Monday, 3 November 2014

A growing demand for Lager Beer in Hull

I found this fascinating article with one of my regular newspaper archive sweeps with  a very general search term. In this case, "Pilsener".

I meant to search the 19th-century but, because I failed to change the date filter, I searched 1900 to 1909 instead. I'm glad I did now. Because it's a rare insight into Lager in the UK on the eve of WW I.

The article is about the opening of a specialist Lager bottling store in Hull.


The growing taste for lager beer has been responsible for innovation at Hull, namely, the establishment of the Continental Beer Agency, with commodious, well-equipped premises at 35 and 36, Pryme-street, Hull. The prospects for the consumers of products of the foreign breweries is a bright one, for this company is in a position to place lager beers, whether from Munich, Christiania. Copenhagen, Gothenburg, and Bremen, on the English market in the condition as when they were bottled in those breweries. This is assured bottling from the huge butts at the bottling stores in Pryme-street, and it is now possible to order a bottle of lager that has not travelled a long journey. Major Gleadow is the chairman of the company, with Major Smithson, Mr P. Robson, Mr J. H. Tate, and Mr F. Moor as directors, the last two mentioned being the managing directors. The retailers in Hull and district who have visited the establishment expressed satisfaction at the demonstration given them, and on Thursday a number of visitors who were invited formed similar good opinions. Amongst many others accepting the invitation the directors were Mr John Tate, Mr J. Westrope, Mr Stanley Mr W. Dyson, Mr J. Fanthorpe, Mr R. N. Ross, and Mr W. Walker, of St. Pauli Breweries, Bremen.

The ground floor of the premises covers an area of 900 square yards. well equipped office occupies portion of the frontage to the street, and on passing through the commodious empties warehouse is reached. On this floor is the boilerhouse, and at the end the refrigerating plant and machinery, which is driven by electricity, is housed. A representative was next invited to step into the chilling chambers, where the lager, in large casks, containing 104 gallons each, is reduced to the same temperature when it left the breweries. A glance the thermometers showed that the temperature stood at freezing point, which was altogether too chilly to be comfortable to a man in a summer suit, although it makes the beer delicious. The storage provided is for about 100 butts. After the lager has been kept in the cold store for a specific period, extractors are placed in the casks, and the liquid is driven by air pressure through suitable channels, outside the insulated walls to the bottling machines. In the bottling department the latest and best plant has been installed, of type, it is said, that no other store in this country possesses. The directors have visited breweries and stores in England and abroad, and the experience gained has enabled them to bring into use machinery and plant to ensure the lager being skilfully and carefully handled, and placed on the English market in perfect condition. The bottle-washing machinery ensures scrupulous cleanliness, for in successive machines the bottles are washed, scoured, and brushed till they glisten, and are as clear as crystal. The light yellow and clear liquid is then run into the bottles, and the patent pull-over fasteners are fixed. This does not however, complete the processes. The lager securely sealed in bottles is next placed in pasteurising crates, and for two hours the bottles of lager remain in the pasteurising plant. It is not necessary to go into the benefits arising from this last process, except to say that the lager will now keep in perfect condition any length of time. Having been labelled, the bottles of lager are now ready to be despatched in cases to their destinations. family trade price list has been prepared, follows: Allsopp's Burton Lager, 2s 3d per dozen half-pints; Tennent's Glasgow Lager, 2s 3d do.; St. Pauli (Bremen Brewery) Light, 3s per dozen foreign size, 2s 6d per dozen half-pints; St. Pauli, Munich, 3s 3d per dozen foreign size, 2s 9d per dozen half-pints ; Christiania Breweries, Pilsener 2s 3d, Lager 2s 3d, Bock 2s 6d per dozen foreign size; Tuborg Lager, Copenhagen, 2s 6d do-; J. W. Lyckholm and Co., Goteborg, 2s 6d do.; Urquell Brewery, Pilsen (Bohemia), 3s 3d do.

Messrs Habron and Robson were the architects, and Messrs T. Goates and Son carried out the extensive alterations that were necessary in adapting the building. The insulation and joinery work were executed Mr G. L. Scott. The machinery was erected by Mr .John Barker, the engineer to the Hull Brewery Co.
Hull Daily Mail - Friday 09 July 1909, page 3.
Reading between the lines, this tells us a fair bit about the Lager trade of the time. The way they make a big deal of bottling it in Hull, implies that previously Lager had been bottled at source and shipped to Britain. 104 gallons is not a British beer barrel size. The closest, a tun, is 108 gallons. In litres, 104 gallons is 472.79, so a pretty odd measure, too.

Were they really moving the beer out of the casks by air pressure, or was it CO2? Er, not sure I'd be so enthusiastic about pasteurisation. Especially for two hours. Yes, the beer would last forever, but it probably tasted like shit.

The "pull-over fasteners" mentioned are probably flip-top ceramic stoppers. It's not a type of stopper that was ever very popular in Britain. Whereas it was standard in Germany.

We learn about what Lagers were available in Britain at the time. What strikes me in particular is that there are none from Munich or Vienna, the sources of the first Lagers in Britain in the 1860's. All come from Scandinavia except Pilsner Urquell and St. Pauli.

The types of beer on offer also tell a story. Only one is identified as a dark Munich-style Lager and one as a Bock. My guess is that all the others were pale. That's a big turnaround from the early days of Lager in Britain, when only Wiener and Münchner were imported.

The two British breweries both put considerable investment into building Lager brewhouses, with differing. Allsopp never sold as much Lager as they had hoped and a few years later the brewhouse was shipped up to Alloa. Whereas Tennent's is still going strong.

Finally, a word on pricing. Here are some British bottled beers from the same year:

British bottled beers in 1909
Brewery Place year beer price per dozen size
Godsell & Sons Stroud 1909 Pale Ale 3s 6d pint
Godsell & Sons Stroud 1909 Imperial 2s 6d pint
Godsell & Sons Stroud 1909 Nourishing Stout 3s 3d pint
Heavitree Brewery Exeter 1909 East India Pale Ale 3s 3d pint
Heavitree Brewery Exeter 1909 East India Pale Ale 1s 9d half pint
Heavitree Brewery Exeter 1909 AKK Light Bitter Ale 2s 6d pint
Heavitree Brewery Exeter 1909 AKK Light Bitter Ale 1s 6d half pint
Heavitree Brewery Exeter 1909 Oatmeal Stout 2s 6d pint
Heavitree Brewery Exeter 1909 Oatmeal Stout 1s 6d half pint
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Monday 05 July 1909, page 2

They demonstrate how relatively expensive Lager was. The Pilseners would only have been about the same strength as AKK. A half pint of Urquell would presumably have been 2s 9d - almost double the price of AKK. Even British-brewed Lager was 2s 3d a dozen half pints.

Like I said, a dead handy little article.


Jeff Renner said...

There was one from Munich, "St. Pauli, Munich, 3s 3d per dozen foreign size, 2s 9d per dozen half-pints." It sold for 3d more than from their Bremen brewery.

Ron Pattinson said...


Munich refers to the style, not the location of the brewery. They mean a Munich-style dark Lager, which was usually stronger than Pilsener, which explains the higher price.