Sunday, 9 January 2011

Allsopp reassures the public again

You can see what a storm the strychnine allegations caused by the effort Allsopp put into refuting them. This is from slightly later in the year and seems to be a response to a letter published in "The Lancet" by a certain Dr. Glover.


The circulation given to a statement tending to invalidate the expression of Dr. Glover's opinion in favour of Pale Ale, compels Messrs. ALLSOPP and SONS to connect this remarkable distribution of a calumny with other insidious attacks upon their firm, which they have reason to know proceed from an unworthy and unneighbourly jealousy.

Messrs. ALLSOPP and SONS, in reply, deem it their best course to adopt the same line of conduct as in the case of the similar perversion and mutilation of Baron Liebig's meaning, so indignantly repudiated by that eminent man himself. They publish, therefore, without abridgement, the letter they received from Dr. Glover (having his permission to do so)—a letter the more valuable because it was not intended for publication, and is an unpremeditated evidence of that learned Chemist's Just appreciation of Pale Ale.


"Newcastle-On-Tyne, April 11.

"Sir,—It was not my intention, in writing the hasty note to the 'Lancet' to cast any reflections upon, or to implicate in any way, respectable brewers of Pale Ale.

"When I first saw the statement about the alleged use of strychnine in bittering ale, I looked upon the assertion as incredible, both on account of the price of the drug and the symptoms it would create; but, on experiment, I found that strychnine possesses such wonderful bitterness, that it might, perhaps, be used as An Adjutant, at least by Unprincipled Persons. In short, my object was simply to show that the thing was not altogether so impossible as it appeared at first sight to be.

"My opinion is, that hops should not enjoy the exclusive privilege of being used for bittering beer; but I do not pretend to discuss the point with practical men.

"I know there are bitters which might be used beneficially, in a medical point of view.

"With regard to analysing your beer, my time is taken up, so far as analysing and chemistry are concerned, with two kinds of inquiries— 1st, those which are purely scientific; and 2nd, those which are profitable. If you wish me, in the latter capacity, to analyse and report on your beer, I, of course, can have no objection.

"I have to prepare for an absence of three or four days to-morrow, and so beg you to excuse me replying to the letter of Mr. Bottinger, for which I am much obliged. Yours, &c,

"H. Allsopp, Esq." (Signed) "R. M. GLOVER.

"P.S.—I presume you will hardly expect me to write to the "Lancet." However, I shall be at home on Thursday evening, and moat assuredly I have no desire to say anything which could weaken the confidence of the Public in your beer. But That I Am Not Now In The Habit Of Drinking Bitter Beer, I Should Be glad To Show My Confidence By Drinking Plenty Of It."

Messrs. ALLSOPP and SONS beg to refer to the Letter of Mr. HENRY ALLSOPP on the subject, in the "Monthly Journal of Medical Science" for October, in the concluding paragraph of which it is said—

"I inserted Dr. Glover's good natured remark on my Bitter Beer as an 'incidental testimonial' — no more. I never called it 'a certificate,' nor did I apply to him, or any other medical gentleman, for one. I am not responsible that such a construction has been placed upon the off-hand expressions of good opinion which have been sent to me from all quarters."

Messrs. ALLSOPP and SONS, in conclusion, wish to draw the attention of the public and the trade to the fact, that, by this disingenuous system of attack, and the perversions of facts gratuitously adopted, they are unwillingly drawn into that publicity the courting of which is made an accusation against them.
Burton-on-Trent, October 8, 1852."
"Medical times and gazette, Volume 5", 1852, page 428.

More stuff to ponder. Dr. Glover seems to have confirmed that it would be possible to use strychnine to bitter beer. He doesn't say it was or should be used as a bittering agent, but he concedes the possibility.

The fact that these accusations were taken seriously demonstrates the (often rightly) suspicious attitude of the public to the contents of their food and drink. Though in this case their suspicions proved to be unfounded.

Is it me, or is the post script a thinly-disguised attempt to score some free beer off  the brewery? Isn't he saying, bring me round a load of your beer on Thursday and I'll be happy to demonstrate my confidence in it not being laden with poison? And in the penultimate paragraph of his letter Dr. Glover seems to be tarting for some analytical work. What a cheeky rascal.


Craig said...

The scary thing is, we are far less concerned about what's in or food and drink, now, than we were 160 years ago!

Bill said...

After 34 years working for Dupont I can say that chemists are one of the lowest forms of life on this orb. Must be those fumes from graduate school.