Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Bottling in 1914 - Chilled Bottled Beers

Relief is at hand for those disappointed by the final drawing to a close of my series on bottling in 1901. I've found another article in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing about bottling from a few years later, 1914. It was written by Arthur Hadley and entitled "Chilled Bottled Beers".

That tells you that it's about non-deposit, artificially-carbonated beers. The boom in bottled beers was mostly of this type, despite big names like Guinness and Bass sticking with bottle-conditioning for their flagship products. The public liked the new type of bottled beer because there was no waste, it was always clear and always fully carbonated. Brewers weren't so keen on the flavour of non-deposit beers, but could see their potential for their business.

"I THINK that all brewers will agree with me when I say that whilst chilled and filtered beers are in all ways (save brilliancy) inferior to draught and naturally conditioned beers, circumstances economic and otherwise have brought the former to the forefront, and there can be no doubt that they have come to stay. Those brewers only who have not been forced by competition still stand aloof, yet many of them, so fortunately situated, are contemplating commencing chilling and filtering in a tentative sort of manner. To this latter class my advice is not to commence in too small a way, since many have found to their cost that beers which are "drunk with the eye" are the beers which sell, and, having discovered this, have been compelled to double and redouble the plant at great expense, and this expense might have been saved to a great extent had they commenced with less doubts or profited by the experience of others.

Twenty years ago a very small percentage of brewers bottled their own beers, to-day the great majority have their own bottling stores, more or less adequately fitted. To those who still contemplate the adoption of chilled beer bottling, a safe way is, I think, to estimate the probable output and put down a plant in a sufficiently large store capable of an output double their most sanguine estimate."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 20, Issue 6, November-December 1914, page 504.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of chilled bottled beers. Apart from being clearer, they were inferior in every way to the older forms of bottle beer and draught beer. It's all sounding very CAMRA-like, 60 years before their arrival. It's a fact many have forgotten or never known, but much of the terminology used by CAMRA - naturally-conditioned, cask-conditioned, bottle-conditioned - originated within the industry. Many brewers privately shared CAMRA's belief in the superior flavour of naturally-conditioned beers.

The article was written at a very precarious time for the brewing industry. WW I, which would bring with it unprecedented challenges for British brewing, had just started. The decade running up to the war had filled with difficulty and attacks from the government and temperance groups. An industry which had boomed in the 1880's and 1890's was facing stagnation and decline. The threat of further reductions in pub numbers and opening times hung over brewers. That's the context of the next parragraph:

"Whatever legislation may have in store for us, be it a Licensing Bill, Sunday closing, or what not, it is very evident that the beer drinking of the future will go more and more in the direction of bottled beers, and unfortunately the flagon appears to be the size most favoured. Flagon beers are cheap; they are always in condition, and being screw-stoppered a flagon, if not entirely consumed, may be re-stoppered and so retain its brilliancy to the last drop."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 20, Issue 6, November-December 1914, pages 504 - 505.

It's also worth pointing out that in these early days of mass bottling there was little standardisation in terms of bottle sizes and shapes and even in the method of sealing them. The author is arguing that, with pubs likely to be shut when drinkers wanted beer, flagons - quart bottles - were the simplest way of supplying a relatively large quantity of cheap beer. This didn't turn out to be true in the long term, with first pints and then half pints becoming the most common package size.

Hadley explains the two methods of producing non-deposit bottled beers:

"To deal with the process itself. There are two accepted methods of chilling (with variations with which I shall deal later), Cold Storage and Quick Chilling. Both achieve the same result, and all things taken into consideration the resulting beers differ but slightly. At one time it was thought that slow chilling produced a beer which stood longer in bottle without sediment, but brewers who have tested both processes side by side now admit that the quick chilling process, which can be carried out at considerably lessened cost (provided always that the beer be properly conditioned), gives a result quite equal to the slow chilling process.

