Friday, 6 April 2012

Alloa Ale!

Here's a change of pace: a poem. Although, obviously, I'm not leaving the narrow path of Scottish beer. I reckon I've at least another six months' worth of material. And that's not counting what I'll harvest in September  when I plan visiting Glasgow (and the Scottish Brewing Archive).

I think I might have posted some of this before. Not totally sure. Ignoring that possibility, I'll press on. Reading through the poem I had a bit of a Rab C. Nesbitt moment. It reminded me of when Rab's mates switched up a few gears to full-strength Glaswegian. I'm glad they were considerate enough to add subtitles. Because I didn't understand a word aurally.

Bear that in mind when reading this:

"Gif ye wish healthie habits an' wad be lang livers,
Then spirituous drinks ye s'oud never fash wi';
But Alloa Ale ye may drink it in rivers,
An' the deeper ye drink, aye the better ye'll be,
Sae potent as physic its virtues are valued,
They daily wha drink look hearty an' hale;
O ye a' hae heard tell o' a Balm got in Gilead,
Tak my word for't 'twas naething but Alloa Ale!

"Then countrymen croud roun' the bizzin ale bicker,
An waur na on whisky your siller an' sense ;
Nae gate ye'll fa' in wi' the like o' this liquor,
That thro' body an' saul can sic vigour dispense.
Lei nae Brandy-bibber scare you wi' his scoffin,
At prudence in drink—till he tire lat him rail ;
Ilk a dram that he drinks is a nail in his coffin,
But you'll lenthen your life-lease wi' Alloa Ale.

"Gie big-bellied John Bull his pot fu' o' Porter,
Which is far frae a wa'cast, weel worth its fair fame,
But Paddy prefers something sharper an' shorter.
An' I'm sorry to say it, some Scots do the same.
Far Hielan' bred Donald, au'laigh countrie Sannock,
Wad baith be the better an tend to my tale ;
Aye dine on the Kebbuck-kale Brose an' Bear Bannock,
An' drink when they're drouthie the Alloa Ale!"
John Imlah, 1827.

I particularly like the comment about the Irish and Highlanders preferring something shorter. And the fat English. Two-hundred year old racial stereotyping. You can't beat it. It's spot on for me, mind. Both the pot-bellied and Porter parts.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

This poem attests to the rising popularity of whisky in this period. It is an attempt, humorously of course, to rally to the defence of ale, an older drink and one seen (probably dubiously) as more healthy and "authentic".

This was a time in which Scotch whisky was gaining repute through methodical aging and producer differentiation. It would be a couple of generations before England twigged to its merits - I mean "officially", in the sense of whisky becoming a socially-approved drink for the privileged classes, but finally this occurred without ale being displaced as the drink of the land.

It would be interesting to see per capita figures for beer consumption, Scotland vs. England, in 1840-1940. I'd wager the Scots were or fell behind the English by a decent margin, and this would be because of whisky's rise in Scotland.

Some of the old attitudes survive in reverse in England. I have a friend whom I see sometimes in London. I like most kinds of drinks but he drinks only beer. I once said, why don't you like whisky, it's one of the great drinks in the world? He said, that's what they drink in Scotland, I never drink it. There was something in his tone too of disapproval, not for Scots but for whisky, as if it was something mildly dangerous and inherently different from beer (which it isn't, all that matters really is the net amount of alcohol taken in, otherwise all these are the same, IMO).