To celebrate the new page, I dedicate today's blog post to BEER!
The family-owned brewery Shepherd Neame, located in Kent, boasts that it is Britain’s oldest brewery—and it’s holding on to the title with a clinched fist. The Neame family bought their brewery in 1741—but the brewery’s previous owner, Richard Marsh, had been producing beer in the brewery since 1698. Wow! That’s old, right?! Well, actually…no.
Another brewery, Young’s, now part of Wells & Young’s Brewing Company (UK’s largest private brewers and makers of those Bombadiers we all swill), say they are oldest. They claim, “traditional draught bitter has been produced on the site of Young’s brewery since 1581.” Wow! 1581! Surely, Wells & Young win “the oldest” game!
Uhh, nope. Not exactly. First of all, in 1831, Young’s bought the Ram Brewery, located in London, and indeed, the Ram Brewery had been around since 1581….however, Wells & Young closed that brewing site in 2006. They don’t use it anymore. They changed locations. Consequently, Wells and Young’s nipped their “oldest” claim in the bud, most argue.
So in 2006, Shepherd Neame gleefully moved back to first place in the “oldest” game. And to add steroids to their claim, a local historian who is the brewery’s archivist, says he found evidence that the Young site has produced brew since 1573, which beats the Wells & Young’s 1581 date anyway. Game over, right?
Ha, ha! Fat chance. The small regional brewery, Adnams, located in Southwold, Suffolk, say they have proof that beer has been produced on their site since 1345. Adnams cites a document declaring that “Johanna de Corby and 17 other ‘ale wives’ of Southwold were charged by the manorial court with breaking the assize of ale.”
Wow. 1345. Adnams surely wins the title! Right?.... Well, I'll put it this way: Adnams would snatch the trophy if they could, but they can’t seem to wrest it from Shepherd Neame. Both contenders hold tight to their “oldest” claim, but most news articles cite Shepherd Neame as the oldest. Perhaps Adnam’s “ale wives” court document doesn’t make a strong enough case. Either way, the battle rages on….
I LIKES A DROP OF GOOD BEER, I DOES
Come, neighbours all, both great and small,
Let's perform our duties here, And loudly sing, Long live the King,
For bating the tax on beer,
For I likes a little good beer, And loudly sing, Long live the King,
For bating the tax on beer.
Some people think distill-e-ry drink
Is wholesome, neat and sheer, But I will contend to my life's end,
There's nothing to tipple like beer,
For I likes a little good beer, And I will contend to my life's end,
There's nothing to tipple like beer.
This song appears in W.T. Marchant’s book In Praise of Ale, Or, Songs, Ballads, Epigrams, & Anecdotes Relating to Beer, published in 1888. The song commemorates the parliamentary Act, during William IV’s reign, that reduced taxes on ale.