Friday, 8 November 2013

American Chilled and carbonated draught beer

I'm continuing with more from Horace Brown's article on American brewing in the 1890's.

It's a fascinating period, the beginning of highly processed, artificially-conditioned beer. The stuff that now makes up the vast majority of beer worldwide. And it was in the USA that such beer was first developed. Basically what's being described is the classic keg beer, albeit at this time still filled into wooden barrels.

"The ale which, is intended for the cold storage and carbonating process is, in the first place, brewed very much on the same lines as the ordinary "still ale," the processes of mashing and fermentation resembling those of our own country so closely as to require no special attention.

From the racking vessels the ale is run through a refrigerating apparatus of a very simple character, known as the "cooling tub." This consists of a cedar vat, of a capacity in some cases of about 300 barrels, filled with brine, and furnished inside with two copper coils of about 2 in. diameter. Through one of the coils ammonia, from an ice machine, is expanded, so as to keep the brine in the tub at about 24° F., and the ale from the racking vessel runs through the other coil at such a rate as to pass out, on its way to the store vats, at a temperature of about 32° F. The store vats are placed in a cellar kept at 32—35° F., and are provided with air-pipes at the top, connected with a condensing air-pump, by means of which a small pressure can be put on the ale in the vats for the purpose of forcing it through the filters, &c.

The wooden store vats are now being replaced, in some of the breweries I saw, with large steel cylinders, glazed inside with a special glass enamel, which does not show any tendency to strip off the steel plates by alternations of temperature, or even under the action of heavy blows from a hammer.

The ale remains in the store vessels at about the freezing temperature for from two to three weeks, sometimes for a shorter period, and during this time a settlement of the greater part of the remaining yeast takes place, and a great deal of the resinous matters, &c, which would remain in solution in the beer at ordinary temperatures, are also deposited. No fermentation can of course take place, and the yeast becomes to a great extent killed by the low temperature.
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 3, Issue 6, November-December 1897, pages 470 - 471.

This sounds rather like lagering, although, of course, the purpose was quite different. For a start, bottom-fermenting yeast would still be active during some of the chilling process. In this case the purpose of the chilling, rather than knocking the rough edges off the beer, was intended to precipitate out the material which would normally cause a chill haze.

You have to wonder why anyone would be hitting their storage vessels with a hammer. Maybe they were just trying to prove a point.

"When ready the ale is forced, by means of air pressure of 10 or 15 lbs. to the square inch, through the "carbonator " and filter. In some breweries it is customary to filter before carbonation, and in others after. I certainly think, as far as my own observations go, that the best result is obtained by filtration after charging with the gas.

The machines used for charging the beer with carbonic acid do not require any special description, as they are very similar in principle to those used in the preparation of aerated waters all the world over. The gas is supplied from steel cylinders charged with liquid carbon dioxide, and the pressure is so regulated as to charge the ale with about 12 to 14 oz. of the gas per American barrel."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 3, Issue 6, November-December 1897, page 471.

Great. Using a technique for making soft drinks to carbonate beer.

Of course, there was no point precipitating out that gunk if you weren't going to filter it out if the beer. So a good filter was essential.

"The beer filter, through which the ale is now passed after carbonation, is a very important piece of apparatus, and it must be so arranged as to take out the very last traces of sedimentary matters, and to deliver the ale to the racking apparatus without loss of gas, and in a perfectly brilliant condition. The filter now most generally used is the "Enzinger," which has the general appearance of a small filter-press. The plates or "rosts" are of gun-metal, and between these are discs of the filtering medium contained in "stuff-frames," the various members of the press being screwed tightly together, just as in an ordinary filter-press. The filtering medium in the stuff-frames is a specially prepared paper-pulp, and when this has become clogged with the fine sediment it is taken out, thoroughly washed and sterilised in a special washing machine, and again cast in the disc form in the stuff-frames, under an ingeniously contrived screw-press.

The apparatus is supplied at either end with a glass "lantern," which enables the operator to see the exact state of brilliancy of the ingoing and out-going stream of ale.

