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Grate a little nutmeg atop of each portion. This is one of the best
“nightcaps” I know—especially after you may have been badger-hunting,
or burgling, or serenading anybody on Christmas Eve.


_Rumfustian._

Beat up in a jug, the yolks of two eggs with a tablespoonful of sifted
sugar; then take half a pint of old Burton ale, one wine-glass of gin,
one wine-glass of sherry, a little spice and lemon rind. Let the ale,
wine, and gin, mixed together come to the boil, then pour in the egg
mixture, whisking rapidly; serve hot, with a little nutmeg grated atop.

Such compound drinks, into which ale enters, as Shandy-gaff require no
mention here. Suffice it to mention that this gaff has for many years
been the favourite beverage of those who go up the river—there is but
one river in England—in boats, whether schoolboys, or of riper years.
In Stock Exchange circles champagne is occasionally substituted for
ginger-beer, but this is a combination in which I have no implicit
belief; although champagne and Guinness’s stout make an excellent
mixture. Stout and bitter, otherwise known as


_Mother-in-law_,

and old-and-mild, for which the pet name is {59}


_Uncle_,

are also in much request amongst the groundlings; whilst during the
warm weather I know of no more popular swallow, for moderate drinkers,
who do not require their throats to be scratched, than a small bottle
of lemonade to which is added just one “pull” of pale-ale. This is
called, for the sake of brevity, a


_Small Lem and a Dash_,

or the Poor Man’s Champagne; and is a refreshing and innocuous drink
which might commend itself to total abstainers.

In the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge there is probably as much
malt liquor drunk per head as in any other part of the world.


_Brasenose Ale_

has obtained a reputation which the beverage doubtless fully merits.
Since the foundation of this college a custom has prevailed of
introducing into the refectory on Shrove Tuesday, immediately after
dinner, what is denominated Brasenose Ale, but what is known in
many other parts of England as Lamb’s Wool. Verses in praise of
the Ale are—or at all events were—annually written by one of the
undergraduates, and a copy of them is sent to every resident member of
the College.

The following stanzas are taken from one of these contributions:— {60}

Shall all our singing now be o’er,
Since Christmas carols fail?
No! Let us shout one stanza more
In praise of Brasenose Ale!

A fig for Horace and his juice,
Falernian and Massic;
Far better drink can we produce,
Though ’tis not quite so classic.

Not all the liquors Rome e’er had
Can beat our matchless Beer;
Apicius’ self had gone stark mad
To taste such noble cheer.

After all, the potion is simplicity itself:—

Three quarts of ale, sweetened with sifted sugar, and served up in a
bowl with six roasted apples floating in it.

{61}




CHAPTER VI

ALL ALE


Waste not, want not — The right hand for the froth — Arthur Roberts
and Phyllis Broughton — A landlord’s perquisites — Marc Antony and
hot coppers — Introduction of ale into Britain — Burton-on-Trent —
Formerly a cotton-spinning centre — A few statistics — Michael Thomas
Bass — A grand old man — Malting barleys — Porter and stout — Lager
beer — Origin of bottled ale — An ancient recipe — Lead-poisoning —
The poor man’s beer.

In a speech made some years ago Sir Michael Hicks-Beach observed that
nearly one million sterling’s worth of tobacco was wasted annually by
throwing away cigarette-ends and the stumps of cigars. But what would
you, Sir Michael? Are the lieges to cremate their lips and singe their
moustaches by smoking on to the (literally) bitter end? Whether or no,
it is tolerably certain that there is an enormous daily waste in the
matter of intoxicating drinks—without counting the wanton, although
conscientious, destruction made by teetotal magnates. According to
statistics—I shall not madden my readers with many of these—more than
£138,000,000 {62} are spent annually in Great Britain on spirituous
liquors. Half of this sum, it may be fairly stated, is spent in the
provinces. It may also be taken as read that 5 per cent of beer and
stout is wasted, in the way of froth, spillings, and leavings, and 3
per cent of spirits. This brings us face to face with the calculation
that the value of our daily waste in drinks is nearly £6500. Carbonic
acid gas is undoubtedly answerable for a lot of this waste. In _The Old
Guard_, a musical piece produced at the Avenue Theatre some years ago,
Mr. Arthur Roberts in his instructions to Miss Phyllis Broughton—who
made a very comely stage barmaid—particularly enjoined her, when
drawing ale, to use her left hand to bring the handle down.

