Sunday, 6 October 2019

Prominent firms - Barclay Perkins

More from the Brewers' Society infomercial in the London Evening Standard in 1908.

There's a section called "Prominent Firms" the breweries in which - I'm sure totally coincidentally - seem to coincide with those who had taken out advertisements on the page. Interestingly, the longest of these puff pieces is devoted to my favourite, Barclay Perkins.

The whole page has an awful lot about bottled beer and the pieces on individual breweries also concentrate on their bottled products. And specifically their artificially carbonated varieties. Which might explain why one of the most prominent firms is excluded. I'm talking about Whitbread, who resisted the move away from naturally carbonated bottled beers until the 1920s.

The “black beers” London were much more generally drunk than ale. They were, in fact, a fashionable beverage, which cannot be to so much the case to-day, however much one may regret the lesser popularity of the most nutritive kind of beer. Whatever the reason may be, comparatively few people — particularly among the well to classes - drink stout; and yet there is such stout made in London today as was never excelled at any time. One of the great black beer breweries of London was that of Messrs. Barclay. Perkins, and Co., a name very familiar to the public, not alone on account of the quality of the liquor associated therewith, but also on account Dr. Johnson’s connection with the brewery. The world will never forget that saying of his on the occasion of his disposing of the concern to David Barclay: "We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.”

English Stout in Russia.
Though Messrs. Barclay now produce great deal more ale than black beer they retain, nevertheless, the secret of making excellent stout. Five different kinds are bottled, the ordinary half-crown stout, the Best, the Imperial stout, Oatmeal stout, and Imperial Russian stout. It is a curious circumstance that it is not the British public which is the best customer for the excellent brew called Russian stout. Made from the finest materials it is possible to get, money cannot buy a better beverage of the kind; yet its chief market is in Russia, where it fetches the price of good Burgundy. In London, on the other hand, this special brew can had for 7s. the dozen pints, which is not an out of the way price for an article of superlative quality, not inferior to champagne as an  exhilarating drink, and one that can be laid down for an indefinite period. Frequently those who have made acquaintance for the first time have written to the firm declaring that they never imagined such a beverage was to be had.

Medical Appreciation of Malt Liquors.
Of ales Messrs. Barclay manufacture a good variety, including, of course, India Pale Ale, Mild Ale, and that known popularly as XLK. Both stout and ale are bottled under the now familiar “doctor” brand, in which is represented the head of Dr. Johnson a striking trademark, which identifies a wholeeome liquor, of whatorer colour or price. On this point may be quoted the teatimony of the "Lancet": "We believe these malt liquors are thoroughly genuine, and they are evidently brewed with care, judging from their excellent condition and flavour."

Messrs. Barclay obtain much of the barley they use from Norfolk, a county noted for this cereal; thay possess a malting of their own at Ditchingham, and another at Bury Bt. Edmunds. The brewery is a huge concern, covering 15 acres of ground and sending out considerably mote than 500,000 barrels year. It is conducted on lines which ensure the purity and wholesomeness of the beers, all the materials being systematically tested by the firm’s analyst."
London Evening Standard - Tuesday 20 October 1908, page 9.
Note the use of the term "black beer" to refer to both Porter and Stout. A century earlier Porter would have been used in this sense. It's only later in the 19th century, when people were starting to forget that Stout was a form of Porter, that black beer started to be used as the generic word for both.

I've studied Barclay Perkins quite closely and it seems to be only towards the end of the 19th century that they started making a big deal of the connection with Dr. Johnson. Once they had, they didn't let go and branded their bottled beer with his image right until the bitter end.

I'd always assumed that Russian Stout exports to Russia had fizzled out in the 19th century. I'm surprised to discover that it was still the destination of most of Barclay's IBSt as late as 1908. That export trade wasn't going to continue for much longer, that's for sure. We're lucky that that wasn't the end of the beer.

Even more shocking is the reference to IPA. The first time a beer with that name appears in the brewing records is 1928. I'm guessing that the bottled form of their Ordinary Bitter, XLK, was marketed as IPA.


Phil said...

"7s the pints"? Is there a number missing?

Ron Pattinson said...


not a number but a word: dozen.

Martyn Cornell said...

A Le Coq had been exporting Barclay's IRS to Russia until 1906, but turned to Reid's IRS around that date, according to Andres Sepp's book Õllelinn Tartu: A Le Coq 1807-2007. Don't know if anyone else had been exporting Barclay's IRS to the Baltic as well before that, but I'd bet Barclay's found another way to get the beer to St Petersburg after Le Coq dropped them (or they dropped Le Coq).