- Estrella Damm launches new 660ml bottle
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- Wells & Young’s announce proposal for organisational restructure
- Wells & Young’s pledges support for Cask Ale Week
- Wells & Young’s statement on Industrial action by Unite members at KNDL on-trade distribution network
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- McEwan’s Red kicks off summer sampling campaign
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- Bombardier hosts cricket fan event with Matthew Hoggard in Manchester this week!
- Wells & Young’s unveils plans for Great British Beer Festival 2013!
- Wells & Young’s unveils rebrand for Young’s beer range
- Wells & Young’s Launches Hummingbird Seasonal Ale
- Premium Japanese lager Kirin Ichiban rolls out biggest ever UK sampling campaign for summer
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- Forget flowers, Kirin Ichiban sends out a Beer Bro-K, the ultimate Valentine’s gift for beer lovers!
- Wells & Young’s new Airman’s Ale to be served in military bars across the UK
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- WELLS AND YOUNG’S ACQUIRES McEWAN’S AND YOUNGER’S
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- Winner announced in Bombardier Beer Writing Competition
- Call for freeze on beer duty
- Firewalk for Charity
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Winner announced in Bombardier Beer Writing Competition
27th April 2011
Entrants were asked to submit 1,500 words on the topic ‘The Joys and Jolliness of Beer,’ and the judges, who included Evening Standard food critic Charles Campion, leading beer writer Pete Brown, Donald Sloan, the Chair of Oxford Gastronomica at Oxford Brookes University and Paul Wells, chairman of Wells and Young’s Brewery, were overwhelmed with the response.
And writer Milton Crawford was awarded the cash prize for his piece, ‘The Stonemason’s Tale.’
Paul Wells said: “'We can often read about all sorts of exotic food and drink, and places to go, but at Wells and Young's we felt that there was not enough being written about our great national drink, beer, and about how special pubs can be as the hub of our communities. In a huge field of entries, Milton's story made us stop and reflect on these themes and is a beautifully written tale. Hopefully the Bombardier prize can bring out some great writing each year from now on.'
The winner of the inaugural competition was announced at the 2011 Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival on Friday 8th April, during a dinner and reception at the Oxford Malmaison Hotel.
Wells adds: “We have grand plans for this competition and want it to become a regular event – after all, perhaps the only thing better than drinking a pint is writing about it!”
You can read the winning entry below:
THE STONEMASON’S STORY
‘You’re drinking that like water,’ I said with a laugh as I stood at the bar and watched my friend George glug the top half of his deep auburn pint in one indulgent guzzle. A shaft of low sunlight caught his glass as it reached the horizontal in front of his mouth. There was a flash of red and gold. I watched his throat work hard, swallowing the liquid in rhythmical gulps, before he placed his glass down on the bar with emphasis and gave a long gasp of satisfaction. The liquid in the glass slopped about slightly like a gentle swell in the English Channel on a serene summer’s day.
‘It’s funny you should say that,’ he said, once he had sucked some air into his lungs. ‘A friend of mine was remarking just the other day how in medieval times every man in this country drank beer instead of water because the water could not be trusted. I knew that already, in fact, but what surprised me was the amount that they drank.’
He wiped the back of his hand across his brow and swept his long blonde ringlets from his forehead. His hair was damp and darkened around his temples as he tucked the dry ringlets behind his ears. It was the first really warm day of the year and as the sun dipped and cast long shadows across the stone-flagged floor, and the air outside began to cool slightly, it remained warm and sticky inside our village pub. There was a hum of conversation from around the low-ceilinged room and the cries of playing children and barking dogs shimmered in on the warm air. George placed his large, rough hands on the edge of the bar and leaned his weight slightly against them as though he was trying to move the bar backwards an inch or two. He was a stonemason with powerful arms and shoulders and I believed that if he tried he probably could move the bar if he really wanted to. The landlord – a tall, slim fellow with a long neck and glasses – leaned his right forearm on top of the pumps and listened. George liked to tell a story.
A man would be drinking beer from when he woke in the morning to when he went to bed at night. He’d have half-a-pint for breakfast, a couple of pints through the morning, three or four in the afternoon, when he was hot from working, and then, in the evening, another three or four with his friends.’
‘Sounds like old Roger,’ chimed in the landlord with a chuckle, ‘he’d be in ‘ere every day for a breakfast pint if I let him in.’
