hist-brewing: Victorian Gentle folk & beer

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Wed Aug 11 07:32:17 PDT 1999

PBLoomis at aol.com wrote:

>    I would have to assume, both from my reading and from the below,
>that they did not drink beer, but only [Scotch] whisky, gin (military
>and civil service), and various wines, including port and sherry.

Don't forget brandy!  Winston Churchill drank Scotch whisky, but wrote (I
think in _A Roving Commission_, his first book, which he wrote upon
returning from the Boer war and when he first ran for Parliament, but I
can't lay my hands on it) that his father and his friends never did except
occasionally when they went grouse shooting in Scotland and had some to
ward off the raw Scottish weather.  They considered it unrefined, I think,
to drink at any other time.  Normally they drank brandy and soda, as well
as wine of course.

Gin certainly had a lower class reputation from the time of its
introduction to England in the 18th C.  F. Paul Pacult writes in _Kindred
Spirits_ "Gin was scorned in society circles as the stupifier of the
plebes.  It took decades for gin to gain respectability in salon London.
But once it became accepted by the gentry, gin was considered an
indespensible tipple throughout the whol of England."  I don't know when
this change occurred.

Regarding beer - I just checked Professor George Saintsbury's classic
_Notes on a Cellar Book_ .  He offers some insight.  Saintsbury, a scholar
at Oxford, wrote his reminiscences in 1920 on his cellar from 1884 to 1915,
mostly about wine, but also spirits and beer and cider.  He wrote:  "There
is no beverage which I have liked to 'live with' more than beer; but I have
never had a cellar large enough to accomaodate much of it, or an
establishment numerous enough to justify this accomodation.  In the good
days when servants expected beer, but did not expect to be treated
otherwise than servants, a cask or two was necessary; and persons who were
'quite' generally took care that the small beer they drank should be the
same as that which they gave their domestics, though they might have other
sorts as well.  For these better sorts at least the good old rule was, when
you began on one cask always to have in another."  I recommend his chapter
"Beer, Cider, Etc." to anyone interested in beer of this time in England,
and the entire book for wine and spirits fans.


Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, c/o nerenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943. 

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