Friday, 15 January 2010

Beer tokens

Beer tokens. That's what some call money. But brewery workers really were issued with beer tokens 100 years ago.

The following passage explains the system of beer tokens at Meux & Co. of Tottenham Court Road in London:
"The making of beer is thirsty work, and as a consequence all brewers' employés are allowed a certain amount of free liquor. Some have half a dozen pots a week, some a dozen—the quantity depends on how dusty their individual occupation happens to be. But only the mash-tun men obtain beer from the brewery. The others get their liquor from certain public-houses with which the brewer does business. On Monday morning each man receives an order—similar to the one reproduced on page 120—for the measure of beer to which he is entitled. This order he presents to the publican, who gives him in exchange a number of metal discs of varying denominations. There are penny discs, threehalfpenny discs, twopenny discs, threepenny discs, and fourpenny discs. Consequently for his drinks during the week the thirsty worker does not pay in coin of the realm, but in discs. If it pleases him to have twopenny worth of beer he places a twopenny disc on the counter ; if fourpennyworth, a fourpenny disc. A point also worth noting is that in return for these discs the publican is strictly enjoined only to supply ale, porter, or stout— never spirits. The discs are available for any length of time, and are generously transferable."
"Living London" edited by George Robert Sims, 1903, page 122.

That wasn't the system in Hole's Castle Brewery when I worked there in 1975. We had our breaks in a cellar where there was a keg each of AK and Mild from which we could help ourselves. You'd be amazed how much some of the old hands could knock back in 15 minutes. Then go back to operating heavy machinery. Happy days.


Rod said...

Brewers at Meantime are allowed ten free pints of any Meantime beer per week, at the brewery's tied pub.
Drinking in the brewery, as opposed to tasting, is not allowed, of course.

Alan said...

In the good old days, the CBC in Atlantic Canada would always try to run any beer story as news that they could. No news was sadder than the day the old Moosehead brewery in Halifax decided back in the 1980s to stop the practice of the eternal free tap in the workplace for the staff. Apparently they woke up one day to find their entire staff were alcoholics dying of related diseases. Probably had been the case for 150 years.

Rod said...

As Kunze says -
"Any brewer who is his own best customer is in the wrong place."

Joel said...

Googling "Hole's Castle Brewery" led me to a Google Books result that showed the interesting facade on the old place. Google has a large preview of this book online, pretty interesting:

_British breweries: an architectural history_ By Lynn F. Pearson

As for the brewery taps, Coors in Golden, CO closed the workers' all-you-can-drink tap after a drunk driving death of a worker on the compound and now only allows a couple of draws after your shift.

Ron Pattinson said...

Joel, I have a photo of the brewery facade as my wallpaper.

Got a copy of the book. Not quite got around to reading it yet. Like that book on the British Malting Industry and the one on drink control in WW I.

Mike said...

I worked at Lees's brewery, near Manchester in 1970 and the cellar had several casks for the workforce to drink at break or whenever they were thirsty.
An retired employee, probably 70+yrs old came in every morning and partially filled a SS bucket with bitter, he then sat down with his 'Mirror' drinking from his bucket of beer whilst picking his horses for the afternoon( I wish there had been digital cameras then!). He went for lunch at the Lee's pub across from the brewery, then after the bookies he came back,and filled his bucket some more. He was a little guy and I have never seen anyone drink as much as he did and still walk and talk straight. He had a lifetime beer token given as a retirement gift.

Stephen Beaumont said...

A neighbour of my parents grew up in the area near the Wernesgruner brewery. In the early post-war years, their home in ruins, they were given refuge at the brewery, where they stayed for some time. There was very little in the way of food available, he told me, but the brewery was still working and so they were given tokens they could stick into a machine -- he said it was something like a gas pump -- to receive a litre of beer. The beer was largely what they lived on.

Sybil Taylor said...

Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto Canada still uses beer tokens every day! our HR manager, better known as the token beer lady, walks around each day and gives staff their daily allotment. In our retail store we have a single bottle dispense cooler (converted coke bottle dispenser) which has been branded with Steam Whistle Pilsner design and takes one token for a bottle of beer. We've affectionately named this dispenser Lenore, and brewery staff gather round her every evening after work for some conversation and to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Pictures attached.

sybil taylor said...

Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto Canada [ ] still uses beer tokens everyday to provide staff beer to our workers! our HR manager, who's better known as the 'token beer lady' walks around each day to give out the tokens to our happy staff. We gather in our retail store after work and circle around a single bottle refrigerated cooler which dispenses one bottle for one token. In its former life, this dispensed coke bottles but we converted it a while back and have applied a nice Steam Whistle Pilsner design to it. We gather every day after work to enjoy conversation and the fruits of our labour and the ritual of dropping that token into the slot is a satisfying part of our day. I'd like to attach pictures too but haven't figured that out yet. visit us sometime. Sybil Taylor, Steam Whistle Brewing, The Roundhouse - 255 Bremner Blvd., Toronto. ON M5V 3M9 416-362-2337
25 January 2010 12:17