Today we're taking our first trip overseas: to Manchester for the beer and to London and Kent for the literary connection.
Stockport is one of the many towns situated around the English city of Manchester, which flourished following the Industrial Revolution and became known as mill towns because of the textile industry, and Manchester acquired the nickname Cottonopolis for the same reason. Most of the mill towns are now suburbs of Manchester, but their inhabitants are proud of their local identity and will claim to be from Oldham or Bury or Bolton rather than from Manchester.
Stockport is home to Robinson's Unicorn brewery. William Robinson got into the beer business in 1838 when he bought a pub called the Unicorn Inn, and within 30 years Robinsons had become a brewing concern. Ownership of the company has remained within the family ever since and is now into its sixth generation. In all that time Robinsons has never stopped brewing traditional cask-conditioned beer with a solidly English lineup including the mainstays of mild and bitter, as well as an impressive range of seasonals.
Mr Scrooge is one of these, a winter warmer - another one of those dark, rich ales with hints of spice.
So what of the literature? Well, there are several pubs in and around London that are mentioned in the works of Charles Dickens and where he enjoyed a pint or two. The George and Vulture, a pub in a narrow alleyway in the heart of London, falls into both categories, being a favourite of Dickens and also mentioned several time in The Pickwick Papers. The Grapes, a riverside pub in Limehouse (east London's old Chinatown) is another Dickens haunt, and is believed to be the inspiration for the Six Jolly Porters in Our Mutual Friend. The George, south of the Thames, is famous not just for being used by Dickens. It's one of London's last galleried inns, the same kind of building (and in the same part of London) as The Tabard from Chaucer's Pilgrim's Progress). And going further afield to the village of Cobham in Kent, you can still drink at the Leather Bottle, also featured in The Pickwick Papers and visited many times by Dickens.
Returning to today's beer, Robinsons is another brewery whose labels will soon be seen on the shelves in Texas. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a bottle of Old Tom, one of the best English style barley wines there is.