George looked directly into the sun and took another gulp from his glass.
‘Nine pints,’ he said, turning to us again with his face that looked like it too had been roughly chiselled from stone. ‘That was what the average medieval man drank every day of his life. I suppose that would be quite weak ale, but you must admit, that’s a fair amount of beer. When my friend told me that, I tried to think what the life of a stonemason might have been like in the middle ages. I certainly wouldn’t fancy cutting stone – and especially not lifting it – after a few pints.
‘I often think of those times when I’m on the marshes at the edge of the village and I gaze across to the city. The cathedral spire is staggering to us now. But just think what it must have been like to the people who lived when it was built. Those people would only have seen one or two storey buildings their whole lives, and then this spire – this one-hundred and twenty-metre pinnacle of stone – pierces the sky and aims up to heaven like an enormous javelin. Can you imagine how awestruck those people must have been?
‘The main body of the cathedral took thirty-eight years to build. That’s a man’s entire working life now and back then, by the time he’d finished, he wouldn’t just be ready to retire, he’d be just about ready to die!’
George laughed and lifted his glass once more, draining it entirely.
‘You fancy another?’ he asked me.
I supped up.
‘I’ll get these,’ I said. The landlord soundlessly picked up our glasses and pulled back on the hand pump. I heard the ale hit the bottom of the glass and froth slightly.
‘Imagine if I had been told,’ continued George, ‘when I was an apprentice in my late teens, that I would be working on the same building for my entire life. I’d be about halfway through it right now. Of course, you’d be proud of playing a part in such a towering achievement as a cathedral, but I’m glad I have the variety of work that I do. You see, there’s plenty of differences between how people lived then and how they live now; a lot of similarities, too, but a lot more differences.’
The two fresh pints were served to us and we both took greedy mouthfuls of the cool ale.
‘One of the main differences, I think,’ George said, ‘is that there was more of what you’d call a community then. For one thing, people didn’t have cars or much other form of transport. They couldn’t drive off somewhere when they felt like it. They were stuck in their village and they had to get along with the people who lived around them. There was also no such thing as television or cinema or radio or the internet. What did people have for entertainment? Each other, of course; and beer!
‘When I imagine how the villagers worked back then, I think of how the fields would have been full of people having to dig the earth by hand. All the time they would have talked to each other as they worked. At the site of the cathedral there would have been hundreds of them working together with no mechanical noise other than the sound of hammers and chisels. The stonemasons would have been chiselling and chatting away at the same time. Conversation gets drowned out these days. On building sites there is the constant din of machinery.
In the fields, there is no need for lots of people, because the farmer has his tractor and chemicals to do all the work for him. Instead of talking to each other we turn on the TV. We call people our “friends” on the internet but they’re people we haven’t seen or spoken to for twenty years.
‘But there are still places that you can go to feel part of a community. I’m not a religious man but I’ve heard that church-goers live longer because they have the feeling of belonging. “Churches are social glue” someone said to me once. Well, I like to think the same of pubs and I reckon someone should do a study on the positive health effects of going to the pub. All you hear about is bad things about drinking but for me the pub is the only place I can go to tell a story and hear other people tell stories. It gives me an opportunity for companionship. It’s a place where I feel the warmth of my fellow men – and women – rather than watching on the news about another murder or atrocity or war.
‘For this reason I say that beer is as essential to me as water. But it’s not really the beer itself. Of course I love drinking, but I value above that the social element of going to the pub. Human beings need all kinds of nourishment. We need food, sleep and shelter. But we also need to feel part of something that is bigger than us. We scoff at the middle ages. We laugh at how ignorant and filthy the people must have been then. But just think: that cathedral is still standing and how many buildings that are being built now will still be standing in eight hundred years’ time? We can learn a lot from them if we stop and think about it a little.’
‘Like how to drink nine pints every day?’ asked the landlord.
‘Well,’ said George, with a poker-face, ‘at least I can feel happy when I leave here, having drunk four or five, maybe, that I’ve got a comfortable bed to lie in whereas medieval man probably had to drink nine pints just so he could get to sleep on his straw mattress!’
The landlord laughed and George smiled once more. And as the dying sun sent its red-orange glow through the stone mullioned windows of the pub for the final time, his face was illuminated and looked to me at that instant like a westward facing sea cliff when the sun seems to falter slightly, then finally dips below the horizon.