Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Reputed measures

You may remember me complaining of the confusing measures in which bottled beer was sold in the 19th century. Often "reputed" rather than Imperial measures were used.

I can imagine I would have been a bit miffed as a consumer if I was fobbed off with a reputed pint. It was only two-thirds of an Imperial pint, or 378.85 ml. Whitbread, it seems, went for proper measures:

John Bull and John Barleycorn always have been, and we imagine always will be, inseparable companions, and it is scarcely necessary to recall the malediction which every Englishman is presumably prepared to call down upon the visual organs of that individual who should make the rash attempt to "rob a poor man" - and of course a rich one - "of his beer." Those enthusiastic individuals who condemn Our "cakes and ale," and more especially our ale, look upon the said John Barleycorn as an exceedingly dangerous fellow who, at all risks, must be "kept under one's thumb." Popular taste, however, seems to incline to the opinion that a much better way of keeping him - at least, for a time - is under a cork, and consequently, we are not surprised to learn that the demand for beer in bottle is largely on the increase. To meet this demand we find that many of our large breweries are turning their attention to this branch of business, and among others we notice that the eminent firm of Messrs. Whitbread and Co. are sending out their noted stout, ale, and "cooper," in this form, and that in doing so they effect "a consummation devoutly to be wished," viz., that of giving a pinot for a pint; or, in other words, of entering a practical protest against that system of "reputed" measures to which the public have too long submitted."
The Era - Sunday 20 November 1870, page 7.

Good old Whitbread, eh.? It's a pity they went all corporate and turned their back on brewing. Then again, their brewing records proabably wouldn't be in the London Metropolitan Archives if they had stuck with brewing. So maybe I shouldn't complain too much.

Cooper, in case you've forgotten, was a mixture of Porter and Stout.


Rob said...

"a mixture of Porter and Stout"

But I thought they were the same thing?

Ron Pattinson said...


they're different strengths. If you know the one story of the name's origin - as something served to outdoor coppers - you'll understand why that difference in strength is important.

Gary Gillman said...

At a distance of some 150 years, it is more necessary than in the writer's time to recall the malediction in question. It went something like his:

"Damn his eyes who would water the workman's beer".