Today I am brewing up a good, old-fashioned British ale. It’s from a recipe I found many years ago in a book by a mad home-brewer called David Lines, and I’ve made some whenever I’ve had the means.

David Lines had a brilliant idea. He went to all the major brewers about fifty years ago, and made them an offer they could easily refuse: ‘I’m going to write a book about beer, and I’d like to include the recipe for your beer in my book.’

Brewers, apparently, looked at him askance before offering to point him to the door.

‘No, you don’t understand,’ he continued, and went on to tell them that most home brewers wanted, when they went out, to buy beers like those they had brewed themselves. Brewers would be increasing their market by offering him their recipes.

So they gave him their deepest secrets, and he had a publishing success.

Home brewing was illegal in Britain for many years, just as distilling is now in many countries. It was said that this was for the good of the people: so that people don’t get made blind, so that their livers and kidneys survive. It wasn’t. It was a means to protect one of the many Inland Revenue income streams. But after the Second World War, people couldn’t afford to go to the pubs, so a movement began to brew at home again, as British folks have through the centuries. And soon it was realised that so many were doing so that it was making a nonsense of the law, and it would be impractical, to say the least, to try to punish all the perpetrators. The law banning home brew was quietly repealed.

It did not cause the end of the world.

A pint of the best in Belstone!

However, in recent years there has been a movement to be ever more prohibitive towards drinking. We hear that the government now wants to impose a minimum price per unit of alcohol on all alcohol sales.

This is, we are told, a ‘good thing’. Government is alarmed by the scenes of drunkenness on our streets. Rioting last year was surely helped by booze. The police say that many cases of bad behaviour can be attributed to drinking, and doctors, well, doctors know that alcohol damages livers, kidneys, causes multiple fights, and harm from the drunks falling and hurting themselves. Casualty wards are full of those who’ve drunk too much.

So it’s a good thing.

Except I don’t like a doctor telling me I have to stop enjoying myself just because he, or she, doesn’t like my lifestyle. And yes, it’s a lifestyle. Mine happens to be fairly English in nature. I like a few beers of an evening or – better – at lunch on a sunny afternoon. I really, really like a good Old Ale in front of a roaring fire. I love a weak mild on a hot summer’s day. And bitter is my tipple of an evening. I may well be shortening my life by a few days – perhaps even years. And know what? That’s my personal choice. I will not have it made by some morally-challenged medico who has decided he or she wants to save me.

It is one of my pet hates just now, this idea that doctors are saving lives. They aren’t. They are deferring deaths. Still, back to the main point.

The police have no part and no say in this. They are not there to decide on how people should live.

ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers, is a dangerous little cartel. If you’re senior in the Police, you get to join the club. They hold secret meetings each year, and at one per annum, they invite their ‘boss’, the Home Secretary, to hear their conclusions. Basically, it’s a shopping list of all the laws they’d like to be able to enforce.

Their suggestions range from banning guns, to control orders for disruptive kids, to the right to shoot dangerous dogs – or people – without the risk of prosecution. This year, it’s also banning excessive drinking.

There is a cynical, nasty streak in this. The two law-making and enforcing groups most dedicated to banning drinking are police and politicians. The police do not have a good reputation for drinking. You only have to look at recent revelations from the Leveson enquiries to see how senior coppers were routinely bribed with meals and fine wines. When I was younger, the drinking culture of the cops could be seen all over the country in pubs. Politicians have a higher standard of behaviour, of course. We saw that with the arrest of a Scottish Labour MP recently after he head-butted a companion in a Commons bar.

Perhaps now MPs will stop drinking massively subsidised alcohol in their VAT and Revenue-exempt bars in Westminster? Or do the risks of alcoholism and bad behaviour only affect the poor schmucks who elect these thieving wasters?

MPs have already passed some laws affecting booze. Or rather, they haven’t. They haven’t passed a law to protect pubs or publicans. They have allowed massive pub companies to grow, soaking up spare pubs and forcing the landlords to pay unsustainable rents. It’s forcing pubs to close all over the country at an alarming rate – over 30 every week. But that’s OK, because MPs gain big sponsorship from those pubcos. I assume so, anyway, because I cannot see any other reason for them to wish to see the pubs get closed.

In my area, when I moved here, there were five pubs. At present one remains. That’s four closures in about ten years. It’s not because of a lack of fondness for pubs, but because they cannot survive in the economic climate.

