History and Evolution of Homebrew Pubs. Research is augmented with photographs, newspaper articles.


Homebrew Pubs
Homebrew Pubs

In former times most public houses, including beer houses in the 19th century, produced their own beer behind the pub. The beers varied considerably from brew to brew, particularly in the small beer houses, due in part to the lack of training, cleanliness, poor quality malt, hops and contaminated water. However, ales produced in larger pubs were generally superior because of the greater economies of scale they could derive. Increased competition and the dissemination of brewing skills between established alehouses were other key factors.

Examples of Breweries located behind Public Houses

Origins of the Homebrew Pub
The brewing of beer in Britain goes way, way back. The Romans discovered that the British were quite a beer-swilling lot. Despite its cost, by medieval times beer was the favoured drink of the masses. After all, water could not be trusted but beer was boiled during the brewing process so the chances of contamination was greatly reduced.

Brewing was generally a communal activity up until the 13th century and there was a relationship with religious festivals. Special ales produced by or for the church were sold to generate income for the parish. Other ales were produced throughout the year, some for weddings others for the poor. Consumption generally took place in and around the church itself.

In the 13th century alehouses started to displace merriment from places of worship and, accordingly, the production of beer moved to purpose-built premises - usually the outbuildings or barn of an alehouse.

Beer was generally brewed by women in times where community spirit ruled over profit. The Brewster, as she was known, was however punished for bad beer - usually by ducking. She had a difficult job - production during the summer months was problematic and beer was often spoilt by poor temperature and wild bacteria.

Increased legislation and standardisation in medieval times, particularly through the Assize of Bread and Ale of Henry III, saw a shift in the methodology of beer production and the way it was consumed. Over the centuries this eventually led to the growth of the common brewer.

However, down the centuries it has traditionally been cheaper to produce beer on the premises than to buy from a common brewer, thus generating more profit. Moreover, where the brewer was skilled, some public houses gained kudos for the standard of their ales and garnered loyal support from the local community on whom the publican depended for trade.

Please bear in mind that this article is very much a simplification of what is a extraordinarily complex tale of evolution and development.
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Inn Sign advertising Home Brewed Beer

Etched Glass advertising Home Brewed Ales

Outside the Ale House Door by George Morland [1792]

The Ale House Door by Henry Singleton [c.1790]

“The English beer is best in all Europe ... it was necessary to drink two or three pots of beer during our parley; for no kind of business is transacted in England without the intervention of pots of beer.”
Jarevin de Rochefort, 1672

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Beer and Pipe Smoker

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Bar Parlour Stained Glass

Tap Room Etched Glass

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Public Bar Stained Glass

Woman Serving Beer

Brewery Buildings