iCHSTM 2013 Programme • Version 5.3.6, 27 July 2013 • ONLINE (includes late changes)
| Paper sessions timetable | Lunch and evening timetable | Main site
Chemists, brewers and beer-doctors
Event code: L348
Wed 24 July, 20:00–20:45Jabez Clegg
Organiser: James Sumner twitter | University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Is ‘chemical beer’ an idea to fear?

Many manufacturers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries said not. Their innovations in colouring, antacids and synthetic sugars, they said, would help the brewers to make a traditional product more reliably and at a lower price.

Many drinkers disagreed. A secret army of ‘brewers’ druggists’, they claimed, was replacing the traditional goodness of malt and hops with mysterious nostrums to cheat the public – and possibly far worse. Periodic panics swirled through newspapers and pamphlets, alleging widespread fatal poisoning by strychnine, opium or deadly nightshade.

This public talk includes a live demonstration of the old-style art of the ‘beer doctors’. Dr James Sumner, author of Brewing Science, Technology and Print, 1700-1880, will subject a blameless modern-day pint to a variety of (strictly non-toxic but less than pleasant) chemical interventions, and encourage the audience to do the same. Or not. As they prefer. (Most typically prefer not to.)

Come along and find out how the reputations of chemists suffered and resurfaced; how the authorities (who weren’t so concerned about poisons, but drew the line at tax-dodging) responded; and why Humphry Davy ended up as a witness in an 1809 court case about the rights and wrongs of brewing with stinking fish.

James Sumner is lecturer in the history of technology at the University of Manchester, and co-chair of the Local Organising Committee for the Congress. He has worked enough 16-hour days on the Congress programme to be allowed to plug his book on this page.

Location: Jabez Clegg
2 Portsmouth Street, M13 9GB (off Dover Street on the main University campus)
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