booze and getting ahead

chest infection.

too much pushing out the boat to get that one more essential thing done.

but still.

a few things my brain has still been thinking about.

This post by Reading the Maps is one I keep going back to. Not because of the main content (though that is good) but because I am so intrigued by the comments section where someone called Giovanni talks about a 1970s survey of NZ freezing workers which found that half of them would like to be self employed. Class solidarity is not a first instinct for much of New Zealand and I find it intriguing.

So how about this march in support of Dick Hubbard? I get the strong sense of lots of ordinary working people out marching for their local millionaire, their scout leader who lived the dream of many and helped others along the way.

No one I know marched for Dick Hubbard - I don't have strong links to Timaru - but this dream of independence, a sense that working for someone else is what you do when you have to but not what it really is all about, is strong on both sides of my family. We were raised on the ethic of hard work and moderation.

At the same time as people were marching for Dick Hubbard, I was reading an article from my friend Greg Ryan on the historiography of alcohol in New Zealand 1840-1914 (published in the NZJH which isn't available online, or not easily or for free anyway). Greg was an enormous support when I wrote my masters thesis on women and booze in the nineteenth century back in the 20th century and I appreciate getting to read his excellent article.

The nature of sources on alcohol consumption mean that you can really only analyse commercial production. No one needs a license to make their own alcoholic brew (for their own consumption) in New Zealand. Greg deals with this and notes the decline in home brewing knowledge in early nineteenth century Great Britain.

Which brings to mind a couple of family stories. Lou was born in 1918. He served in World War Two and when he returned back to his home town, he met and married my Dad's cousin Mary. Mary shares my Cornish ancestry and her mother and aunty were Methodists who disapproved of alcohol. Lou liked a drink. He bought it from the pub most of the time but he also made his own. One time, after Mary and Lou had been married many many years and Mary's parents were coming to stay, Lou wondered about where to put his home brew and they decided to keep it where it was. As Lou and his mother in law (my Great Aunty Emma) were doing the dishes, Emma asked what it was. When Lou said it was his home brew, Emma was very interested, not disapproving (she had had decades to get used to her son in law drinking by this time) and said that her father had used something similar.

Her father? Married to a woman who like her daughters never drank and wasn't fond of others doing so? Of course, she was the Methodist and although my Great Grandfather was Cornish also, he was an Anglican. I've been to the church in Cornwall and found the old family gravestones. But clearly he did enjoy an occasional drink and how he provided it was not by spending the money that they were slowly earning on the farm by frequenting a hotel and perhaps shaming his wife but by making it himself. Both Lou and Mary have told me this story and sadly Lou is no longer alive. I really wanted to know about how he made his home brew but he wasn't interested in telling me, saying they had much better methods nowadays. Or perhaps he couldn't remember.

I've got other family brewing links, though in quite a different context. The Roils who owned and ran a cider factory in this article on Stoke in the 1920s are my relatives. Their parents brought them all out to Nelson in the 1840s from the small brewing town of Alton in Hampshire, England. His occupation was a brewer and I assume that would have been for an employer. Nelson soil grows great apples and the cider factory was an amalgam of both old world skills and new world opportunities.

I still ponder making our own home brew. Frankly, it would save us plenty of money. Favourite Handyman has a birthday coming up and I might just get a home brewing kit for then.


miriam said…
What a great thing to have some of that family history. I really enjoy those stories. We have friends use a beer kit and just buy the can of starter from the supermarket, any type you like. Makes a great product and cheap, real cheap.
Christopher said…
The guy from Melton, Victora (near Melbourne) has a line in home brewing on his blog (and another line in making cheese! which I really want to try).

His name is Gavin and his blog is

You need to have a poke around the site but he has some posts on home brewing.

Sharonnz said…
Hubby gets a lot of pleasure, and cheaper booze, out of his home-brewing. He's at the stage of wanting to source and roast his own barley.
Thanks Miriam about the family stories. Thank you all for your encouragement about home brewing and thanks Christopher for your link to the Greening of Gavin. I've had a look at his posts and will be studying them again when we get our equipment.

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