Historic Beer Birthday: John Allen Young

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Today is the birthday of John Allen Young (August 7, 1921-September 17, 2006). Young was the great-great-grandson of Charles Young, who co-founded Young’s brewery in 1831. “He joined the family firm in 1954 after serving as a fighter pilot and a merchant seaman. He became chairman and chief executive in 1962 when his father retired and reverted to executive chairman in 1999.”

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Here’s his obituary, written by Roger Protz, from the Guardian in 2006.

John Young, who has died aged 85, will have a prominent place in the Brewers’ Hall of Fame, revered as the father of the “real ale revolution”, an iconoclast who believed in good traditional beer drunk in good traditional pubs. Young, chairman of Young’s of Wandsworth in south London for 44 years, steered the family brewery on a different course from the rest of the industry in the 1970s. It was a course that was derided at the time: however, it proved not only successful for Young’s but also encouraged other regional brewers to follow suit.

A spate of mergers in the 1960s had created six national brewers who attempted to transform the way beer was made by switching from cask ale to keg beer – filtered, pasteurised and artificially carbonated. Panic ensued as such brands as Watney’s Red Barrel, Worthington E and Whitbread Tankard rapidly dominated the market. Smaller regional brewers rushed to emulate the “Big Six”, as they were known.

In Wandsworth, John Young raised his standard above the Ram Brewery, on the oldest brewing site in Britain, and declared he would remain faithful to beer that matured naturally in its cask. He was laughed to scorn by directors of other breweries. Among the legion of stories about him, one is told of a meeting of the Brewers’ Society in London where, during a break for coffee, one member saw a funeral hearse passing by outside. “There goes another of your customers, John,” he told Young, to roars of laughter from his colleagues. John Young had the last laugh.

He was born in Winchester, the eldest of four sons of William Allen Young. The family was steeped in brewing. John was the great-great-grandson of Charles Allen Young, one of two businessmen who took over the 16th-century Ram Brewery in 1831. John’s mother was Joan Barrow Simonds, a member of the family that owned Simonds Brewery in Reading.

But John’s first love was sailing: he was educated at the Nautical College in Pangbourne. Sailing holidays in the late 1930s on the river Orwell in Suffolk brought John and his brothers into contact with Arthur Ransome at Pin Mill, the setting for We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea. Ransome claimed that he, rather than the brothers’ father, introduced the boys to the pleasures of beer and darts.

Either side of the second world war, John went to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he graduated with an honours degree in economics. During the war he served with distinction as a fighter pilot on aircraft carriers. He left the Fleet Air Arm as a lieutenant commander in 1947 and launched a career in shipping. For a while he was based in Antwerp, where he met his Belgian wife Yvonne. They married in 1951 and settled in West Sussex, from where John, with his brothers, was summoned to work at the Ram Brewery in 1954.

He succeeded his father as chairman in 1962 and set about refashioning the company to meet the challenges of the time. Improving the pub estate and offering children’s rooms – a daring move at the time – did not mean a move away from traditional values. The brewery retained a fierce commitment to cask beer and delivered it to local pubs by horse-drawn drays, while a live ram mascot, along with ducks and geese, were familiar if bizarre sights at Wandsworth.

The energetic new chairman visited every pub in his estate. He was on first name terms with his landlords and became friendly with regular customers. Company annual general meetings became lavish affairs where a white-suited John Young would proclaim his belief in traditional brewing values. He was so horrified by the way some London pubs were being remodeled in the 1970s – as wild west saloons or sputniks – that he once threatened to enter one pub armed with a packet of soap flakes to throw into a large fountain that had been installed there.

The commitment to cask beer paid off. Sales of Young’s ales rocketed and their success was instrumental in helping the Campaign for Real Ale to make its mark in the early 1970s. In 1975 John Young was made a CBE to mark his work in brewing and for charity: he was chairman of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Bloomsbury and raised millions of pounds to build new wards and install modern equipment.

