A Lesson in English History
England in the 18th century saw a huge growth in the number of drinking establishments, primarily due to the introduction of gin. Gin was cheap and thus became immediately popular with the poor. But the rampant drunkenness and lawlessness created by gin consumption, known as the “Gin Craze,” was seen as leading to the ruination and degradation of the working class.
In response to the Gin Craze, the Government set out to promote beer, which was viewed as a harmless and healthy alternative to gin, even by the evangelical church and temperance movement. More freely available beer, it was thought, would wean drinkers off the evils of gin.
And so, for the purposes of “reducing public drunkenness” and “the better supplying the public with Beer in England, to give greater facilities for the sale thereof,” the English Parliament passed the Beerhouse Act of 1830. The Beerhouse Act allowed anyone to brew and sell beer out of their home by paying a one-time license fee of just 2 guineas. The license was for beer only; no spirits or wines could be sold.
Those who received beerhouse licenses typically opened up their front parlor to the public. They would serve beer in jugs or directly from tapped wooden barrels on a table in the corner of the room. Profits from beer sales got to be so high that many times the beerhouse owners were able to buy the house next door to live in, turning every room in their former home into a bar or lounge for beer-drinking customers.
Because it was so cheap to obtain a license, and the profits could be enormous, tens of thousands of beerhouses opened within a couple of years of the Beerhouse Act. But surprisingly, beerhouses were not the answer to drunkenness and lawlessness as had been hoped. Before long, many beerhouses became the haunt of criminals and prostitutes. Stricter laws were then enacted to prohibit new beerhouses from opening and to bring the existing beerhouses under control. Some beerhouses then closed, but the vast majority applied to become fully licensed “Public Houses,” gaining the right to sell any kind of alcohol.
“Bap”: North West English slang for a soft sandwich bun.
“Butty”: A simple sandwich on a soft buttered bread bun.
“Chips”: What Americans call “French fries.”
“Rocket”: Arugula lettuce leaf.
“Crisps”: What Americans call potato chips.
Now don’t get confused: in England, “chips” are French fries!
“Yorkshire Pudding”: Not dessert! This is a batter mix put in hot oil and oven baked
– a bowl-shaped alternative to bread.
“Marie Rose Sauce”: A blend of tomato ketchup and Mayonnaise that became popular
in the 1970s. Perfect for prawns!
“Salt Beef”: Beef brisket slow-cured in salt water, spices & herbs, then slow-boiled
for hours to make it extra tender.
“Branston Pickle”: A chutney-like relish made from diced rutabaga, carrots,
onions, cauliflower & gherkins in a pickled brown sauce.
“English Beans”: First introduced in 1886 as an “exotic import,” these beans baked in
tomato sauce are a staple side to any meal in England, day or night.
“Salad Cream”: Introduced in the 1920s as a sandwich spread that was an alternative
to mayonnaise during periods of rationing. Made of egg yolk, mustard & vinegar.
“Welsh Rabbit”: An ironic name coined in the days when the Welsh were notoriously
poor. Only better-off folk could afford meat. While in England, the poor man’s
meat was rabbit, in Wales, the “poor man’s meat” was actually cheese.