Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Nothing new under the sun

I’ve recently been re-reading The Brewing Industry 1950-1990 by Anthony Avis, a fascinating memoir to which I will devote a longer blogpost over the new few days. However, I was struck by these comments relating to beerhouses, that is drinking places with a beer-only licence, which the pub-owning brewers were striving to eliminate in the 1950s, and which had pretty much all disappeared by the end of the 1960s. They were:

...small homely places where the working man could take his ease and drink his honest ale in the company of his friends and neighbours...

...These outlets were small, usually the front rooms of private dwellinghouses, the beer often brewed on the premises, and many were run by women. They attracted a class of custom which liked ale to the exclusion of spirit, and consumed it in moderate quantity; they were places for the married workingman to escape to, and they tended to be men only establishments by custom...

...they often had primitive toilets, no proper beer cellars, no bar counters, and no proper washing up facilities.

Now this strikes me as, in several respects, remarkably similar to present-day micropubs, especially those closely following the authentic Herne model.


  1. Did they have a beardie bloke giving a talk on IPA and lots of people wearing gortex?

    1. The Stafford Mudgie21 March 2019 at 15:11

      Wearing Goretex because there's no heating on ?

  2. I frequent a couple. the Wonky Donkey in Fletton, Peterborough and the Froth Blowers also in Peterborough. They are both homely, especially the Donkey and usually have only one bog. Both have a good range of ales on pump with lager in bottles. Only problem is getting a seat.

  3. More proof of just how little time Mudgie spends in micropubs...

    1. So, let's look at the evidence...

      Small in size - check.
      Occupies converted premises - check.
      No spirits - check.
      No bar counter - check.
      No conventional cellar - check.
      Primitive (i.e. limited) toilet facilities - check.

      Sounds to me like the Herne model of micropubs has plenty of points in common with the old-fashioned beerhouse.

    2. Every micropub that I have frequented has a bar counter and sells spirits, usually "craft" gin. If by conventional cellar you mean an underground cellar then plenty of real pubs lack that with no detriment to the beer

    3. The Stafford Mudgie21 March 2019 at 09:34

      Indeed, a great deal in common but 'in the company of his friends and neighbours' has perhaps been replaced by 'in the company of beer geeks'!

  4. "Ravelston walked self-consciously to the bar. People began staring at him again as soon as he stood up. The navvy, still leaning against the bar over his untouched pot of beer, gazed at him with quiet insolence. Ravelston resolved that he would drink no more of this filthy common ale.

    ‘Two double whiskies, would you, please?’ he said apologetically.

    The grim landlady stared. ‘What?’ she said.

    ‘Two double whiskies, please.’

    ‘No whisky ’ere. We don’t sell spirits. Beer ’ouse, we are.’

    The navvy smiled flickering under his moustache. ‘—— ignorant toff!’ he was thinking. ‘Asking for a whisky in a —— beer ’ouse!’ Ravelston’s pale face flushed slightly. He had not known till this moment that some of the poorer pubs cannot afford a spirit licence.

    ‘Bass, then, would you? Two pint bottles of Bass.’

    There were no pint bottles, they had to have four half pints. It was a very poor house. Gordon took a deep, satisfying swallow of Bass. More alcoholic than the draught beer, it fizzed and prickled in his throat, and because he was hungry it went a little to his head."

    George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)

    1. The Stafford Mudgie21 March 2019 at 10:51

      My maternal grandfather, despite living in Robinsons territory, drank bottles of Bass, at home, around that time.

  5. I remember going to one of those in the lake district in the Late Sixties. Think it was The Screes in Nether Wasdale.
    A small board on the wall encouraged us to go in but on entering we did a double take thinking we had walked into a private house. Then a classic little old lady appeared and asked us what we wanted, opening a sideboard to display rows of bottled beer. I can't remember what we drank but we stayed for some time chatting with the lady who obviously ran the establishment so she could have somebody to talk to.
    It was nothing like a modern micropub, in no way converted; more like a visit to my gran. And the toilet was immaculate and more than adequate for the number of visitors.

  6. Has anyone ever has a comfortable sit down in a micro pub?

    1. Has anyone ever had a comfortable shit in a micropub without people banging on the door?

  7. Looking at an ancient map of Heaton Norris (Stockport) recently I was amazed at how may "PH"s there were. In those days, Lancashire Hill and Manchester Road were lined with terrace houses, and it seemed that every fourth or fifth house was a Public House!

    1. The Stafford Mudgie22 March 2019 at 09:23

      Not just Heaton Norris but all over the place.
      When my great grandfather applied for the transfer of the license for a grocers shop and beer house called the Vine Tavern at 1 and 2 Farrell Street during 1872 "a number of gentlemen interested in the temperance movement" were present and the Chief Constable reported that there were 117 public houses and 508 beer houses in the Borough of Salford.

  8. This blogpost has a handy table showing the decline in the number of beerhouses in the twentieth century, from nearly twenty thousand in the early 30s to fewer than four hundred in the mid 70s.


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