His passion for brewing remained unabated, and John continued to work and chair company AGMs up to this year, though he was visibly ill with cancer. His last few months in office were dogged by controversy: a redevelopment scheme in Wandsworth meant the brewery had to close. When a suitable alternative site could not be found in London, Young’s agreed to merge its brewing operations with Charles Wells of Bedford, a move that has not pleased all lovers of Young’s distinctive beers.

But 200 Young’s pubs will remain in London and the south-east, bricks and mortar reminders of the man who guided their fortunes with undiminished fervour for more than 40 years.

He is survived by a son, James, who is deputy chairman of Young’s, and a daughter, Ilse.

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A portrait of John Young that used to be in the brewery tasting room.

And here’s another obit, this one from the Telegraph:

The brewing industry is mourning the loss of one of its most passionate and colourful characters, Young & Co’s chairman, John Young. He died at the age of 85 after a long battle against cancer. The timing is particularly poignant as Young’s will this week cease production at the historic Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, south London, where ales were first brewed in 1581.

Mr Young – known affectionately as Mr John by staff – was a staunch opponent of red tape. Last year, he complained in the annual report: “At the brewery, we can no longer walk down the yard to the offices because of health and safety regulations. Our horses need passports. Since they cannot fit into a photo-booth, a vet must be employed to sketch the animal.”

Mr Young will also be remembered for his eccentric annual shareholder meetings. In what became a tradition as he fended off attempts at reform by activist shareholder Guinness Peat Group, he started bringing props to the event.

One year, he wore a bee-keeper’s hat to show his resolve to keep the group’s preferential B shares for family members. On other occasions, he brandished a megaphone to make sure “certain people, who seemed to be ignoring what I have to say” could hear him, and sported oversized boxing gloves.

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Beer Birthday: Ben McFarland

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Today is UK beer writer Ben McFarland’s birthday. I first met Ben when he was over here working on the CAMRA beer guide to the west coast with Tom Sandham and Glenn Payne. We invited Ben to join us judging Double IPA’s at the Bistro’s Double IPA Festival, which I believe was something of a shock to the system for both Ben and Tom. These days he and Tom are The Thinking Drinkers, performing their “‘The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol,’ a unique comedic drinking show that debuted at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe.'” Join me in wishing Ben a very happy birthday.

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Ben judging at the Double IPA Festival at the Bistro in Hayward while he was working on the CAMRA guide to the west coast of the U.S. in 2007.

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Taken at the CLASS Awards, by CLASS Magazine.

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Taken somewhere in the U.S. of A.

Note: The last two photos were purloined from Facebook.

Beer Birthday: Adrian Tierney-Jones

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Today is the birthday of English beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones. Adrian’s written several beer books, and writes online at Called to the Bar. I first got to him when he was the editor for 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die, to which I contributed around two-dozen entries. I’ve also seen Adrian at events in London and Belgium since then, and he’s a great person to share a pint with. Join me in wishing Adrian a very happy birthday.

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Having another pint.

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In Leuven for the Brussels Beer Challenge last year: Adrian, with fellow Brits Tim Hampson, Tim Webb and Pete Brown.

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Me and Adrian having a beer and a chat in Belgium in 2014.

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Brussels 2015, from left: Me, Stephen Beaumont, Pete Brown, Yuri Katunin and Adrian.

[Note: first and third photos purloined from Facebook.]

Beer Birthday: Glenn Payne

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Today would have been the 63rd birthday of Glenn Payne, an Englishman who wore many beer hats, but unfortunately passed away two years ago. I first met Glenn many moons ago when he was the beer buyer for Safeway in the UK. Since then, we’ve judged together many times at both GABF and the World Beer Cup, and once at the Great British Beer Festival, too. He’s been involved with Meantime Brewing among too many projects for me to keep track of, and he’s been a great ambassador for British beer but, perhaps more importantly, for American beer in Great Britain. Join me in drinking a toast to Glenn’s memory. Cheers, mate.

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Glenn, with Melissa Cole, at GABF in 2009.

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With Chris and Cheryl Black, owners of the Falling Rock, Mark Dorber, formerly the publican of the White Horse in London (and now owner of the Anchor) and Glenn Payne at the Brewers Reception at Wynkoop during GABF Week in 2007.

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Glenn with Greg Koch, from Stone Brewing, also at GABF in 2009.

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Glenn accepting a World Beer Cup award on behalf of a British brewery who couldn’t be there in 2008.

Alexander Nowell & The Invention Of The Beer Bottle

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July 13, 1568 is often given as the date that the Dean of St Paul, Alexander Nowell invented the beer bottle. It’s almost certain that’s not correct. If you were writing a work of history you’d ignore what you couldn’t confirm, but if you’re only commemorating the event it’s as good a day as any to do so. The event in question was another fishing trip. Apparently, the theologian was quite the avid fisherman and “a keen angler.” Nowell’s contemporary, Izaak Walton — the author of The Compleat Angler — remarked of him that “this good man was observed to spend a tenth part of his time in angling; and also (for I have conversed with those which have conversed with him) to bestow a tenth part of his revenue, and usually all his fish, amongst the poor that inhabited near to those rivers in which it was caught; saying often, ‘that charity gave life to religion.'”

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As for inventing the beer bottle, credit was apparently not given until after his death, by English churchman and historian Thomas Fuller, who wrote. “Without offence it may be remembered, that leaving a bottle of ale, when fishing, in the grass, he found it some days after, no bottle, but a gun, such the sound at the opening thereof: and this is believed (casualty is mother of more inventions than industry) the original of bottled ale in England.”

The best account, as usual, undoubtedly comes from Martyn Cornell on his Zythophile blog, in his article, A Short History of Bottled Beer:

While Nowell was parish priest at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, around 20 miles north of London, in the early years of Elizabeth I, it is said that he went on a fishing expedition to the nearby River Ash, taking with him for refreshment a bottle filled with home brewed ale. When Nowell went home he left the full bottle behind in the river-bank grass. According to Thomas Fuller’s History of the Worthies of Britain, published a hundred years later, when Nowell returned to the river-bank a few days later and came across the still-full bottle, “he found no bottle, but a gun, such was the sound at the opening thereof; and this is believed (causality is mother of more inventions than industry) the original of bottled ale in England.”

The ale, of course, had undergone a secondary fermentation in the bottle, building up carbon dioxide pressure so that it gave a loud pop when Nowell pulled the cork out. Such high-condition ale must have been a novelty to Elizabethan drinkers, who knew only the much flatter cask ales and beers. However, Fuller’s story is fun, but it seems unlikely Nowell really was the person who invented bottled beer: it seems more than probable that brewers were experimenting generally with storing beer in glass bottles in the latter half of the 16th century, though there is no apparent evidence of commercial bottling until the second half of the 17th century, only bottling by domestic brewers.

Part of the problem was that the hand-blown glass bottles of the time could not take the strain of the CO2 pressure. Gervaise Markham, writing in 1615, advised housewife brewers that when bottling ale “you should put it into round bottles with narrow mouths, and then, stopping them close with corks, set them in a cold cellar up to the waist in sand, and be sure that the corks be fast tied with strong pack thread, for fear of rising out and taking vent, which is the utter spoil of the ale.”

(There is, incidentally, a garbled version of the “bottle as gun” tale which seems to have materialised in the late 19th century, and which conflates the bottled ale story with another about Nowell fleeing England in a hurry in the reign of Queen Mary, after he received a warning that his enemy Bishop Bonner, known as “Bloody Bonner”, was out to arrest him for heresy. For some reason, in this version of the story Nowell is called “Newell”.)