“The right hand,” he observed—of course it was all “gag”—“is for the
froth.” And then he shewed her how to make half a pint of liquor fill a
pint measure. Of course there be some professional imbibers who would
object strongly and refuse to accept the froth programme; but on the
other hand it pays the retailer, in the long-run. I am not going to
re-tell the old story of the Quaker; but will only mention that in the
early seventies the landlord of a favourite tavern in the Strand—a
house of call for histrions, which has since then been transmogrified
and adorned with much bevelled glass and carved walnut—once confided
to me that he made every bit of £300 per annum out of his froth. His
barmaids were all of angelic appearance, with most beautiful heads
of hair (the girls wore plenty of it in those days) and a wealth
of pretty prattle. And the {63} customers being susceptible, and
liberal-minded, the rest was easy.

Egyptian manuscripts written at least 3000 years before the Christian
era shew conclusively that even at that primitive period the
manufacture of an intoxicating liquor from barley or other grain was
extensively carried out in Egypt. Probably the wretched Israelites got
far more birch and bastinado than beer given them whilst engaged in
brickmaking; but it is quite on the cards that Cleopatra, when fatigued
with practising the spot stroke on her billiard-table, often commanded
one of her slaves to draw her a pint of bitter with a head on it; and
who knows but that her beloved Antony cooled his coppers with small ale?

Pliny—who would be a useful sort of man to have in a daily newspaper
office nowadays—records that in his time a fermented drink made
from “corn and water” was in regular use in all the districts of
Europe with which he was acquainted. But in Britain little was known
about beer before the Roman conquest, as the favourite beverages of
our ancestors were mead and cider. But the Romans, although they
never quite succeeded in subduing the stubborn dispositions of the
“barbarians,” managed to teach them a bit of husbandry, and to shew
them something about brewing. There were no means of making wine in
those days, and—save in Wales—there were no grapes to make it with; but
the Latins were not long in teaching the Britons—who were never slow
to learn anything which might lead to revelry—that a very good {64}
substitute for wine might be expressed from grain and water. Hops were
undoubtedly known in England before the conquest, but do not appear
to have been regularly used in brewing before the beginning of the
sixteenth century. It is probable, therefore, that they were employed
as medicine—and there is no better tonic than your hop. The Germans
would seem to have brewed with the “wicked weed” before the Englanders
did, according to the omniscient Pliny.

The horny-handed son of toil, who can put away his four or five gallons
daily during harvest-time, without falling off the waggon, may not
know it, but it is only the female hop which is used by the brewer
of to-day. The characteristics of the he-hop are not known to the
writer, or whether he plays any part in aiding to relieve the thirst
of the lieges; but the female is said to exercise “a purifying, a
preservative, and an aromatic influence over the wort.”

It used to be a popular fallacy that the beer made at Burton-on-Trent
was brewed from Trent water, instead of, as was and is the case, from
spring-water, which is eminently suited to the purpose. The chief
industry at Burton was, originally, cotton-spinning, but fifty years
ago this industry was discontinued owing to the triumphal march of
John Barleycorn. Why spin cotton when the manufacture of beer is not
only a much healthier occupation but is far more lucrative? So Burton
stuck to its beer-making, a trade which was originally established
{65} there—in a very small way—in the sixteenth century. There
appears to have been a demand for Burton ale in London, during the
reign of Charles I.; although details are missing as to whether the
demand extended to the royal palaces. It is certain, however, that
more than one hundred years ago Burton-on-Trent did a considerable
export trade with the Baltic. In 1791 there were nine breweries here,
and in 1851 sixteen. But at the beginning of the present century,
until the last-named year, when the great Exhibition attracted all
the world and his wife to England, the breweries at Burton were not
all in a flourishing condition; and I have more than once heard my
grandfather—who spoke from personal knowledge—tell the story of how the
late Mr. Michael Thomas Bass most magnanimously offered to “prop up”
another large firm, with the remark, “There’s room enough for us both
here!”

At present there are thirty breweries in Burton-on-Trent, and employed
in these are some 8000 men and boys. After the opening of the Midland
Railway in 1839 the brewing trade here began to improve, but it was
mainly due to the energy and practical knowledge of Mr.


