On the 4th day of Christmas it would have been very good if we had all been sent a barrel label from Ward & Sons Ltd of Foxearth. I don’t suppose there are many collectors out there who would have been disappointed to receive this.
We have to work quickly now there is a day to catch up. So how about Blitzen from the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham. As it says on the label – a cheeky little festive number.
Apologies for the delay in getting day 2 sorted, but Saturday in Norwich took up considerably more than the whole day. And excellent it was too, great turnout and the local people brought in some very interesting items of breweriana. My favourite was undoubtedly this label from Day & Son of St Neots in Huntingdonshire. The owner was particularly pleased that we valued it in excess of £400, providing the right buyer could be found.
I just had to start with this. Backwoods B*Stard from Founders Brewing Co in Grand Rapids Michigan. A bottle arrived at my house earlier this week and I couldn’t help noticing the advertising.
This ain’t no lawn-mowing’ beer!
An Imperial Stout at somewhere over 11% ABV, I think I understand why. Two things I want from you. Is it as good as the 100 rating from one beer rating site and what would you describe as a lawn-mowing beer?
My last label has been the most difficult to choose. Should it be another Kent label? Perhaps another Russells? In the end I opted for this elegant design from the Cirencester Brewery, partly because it’s another West Country (well Gloucestershire) company but mainly the fact that I first saw it on a poster produced by Courage for their Bicentenary illustrating labels from the companies they’d acquired over the years. I thought wow! What a fantastic label, not ever dreaming that I might get an example one day. It just goes to show that collecting is a long game; persistence may one day pay off!
As a postscript I’d add that these choices are just a snapshot. I’ve still got many labels and companies I’d really like to have which are not yet represented in my collection so I’ve got my sights set on a few – this selection might change!
We travel back to the West Country for my ninth label, Oak Ale from the Oakhill Brewery. I don’t really know why I like this label. In all probability the beer was named to reflect the company name and their trademark – a hill covered with oaks – although other companies also produced “Oak” ales – presumably a darkish beer. I think what attracts me is the pleasing traditional design conveying the impression of a rural country brewery. I also like the fact that the county is named properly as Somersetshire, not shortened as happens so often.
It’s back to Kent for my next selection. Although the Medway towns are only a few miles from my home town of Northfleet, we never seemed to get there much except on “Navy Days” at the Chatham dockyard when my father, an ex-Royal Navy man, would take us aboard the ships that were open to the public. Not far from the dockyard was the site of Arkcoll’s Brewery, although it had long gone by the time we made our visits in the late 1950s. Many years ago I was shown a colour photocopy of an Arkcoll’s label and the hunt was on! It took many years but eventually I obtained this superb label to shine in my Kent collection.
My next choice is the magnificent Fergusons Sparkling Pale Ale. I first saw an illustration of this label in a magazine that had a feature on label collecting, dating from around the mid-1970s, and immediately set my heart on it. I particularly like the tress of hops winding their way around the design. I’ve never actually lived in Reading, but did for a time live down the road in Newbury. Although I did often frequent a number of pubs in the town, I never came across any Ferguson’s breweriana and had to be patient for many years before being able to add this label to my collection.
I’m a sucker for labels that feature pictures of the brewery buildings. In trying to choose one for this selection, it was a close run thing between the Puzzle Hall Brewery’s Home Brewed Stout from Sowerby Bridge and the magnificent frontage depicted on the Anglo-Bavarian Dinner Ale illustrated. I guess the deciding factor (other than a soft spot for West Country breweries) was that the Puzzle Hall image is a bit more of a slightly exaggerated “artist’s impression” of the brewery rather than the Anglo’s more realistic presentation.
We move back to my home territory for the next label which dates from the first decade of the 20th century. It comes from the small industrial Thames-side town of Northfleet just a couple or so miles to the west of Gravesend and my birthplace. I was well aware of the brewery long before I started collecting labels as I used to see it as I went to the local library. The brewery tower is still there in Dover Road, although for many years the premises have been used as the local traders club and all the brewing equipment (as well as most floors in the brewing tower) disappeared years ago. Early in my collecting career I was given a neckstrap from a New Northfleet Brewery beer, I don’t know which one but it does have a picture of a parlour maid in the central roundel and their slogan on it “The Last Drop”. Clearly that whetted my appetite as I sought for a long time before obtaining a full label. With its connection to my home town, its age and the traditional design, on all counts this has to be one of my favourite labels.