The amount which can be passed through one of these filters without it becoming necessary to re-wash the paper pulp of course depends on the original state of the ale us it comes from the cold-storage vats ; as a rule it only requires attention after several hundred barrels hare passed through.

The ale leaves the filter at a temperature of 35° to 36º F., in an absolutely brilliant state, and highly charged with carbonic acid, and it has now to be racked into casks whilst still under pressure, and in such a manner as to allow of these being completely filled and bunged down, without any "fobbing," or loss of ale or gas.
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 3, Issue 6, November-December 1897, pages 471 - 472.

All very fascinating, I'm sure you'll agree. One of the things I never imagined doing, in my young days as an idealistic CAMRA member, was to write at length about how to brew keg beer. One of the important things I've learned since I dived head first into the history pool, is not to make judgements about brewing techniques and ingredients. My job is to explore and explain, not condemn or praise.

Here as a bonus are a few American Ales from around this period. I know, it's a pathetically small list compared to the ones I have for British beers. But The USA isn't the main focus of my research, that's my excuse. You'll note that they are indeed, as stated in the first post of this series, a little stronger than English X Ales.

American Ales 1887 - 1901
Year Brewer Beer Style OG FG Acidity ABV App. Atten-uation
1887 Unknown American Ale Ale 1067.55 1017.55 0.094 6.56 72.76%
1887 Unknown American Ale Ale 1080.15 1012.22 0.382 8.65 83.75%
1887 Unknown, Philadelphia Ale Ale 1065.2 1005.9 0.23 7.80 90.95%
1887 Unknown, Philadelphia Ale Ale 1067.5 1017.1 0.09 6.57 74.67%
1887 Unknown, Reading PA Ale Ale 1078.3 1012.5 0.38 8.65 84.04%
1892 N. Klinger, Whitewater Ale Ale 1058.7 1007 6.78 88.07%
1896 N/a Average of 9 samples Stock Ale 1068.46 1012.45 0.256 6.94 80.81%
1900 Unknown American Pale Ale Pale Ale 1052.65 1013.83 5.01 72.72%
1901 Unknown American Cream Ale Cream Ale 1054.98 1008.69 0.144 5.94 83.46%
1901 Unknown American Sparkling Ale Sparkling Ale 1055.83 1008.31 0.135 6.13 84.42%
"Chemie der menschlichen Nahrungs- und Genussmittel" by Joseph König, 1889, page 836
Wisconsin Dairy and Food Commission
Wahl & Henius, pages 823-830

Next time we'll be going into how to get this icy, fizzed-up beer safely into casks.


Gary Gillman said...

Interesting how strong they were on average, the first 5 or 6 (to pale ale) seemed descendants of English mild ale of the earlier century. There was a beer, I mentioned it a few days ago, called Rainier Ale, which in the 1960's and 70's was still 7% ABV and had a good strong taste. Michael Jackson picked it out as the last excellent ale along with Ballantine IPA. It is still made but not as good as back then, thinnish and regular strength IIRC.

The bright line is pasteurization. Keg beer made with decent amounts of malt and hops was and is excellent. The whole German lager industry was based on a similar idea, Czech too. It all changed (IMO) with pasteurization, something the good German brewers didn't do for the domestic product for a long time although that has changed for some I understand.


Takingthepissoutofus said...

"Great. Using a technique for making soft drinks to carbonate beer."

"Next time we'll be going into how to get this icy, fizzed-up beer safely into casks."

Yeah, no condemnation there or anything...

Ron Pattinson said...

Piss, can I call you that? I see my humour was lost on you.

Andrew Glass said...

Hey, a beer from Reading, PA! That's where I'm from! It's cool to see an entry from such an oft-overlooked brewing region. Do you have any additional specific leads on where I could look if I wanted more detailed information on Pennsylvanian beer?

Ron Pattinson said...


there are several places you can look. On the web, Google books. See if there are any online newspaper archives for Pennsylvania. Or if you want to dig deeper, archives.

There might have been a been a history of Pennsylvanian brewing published. I couldn't find one doing a quick search, but it may exist.