Friday, 5 August 2011

A taste of history comes home to London

Doing good business on the US cask bar (W2) today was something that originated just a few miles from Earls Court: Virginia brewery Devil's Backbone's re-creation of a 1930's London Dark Lager, using a recipe from long-gone Southwark brewer Barclay Perkins.

Lager brewing in London in the 30s? And dark lager at that? Absolutely, according to Ron Pattinson, the brewing historian and writer who suggested the brew to Devil's Backbone.

"I wasn't sure how it would turn out, to be honest!" he said. "A dark Munich style is not what people expect of British lagers in the period. But I've got records from Britain of lager brewing as far back as the 1840s."

He added that any Bavarian brewer would have recognised the techniques used in British lager back then - this was real lager, properly conditioned and quite probably served without additional gas.

The beer itself was delicious, by the way - ruby-black in colour, with coffee and toasted malt aromas and then a smooth body with fruit and malt balanced by a light bitterness and a faint red wine, almost bock-like, character.

Talking to Ron - who was signing copies of his books on the Cogan & Matter stand (S65) - I got the sense that he very much enjoys using the history of brewing to overturn modern assumptions and expectations about beer, and about the past.

Indeed, if anyone reading this has an old pub going spare, he said he has another pet project you might be interested in.

"I'd like someone to get an alehouse and brew Edwardian ales," he explained. "I want to give an impression of what it used to be like and how different it was, when you didn't have anything weaker than 4.5%."

Who knows, it might even make a reality TV series - we've seen it done with country houses and farms, now how about 'The Edwardian Pub'?

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