Unsurprisingly, beers that were to go through this lengthy and demanding process needed to be top quality.
"Bottling Process No. 1.—True Bottling.
In order to brew suitable ale for bottling purposes, it is essential to have all classes of material — water, malt, hops, yeast, &c. — of the best, and any departure from this rule results in failure, more or less. Preferably, bottling ales are all-malt ales, but I can call to mind some very fine samples of bottled pale ale brewed with one-third sugar which, at the public auction to which bottled ales are submitted in Australia, fetched the highest price at the time, and samples of the same beers returned to this country were in almost perfect condition two years from the date of brewing."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 7, Issue 2, March-April 1901, page 192 - 193.
The robustness of British beers in the 19th century was legendary. How many modern bottled beers could travel to Australia and back unrefrigerated and still be in good condition after two years? Not very many, I can tell you.
Lott continues with a discussion of the most suitable ingredients:
"The use of a moderately hard water is certainly preferable for pale ales, and I believe any trained palate would distinguish beers so brewed from those made with a soft water.
The character of the water will also influence the selection of copper hops as regards the amount to be used and the length of time they will be boiled, but in all cases a large proportion of first-class hops will be necessary in the copper, and full weight of the finest-flavoured hops should be used for dry-hopping. The selection of these latter is, I consider, of the greatest importance for bottled ales: the direct effect due to the aroma of the hop is of course obvious, but the indirect effect due to the influence of the dry hops on the secondary fermentation is even more important, "sickness" and other frets being largely influenced by the particular quality of the hops used for hopping down. As regards the brewing process, it may be taken as a pretty definite rule that a high initial heat in the mash-tub and low attenuation at rack are to be aimed at, and a very large proportion of the best bottling ales are racked at about one-fourth their original gravity."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 7, Issue 2, March-April 1901, page 193.
Moderately hard? Surely Burton water is extremely hard? I'm not sure I understand what he's saying there.
I've noticed from looking at brewing records that beers meant to spend a long time between brewing and consumption - Keeping Ales and ones intended for export - tended to only use the latest season's hops. All beers bottled this way would spend many months maturing and conditioning before sale so you would expect them to use fresh, good-quality hops. That usually meant Kent hops in the form of Goldings, Farnhams or some kind of whitebine.
There are some informative details about the brewing process there. Like that beers for bottling were dry-hopped during secondary conditioning. But could the dry hops really cause the beer to "fret"? To my mind "fret" implies a too vigourous secondary fermentation. A high degree of attenuation was, of course, one of the techniques used to keep IPA sounds on the journey to India. Racking at quarter gravity means that the beer had attained 75% attenuation, which was fairly high for this period. In 1901, Whitbread's Ales were racked at between 57% and 77% apparent attenuation, with X Ale around 75%, Pale Ales 70% and KK and KKK 57% to 59%**.
Now it's time to look at secondary conditioning and the bottling process.
"Beers for bottling must be allowed to pass slowly and steadily through their secondary fermentation in the stores, and they should clarify naturally without the addition of finings.
When the secondary fermentation is over, they should be flattened, if necessary, by "porousing," but they should not be allowed to remain flat.
The bottles having been properly cleansed and dried should be corked as soon as they are filled, with corks previously soaked in beer, not in water, and then stored on their sides for a day or two* prior to being stacked upright in the maturing or bottled-ale store. This should be at a temperature of from 55º F. to 60º F., preferably the lower temperature.
Usually a month's storage will have developed a sufficient gas pressure to cause the beer when uncorked to froth and pour out brilliant. The variety of yeast which has been produced during the maturing process will very materially affect this quality: yeasts having a marked caseous habit, such as S. Coagulatus I and II, produce excellent bottled beers, although the latter is not usually associated with such nice flavoured beers, and is therefore undesirable in any quantity in the primary fermentation.
If a particular brewing of ale has been found to develop a high-class bottling ale, the grounds after bottling off the bright ale may be added to subsequent rackings to secure a similar secondary fermentation. The microscopic examination of the sediment of beers for bottling purposes is most valuable.
* This part of the process is now frequently dispensed with."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 7, Issue 2, March-April 1901, pages 193 - 194.
An important part of this method of bottling was to allow beer time to spontaneously drop bright during secondary conditioning in the cask. It was a process which could take a considerable length of time and couldn't be speeded up. I'm not sure what the point was of removing the CO2 from the beer before bottling. It makes sense that casks to be shipped to India would be flattened to stop them becoming over-carbonated during the voyage. But I don't see why you'd want to bottle with flat beer, other than to prevent fobbing when it goes into the bottles.
55º - 60º F is a relatively warm temperature for conditioning in the bottle, only about 10º F cooler than primary fermentation.
The very last paragraph is very significant, especially considering the date this paper was given. It sounds to me as if they were, without realising it, selecting and reusing the yeast which had performed best in secondary conditioning. And what yeast does the job best? Why Brettanomyces. I'd say this is evidence that Brettanomyces was being deliberately added to beer before its official discovery, albeit in a haphazard and empirical way.
Next we'll be looking at how the composition of beer changed after bottling.
** Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/066.