Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Unpalatable Nottingham beer

My memory isn't what it was. This proves it.

I'm always pleased when I find proof of dodgy goings on in pubs. If only because there are so many tales about adulteration and watering, but very little hard evidence. Like this.

When the name and address of the pub are included, I usually look it up on Google Maps. Which is exactly what I did with the Queen's Arms mentioned below. Read the article then I'll tell you why it's a sign that my memory is going.


There were three defendants in two prosecutions brought by the Customs and Excise, heard at Nottingham Guildhall to-day.

Josiah Widdowson, of the Queen's Arms, Queens-road, Nottingham, was summoned for mixing sugar with beer, so as to increase the quantity of gravity, after an account had been taken by a Customs and Excise officer and duty had been charged.

The offence was admitted. Mr. E. R. Booth, prosecuting, said defendant was a licensed publican and brewer of beer.

Certain beer was brewed on March 16th, and an account was taken the following day.

On March 25th a local excise officer took a sample of beer from a cask on tap, which was found to contain added sugar to the extent of about 71b. to the barrel.

Mr. Booth stressed the seriousness of the offence.

No Intent To Defraud
Mr. F. Clayton said defendant had not acted with any intent to defraud. He had held licence in the city for 35 years, and for 10 years he had been the Queens Arms. Never had there been complaint Against him.

The beer in this particular barrel had "gone hard" and was not palatable. He gave instructions to the brewer to make it palatable by adding a certain quantity of the sugar.

Some 10 or 12 gallons of beer had been sold from the barrel and the gravity of the remainder was raised by the addition of sugar.

Mr. Clayton pointed out that the sugar wag not added to the brew. Defendant made a clear breast of the matter.

Mr. Booth said the original bulk was increased by four gallons.

Mr. Rheinlander, a witness for the Customs and Excise, said the increase of gravity was not sufficient to account for the whole of the 7lb. of sugar. Therefore the sugar must have been added in the form of solution, which case the bulk would be increased as well as the gravity.

The Bench imposed a fine of £5 and £5 5s. costs.

Bottoms And Overs
William Richardson, of the Phoenix Inn, Denman-street, Nottingham, was summoned for a similar offence, and his son. William Arthur Richardson, of the same address, was summoned for aiding and abetting.

Mr. Booth said that 4.1lb. of fermentable sugar had been added to a barrel of 36 gallons, and he submitted that it was added after the account had been taken for duty, though younger defendant said "the only sugar added was that in the copper."

Evidence was given by Robert Charles Moore, officer of Customs and Excise, and Dr. J. W. G. Maclennan, chemist in the Government laboratory, said there was no doubt that the sugar was added. No mixing with a higher gravity beer would explain the presence of the sugar.

Wm. Arthur Richardson, replying to Mr. R. A. Young, who defended both men (they pleaded "Not guilty"), said that bottoms and overs of strong and mild beer were put together in one barrel, refined again, and sold as mild ale at 5d. a pint. It was from this that the sample was taken. Duty had already been paid on it.

A Doubt In The Case?
"I did not add anything to the beer except finings, no sugar whatever had been added except that in the original brewing," said defendant.

He made no attempt to increase the gravity or quality, or to make any profit on the duty that should be paid to the Inland Revenue.

Mr. Young said it was particularly unfortunate that those proceedings had come along. The elder defendant had been advised on medical grounds to leave the licensing business, and it was his intention to apply for the transfer of the licence his son in a fortnight's time.

Mr. Young contended that there was doubt in the case, which should be given favour of the defendants.

The Bench imposed a fine of £5 on each defendant, and £2 12s. 6d. costs each."
Nottingham Evening Post - Wednesday 08 July 1936, page 7.

Why's my mind going? I used to drink in the Queens. Quite often. It's right next to Nottingham railway station and was a handy starting/ending point when I visited Nottingham by train. It used to be quite a nice Shipstone's pub. Then Greenhalls took over Shipstone's and it was allowed to fall into decline and eventually closed. It looks rather sad today.

The landlord was a licensed brewer,  which makes it tempting to assume that the Queens was a homebrew pub. But it's possible that the brewery was elsewhere. The article does not make cleaar where the brewing took place.

Bottoms and overs - I wonder what they were exactly? Bottoms I would guess were the dregs left at the bottom of a barrel. But what about overs? Is that a posh word for slops? By "refined" I'm pretty sure they mean "adding finings again" rather than some distillation process. I can guess why they claimed Strong Ale had been mixed with Mild Ale: to explain the too high gravity of the Mild they were selling.

The story used to go around that all the slops were put back into the Mild barrel. The second case seems to imply that is assertion was true. The landlord was happy to admit mixing odds and ends of different beers and selling them as Mild.

"Hard" usually means sour in this context. It's easy to understand how sugar could be used to mask sourness. But, as it also added extra (untaxed) fermentable material, it was very much against the law.

1 comment:

Jeff Renner said...

I wonder if "overs" was beer that last leftover after filling casks and was kept for topping up. This could be the case in a homebrew pub.