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And this account is from Just Another Booze Blog:

It was a pleasant July day in 1568. Alexander Nowell, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, decided he wanted to do some fishing down by the river. He packed up all his fishing gear and tackle, the wife packed him a ham and cheese sandwich, and he grabbed his night crawlers and the new fishing lure he bought off of the Outdoor Channel. He was all set to go when he realized, what would go great with fishing? A beer! Because fishing without beer is like driving without beer. It’s just no fun. So he stopped by the corner pub on his way to the river and had them fill a glass bottle up with beer for him. He made sure they sealed it up good and tight with a cork so his horse wouldn’t get pulled over for an open container.

When done fishing, he accidentally left the still half full bottle on the river bank. Several days later (July 13th) he returned to do some more fishing, because he needed an excuse to get away from the wife for a while. He saw his old beer on the ground and thought “man, I could really go for some for that right now.” When he went to drink it, the cork opened with a loud bang (the beer had fermented further over the past few days). He found it to be extra fizzy and quite delicious.

Alexander Nowell, DD, Benefactor, Principal (1595), Dean of St Paul's
A 1595 portrait of Nowell at Brasenose College, at the University of Oxford.

Historic Beer Birthday: William Everard

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Today is the birthday of William Everard (July 13, 1821-December 28, 1892). Everard co-founded what would become known as the Everards Brewery, which is still a going concern today, and is still run by an Everard, who is fifth generation from William.
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Here is William Everard’s short biography from the brewery website:

William Everard was born on 13th July 1821 in a country where the Industrial Revolution was still in its infancy, and farming remained the largest single occupation. William married Mary Ann Bilson on27th March 1847, they had three children- one of which was Thomas William who would eventually continue his fathers work at the brewery.

On the fifth October 1849, William entered into partnership with Thomas Hull, a local maltster. They leased the existing brewery of Messrs Wilmot and Co. on Southgate Street, Leicester. The brewery became well established during William’s forty two years in charge.

As a successful and responsible Victorian citizen, William took public service seriously and devoted a larage amount of time to several public bodies. He joined the Leicester Highways Board on its constituition, and served for twenty years as its chairman. He was an energetic supporter of the Conservative Party, arranging meetings and political gatherings at his house, eventually becoming chairman of the Harborough Division.

Continuing to operate his farm as well as run his business, William also became prominent in local agricultural affairs as a member of the Chamber of Agriculture and Leicestershire Agricultural Society, founded in 1833.

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The brewery, around 1875.

And here’s the basic brewery history from Wikipedia:

The company began as Hull and Everard in 1849 when William Everard, a farmer from Narborough Wood House and brewer Thomas Hull leased the Southgate Street Brewery of Wilmot and Co from the retiring proprietors. Although Hull continued as a maltster, Everard was the driving force behind the business which he managed until his death in 1892.

The business expanded as the company progressively acquired outlets, with over 100 pubs by the late 1880s. In 1875 the company moved to a new state of the art tower brewery designed by William’s nephew architect John Breedon Everard. The brewery, on the corner of Southgate St and Castle St extracted very pure water from wells 300 feet deep beneath the premises and steam engines played a significant part in the mechanisation.

After the death of William, control passed to his son Thomas. The historic centre of the UK brewing industry remained some 40 miles away at Burton-upon-Trent, which by the 1890s produced one tenth of Britain’s beer. Everard’s leased the Bridge Brewery on Umplett Green island in 1895 but its 10,000 barrels per year capacity proved insufficient. It was replaced with the newer Trent brewery in Dale St which became available after going into liquidation in 1898. The Southgate brewery remained the distribution centre to the Leicestershire pubs with beer arriving by rail from Burton. The Trent brewery was purchased outright in 1901. It was renamed the Tiger Brewery around 1970.

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At some point their Tiger Best Bitter became their flagship beer, and I remember really enjoying during my first CAMRA festival in the early 1990s. It was a regional festival in Peterborough, which happened to be going on in later summer at the end of my wife’s summer semester at the University of Durham. So we took the train up to Peterborough from London to attend the festival, and it was great fun. I had many fine beer that night, but for whatever reason I clearly recall liking this one.

