Sunday, 15 June 2014

Mum again

There are some odd features of British legislation. Especially the way some items are specifically mentioned by name long after they had disappeared from the real world. Did nothing except confuse the hell out of everyone. Mum is a good example.

Many of our readers must have wondered when reading Customs and Excise Regulations, what was the meaning of the word "Mum" in the sentence "Mum, spruce or black beer, Berlin White Beer," etc. In May last, when the House was debating the Finance Bill (Committee stage), Captain Waterhouse, in order to obtain information on this point, moved to delete the word "Mum," not, as he explained, because he objected to it, but because he wanted an explanation of the entire phrase in which  it occurred. Mr. Pethick-Lawrence replied, "At the present time there is no beer being imported under the description 'Mum,' but there has been, in the past, a special kind of German beer called 'Mum,' which came into this country, and was of the same category as the black beer manufactured in this country. The form of beer which is covered by this description is not a beverage in the ordinary sense, but is of the same character as beer, and is used partly as a medicine. It has been for many years included under the Beer Duty, and it is not the intention of the Government to change the practice adopted all this time. The reason why the word 'Mum' is continued is because, though actually at the present time no 'Mum' is being imported, we have to be prepared in case it should be imported, in which case, if the amendment were carried, it would be very unfair to British producers, and would be the exact reverse of a protective duty." Further information as to "Mum" was supplied by Mr. Leif Jones, the well-known temperance advocate, who stated that the word was at least as old as the 14th century, and that it appears in some Statutes as far back as 1594. It was, he said, an old-fashioned remedy of the 17th and 18th centuries, and was imported from Brunswick. The concise Oxford dictionary describes it as a kind of beer originally brewed in Brunswick, its name being derived from the German "mumme," while Thorpe's dictionary of Applied Chemistry describes it as a kind of fat ale (sic) brewed from wheat and bitter herbs. Chamber's Encyclopaedia, on the other hand, says it is a kind of beer made from wheat malt, to which some brewers add oat and bean meal. Those who would like to pursue the matter further will find information on this question in " Notes and Queries" for November, 1881, page 376."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 36, Issue 4, July-August 1930, page 325.
It's quite weird that parliament continued to pass legislation with words no-one understood the meaning of.

I wonder when Mum was last imported into Britain? Must have been sometime in the 19th century. I'm not sure they were really making Mum in Germany any more by then.

Even weirder that they should be getting information about Mum from a temperance campaigner.

This is the relevant section from the 1930 Finance Act:

2.-(1) In lieu of the duties of customs payable on beer of the descriptions called or similar to mum, spruce or black beer, or Berlin white beer, or other preparations, whether fermented or not fermented, of a similar character imported into the United Kingdom, there shall, as from the fifteenth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty, be charged, levied, and paid the following duties, that is to say :-

For every thirty-six gallons of beer where the worts thereof are, or were before fermentation, of a specific gravity: £ s. d.
Not exceeding one thousand two hundred and fifteen degrees 20 14 0
Exceeding one thousand two hundred and fifteen degrees  24 5 0

(2) In lieu of the duty of customs payable on every description of beer other than those specified in the preceding subsection imported into the United Kingdom there shall, as from the fifteenth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty, be charged, levied, and paid the A.D. 1930 following duty, that is to say:-  £ s. d.
For every thirty-six gallons where the worts thereof were before fermentation of a specific gravity of one thousand and fifty-five degrees  5 3 6

That's a very high rate of duty - a British-brewed beer with a gravity of 1215º would have paid £15 12s duty per 36-gallon barrel.

I'm puzzled as to what possible connection Berlin White Beer (assuming it means Berliner Weisse) could have with Mum. A beer with a gravity of, at most, 1030º. Let me know your thoughts.


R said...

My first thought was Champagne Mumm but it isn't a beer and has an extra "m" too.

Ron Pattinson said...

Mumm and Mumme are alternate spellings.

Frank Clark said...

Ron, actually I think there two mums in production right now. One from Germany the Brunswick Mumme from H Nettelbeck brewery in Braunsweg. And my own Dear old Mum brewed by Alewerks brewing in Williamsburg VA. So with the interest growing in historic beer perhaps they should keep the old names on the books.