_Bass_

aforementioned that Burton-on-Trent in general, and the great firm
of Bass are in their present flourishing condition. In the words of
Shakespeare, “He was a man; take him for all in all we shall not look
upon his like again.” Beginning as traveller to the firm, he was
not long ere {66} he became its chief director. He was untiring in
business, a man possessing the broadest views of men and things, a
bit crotchety on occasion, but possessed of “that most excellent gift
of charity,” in boundless supplies. Amongst his other benefactions
was the building and endowment of St. Paul’s, Burton, and the gift of
recreation grounds, a free library, and swimming-baths to the adjacent
town of Derby. He also built and endowed another church on his own
estate, at Rangemore; and his hand was never out of his cash-pocket
when he could aid in a good work. He represented Derby, in the Liberal
interest, from 1848 to 1883, and was a tower of strength to that party,
albeit possessed of nothing like bigoted opinions. On the contrary, it
was his custom through life, like Hal o’ the Wynd in _The Fair Maid of
Perth_, to “fight for his own hand.” And as an instance of his energy
and grit, it may be mentioned that after voting in the House of Commons
for Mr. Gladstone’s Irish Church Disestablishment Bill—the division on
which did not take place till 2 A.M.—he travelled by the “newspaper
train” at 5 A.M. from Euston to Rugeley in order to hunt with Mr. Hugo
Meynell Ingram’s hounds, later in the morning, changing his clothes on
the way down. The meet was at Brereton Hayes, close to Cunnock Chase,
and I well remember greeting him that morning, and receiving for a
reply: “Thank you, I’m pretty well for an old ’un.” He was over seventy
(I think) at the time. That was three decades ago; and since then the
trade of Bass has increased enormously. {67} For the annual holiday
of the staff I should be afraid to state from memory how many special
trains are required to convey the great hive of workers to Brighton,
and other far-distant watering-places, and back to Burton again. In
short, it would be hard to find a spot in the inhabited world in which
the name of Bass is not known and respected.

I mentioned further back Scotch and English barleys as being employed
for malting purposes; but as a matter of fact the produce of many
countries is used, in a blend, the whole being divided into two
classes, heavy and light. And in making choice of barleys it is
necessary that they should be thoroughly and equally ripened, well
“got” or harvested, and as far as possible presented to the brewer
in the perfect husk or envelope with which nature has furnished the
kernel. Ancient and modern modes of thrashing and dressing to a greater
or less extent damage both the husk and the kernel, and thus at the
very threshold introduce one of the causes of disease. Whenever the
grain is broken or bruised it is liable to be attacked when moist by a
variety of moulds which lead to more or less serious disaster.

Of the different varieties of beer, “pale ale” or “bitter” is a
highly-hopped beer made from the very finest selected malt and hops;
whilst “mild ale,” or as it is called in Scotland “sweet ale,” is of
greater gravity or strength, and is comparatively lightly hopped. “Old
ale” is, naturally, the best stuff that can be brewed, in a state of
maturity; and it is a peculiarity of ale {68} that, securely bottled,
it will keep its strength far longer than any other fermented drink.
In December 1889 some bottles of beer were found walled up in a cellar
at Burton-on-Trent; and the records of the firm, as well as the shape
of the bottles, shewed that the beer had been brewed nearly a hundred
years before. It was as bright as a sunbeam, and quite drinkable,
but had lost its bitterness, and assumed the character of sherry.
But old ale, like old brandy, is of little value to the toper, in
that it takes a very minute quantity to accomplish in him the desired
effect—oblivion. “Audit” ales and “college” ditto require very delicate
handling of the jug; and I have tasted ancient beer in Allsopp’s
cellars in Burton, a wine-glassful of which would probably have put
a coal-whipper on his back. It was the colour of mahogany and oh! so
seductive.

Porter, as most people know, is a black beer, brewed in much the same
manner as the other stuff, with roasted malt to give it colour; whilst
stout is simply a superior kind of porter. As for the lager beer of the
Fatherland it is fermented at a very low temperature, the fermentation
being longer delayed. Some years ago great stress was laid on the
German system of mashing called the “thick mash,” which consisted of
boiling or cooking a portion of the mash, and running it back and
remixing it with the portion left in the tun; but it is now found
possible to brew the finest lager beer with a slight modification of
our own mashing method.