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Beer Birthday: Pete Brown

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Today is the 49th birthday of Pete Brown, author of Shakespeare’s Pub and Hops and Glory. Pete was also the winner of the UK Beer Writer of the Year in 2010. I had a chance to meet and spend some time with Pete before and at GBBF in 2009. He’s a kindred spirit, especially when it comes to neo-prohibitionist shenanigans, and writes one of the most engaging beer blogs out there. Join me in wishing Pete a very happy birthday.

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Pete with Steve Parkes at a British Beer Writers event before GBBF a few years ago.

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Pete and me at GBBF in 2009.

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One night in Copenhagen, clockwise from bottom left: Martyn Cornell, Jeff Alworth, Evan Rail, me, Stephen Beaumont, Pete, Stan Hieronymus and Ron Pattinson.

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At the end of a quick trip to Copenhagen: Pete, with Ron Pattinson, Jeff Bell, Stephen Beaumont and Stan Hieronymus.

Historic Beer Birthday: Francis Showering

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Today is the birthday of Francis Showering (July 10, 1912-September 5, 1995). Showering was an English brewer. His family company, Showerings, invented Babycham, a light, sparkling perry, launched in 1953 and originally marketed as “genuine champagne perry”.

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Here’s Showering’s obituary from The Independent in 1995:

Francis Showering was a remarkable man who achieved extraordinary success in the drinks industry over many years. He was still in harness as chairman of the drinks company Brothers Drinks at the time of his death, aged 83.

Born at Shepton Mallet, in Somerset, in 1912, Francis Showering was one of four brothers whose first employment at an early age was with their parents, who were innkeepers in Shepton Mallet, brewing beer and cider to their own requirements and for sale to other licensed houses in the district. Business was highly competitive. As a small concern they were overshadowed by the regional and national brewers and were also unable to sell their ciders against the national brands. During the Second World War they kept the business going in spite of shortage of raw materials and somehow built up a delivery fleet of mainly elderly vehicles which were sustained by an innovative transport department.

After the war they again suffered the frustration of lacking outlets for their products, and Francis Showering, by then managing director, turned to Perry as a potential for breaking into the brewer-dominated licensed trade. Sparkling Champagne Perry in baby bottles became the brand Babycham, and in due course became the drinks industry’s marketing success of the century.

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First, however, it had to be established as a quality product and Showering excelled in the meticulous supervision of the production process to give an attractive sparkling drink well packaged and with a long shelf-life. Marketing and customer service received his equally uncompromising attention, with the result that, after extensive testing in local markets, Babycham was launched nationally in the early 1950s and became a cult drink for women in pubs and clubs. With the sprightly little Bambi deer symbol, Babycham glasses and cocktail cherry, this was exactly the drink that millions of women were waiting for. The simple slogan “I’d love a Babycham” said it all, and they loved it enough to consume over 4 billion bottles in the next 30 years.

The Showerings offered shares to the public in 1959. The issue was over- subscribed. Not only did it increase the wealth of the family but the creation of a public company gave Francis Showering and his brothers the means of acquiring other companies in the drinks industry. William Gaymer, Vine Products, Whiteways, and Britvic fruit juices were among those acquisitions, and the largest came in 1966 with the takeover, after a considerable battle, of Harvey’s of Bristol which brought with it world-wide interests in wines and spirits.

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In 1968 Allied Breweries, already much involved in the drinks industry apart from brewing, made an agreed bid for Showerings Vine Products and Whiteways Ltd of pounds 108m. Thus the original shareholders in the Showerings company were rewarded yet again, and Francis Showering could take all credit for that.

Initially, the marriage was not an easy one. The different cultures of the two groups had to be reconciled and that took several years, but in no way inhibited the continued growth of the combined company. Showering’s nephew Keith Showering (later Sir Keith) became chairman in 1975. After seven years in office he died suddenly in 1982, when Francis became vice- chairman and continued to support the company in every possible way.

