Charrington's brewery on the Mile End Road was still standing the first time I lived in London, back in 1979. I lived not that far away, in Bromley By Bow. So went past it a few times. It had stopped brewing in 1975, but they hadn't got around to demolishing it. The former Mann's brewery just down the road was still open, but closed that year.
If I'm honest, that bit of London was pretty depressing. The scariest pub crawl I've ever done was down the Whitechapel Road. It included the Blind Beggar, the Mann's brewery tap. Horrible in just about every way. What I'm trying to recall is why I did the crawl more than once. What was I thinking?
Charrington was one of the big winners in London in the 19th century. Originally a specialist Ale brewer, it was well-positioned to profit from the switch from Porter to Mild. From a modest 20,000 barrels a year in 1818, it ended the century as one of the largest breweries in the city. Starting as a shark in the swimming pool of 1950's takeovers, it ended as whitebait, gobbled up by Bass.
Not all of the Charrington's brewery has disappeared. The southeast corner - it looks like the offices - remains. The rest of the site is a car park and Computer World. Not sure what that says about modern Britain.
Detailed OS maps from the late 19th century have been a revelation. Especially when transposed on a modern satellite view. The foundries, mills, breweries, distilleries, glassworks, maltings and every other imaginable form of industry have been replaced by car parks and supermarkets.
I'm rambling off again. Dodgy Mild. That's what I'm supposed to be on about. Whoops, giving the game away.
As a specialist Ale brewer, you'd expect Charrington's Mild to be top notch. Mmmm:
|Charrington Brewery Mild Ale quality 1922 - 1923|
|1922||X||1007||1039.3||4.23||82.70%||fairly bright||going off||-2|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001|
Feeling equivocal now. I'm disappointed that Charrington's Ale was so shit, but relieved that Barclay Perkins' wasn't the worst.
Only 3 out of 10 were bright. That's not good. Grey - I think I've occasionally had pints like that. In that Davenports pub in Birmingham. A long time ago. I knew so little about beer. I'd take it back now. "piecy" doesn't sound appetising, like it has lumps you could chew.
"Foul off" - great isn't it, how you can conjure up so much about a beer in just two words. It makes me think of a pint of pure Sarson's, so much acetic acid you really could sprinkle it on your chips in an emergency.
I've not gone through all the breweries yet. I don't know who will come out best, and who the worst. But Charrington have thrown down a marker. They're the brewery to beat for last place.