Pubs are essential, though. They provide spaces for safe drinking, where a landlord monitors those in his bar and hopefully stops the most drunk from carrying on. In the past, when everyone went to pubs, children learned to drink more safely, watched over by older folk from their communities.

Life has changed, and TV has destroyed many communities – a chat with friends in a pub is clearly not so pleasant as watching ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (a hilariously ironic title), drinking strong alcopops and ‘texting’ one’s friends during the adverts.

God help us.

I can’t afford to visit pubs. The kids have this mistaken belief that they need shoes for school, and I cannot beat it out of them, sadly. So instead I stay at home. I brew my own, and save a fortune.

An excellent Braumeister brew kettle.

But what is really annoying the hell out of me just now is that it’s the same as other legislation.

(I’m back to the concept of the minimum fee per unit. Keep up!)

You see, there is no evidence for it. None whatsoever.

From all I have seen, the instances of drunkenness have steadily decreased in recent years, according to reports. The radio reports that significantly fewer deaths are attributed to alcohol, that the quantity drunk by individuals is reducing, that, in short, there is no problem.

But the NHS and police want it more closely restricted. So now do politicians.


Simple. MPs had a bad week last week. They needed a change of news, directing it away from the Granny Tax. So they came up with this ingenious little scam. Hit alcoholics. No one will mind that.

Of course, they do have a problem. The minimum charge per unit means billions of pounds shoved into the trousers of the big supermarkets. No one wants that. So presumably we’ll soon hear of a new tax on alcohol. One that redirects more money towards the government.

Which is good. It’ll help pay for more doctors to tell us how we should not be enjoying life any more.

Long live tax free home brew.

9 Responses to “Booze”
  1. akhenkhan says:

    Sounds good. Hope the end result is excellent.


  2. akhenkhan says:

    I hope the end result is worthy of all your hard work Michael. :)


  3. knotrune says:

    Making alcohol prohibitively expensive is how Norway attempts to deal with the problem. And it hasn’t gone away… When I was living in Oslo one of the news stories which most struck me was about a group of people who had died from alcohol poisoning caused by dodgy moonshine purchased over the border in Sweden. Who were these people? Young hooligans? Students? No, they were a bridge club!


  4. Chris Prillwitz says:

    Homebrewers like us, Michael, are the type of people GOVERNMENTS don’t like, they can’t, pardon the pun, keep tabs on us. Here in the States, there is a limit on how much we can legally brew per year, I think that it’s 50 gallons of beer and or wine. But, then, they don’t enforce the ban of sales of hard cider in liquor stores which was put in place at the end of Prohibation to help the farmers. You can’t find hard cider, unless you brew it yourself, outside of liquor stores. The American government has always been against people making their own alcohol, hence the Whiskey Rebellion which Baron von Steuben refused to take command of the forces to put down since he saw that the “rebels” were just fighting for the same thing all of us had fought for during our war of Independence. I am still trying to find a way around the law against making your own hard liquor, would like to brew up some Taos Lighting.


    • That’s OK with me, Chris. I don’t like governments either! Didn’t know there was a limit on quantity in the US. Seems daft to me. After all, how the hell can they police it? A law that cannot be enforced is stupid in the extreme. Meanwhile, get a load of eating apples (half rotten is fine), crush them and press all the juice out of them, put the juice in a fermentation bucket, and add some beer yeast. It’ll bubble happily for about two weeks, rack off for another two, and ideally bottle in champagne-strength bottles. Result? Lovely Normandy-style cider at about 6-8 percent by volume!

      Last few times I did this, I ended up with no drink in less than two weeks after opening the first. everyone loved it!


      • Chris Prillwitz says:

        Already figured on making hard cider this year. Figured on having the youth from my church collect, cut up, grind up, and press apples from trees along the streets and from my backyard and make sweet cider with me putting aside some to make into hard cider for myself. The sweet cider we’ll share with needy members of the church and the surrounding neighborhood. Started making my own sweet cider a couple of years back when I decided to either do something with the apples from my trees or cut them down. They are yellow MacIntosh and make great sweet cider and applesauce and hopefully will have some from my Northern Spy to mix in with them this year, figure it will be excellent hard cider. Thanks for the infro on how to do it. Would like to find out how the East Prussians made their hard cider, which they were known for.


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