Burnley in Lancashire gets something of a bad rap in the press. The media uses this small town in the Lancashire hills as a lens on how diverse, and sometimes divided, our country has become. It’s a town which has gone through enormous change over a short period of time and magnificently represents what happened when Britain evolved from being an agricultural nation to an industrial nation in the 18th century.
Driving up to Burnley, through the old mill towns of Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd you kind of get why there was such a thirst, a need, a desperation for decent beer. During the 18th century in the North we went from being cosy, lovely, barn dancing, flag waving village people (not in the YMCA sense of course) to an existence which rivalled hell on earth: huge grinding mills, slum like dwellings, a power force across the manufacturing world which treated men as commodities, not humans.
And what do you do if your working life is this grim? You seek comfort in the local tavern. Beer made you happy, beer made it all worthwhile. It’s no coincidence that some of the most established and well known breweries grew up around this time in our history, because beer was the ‘solution’ (pinching a quote there from Bart Simpson) to all this hard work and graft.
Am I painting a grim picture of Burnley? I hope not, because the hills surrounding the Moorhouse’s brewery are lush, and green, and mossy. They represent England in all in luscious glory, and every time you hear the words to ‘Jerusalem’ I want you to think of Burnley. It epitomises every word in that beautiful poem.
As does this week’s beer – another favourite of mine: Moorhouse’s Pendle Witches Brew. Come on, the name just sells this, it’s absolutely legendary for a reason: it’s strong (5.1%), it’s warming on those cold winter days, it’s sweet, spicy and fruity. It’s perfect for drinking in front of the fire after a hard days graft, or walking those hills above Burnley. Paired with a hot pulled pork or hot beef sub roll served with home cooked chips it’s the perfect antidote to all the fancy Christmas food. Salt of the earth beer served with traditional grub, it doesn’t get any better.