Thursday 14 May 2009
Just ploughing my way through Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks and come across a reference to the head of the eponymous family enjoying his porter while the Bavarian hop merchant who has been squiring his daughter sings the praises of Bavarian beer (presumably golden). It’s set in the 1860s in a North German port that approximates to Lubeck, while Mann was writing this towards the end of the 19th century — this suggests that German porter was still common enough to be noted. Presume that the unification of Germany in 1871 was the beginning of the Reinheitsgebot being rolled out through the whole of the Second Reich. This is not exactly breaking news, I know, but also makes me think about other great works of literature that feature beer. Flann O’Brien and porter are synonymous (whether in At Swim Two Birds or other works I know not), I seem to recall Bass’ No 1 barley wine being mentioned in the evening section of Joyce’s Ulysses, while a bit more closer to our time, Graham Swift’s Waterland featured a town brewery that produced an extra strong ale for some local event (possibly the end of WW1), mass consumption of which caused the brewery to be burnt down. Swift also wrote Last Orders, though for me one of the best books about pub life is JM O’Neill’s Duffy Is Dead — if you ever spent time in Hackney’s Irish pubs in the 1980s then this is a glorious if bleak evocation of time ill spent.
(by the way that’s not a glass of German porter, it’s actually an Alt from a brewpub outside Dusseldorf and I’m not making comparisons with various forms of fermentation either, I just thought it a nice picture)