Monday, January 07, 2008

The Pub in my Family

Once upon a time our family had a pub in it, quite a big pub actually, its still there, The White Stag at Sheepscar in Leeds.

One of my fathers Uncles was the landlord, his Uncle Lenny, who had inherited the pub from his father George, I have the Census returns for the late 1800's which show their family as "publicans", a family of eight kids ranged over 25 years all living in the pub together at one point, as I said, its a big pub.

Family folklore has the story that my fathers father, Percy, contested the will when their father George died and that he and his brother Lenny played a game of cards for the right to own the pub, my grandfather Percy lost and our side of the family mooched off up Meanwood Road and opened a clock repair shop instead, hence the reason why we are still (sort of) in the clock business now (its only sort of, I can't repair clocks, don't ask me to).

Incidently there was another George in the equation, another brother of Percy and Lenny, I only mention him here to remind myself to tell his story sometime soon, he was known as Gay George and didn't want the rights to the pub as he was studying surveying at the time and eventually became a director of a very well known Leeds based company of Chartered Surveyors - like the pub, Gay George's fortune did not make its way down our side of the family tree when he died.

What ?

Yes, he was known as Gay George for precisely that reason.

So my Great-Grandfather George is running the pub in the first half of the last century and like a lot of publicans of that time he brews his own beer in a huge wooden vat in the cellar, a tap at the bottom of the vat allows him to fill a barrel with beer as and when needed and when the vat is empty he brews another load - as with all self-brewers there is no quality control over the ale other than Great-Grandad George's own knowledge and palete and of course the last barrel taken from the vat is always going to be stronger than the first barrel being that its fermenting all the time its in there.

A pub landlord in those days kept his clientele happy by the quality of his brew and they soon told him if he'd made a bad brew, unfortunately there was nothing else to do but drink the bloody lot as quick as you could if you had a bad brew because you'd have to empty the vat first in order to start again - on the other hand if you had a particularly good brew then word got around and you sold out pretty quickly that week.

One such good brew occured without any sort of rational explanation one week, George couldn't work out just exactly what it was that he'd done different this time but all his customers agreed that this one was a particularly delightful brew, stronger, with a much deeper flavour, very tasty indeed, mmm, give us another pint George.

The only disappointing thing for George was that he didn't know whether he could repeat the process when it came time to re-brew another batch but he did his best to ensure that his suppliers sent him the same hops, yeast and other good stuff that goes into the vat.

In no time at all they were down to the last couple of barrels and with an empty vat George prepared his ingredients for another fresh brew, placing a stepladder next to the huge wooden tub he climbed up and removed the lid ready to clean out the dregs...

...and it was then that he discovered what had happened to the family cat which had been missing these past few days.

Yes, it had drowned in his last brew.

He never knew whether it was the cat that was the vital ingredient that made the beer taste so strong.

But from then on he always threw one into the vat just before he closed the lid on a new brew.

DISCLAIMER - The last line of this story may not be strictly true


grannymar said...

I have often heard the phrase Cat's Pee used in relation to badly brewed tea, but a dead cat in the Beer! Now I know why I never liked Beer.

Zoe's Dad said...

It's an acquired taste.