Wednesday, 8 April 2009


I often get ideas on the tram. Or bus. While waiting for those bastard cars to shift off the tram tracks. Today's was "Perspective".

"Lexie, I'll paint that red, if you promise not to pester me until I've finished writing my blog."


(I could explain what I have to paint red and why, but that would take all the mystery away. )

Perspective. The personal event horizon. Everything before consciousness, is tedious. For me, the 1950's were weird, boring, black and white days. Old-fashioned and dull. Everything after 1965 was exciting and new.

Until 1986. When every change in music or fashion become scarily threatening. Hey, I knew what cool was in the second half of 1976. Don't go changing cool and making me look like a twat.

But it's provided me with a useful scale. Of historical perspective. The year is 1870. What would your average drinker, brewer, politician, journalist, novelist have known about the 1830's? What do you know, from personal experience of beer from the 1960's? Or the 1970's?

How far in the past is your horizon?

The horizon of personal experience influences our view of both the past and the future. We extrapolate the present back into the past. I used to think Bitter and Mild, as I experienced them in the 1970's, had been around for centuries. It's a fault repeated in many books about beer. Even brewers have little concept of what went on before they started brewing themselves.

The future we expect to be a continuation of the present, with just the odd tweak. Who could have imagined in 1900 that Porter would have disappeared within 50 years? Or in the 1940's that Mild would have disappeared from swathes of Britain by 1980? Will pale lager continue its domination for another 100 years? History tells us no. Its decline will be unexpected and surprisingly swift.

Perspective. It's what I'm trying to gain with all my fiddling around in dusty, 150 year old books. I'm starting to get a little. But I want full 4-D.


Pivní Filosof said...

Man! Does all the above make me think!
Maybe unrelated, maybe not, but I've been wondering lately what those beers of the 19th century really tasted like, specially those that made longs trips by sea...

The Professor said...

I could only imagine about the 19th would indeed be wonderful to taste what they might have been consuming back then. Our palates would probably be in for a surprise.

The whole perspectives thing is great food for thought. In my own experiences, talking and sharing with folks a good measure younger than myself (beer lovers, specifically), they seem to be surprised when I mention some of the high quality brews I was regularly drinking 40 years ago.

I began enjoying beer in the 1960's. Curiously, I immediately gravitated to beers well outside the so called "norm" of the light fizzy American lagers which my friends practically bathed in (the first beer I ever bought for myself was domestically produced Bock beer of some character; by 1970 my favorite "go-to" was a hefty IPA, also domestically produced practically in my backyard... in New Jersey, of all places).
My friends could only ask me why my beers were the wrong color (their horizons were clearly different from mine).

FInding "good" beers was something more of a challenge back then but even so, there were indeed some mighty good traditionally made ones hiding about if you knew the right corners to peek around. Today there is certainly a great deal more choice, but I sometimes feel that finding the really good ones is still a challenge to some degree.

I got off-track a bit (as I often seem to do) but your talk of perspective and horizons is well appreciated and makes me nostalgic for the quest.

But then again, as the late Frank Zappa once noted, "nostalgia is just a mild form of depression."

Anonymous said...

You're completely correct Ron - the shortness of popular memory is one of the reasons I am becoming increasingly dubious about the "golden lager was born in 1842 in Plzen" story, because from what I can uncover, that was a tale written 50 years after the event. Sadly, I have no evidence to refute or confirm the story - what is needed is someone who can read Czech and German and who's good at interpreting old brewing records ... know anyone who fits that bill?

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, no, please don't give me anything else to investigate. I'm already floundering in a sea of books.

I'd never really thought that the 1842 story might be bollocks. But if it was written 50 years after the fact, there's a good chance it is.

Come to think of it, the funny cast iron thing in the Pilsner Urquell museum they claim they brewed the first lager in didn't look like any piece of brewing kit I could identify.