As the Shire horse was and is Britain’s largest native breed they were the most common to use. These days just over 2,000 Shire horses remain globally and because of their calm demeanour and strength still in use to pull coaches or give an environmentally friendly alternative to tractors.
When the era of the steam engine arrived working horses were put to the side. It was much cheaper to accommodate those machines and when one of them broke down, the horses were back in action.
A hundred years later the main use of those horses became pulling the dray. These days around a hand full of pubs are still using those methods to get their beer in the traditional way to their local pub.
This tradition is not just still alive in England, Germany is big on it too, especially in Munich during the Oktoberfest. Special dray horses are used to pull beer barrels from the breweries to the festival to officially and symbolically start the 16 days of “Wiesn”.
All six Munich beer makers are taking part in it and one of them even has their own horse stables. When this special time of the year arrives the beer drivers exchange their standard uniforms with Lederhosen and become the drivers of the drays. As a drayman, you are also expected to take care of the working horses. Sleeping in shifts during the night so someone has an eye on the animals.
To prepare for this occasion the farmers start their training already in spring by playing German folk music in the horse stables and letting the horses get used to the noises they will experience. It is a requirement that the horses stay calm and get used to the festival and the busy surroundings.
To pay tribute to this magnificent long story between dray horses and beer brewing, on Friday afternoon the 13th of May, we make a beer delivery the old-school way. A dray pulled by Richmond Park’s Shire horses delivers the first batch of beer kegs from Elephant & Castle to Mayfair.
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