the mash, the role of dextrin in mouthfeel are all areas where there is no direct evidence to back up the dominant theory. As a writer I've been careful to point out where these issues exist by pointing out the lack of direct evidence, or that a study contradicted the prevailing wisdom.

Lisa said...

Excellent read.

As an ex-archivist whose job was all about protecting and making primary sources available, I'm very much aware that even there, you're only seeing part of the story (though the ex-archaeologist in me knows it's also very easy to head off on questionable flights of fancy).

We've really only scratched the surface of beer history, and there will, quite naturally, be new discoveries, new interpretations and revisions - and that's all to the good. There is still a great deal of information hidden away in old offices, libraries and the like that has yet to make its way to a formal archives to be arranged and described, must less made available to researchers (or - wonder of wonders - scanned and put online), so we have much to look forward to.

Getting what we do know now out for wider consumption may mean there are a few errors, but that's what happens in any historical field, and processes exist to get those errors corrected in the next edition.

Incidentally, I've been wanting to see (or even write) a book on coaching inns for years, so I'm quite excited to know one is coming!

chriso said...

Your point about the balance between readability and research is spot on. I’m no academic but I know that those who are can spend years researching very small, specialised areas. Then see their work published (if at all) in obscure academic publications, followed by another few years arguing the toss with their fellow specialists about their interpretation. This is all very rigorous, and often very slow, but unlikely to produce publications that are a right riveting read for anyone that isn’t as deeply immersed in the subject matter as the author. As to the OCB (which I must admit I’ve not even looked at), few of those involved in its production are academics and to expect everything in it to have been researched with full academic-standard rigour would be rather unrealistic. As an extensive compendium of interesting beery material, I’d guess it succeeds pretty well. If claims to be a comprehensive, definitive and 100% accurate guide to all matters beer-related (which I’m not sure it does), that’s no doubt pushing it a bit, to say the least.

Ron Pattinson said...

I don't go back any further than 1700 because the evidence is too thin.

Phil said...

if it is a 'could' or a 'might', any writer ... has an obligation to make this clear rather than writing 'was' or 'did'

I will be claiming that inn-yard theatre happened in the George Inn, Southwark, despite a complete lack of evidence that it did

Like Owen, I'm concerned by the contrast between these two statements! (And of course, if you'd said that inn-yard theatre "probably" or "almost certainly" happened" at the George I wouldn't have turned a hair.)

Apart from that trivium, I'm struggling to see what any of us disagree about here. Perhaps it's just the specific question of what you do with information that only appears in secondary sources a long time after the event. The qualification is important - a contemporary or near-contemporary secondary source can be handled with quite a short spoon. (Imagine if Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor had been lost, but we did have a series of realist novels by an author known to have read it. I imagine the fiction would be cited almost as often as the non-fiction is now, with only the most routine caveats.)

On the other hand, when a story involving coachmen pops up for the first time two generations after the coachmen had stopped driving, despite the fact that stories about the coachmen abounded at the time; when a seventeenth-century author quotes an otherwise unknown passage from a Roman author whose works had been studied for the previous millennium; or when a twentieth-century author confidently asserts that a children's rhyme had seventeenth-century origins, despite the rhyme making its first appearance in the nineteenth century; then things are different. Pete, the questions you seem to be asking are "do we have any evidence that this isn't true?" and "is there any good reason to write this story off as a hoax or a fiction?" The problem with this is that it gets the prior probabilities wrong, assuming that something in print is likely to be true (unless there's evidence to the contrary).

The questions I would start with are "do people make this kind of thing up?" and "given all the evidence we've got, does it seem more likely that this story was made up than that it's true?" Question 1 is an automatic Yes - people make up stories about all kinds of thing (I cited a beauty in the comments to Martyn's YofA story). Question 2 isn't assuming the story is false, but asking whether the evidence - including absence of evidence - is more consistent with falsehood or truth. It's not impossible that coachmen drank from yards of ale, or that Julius Caesar remarked on the ancient Britons' hop-growing habits, or that Ring a Ring a Rosey goes back to the Great Plague (or the Black Death if you want to push the boat out); it's not certain that these things are untrue. It's just that the evidence is consistent with them being made up.

I think of this kind of reasoning as "what world are we living in?". What would the world look like if those stories had been made up? What does it look like now?

Neil, Eating isn't Cheating said...

really interesting post this Pete

Leigh said...

Pete - thanks for that. I agree entirely and the tone is perfect. It's a difficult subject but you've managed to cut through it. Interesting read!

Pete Brown said...

Owen, Phil, when I come to write that bit of the book, OF COURSE I will be couching it in some speculative language, but with a high degree of certainty. I was just making a point here, and also writing quickly. I'm sure you can see the general point I was making.

Nicholas King said...

Very interesting. Just as an aside about mediaeval history.

a) Don't underestimate the richness of the written records that exist from then and what can very legitimately be said on those who were not in charge and the lives they led. Eleventh Century England is a treasure trove of data, masses of data. God bless the Doomsday Book.

b) The Bayeaux Tapestry is a very important source about 1066. If memory serves (its been a while), although it only appears in the written record very late, it is pretty safe to say that it was commissioned by Oddo of Bayeux from a Canterbury monastery (can't remember which)in the 1080s and is one of the earliest accounts of the Norman version of the whole succession narrative. There is a clear divergence between the Norman and Saxon sources on what happend leading up to 1066. This is hugely important and a very fertile source of information through the interpretive strategies it opens up. IMO what happened on the days of the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings (apart from the results) is the least interesting of all the things that can be said about what happened in that year.

Gary Gillman said...

I found a couple of references to coachmen drinking beer "on the stones" (as the expression went) at short stops. In one, he was handed a "glass" of mild ale - no type mentioned. In this other one, he was handed a "silver tankard":

http://books.google.ca/books?id=d-JIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA668&dq=coach+drivers+silver+tankard+ale&hl=en&sa=X&ei=C70UT-ilDKrb0QG5j7XTDA&ved=0CEYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=coach%20drivers%20sil

This is, accordingly, no proof of coach drivers drinking from a yard-glass or other elongated vessel, and, the two accounts taken together, is some proof to the contrary.

So far, therefore, I'm with Martyn on this.

Does this mean they never drank from long glasses? No. And in my view, you can make a reasonable argument, by interpretation and inference, that they did. But no firm evidence seems to exist of this, and Martyn IMO has provided a useful service to beer historical studies, to point this out.

Gary

P.S. The Bosteels brewery's (in Belgium) account of mail coachmen using a form of long glass in the early 1800's is interesting. Perhaps researchers will look in that direction to see if more can be uncovered. If the practice existed in Belgium then, this is additional support for the argument that it may well have, "somme toute", in England too.

Gary

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