Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Serving Beer Better with Carbon Dioxide

"Today mine host serves better beer - and serves beer better with carbon dioxide instead of the old beer engine" is what this advertisement in the Brewers Guardian claimed near the start of the shiny-new, chromium-plated, forward-looking, to-hell-with-tradition, modernist decade that was the 1960s. How odd, then, that the bald-headed businessman sitting at the shiny-new, chromium-plated, forward-looking, to-hell-with-tradition, modernist bar that was Snow's in Piccadilly Circus doesn't exactly wear the expression of a man wholly enamoured with his half pint of Wm Youngers. And it's a disgracefully short measure.

Of course, despite this movement towards scientific efficiency that was 'improving' our methods of beer dispense, we could be assured that other traditional attitudes of that time were impervious to change. For an even less palatable flavour of post-war Britain, here's a link to an article about an incident that took place in that very same bar eight years previously http://archive.tribunemagazine.co.uk/article/15th-january-1954/1/no-drink-for-mr-murumbi

And it's not only about 'colour'. Our national consciousness is imbued with a casual Franco-phobia, no doubt as a legacy of our history of wars with that nation across the channel. But what did the French ever do to us to deserve such a fate as we dished out to them in 1962? From the same issue of the Brewers Guardian comes an article on "the continental travelling demonstration unit" that was designed to take the dreaded Watneys Red Barrel to the north of France. My copy of the 1974 Good Beer Guide advises us of this beer to "avoid like the plague". For those of you too young to remember Red Barrel, try this useful link: http://www.retrowow.co.uk/retro_britain/keg_bitter/watneys_red_barrel.html

As much an ersatz horror as the beer is the "attractive" interior of the demonstration unit. Although furnished in dark oak with hunting-scene tapestry and horse-brasses to represent a Tudor-style public house, it looks alarmingly like a bar in some Alpine ski-lodge. The single red barrel sitting on the top of the bar appears suitably  at home in this kitsch. Note the keg residing in the counter front cut-out. No wonder General de Gaulle vetoed Britain's application to join the Common Market the following year.


  1. Quaffer, I was intrigued to see your posting about Snows in Piccadilly that was referred to me by another blogger “shropshirelad”.

    I used to frequent the pub (which from 1906 to 1965 was named Snow’s Chop House up to 1965 and a William Youngers pub) in the 1970's, - just up from Piccadilly Circus at the corner of Sherwood/Glasshouse Street - 3-4 Sherwood Street across from main front door entrance of the old Regent Palace Hotel which was to its left. But at this time it was not called Snow’s Chop House, -as I would have remembered that. Alas, I forget its name – and its bugging me that I cant remember it. However due to a photo from 1953 the Picture News I do know that “Snow’s was at 3-4 Sherwood Street. See pic. http://img845.imageshack.us/img845/9877/snowschophouse1953.jpg

    Oddly I don’t remember it as a modern 1960’s pub as you show in your photo.
    All that I can remember was - and the unique feature about this pub to my mind was that instead of the traditional wood panelling of the old traditional pub of its era, its interior walls were plain plaster, but these walls had painted on its surrounding wall frieze around the room, a series of old painted coloured murals (or frescoes) - depicting the evolution of the London Gin Laws - a bit like 'Punch Magazine' caricatures - showing people in various states of bawdy dissipation and drunken inebriation. The era I used to frequent it was the mid 1970's.

    The later history of the building was that many years later it became the “Alabama Pizza Pasta” restaurant until 2002 after which the present business Bar Blanca opened from 2003 and is still there.

    It’s the gap from 1970 to 1985 that is a mystery to me.

    Here http://img571.imageshack.us/img571/5059/sherwoodstreet20031995.jpg is how the later site looked in circa 1987 and later still from 2003

    What I want to find out is specifically is when did Snow's vacate the site and what was the actual name of the pub that came after it and when did that close?

    I have gone to great lengths to try locating information on the buildings history from the period 1970 to 1985 specifically interested on seeing some reference or photos of the murals - but have come up with nothing

    Any hints or help with the “new” name would by welcome.

  2. Many thanks for the comment, Joe v Berlin. I have to admit I know little about Snow's. It was more the advertisement that caught my eye. Nonetheless, I will see if I can come up with any useful information and if I do I will let you know. In the meantime, try the website of the Pub History Society. I think there is a space where you can post queries of this type. Best wishes, The Quaffer


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