I was thinking about the questions I wished I'd asked older people when I was younger. Not about anything really important. Just what beer had been like when they were young.
Then I jumped forward. Maybe I should do that. Answer the questions I would have like to have asked. But about my experiences 40 or 50 years ago. Because things have changed a lot.
|The former Warwick & Richardson brewery|
Let's go back to my childhood.
When my family moved to Newark in the early 1960s, the town boasted two decent-sized regional breweries: Warwick & Richardson and Holes. As well as several substantial maltings. Both breweries owned 200 or so tied houses. Including almost all the pubs in town. We'll be gt5ting back to that later.
In 1962, John Smith bought Warwick & Richardson. After brewing ceased in 1966, the pubs were rebranded as Barnsley, another brewery owned by John Smith. Holes was snapped up by Courage in 1967. But the cataclysmic event was in 1970, when Courage took over John Smith. Leaving Courage owning 30 of the 35 pubs in Newark. And all four of the pubs in Balderton, the village bordering Newark where we lived.
When I started visiting pubs around 1972, most of the pubs in town were supplied by the former Holes brewery. But a couple were still supplied by Barnsley: the King William IV and the Wing Tavern. The latter being the only pub in town with handpumps. Well, working ones. It served one cask beer, the magnificent Barnsley Bitter.
The only other pubs selling cask were the four Home Ales pubs: Newcastle Arms, the Ram Hotel, the Clinton Hotel and the Cardinal's Hat. Though the last named was in the middle of a post-war council estate and, because of the weird street pattern, quite difficult to find. All of their pubs served cask Bitter and Mil through electric pumps.
If you've been paying attention you'll have noticed that I've only got to 34 pubs. The 35th was a former Steward & Patteson pub, the Olde White Hart. Which was in the hands of Watney. Meaning the town had no free houses whatsoever. Every pub was tied.
The vast majority of pubs sold bright Holes beer. That is, rough-filtered, but not pasteurised and served through electric pumps, without extra CO2 pressure. The result was a halfway house between cask and keg. Poorly handled cask beer was often hard to distinguish from bright beer. The confusion being increased by most cask being served through electric pumps.
Other than Skol, then the main Lager of Courage, and Tavern, their premium keg beer, only seven draught beer were available: Courage AK, Mild and IPA; Home Bitter, Mild and whatever their Lager was; Barnsley Bitter. Oh, and whatever shit was on offer in the Watneys pub. Probably Red Barrel. I don't know for sure because I never went in the Olde White Hart. Still never have been.
Not exactly spoilt for choice.Newark was one of many local monopolies, of varying sizes, which were found around the country. Usually where one of the Big Six had bought up all the local breweries. The situation was totally different in many of the towns around Newark.
Nottingham, for example, was dominated by the three local breweries: Home Ales, Shipstone and Hardy & Hanson. The owned the lion's share of pubs in the city. And 99% of then sold cask beer. Though only a handful of pubs retained beer engines. The vast majority of beer was served by metered electric dispense.
I've looked for an image of a typical electric pump, but can't find one. These things used to be so common, but I suppose have totally disappeared. If you have an image, please let me know.
I'll be continuing these reminiscences until, well, I get bored or my memories run out. Which probably won't be long, as I can recall so little.