Friday 5 February 2010

Beer on the radio

I was later into work today so my radio selection was a bit different. Much to my delight there were a couple of beery items from unexpected sources. First up was Mary Beard on Desert Island Discs choosing this song as one of her selection:

The Man That Waters The Workers' Beer


I am the man, the very fat man
Who waters the workers' beer
Who waters the workers' beer
And what do I care if it makes them ill
If it makes them terribly queer
I've a car and a yacht and an aeroplane
And I waters the workers' beer

Now when I makes the workers' beer
I puts in strychnine,
Some methylated spirits and a drop of paraffin
But since a brew so terribly strong
Might make them terribly queer
So I reaches my hand for the water tap
And I waters the workers' beer


Now a drop of good beer is good for a man
Who's thirsty and tired and hot
And I sometime has a drop for myself
From a very special lot
But a fat and healthy working class
Is the thing that I most fear
So I reaches my hand for the water tap
And I waters the workers' beer


Now ladies fair, beyond compare
And be ye maid or wife
Oh sometime lend a thought for one
Who leads a wandering life
The water rates are shockingly high
An' meth' is shockingly dear
And there isn't the profit there used to be
In watering the workers' beer

Now as it happens I personally know the man who watered the workers' beer, Professor Graham Stewart , and a wonderful human being he is too. He was the brains behind the development of high gravity brewing, where strong beer is produced and watered down post-fermentation. I think it would be fair to say he’s no stranger to the pie shop but I’d be very surprised if he owns his own yacht and aeroplane.

Next was a history of the world in 100 objects. In this program a small clay tablet that was made in Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago was described. It is covered with sums and writing about local beer rationing, as beer was used as currency. It seems they had no problems with liquidity in the economy! I look forward to fellow beer blogger Ron Pattison posting about ancient Mesopotamian brewing records.

It's your round next


  1. If you look at the symbol in the first square, top left, that looks like a square with lines in on top of a kite-shape with lines in, which is repeated in the next row, third square from the left, that's the cuneiform symbol for 'beer' - it springs from the pottery jars the Sumerians brewed their beer in, which were grooved on the inside to catch the yeast when the fermented beer was emptied out, so that there would be yeast in the jar when the next lot of raw work was poured in.

  2. "work" = "wort", of course …

  3. Well spotted! On the radio they said the jar was the symbol for beer(though they didn't mention the yeast catching design). Apparently there's also heads drinking from bowls, which was the ration symbol, and the circles and semi-circles are numbers.

  4. Yeah, I'd seen this pic before. I wrote about it in "Beer: TSTOTP".