Friday, 4 March 2011

Unions and carbonated beer

I thought this would make a nice follow-up to the photos of Marston's union set. It's a brewer, in 1940, recounting the changes over the 40 years he'd been brewing.

"Years ago most troubles were blamed on plant. Up to a point that was true. One remembers a particular brewery getting into most grave trouble largely because of worn-out plant, much of it old wood. They modernised the plant — but they also discarded some rules-of-thumb in exchange for laboratory control — and have long been happy again. There are instances, though, of successful brewing, under analytical control of materials, with plant that ought to be scrapped—success, that is, with running beers.

Fermentation has undergone changes. Nothing has produced a better draught beer than the Burton Union and the Yorkshire Square, though Edinburgh and some other centres have done admirably. But it seems reasonably certain that beers fermented in open vessels, all other things being equal, in most cases give a product more suitable for modern bottling owing to their more flattened condition. Scientific developments in pasteurisation may possibly alter this state of affairs. And some day a perfect pasteurisation may improve the keeping qualities on long ullage of draught ales, without detriment to flavour and character. One never knows. Some people think that draught ales will ultimately be wiped out. By your leave, never, if they have every ounce of skill, thought, scientific development, goodness of material and capital used in their production.

It is but 40 years since chilled and filtered beers were introduced. Now even Bass has found it necessary to present such beers to the public. (By the way, will Guinness ever be so bottled !) It is said that, in the long run, this great firm of Bass may find it essential to do all their bottled beers in this fashion. Not, to be hoped, while the present writer is alive. We may take comfort, a first-class naturally bottled pale ale won't die so easily. All the same, properly chilled, filtered and bottled, such ales have come to stay and to sell, Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis (not the writer). Price has a lot to do with the popularity of chilled beers, since they are generally lighter and sell cheaper."
"The Brewers' Journal 1940" page 55.
Worn-out plant. That's nothing new. Many breweries were still using clapped-out plant after WW II. Come to think of it, some carried on into the new millennium. Lack of investment - whether caused by external factors, such as the war, or the tight-fistedness of owners - was the root cause of the closure of many breweries in the 1950's and 1960's.

Open fermenters best for carbonated bottled beer? That's an interesting thought, if rather counter-intuitive. The praise for unions and Yorkshire squares is less unexpected.

"some day a perfect pasteurisation may improve the keeping qualities on long ullage of draught ales, without detriment to flavour and character" not happened yet, as far as I know. As for draught beer disappearing entirely - no-one would think that now. You have to put the authors remarks into context. There was a huge upsurge in bottled beer in the 1930's. One which fizzled out after the war as drinkers switched back to draught.

Will bottled Guinness ever be chilled and carbonated? Unfortunately yes. But not for another half century. One Pale Ale -White Shield - is still available naturally-conditioned. Just a shame there's no longer Bass Red Triangle

5 comments:

Martyn Cornell said...

There was a huge upsurge in bottled beer in the 1930's. One which fizzled out after the war as drinkers switched back to draught.

The trend to bottles was, if anything, even stronger in the 1950s, and only really ended with the arrival of keg beer.

marquis said...

There was an awful lot of badly kept beer until refrigerated cellars became the norm.Brewers would have been anxious both to avoid waste and to ensure their beers were served in good condition.No wonder they looked at pasteurisation.

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, I was deliberately a bit vague there, not having the exact numbers to hand.

Do you know which year the percentage of bottled beer peaked?

Oblivious said...

The yeast is just been piped of instead of going into a trough, probably much easer to keep out bacteria

Martyn Cornell said...

Do you know which year the percentage of bottled beer peaked?'

Being 3,400 miles from my bookshelves right now, I can't tell you, but I've got a figure that says in 1945 British beer consumption was 25 per cent bottled, and in 1955 it was 37 per cent bottled - whether than was by value or volume unfortunately my source doesn't say.