Friday, 16 October 2015

The connection between Flowers and Hammonds

Several threads come together today. Hammonds, Flowers, Bernard Dixon and more.

Westoe was one of Hammonds last takeovers before transmorphing into United Breweries. It turns out they weren’t the only ones interested in the brewery in the Northeast.

“The brewery had some eighty public houses in the pit villages of north Durham and extended its estate up to South Shields, moving its brewery there from Durham City. The outlets had modest trades by the 1950s, their decline mirroring that of the heavy industry on which their business had been based. A significant shareholding in Westoe had been acquired by Flowers Brewery, secured for it through the activity of Bernard Dixon, its managing director, as part of a strategy to extend that company. He was a technical brewer who had moved into management and who had devised enzymic malt, a product seemingly endowed with magical restorative powers in its heyday. Dixon had taken J W Green of Luton, a moderate brewery, and transformed it with another wonder product - keg beer - and had then swallowed up the old and distinguished Flowers Brewery of Stratford on Avon, seizing its name to replace that of Green (one of the few recorded instances in brewery history where the conqueror has assumed the mantle of the conquered).”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 68.

Dixon’s malt came up recently in a discussion I had with Kristen about the 1937 Courage KKK recipe, which uses a small amount. I hadn’t realised it was the Dixon of J W Green that had developed it. Interesting chap. Oddly enough in the 1955 Flowers records I have there’s no trace of enzymic malt, despite Green having bought them the year before.

I’m trying now to think of other examples of where the dominant party in a merger ditched their own name. All I can come up with is Wolverhampton & Dudley becoming Marstons. But there must be others.

This is a serving method I’d not heard of:

“He performed a similar magical act at Westoe. The quality of its beer was improved enormously, particularly with its foaming head, highly prized by Tynesiders. Then, their preference was for a pint of draught beer to be set before them with its open bubble froth head standing above the rim of the glass, much like a well filled ice cream cornet from Mr Whippy. The technique of consumption by the customer was to blow the froth on to the floor, an astonishing and messy practice, in order to get at the liquid beneath. To achieve such a frothy head involved the bartender in overpulling and cascading beer down the side of the glass. The two activities of drawing and consuming the beer resulted in a bar counter and floor being awash with spilt beer by the end of the evening. It was essential that the glass used was first rinsed with cold water and left dripping; the thick glass beer mugs with handles, favoured by the effeminate southerners, were unknown - just the thin walled clear sleeve glass prevailed in the North East. A few public houses used oversized glasses; the barman filled them to his estimate of a pint, and then sliced off the standing head in the presence of the customer with a wooden spatula, leaving a brim level head on the beer. It was an attempt to keep down the mess; but the law frowned on the practice, as it was felt that it would lead to a return to "the long pull" - that horror of the high Victorian temperance days, of giving more beer than the customer actually ordered. It is no wonder public houses were male dominated places, and were plainly furnished with bare floors and wooden tables and chairs. I believe there was once an organisation called "The Ancient Order of Frothblowers", based on this practice. All this has vanished today, and few perhaps remember the tide of spilt beer on the floor of a busy Tyneside pub.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 68.

It sounds like an even more extreme system than in Leeds. Oversize glasses were very rare, except in pubs with metred electric pumps. Slicing the top off with a spatula is common practice with draught Pils here in Holland. Odd to think of them doing it in the Northeast as well. I can imagine the mess when multiple drinkers blew the foam off their pints all night.

I‘ve got one single, lonely analysis of a Westoe beer. It’s a strongish bottled Pale Ale.

Westoe brewery beer
Year Beer Style Price size package OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1953 Export Pale Ale 1/3d half bottled 1042.2 1008.3 4.41 80.33% 23 B
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Still loads more of this crap to come.


Phil said...

Re ice cream cone heads, it's still going on - I had a head like that on a pint of Cameron's Strongarm in Hartlepool last year. I had no idea what to do with it & just let it stand till it'd subsided. It seemed to have kicked so much gas out of the liquid that the actual beer was practically flat, by the time I got to it - which suited the flavour of Strongarm surprisingly well.

Thom Farrell said...

And there I was, wondering why there were so many former Bass houses in the Durham pit communities, with adverts for Stones Best Bitter and Carling Black Label outside them.

Thom Farrell said...

The oversized head towered above the rim of the glass is still common and traditional practice in Hartlepool. Never seen it done elsewhere however.

Gary Gillman said...

The oversize head was southern too (or is, I hope still): the pint of thinnish (low CO2) beer was filled almost to brim and a cauliflower head spread over the top and around. I always liked this as it denoted a fresh pint. As the head was loose and airy it subsided quickly with little spillage although a bit might come down the side of the glass. Some of the 30's draught beer ads show beer with this look.

Froth-blowing, not the most creditable (in my opinion) tradition amongst the many arcane practices of beer drinkers, has an old history. In the interwar years, a charitable group existed called Ancient Order of Froth Blowers, described in this Wikipedia entry with surprising detail:

One of the footnotes suggests a modern group with a similar name carries on the tradition.

Note the humorous illustration in the Wikipedia piece showing a John Bull-type blowing the froth off his beer.

Gary Gillman