Thursday, 11 August 2011

Beer and Porter - what are they made of?

Lying bastards. Anti-alcohol campaigners. A bunch of lying bastards prepared to tell any lie to scare the ignorant. It's a continuing theme for the last 150 years.

Nowadays it's doctors with an axe to grind or shit journalists in search of a sensational headline. Inconvenient facts are ignored and figures distorted to fit the author's point of view. Back in Victorian days they had whole publications full of the vilest calumny.

Some articles are full of such rubbish that they become works of comedy. Inadvertent satires you'd be hard pressed to better. Like the text below.


(From the Temperance Reciter.)

John.—Well, Fred., how do you get on? How do you and teetotalism agree? Not looking very pale— not got any thinner.

Fred.—Why, for the matter of that, John, I don't see how a teetotaler should be thinner or paler than other people,—except perhaps such folks as the fat, red-nosed topers, sometimes to be met with; but then you know such people never enjoy good health.

John.—You are quite right. It is impossible that such people can be healthy. How can any one be healthy when he is pouring poison down his throat day after day?

Fred.—Now you mention poison, it reminds me that you promised some time ago to tell me all about the qualities and composition of beer and other liquors.

John.—Well, just let us take beer. My father has a brewer's guide, which gives a full account of the way to make different kinds of beer, ale, and porter. I've studied that book a little.

Fred.—Then you must know something about it.

John.—Yes; there are London porter, London ale, Burton ale, Welsh ale, bitter ale, Scotch ale, and so on.

Fred.—I've heard that London porter is made of river-water. Is that true?

John.—Quite true. But the London breweries are not the only ones that use river-water. Most breweries are built by the side of a river, as river-water is considered best for brewing.

Fred.—Why so?

John.—Because there are certain materials mixed with the water that give substance and flavour to the article brewed, whether it be porter or beer.

Fred.—I want to know what the materials are?

John.—I can't describe them all, but I will some of them. You know our house is on one side of the river, and the Albion Brewery is on the other, so that I can see from our leads what goes on there.

Fred.—Yes, yes, exactly so—capital.

John.—Well, the engine pumps up a great quantity of water in a day into the tank or reservoir or the top of the building; from there it is drawn off to the boiler for brewing.

Fred.—But how about the materials? What is there beside water?

John.—I am going to tell you what I have seen In the first place, there are half-a-dozen drains or sewers all along the river-wall, and these empty their filth into the river at no great distance from the pump.

Fred.—Oh! what a treat! Shocking!

John.—In the second place, after the engine has been pumping for some hours, I notice a quantity of scum on the surface of the water just round the pump.

Fred.—What is the scum like?

John.—Why, filth—rotten straw, pieces of stick, dead dogs and cats, and even dead rats; and there are thousands of live rats in the holes besides.

Fred.—Why, surely some of that must be drawn up by the pump?

John.—No doubt about that, and I'll tell you all I know: every Monday morning two men go into the tank to clean it out, one with a broom and the other with a shovel.

Fred.—Oh beer! thy name is filth.

John.—So, after the one with the broom has swept up the mud and filth and bones into a corner, the other takes his shovel and throws it back into the river, where it stays till it is pumped up with some more of the same sort at the next pumping.

Fred.—Well, this is the sort of water people give threepence a pint for! Give me the pump where I can get it clean, and for nothing. Good bye, till we meet again.
"The Adviser. A monthly magazine for young people", 1853, pages 111 - 113.

The irony is that in the 1850's it was drinking water that was likely to be full of god knows what. While beer was brewed from pure well water.

Seems to me that if you have to resort to such blatant lies, you can't be very secure about your argument.


Rod said...

"The irony is that in the 1850's it was drinking water that was likely to be full of god knows what. While beer was brewed from pure well water"

Indeed - river water was not generally used by the london brewers, but, even if it had been, the resultant wort was boiled hard for at least an hour, often far longer, which would have killed any bugs that might have been in the brewing liquor.
But then these people never let facts get in the way of their deceitful propaganda, as we know.

Barm said...

This reminds me of the silly fake "announcement" you sometimes see in German bars, along the lines of "We will be brewing beer on Thursday. Therefore from Wednesday onwards no-one is allowed to shit in the river!"

DrJohn said...

It reads a bit like a Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore sketch. "Now what's the worst job you ever 'ad? Why shovelling up all the dead cats and dogs etc., etc....."

Oblivious said...

"the resultant wort was boiled hard for at least an hour, often far longer, which would have killed any bugs that might have been in the brewing liquor."

Some Clostridium botulinum can survive boiling for several hours

Rod said...

"Some Clostridium botulinum can survive boiling for several hours"

Your learning does you credit, but the point here is that beer, until comparatively recently, was much safer to drink than water.
Could you cite any outbreak of botulism that was linked to beer drinking?

Ed said...

Clostridia are Gram positive so their growth will be inhibited by the bacteriostatic effect of the isomerised alpha acids from the hops.