The beer is run or pumped from the skimming vessels to glass-lined copper or wooden tanks to "condition." Here it is dry-hopped "if considered desirable" or necessary, primed if customary, and usually partially fined. By these means we obtain a conditioning which is quite impossible in casks, whilst there is far less waste and the beer is invariably cleaner and brighter after having settled a few days. This naturally reflects on the filters, which run far longer than happens when the beer is conditioned in cask, and also very materially affects the economy of production. In my own case I have found that the adoption of the tank system has raised the runnage from 22.6 dozen per barrel to 23.1 dozen per barrel, which on the year means some hundreds of barrels saved."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 20, Issue 6, November-December 1914, pages 505 - 506.

The trend in bottled beer production was to reduce the time required. That was the financial incentive that prompted brewers to move away from natural-conditioning to chilling and filtereing. But that was just the first step. The next was to shorten the time for chilling.

It's unclear what the author means by "properly conditioned" - does it mean that the beer has been matured before chilling or just that it's carbonated?

You can see that brewers were moving away from the old system to racking beer after primary fermentation into casks for maturation. They'd started to use tanks instead and to only leave the beer a short time before bottling. It sounds like they were only leaving it to drop bright in the tank, soemthing that wouldn't take long if, as suggested, the beer had been fined. There was a good deal in the discussion after the paper had been presented about dry hopping. We'll be returning to that later.

22.6 dozen, assuming he means pints, comes to 33.9 gallons per barrels of 36 gallons. Or a loss of 5.83%. 23.1 dozen is 34.65 gallons, a loss of 3.75%. A saving of 0.75 gallons per barrel would certainly add up, if you were bottling hundreds of barrels a week.

Next time we'll be looking at the options for sealing bottles.


Matt said...

When are we getting back to Whitbread Trophy, Ron?

Ron Pattinson said...


soon. I'm just working my way up to it.

Clinton said...

This is great stuff. When you do your writeup on sealing, I'd be interested if you have any thoughts on the connection between sealing and carbonation.

I assume (but don't know) that the newer crown bottle caps were a surer and/or cheaper way of preserving higher carbonation, and may have encouraged brewers/bottlers to make bottled beer more carbonated. Any sense whether higher carbonation started to happen after this point? Did bottle caps help drive changes in the types of beer that brewers sold, or drinkers started to buy?

Any other issues, like real or perceived freshness, shelf life, shipping that was a result of the crown cap would be interesting (to me, at least). I definitely like reading about the ways that industrial innovations changed the shape and substance of the staples of life.

Gary Gillman said...

Good point about the history of what many must feel is obscure, even cranky intramural usage by CAMRA: the key words to describe naturally-conditioned beer and service thereof is much older and was part of British brewing industry terminology. I noticed this too in perusing many Brewers Journal articles from the 1890's onward. I noticed too that many Journal writers expressed a decided preference for naturally-conditioned beer and also for an absence of pasteurization.

These views were not unanimous, but reading between the lines one can tell where the real beer connoisseurs fell on the issues.

Sadly, the brewing industry got away from this perspective with its fixation on bright bottled beer, lager, (old-style) keg beer and later cream-flow and that type of beer.

One thing I wonder though is, when did cask-conditioning in its modern sense start, i.e., using often priming and finings and designed to last a month or so into the trade (so not the old-style stocked beer)? A lot of late 1800's writing treats the phenomenon as new and some speak of "forcing" conditioning, viewing what we regard as hallowed cask ale as a short-cut.

True, one can look at it this way in terms of the old stocked ales and porter.

But there was always mild beer, right? There was mild porter in the 1700's, there was mild ale too and mild ale in particular got legs from the early 1800's on, decades before anyone spoke of "forcing" or abbreviating the cask conditioning period. So how was that older mild ale and mild porter different from later-1800's cask beer? Finings have been around for centuries but not priming. So presumably a lot of that mild ale and porter was clear, just as late 1800's cask ale was. And even though some writers in the late 1800's write of the need to use the by-then-legal sugar as an adjunct to make the kinds of quick-conditioning beers people wanted, presumably mild ale in 1840 say, which didn't use adjunct, was quite acceptable to the trade - as all-malt American cask ale is today by the way.

So what changed in the late 1800's? Or did anything change? Something must have though since many writers (e.g. Moritz, Graham but many others) all speak of what is now modern cask ale as something that is quasi-novel. But how could it have been?