The sons of Britannia for a considerable period held aloof from this
lager, which was {69} pronounced by some to be mere “hogwash,” and by
others to consist principally of the juice of fir-cones and onions
mixed with snow-water. The fir-cone flavour is, I believe, accounted
for by the “pitching” of the barrels in which the beer is stored;
but I don’t know where the oniony flavour comes from. The prejudice
against this beer has long since departed from our midst; in fact it
has become quite a favourite summer drink. It is generally considered
less intoxicating than its English cousin. In fact the German students
are in the habit of putting huge quantities thereof out of sight, on
the occasion of passing examinations, and public rejoicings; and these
“beer-drinkings” are, apparently, fully sanctioned by the authorities.

It has been written that it is to Dean Nowell, “classed by Fuller
among the worthies of England,” that we are indebted for the discovery
of bottled beer. According to Fuller, “this worthy, who was an
enthusiastic fisherman, was one day angling in the Thames; but at the
very time when he was trying to catch perch to carry to the frying-pan,
that benighted bigot Bishop Bonner was trying to catch him to tie
him to the stake for purposes of cremation, to the glory of the old
religion. The reverend gentleman heard that he was ‘wanted,’ left his
fishing, and fled as far from the Thames as he could, leaving untasted
in a safe place a bottle of beer which he had filled in the morning.
Bonner’s day did not last long, and Dean Nowell was soon able to return
to his old haunts. Fishing as usual, he went to look after his bottle
of beer, and {70} found that it had turned into a species of gun—it
exploded its contents, when touched.” Thus Nature, which is ever kind,
turned the martyrdom and misery of Bloody Mary’s reign to good—it
brought about bottled beer. The Dean unbosomed himself of his great
discovery to his clerical friends, and the clergy let it out gradually
to the laity.

Gervase Markham, the aforementioned contemporary of Shakespeare, gives
the following directions to “the English Housewife” of 1631, for


_Brewing of Bottle-Ale_.

Touching the brewing of Bottle-ale, it differeth nothing at all
from the brewing of strong Ale, onely it must be drawne in a larger
proportion, as at least twenty gallons of halfe a quarter; and when it
comes to be changed, you shall blinke it (as was before shewed) more
by much than was the strong Ale, for it must bee pretty and sharpe,
which giveth the life and quicknesse to the Ale: and when you tunne
it, you shall put it into round bottles with narrow mouthes, and then
stopping them close with corke, set them in a cold sellar up to the
wast in sand, and be sure that the corkes be fast tied in with strong
packe-thrid, for feare of rising out, or taking vent, which is the
utter spoyle of the Ale.

Now for the small drinke arising from this Bottle-ale, or any other
beere or ale whatsoever, if you keep it after it is blinckt and boyled
in a close vessell, and then put it to barme every morning as you have
occasion to use it, the drinke will drinke a great deale the fresher,
and be much more lively in taste. {71}

I confess that the above directions are somewhat vague to my untutored
mind, which is quite a blank upon the subject of “blinckt and boyled”
ale. Nor do I imagine for one moment that the “English Housewife” of
the year 1899 will cumber herself with brewing or bottling, any sort of
malt-liquor, as long as there be bonnets to be chosen, bicycles to be
ridden, or golf to be played.

Wholesome as may be the beer in itself, its surroundings are not always
hygienic. The system of pumping up the glorious fluid from the cellar
through leaden pipes neither improves the flavour nor renders it more
valuable as a morning “livener.” And there is a story—which I believe
to be strictly true—told of a night cabman in London who used to call
at the nearest tavern to his stand, the first thing in the morning,
and swallow the first glass of beer drawn for the day. His end was
lead-poisoning.

But there! John Barleycorn has probably done far more good than harm in
his day; so let us toast the “Egyptian drink” in itself, the while we
sing, in the words of the old song:—

Dang his eyes,
If ever he tries
To rob a poor man
of his beer!

{72}




CHAPTER VII

A SPIRITUOUS DISCOURSE


What is brandy? — See that you get it — Potato-spirit from the
Fatherland — The phylloxera and her ravages — Cognac oil — Natural
history of the vine-louse — “Spoofing” the Yanks — Properties of Argol
— Brandy from sawdust — Desiccated window-sills — Enormous boom in
whisky — Dewar and the trade — Water famine — The serpent Alcohol —
Some figures — France the drunken nation, not Britain — Taxing of
distilleries — _Uisge beatha_ — Fusel oil — Rye whisky — Palm wine —
John Exshaw knocked out by John Barleycorn.

