I’ve been claiming I’ve been researching beer and breweries for at least four years now, and I’ve probably spent more time in meetings about !impact! than I have doing yer actual research.
I’ve downloaded articles on real ale and I put together a list of Canterbury breweries — which was superseded by the Kentish Brewers and the Brewers of Kent volume — and I wandered around Canterbury in search of evidence of those breweries. I borrowed volumes of writing by Habermas to understand some of the critical frameworks and … renewed them and returned them. I tried to understand Kentishness (and ishness of Kent…(
The problem seems to be that with research topics overflowing on science fiction and the daily grind of teaching, I keep finding the headspace to find out what I want to research. Given I tend to work by stuffing my brain and finding what gloms together, it is slow work.
And now I’ve been offered some money to employ someone to do some research for me — mainly to find things I need to research — although what with it being the end of the year the last thing I need is more work…
Still, in April Robert Mcpherson and I put together a poster comparing two pubs and their drinking styles for a conference and the ideas are beginning to flow.
I note, in no particular order:
- the cultivation of barley in Kent and in particular Thanet;
- the likely first use of hops in Kent outside mainland Europe, the tradition of Kent(ish) hops and the (former) Wye hop research centre;
- the end result of mergers and closures that left Shepherd Neame as the only brewery in Kent by about 1978 and the microbrewery renaissance post-2000;
- the micropub movement which began near Canterbury and seemed to be centered on East Kent (but I see has spread);
- the urban myth that Canterbury had a pub for every day of the week.
I think in the long term that I want to explore ideas such as:
- local vs global;
- connoisseurship vs binge;
- craft vs mechanisation;
- heritage vs innovation;
- festival vs session
in relation to real ale and real ale drinkers in the Canterbury area.
In the mean time, I want to get a historical context. I’m putting 1800 as a starting date as a point at which the industrialisation of brewing is likely to have increased, with steam power and railways coming along in the 1830s.* There is the Continental Blockade from 1806-14 that damaged the trade with Baltic ports and led to new markets being sought. It is likely to cover the rise and fall of breweries and pubs.
I started a week or so back, with a map of Canterbury from the 1870s and started to note the locations of pubs — some still there, some repurposed, many missing with no trace. I found the locations of some of the breweries and malt houses.
TwoThree of these even seem to survive (ETA: the one behind the Maiden’s Head survives only as I single wall, I suspect, if that).
And I set Rob off looking at catalogues of archives.
The first port of call, of course, is the cathedral and its archive and a bundle that looked of immediate use. First, of course, I needed my CARN card:
This makes me feel like a proper researcher.
And so we spent several hours, making notes of scores of pubs, building up the picture piece by piece. I’m hoping that I’m going to find a name for every pub on my map. And there are clearly nuggets of gold to be panned for.
* A little knowledge, of course, being a dangerous thing.