Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Twice Brewed Inn-Where the name really comes from.

When digging at Vindolanda my home away from home is a place called the Twice Brewed Inn.  It is pretty much all there is in the tiny and oddly named hamlet of Twice Brewed.  If you go looking for the origins of the name the first story you find will likely be this:

In 1745 the Pretender known as Bonnie Prince Charles led an unsuccessful insurrection.  Although this-pretty much the last round of Scottish pugnacity-was put down eventually, it was noted that the movement of troops around northern England was very cumbersome due to the lack of decent roads.  So, a General Wade was assigned to build the Military Road east to west from Newcastle to Carlisle.  He died before it was completed, but his plan was followed.  Incidentally this resulted in the destruction of a large percentage of Hadrian's Wall as it was a nearby and handy source of paving stones.  So the cars that still whizz by at unsafe speeds on the Military Road (that is it running next to the Inn) are cruising over the dismembered remains of a magnificent artifact of antiquity.  Oh, and the ditch to the right of the road?  Dug by the Romans and still there.

In any case, in the early 1750s the building crews were working on a section smack in the middle of the road.  Retiring thirsty to a rural inn they were appalled at the weak ale being served up and boisterously demanded that it be brewed a second time.  Hence the origin of the name....Twice Brewed Inn.

Or is it?

As a home brewer I can tell you this is all nonsense.  When you brew beer or ale you heat it to liberate malt sugars and the various aromatic components of hops.  If you take beer that has already been brewed once and heat it up a second time you will just drive off the alcohol.  (on the other hand, in distilling the alcohol is cooked off on purpose and recovered in condensation).  Besides, brewing a batch of ale takes at a minimum several weeks, and the surly navvies would by then have moved on, probably after trashing the place.

So locally the tale of re-brewing the ale is considered to be one of those stories you tell the tourists.  The true name of the place is said to come from two "brous" or the brows of two large hills that overlook the Inn.  So that is the real answer.

Or is it?

While wandering about the nearby town of Haltwhistle in the spring of 2011 I photographed this interesting tombstone:
Lets just zoom in a bit closer:

So evidently a William Porthouse was born right around the time of the alleged "brew it again" incident. And on his tombstone the community is called Twice Brewd Ale.

So perhaps the tourist tale has a little more substance to it after all.  You might for instance speculate that angry pub patrons could have said something nonsensical....

I mentioned this to Brian Keen, genial proprietor of the "Twicey" and he had never heard this name variant before.

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