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Do you keep a work diary?

By Fergus Fitzgerald, also posted in News on

Denis Holliday's brew book from 1938Brewer Denis Holliday's daily brewing records from 1938 returns to Adnams

I’ve been out of the habit for a while, a former nun might say, or a brewer who sometimes wrote a blog but hasn’t for so long that he can’t remember the last time Sarah had to correct his spelling. The reason for reviving it is only partly due to the imagined threat of losing my membership of the British Guild of Beer Writers. It is really to do with a brewer I never met called Denis Holliday who died earlier this year, aged 99. There are, in fact, quite a large number of brewers I’ve never met, and I don’t intend to write about all of those, but Denis was special. Whilst I didn’t know Denis personally, I knew of the beer he first created at Eldridge Pope brewery in 1968, the almost mythical Thomas Hardy‘s Ale. It went out of production in 1999 when Eldridge Pope closed, was brought back briefly between 2003 and 2008 before disappearing again, until, fittingly, it was finally brought back into production this year. There is more information about Thomas Hardy’s Ale here. At the time, this sherry-cask-aged beer was the strongest in the UK but its fame has more to do with intense, rich flavour and its ageing qualities than its alcohol content. To many people, this beer is still the epitome of an English barley wine. It’s kept in dusty beer cellars around the world and having been aged, sometimes for 20, 30, 40 years, it is gently ushered out at the end of an evening where the story of how it came to be in the cellar is often as important as the beer itself. Denis HollidayEarlier this year, Sarah Groves was contacted by Denis's daughter who let her know that Denis had recently passed away and she had in her possession an Adnams brewing book from 1938. It wasn’t until then that we learnt of the long-forgotten connection between Adnams, Denis and Thomas Hardy Ale. Denis undertook his brewing pupillage at Adnams in 1938 under the then Head Brewer Percy Coveney and kept a copy of the daily brewing book. It seems it was once normal practice for brewing apprentices to keep their own copy of the brewing book. It was probably a practical necessity during his training, but I like to think the fact Denis kept it in his possession all these years means he also treasured his time here. Denis's daughter very kindly sent his brewing book back to us which we will put on display in our Brewery Museum area. It makes me slightly sad that we don’t keep books like that anymore, that we don’t have our own personal copies of our brewing books for trainee brewers to squirrel away at home. A flash drive at the bottom of a sock drawer doesn’t quite have the same resonance. I didn’t know Denis, but something about knowing that he spent a short time brewing here makes me feel some connection, which is nonsense I know, but it’s there none the less. Beer should always be about people, the people who drink it, the people you drink it with and the people who made it. Before his daughter's email I didn’t know Denis created Thomas Hardy’s Ale but for knowing that, I think I will enjoy my next bottle all the more. If you have Adnams memorabilia at home that you no longer need, or would like to find a new home for, please do send it to Sarah for the Adnams archives. You can read more about Denis in this article from Dorset Life, 2010.  


Fergus Fitzgerald