Francis Showering was a man of great determination and strength of character. The success of Babycham entitled him to have uncompromising views on the production and marketing of drinks generally, and the activities of the group in particular, and he could be relied upon to make those views known. Yet he was also a good listener, and when convinced of the loyalty of his colleagues gave it back in full measure.

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He was also generous to the extreme. His loyalty and generosity to Shepton Mallet are evident in the modern development of the town centre, at his own expense. One of his great pleasures was entertaining at his house on the Beaulieu River, and aboard his motor cruiser Silver Cavalier, which gave him further opportunities to pursue perfection in maintenance and navigation.

Showering was appointed CBE in 1982; it was a reflection of his work for the community in West Country agriculture and at Shepton Mallet as well as his success in building a whole business structure on that little bottle of Babycham.

Sir Keith Showering had two daughters and four sons. In his closing years, through the formation with these four great-nephews of a new drinks company, Brothers Drinks, which he chaired, Francis Showering saw and encouraged, the possibility of an experience for them such as he and his brothers had had, and so much enjoyed.

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From left; Ralph and Keith Showering, R. N. Coate, Herbert, Francis and Arthur Showering, at the time of the ‘merger’ of the two cider makers.

This is a short history of Babycham from his Wikipedia page:

In the 1940s, the company developed a process to produce perry — a form of cider made from fermented pear juice – and created a low-alcohol sparking drink that was christened Babycham. The new drink was marketed mainly at young women, and sold in small bottles to be served in a champagne saucer – “the genuine champagne perry sparkling in its own glamorous glass”. After disputes with French champagne produces, including a court case in 1978, H P Bulmer Ltd v J Bollinger SA which held that marketing of a similar sparkling cider was not confusing, the reference to champagne was eventually prohibited by EU rules on protected designation of origin.

The drink became very popular, with its advertising slogan “I’d love a Babycham” and logo of a small deer. To serve the burgeoning demand, the company bought pear orchards across the West Midlands, and planted new pear orchards in Somerset. Output in Shepton Mallet reached 108,000 bottles an hour in 1966, and new plants were opened in Ireland and Belgium.

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Babycham

Beer Birthday: Martyn Cornell

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Today is the 65th birthday of Martyn Cornell. Martyn is an English beer writer who writes online at the Zythophile. Martyn is hands down my favorite brewing historian, and among my very favorite beer writers. His scholarship, research and skill are second to none. I had the pleasure of meeting him and sharing a few pints during a trip to Burton-on-Trent a few years ago, where we met up in London before taking the train north to Marston’s. Join me in wishing Martyn a very happy birthday.

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Me and Martyn, sharing a pint at London’s Perseverance in 2008.

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Martyn with Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildsohn, at St. Pancras Station, also in 2008.

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Martyn with a gaggle of beer writers last year in Copenhagen.

Beer Birthday: Steve Parkes

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Today is the 57th birthday of Steve Parkes. Steve owns and runs the American Brewers Guild, which trains brewers. I’ve known Steve for a number of years now and he’s one of my favorite Brits in the industry. I had the pleasure of writing a profile of him for Beer Advocate magazine a few years ago, from which I learned the following. Steve studied brewing sciences at Heriot-Wyatt University in Edinburgh and worked at several small UK breweries before moving to Maryland to open British Brewing (later known as Oxford Brewing). He then moved to California and created Red Nectar for Humboldt Brewing, which is also where he caught the teaching bug. Eventually buying the ABG school in 1999, several years ago making the leap to running the school full-time. In 2009, Steve was awarded the Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Brewing by the Brewers Association at CBC in Boston. Steve said at the time. “It’s gratifying when someone notices what you’re been doing every day. It just feels tremendous, like standing on the shoulder of giants. The willingness to share is the best part of this industry. I love being part of a working community that thinks like that. It makes you a better person.” Join me in wishing Steve a very happy birthday.

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Pete Brown and Steve at the GBBF in 2009.

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Steve at Cantillon in Brussels.

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Enjoying a Rodenbach.

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Words fail me. Happy birthday Steve. [Note: Last three Photos Purloined from Facebook.]