Pub History

Hops, Barley, Water & Drugs?

It is a given that Real Ale should contain hops, barley and water, many breweries pride themsleved on the purity of their beers, whilst some are known for adding other ingredients, like fruit, herbs, coffee &c. But one woud not expect to have to drink beer laced with a narcotic. In the 19thC sometimes 'Grains of Paradise' (Aframomum Melegueta - Melegueta Pepper) were added, and if the brewer was caught the consequences were severe...

Hitchmough’s Black Country Pub History
FOX AND GOOSE, 100, Level Street, Brierley Hill

Stourbridge Observer 26/11/1864

"Theresa Gwilt, residing at the FOX AND GOOSE, The Level, was charged on two informations with having on the 23rd of September last, in her possession, a quantity of grains of paradise, and with using the same in the brewing of ale, for each offence of which she was liable to a penalty of £200.
Mr. Perry, of Stourbridge, appeared to prosecute, and in opening the case said that the information was laid under the 56 George III cap., sec.2, by which the having and using of grains of paradise, by a brewer, were constituted two distinct offences. Mr. Elsworth defended.
John Evans deposed, that he was an excise officer, in the Brierley Hill district. I knew defendant to be a retailer of beer who resides at the Level, in my district. On the 22nd of September last, I visited the defendant, who is a licensed victualler, at this house (the FOX AND GOOSE). I saw the defendant going into the brewhouse. I examined the spent hops in the sieve, over the mashtub. He (sic) brewed on the 22nd of September. I examined the hops and found that they contained grains of paradise. After I examined them, I saw a young man who took me into the place, and showed me the hops. There were grains of paradise in them. I then fetched Miss Gwilt, who went into the brewhouse with me. I pointed out the hops, and the grains of paradise to her. She replied that she knew nothing about it. I took a sample and made them into three parcels, and delivered two to the supervisor of the district; the other I retained in my possession, and is the one I now produce, which was sealed and not opened until this morning.Edward Thomas deposed, that he was Supervisor for the Inland Revenue for the Stourbridge district, and said he received two parcels from Mr. Evans, sealed with his initials, and forwarded them to the principal of the laboratory at Somerset House, London, on the 29th of September last. On the 24th of September, I went to Miss Gwilt’s, to make a report, and informed her that I had received a report from Mr. Evers (sic), in which he stated he had taken hops from her which contained grains of paradise. She said she knew nothing about it. At my request defendant went into the brewhouse, and fetched some of the spent hops. I examined them and found that they contained grains of paradise, which I pointed out to Miss Gwilt. She replied again that she knew nothing about it; her mother had the management of the brewing; but on the 22nd of September a young man, a neighbour of theirs said that his mother had kept a public house, and they let him brew for them. Before she denied having any grains of paradise, and said that they must have been in the hops. Some new hops were sent for, and he examined them, but did not find any grains of paradise in them. The defendant then said I hope you will look it over, as I have not long commenced business and it would be the ruin of me. She then burst into tears. I told her I had no power to look over it, and must report it.

Jenner Moxon said he was assistant chemist at the laboratory, Somerset House, London. He received a parcel from Mr. Philip, sealed with Mr. Thomas’s seal. He produced the covering of the parcel with the seals unbroken. Upon opening the parcel I found that it contained two parcels, with the imprint E. I examined the contents which contained spent hops and found grains of paradise to the amount of 4 per cent. I put the hops afterwards under lock and key and now produce them.
Cross examined: They had evidently been crushed, and divided previous to being used in brewing.For the defence, Mr. Ebsworth referred to the Act of Parliament upon which the information was laid, and said that the words were having grains of paradise in custody or possession. He denied that his client had any such grains in her custody or possession, as these terms presumed and meant knowledge. No evidence of her knowledge had been given, nor anything more been shown than that there were portions of grains, and not grains, amongst the spent hops. He then submitted that upon the facts the defendant was not guilty, as it was shown that she knew nothing at all about the matter, as she did not brew herself, and she had only been in business a short time. He afterwards referred to the very heavy penalty which the law enforced and said that it was very hard upon a poor woman.
Mr. Spooner said that he must think of the poor public who were being poisoned by such ingredients.Mr. Ebsworth continued to address the Bench in mitigation of fine, and submitted that the minimum amount would meet the justice of the case.
He called Rebecca Belcher, defendant’s servant, who stated that a man named Turner brewed on the day named, and that the defendant had nothing to do with it. She never interfered with any of the brewings.
Mr. Thorne, in reply to the Bench, said that he did not press for the full penalty.
Mr. Spooner then said he had no doubt about the case, and he would convict upon the charge of ‘having in possession.’ He commented very severely upon the dangerous and wicked nature of the offence. Grains of paradise were most exciting, and had a very serious effect upon those who consumed beverages containing them. Had the Excise authorities pressed the case, he would have inflicted the full fine of £200. He had only power to mitigate the fine to one fourth of the maximum, and defendant must pay a fine of £50 and costs.”

Courtesy Hitchough's Black Country Pubs