“What is a pound?” was a favourite query of the great Sir Robert Peel.
“What is brandy?” is a question asked now and then; and the answer
thereto should be an ambiguous one. Brandy is supposed, by good easy
people who trouble not to enquire too closely into the composition of
their daily food, to be a liquid obtained by distilling the fermented
juice of the grape. The red wines are preferable, although in the
seventeenth century the best French brandy was made entirely from white
ones. The original distillation is clear and colourless, but when
placed in casks the liquid dissolves out the colouring matter of the
wood, brown sugar and other pigments being also added. {73}

But if you want the best French brandy, distilled from the luscious
grape, see that you get it; and let your vision be in thorough working
order. With the exception of the good, conscientious spirit-distillers,
all French houses import potato-spirit in large quantities from
Germany, and re-ship it to the home of the brave and free as superior
cognac. This alone would seem sufficient excuse for another invasion
of France; although these evil-minded distillers seek to justify their
actions by blaming the _phylloxera_, a little insect which has laboured
more assiduously in the cause of temperance—by destroying the main
source of intemperance—than Sir Wilfrid Lawson himself. “The ravages
of the _phylloxera_,” say the distillers, in effect, “compel us to
employ other _matériel_, in order to fulfil our cognac contracts with
the merchants of the perfidious isle.” It is related of a theatrical
“property-man” that, upon being rebuked by the tragedian for making a
snowstorm out of brown, instead of white, paper, he replied curtly: “It
was the only paper I had; and if you can’t snow white you must snow
brown.” This excuse is on a par with that urged on behalf of the German
potato-spirit.

_Phylloxera vastatrix_ (why not _devastatrix_?) has cost France, it
is said, a pecuniary loss far exceeding that of the Franco-Prussian
war. The little monster was discovered in North America in 1854, and
whether the discoverer or one of his friends brought the vine-killer
on a holiday-trip to Europe, or whether it worked its own passage
will never be known. But certain it is that the {74} little monster
made its first appearance on this side in the year 1863. Striking an
attitude, with the exclamation, “Hallo! here’s a vine, let’s have the
first suck,” the _phylloxera_ commenced a long starring engagement (to
borrow another metaphor from the theatres), which in another fifteen
years’ time had developed into an enormous success, as far as the
_vastatrix_ was concerned. Naturally, it is the she-phylly who does
the harm. From August to October Madam lays her little eggs on the
vine-leaves, beneath the surface. The _ova_ develop late in autumn into
males and females, who migrate to the stem of the vine. There each
bold, bad female lays an egg, under the bark. This egg lies dormant,
after the manner of pesky little insect-nuisances, through the winter,
and develops in April or May into a wingless, voracious, merciless
little “vine-louse,” with power to add to its number. “The rest,” as
the mechanical engineers tell us, just before our brains go, “is easy.”
The vine-louse attacks the roots, without waiting, the silly idiot,
for the grapes to ripen, the vine dies, and the potato reigns in its
stead. Without burning the plant, or drowning it, it is impossible to
eradicate the _phylloxera_, without spending three times as much cash,
in chemicals, as the vine is worth. This is the true story of France’s
great trouble.

Beetroot-spirit is also largely used in making cognac, the coarse
spirit being flavoured with œnanthic æther, cognac-oil (made from
palm-oil) and—other things. Also of late years the French have
discovered that almost as good wine can be made from raisins as from
the uncooked {75} article, provided they use enough raisins; three
pounds being required to make a gallon of liquor. A good deal can also
be done, in the way of imitation wine, by chemicals; it being quite
possible to make sherry which will fetch at least four shillings per
bottle, for the ridiculous sum of fourpence for the same quantity. And
it is also a fact that a large quantity of alleged claret which (mainly
through the endeavours of the late Mr. W. E. Gladstone) we are able
to import on the cheap from the other side of the water, is made from
currants and raisins steeped in water and mixed with cheap Spanish wine.

And what is to be said of British brandy? A country which can
manufacture superior Dorset butter from Thames mud, and real


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