Drop the Anchor Brewery

Month: December 2017

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Un-fined Beer – viewed from another angle. by Trevor Noyes

Un-fined Beer – viewed from another angle


The controversy surrounding un-fined beer may have come full circle.  Some would say that the essential aspect of any drink is the “taste” and not the “view”.  So lets wind the clock back.


I collect mainly pewter tankards, but have a few examples of stoneware and glass, all marked for use in a licences premises, especially pubs.


Prior to 1900, beer or ale was sold in pewter, or stoneware “mugs”, glass did not appear for the pint market until breweries were able to reliably fine beer to allow it to be served clear – more later.


Stoneware came in a number of different styles, but essentially were in pint or quart measures.  Because of their fragility few survive, but a some examples are shown.  Left to right – Mochaware, the type  decorated by attractive “tree” inclusions [acid injected below the glaze], and this one marked by the pottery as Newcastle – transfer printed type of various scenes, sometimes inns and rural aspects marked as Bristol – plain coloured stoneware [yes some in pink – thought to be used for cider, not ladies !] marked as Bristol.


Beer at this time could well be cloudy and full of bits, but to the drinker it was the taste that was essential.


Pewter had been used for years as a reliable long lasting metal in which to serve beer, but was more expensive.  Many more different examples survive – my collection is over 100, dating from about 1820 to 1920, and an ideal way of understanding the beer trade.  Tankards were often marked with the pub name either on the front or under the base.  The landlords name or initials appeared on the front.  Many an hour can be spent tracing the pub and landlord, often associated with other social history – bankruptcy, inheritance or name changes.  Most of mine are from the London Kent or Surrey areas – more money available even then!  Left to right – about 1850 “soft” metal with high lead content, often dented appropriately on the base or sides – to make short measures even then! – 1870 more robust design with spout for subsequent decanting and higher tin content to help avoid “denting” – 1900 very robust easier to clean etc.  All are clearly marked with a quantity, from half gill to quart and measuring authority, e.g. stamp {V – orb – R 2 all crowned} – London City 1879 onwards.  It was not until the 1824 Weights and Measures Act that quantities were standardised as the “Imperial Measure” we know today.  However, it took until the 1879 Act for a standard marking system to be made law.  Even then there were “head” arguments, but all subsequent measures were to the rim – no head allowed !!!


Around 1900, beer could be reliably fined and so one view is that major breweries marketed this new beer in glass to best effect.  I keep my Watney’s Red Barrel, Flowers Keg and Double Diamond dimpled examples, all marked – 1966 478 – Ravenhead Glass, hidden !!


So full circle ? Do we close our eyes when served un-fined beer and enjoy the taste, or take a pewter certified measure with us !  Anyway un-fined beer will clear eventually – e.g. bottle conditioned, or it will add another distinct flavour to the multitude of others from hops and malt, with the additional yeast palette.


Trevor Noyes