Old Winter Ale is Fuller’s Christmas seasonal, but also released around this time of the year is their much sought after Vintage Ale - an old ale based on Fuller’s Golden Pride barley wine - which the brewery recommends cellaring for three to four years before drinking… if you can get hold of one. It’s brewed in very limited quantities.
Not far from the brewery is Hogarth’s House, which was 18th century artist William Hogarth’s country cottage during the latter part of his life.
At a time when the subject of a painting was likely to be someone from the nobility (because only the wealthy could afford to commission an artist), or a bucolic landscape, Hogarth went against the grain and painted not just the ordinary people of London, but those we might describe today as ‘beyond the pale’, and in graphic detail.
Among his most well known works is A Rake’s Progress, a series of eight paintings (and later, engravings) which tells the story of the downfall of a spendthrift heir who wastes his inheritance on gambling and floozies, winding up in the madhouse, but it’s another pair of his works which might be of interest to us. Beer Street and Gin Lane are two political prints meant to be seen together and with a message about the evils of gin, which was a major problem at the time.
The citizens of Gin Lane are shown as feckless, scrawny, immoral drunkards who care for nothing other than the liquid that releases them from everyday life which, let’s face it, for the urban poor at the time was hardly pleasant. Their world (which Hogarth based on the worst slum in London) is one of ramshackle buildings and ordure. The inhabitants of Beer Street, however, are living the good life; happy, contented and well-fed on a diet of good English ale and the fat of the land. Theirs is a world of industriousness, comfort and good conversation.
Now, while these days we might think of a gin and tonic with a dish of olives to nibble on as something a bit more classy and refined than whooping it up in the gin houses of Hogarth’s time, I’d much rather spend the evening in a pub tossing down pints of Fuller’s with plates full of ham, cheese and bread.
Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar
“If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson