The forgotten love of rural Jamaicans for draught porter

The history of beer is largely working-class history, which means, given the status of working-class history, much of it is forgotten. When it’s black working-class history … Thus the long love of rural (and urban) working-class Jamaicans – and probably other West Indians as well – for draught porter is a subject you will struggle to find recorded anywhere.

Draught porter was sold from draught porter shops, in existence in Kingston, Jamaica from at least the Edwardian era; from casks in refreshment parlors that also sold fried fish and bread; and also by travelling salesmen, who would call out “draaf porter!” as they travelled on foot around rural villages in the Jamaican interior, carrying a large tin container with a spout, and cans in quart, pint, half-pint and gill (quarter-pint, pronounced “jill”) sizes, for serving. Jamaica also had itinerant ice-cream salesmen, who would sell a blend of “frisco”—ice-cream and “snow ball”, shaved ice flavored with fruit syrup, mixed together—and “a measure of draught porter for the older folks.” A report in the Kingston Gleaner in August 1936 described a treat for the “deserved poor” of Linstead, in the Jamaican countryside 20 miles from Kingston, where an “appreciable sum” was collected by the local Salvation Army to buy and distribute rations of beef, rice, bread, cake, soap and iced draught porter to more than 300 people.

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