Thursday, 4 June 2015

John Smith's of Tadcaster

Here’s yet another brewery having an anniversary, this time a centenary.

Well sort of. Because it took place 102 rather than 100 years after the founding of the brewery. This explains why there was a delay:

John Smith's of Tadcaster
The 1st December, 1949, will be remembered for many years by those Interested in the brewing trade in Tadcaster, as on this day the centenary of John Smith's Tadcaster Brewery was Celebrated, The celebrations should have taken place in 1947 but had to be postponed for two years owing to austerity food regulations. The programme of the celebrations was devised to cover all employees and licensees and was arranged in two phases. The first was a luncheon to principals of the company and important guests and friends in the trade on 1st December in the Riley-Smith Hall, Tadcaster. This was followed in the evening by four suppers and an entertainment to employees and pensioners at Tadcaster, numbering approximately 1,000. At a later date the licensees are being entertained at the Pantomime in Leeds which will be followed by a supper for about 2,000.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 45.

Blame the war and the austerity that followed it for them having to wait an extra two years for the celebration. As it seemed to mostly be based around feeding people, you can understand why they waited.

Here’s a little about the history of the company:

“In Tadcaster brewing has been the staple industry since the Middle Ages at least. John Smith, a man of fine physique and strong personality, founded the: company which bears his name by acquiring a brewery which had been opened in 1758 by Messrs. Backhouse and Hartley. When he died in 1879, the business passed to his brother William, who took with him into the firm his two nephews, Henry H. Riley and Frank Riley. Throughout the past century the family connection with the company has been maintained.

The present Chairman, Mr. W. Riley-Smith - this style was adopted by the Riley branch of the family at the wish of William Smith — has worthily upheld the fine traditions established by his forebears. One of Mr. Riley-Smith's many interests has been the production of amateur theatrical revues. It was lack of facilities for staging entertainment of this kind that largely prompted him to build the Riley-Smith Hall at Tadcaster, where he has often appeared with employees of the brewery in his own productions.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", pages 45 - 46.

Interesting that there was still a strong family connection to the brewery. Riley-Smith Hall sounds like a bit of a vanity project, basically so the chairman could show off his acting talent. Though it does still exist, so it must be fulfilling some need.

They got a fairly important speaker – a director of rival Yorkshire firm Tetley:

“At the luncheon, the first of the series of celebrations, Lt-Col. F. Eric Tetley, a director of Joshua Tetley & Son Ltd., Leeds, and lately chairman of the Brewers' Society, in proposing "John Smith's Tadcaster Brewery Co., Ltd.," traced the history of the company from the day in 1847 when John Smith acquired the brewery, founded in Tadcaster by Messrs. Backhouse and Hartley, to its present-day magnitude. This had been a period of progress all along the line, said Lt.-Col. Tetley, and the maxim which guided John Smith in 1847 remained unaltered to-day— "The best, and only that, is good enough."

Reviewing this progress, Lt.-Col. Tetley reminded his listeners that in the days before 1866 beer was totally different to what it is to-day. About that time a subtle change was taking place among the beer drinkers of the day—the clear glass was replacing the old pint pot.

Smith's head brewer of the day, Mr. Percy Clinch, was convinced that, with the advent of the clear glass, beer should be bright. His first praiseworthy efforts to educate the customer in this direction did not meet with complete acceptance. The public was suspicious—the beer was bright ; something must be wrong with it.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 46.

Odd that he mentioned specifically 1866 as a date. Why is that? Was that when glass was coming in? I thought it was later than that – more like the 1890’s. Were drinkers really suspicious of bright beer? That sounds a bit odd. Though people do hate change, in general.

Let’s finish with some of John Smith’s beers. Only bottled ones, I’m afraid.

John Smith bottled beers 1949 - 1959
Year Beer Style Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1950 Barley Wine Barley Wine 0.10 1098.2 1036 8.08 63.34% 18 + 40
1949 Dark Ale Dark Ale 12 0.07 1030.1 1006.2 3.10 79.40% 3 + 40
1949 Light Ale Light Ale 12 0.08 1029.2 1007.3 2.84 75.00% 29.5
1953 Magnet Old Ale Old Ale 39 0.07 1068.5 1024.5 5.70 64.23% 11 + 40
1953 Magnet Old Ale Old Ale 42 0.06 1072.5 1022.9 6.44 68.41% 11 + 40
1951 Magnet Ale Pale Ale 26 0.06 1047.1 1011.5 4.62 75.58% 24 B
1955 Magnet Pale Ale Pale Ale 24 0.04 1045.3 1012.6 4.24 72.19% 25
1959 Magnet Pale Ale Pale Ale 26 0.05 1044.5 1010.2 4.29 77.08% 24
1950 Pale Ale Pale Ale 0.04 1058.6 1012.5 6.01 78.67% 20.5 B
1951 Pale Ale Pale Ale 0.07 1059.4 1016.9 5.52 71.55% 22 B
1955 Pale Ale Pale Ale 0.06 1060.2 1013.4 6.10 77.74% 24
1950 Scotch Ale Scotch Ale 0.10 1080.3 1025.6 7.11 68.12% 40 + 6.5
1950 Scotch Ale Scotch Ale 0.07 1080.6 1025.6 7.15 68.24% 5.5 + 40
1952 Scotch Ale Scotch Ale 0.07 1078.6 1024 7.10 69.47% 9.5 + 40
1954 Scotch Ale (purchased in Belgium) Scotch Ale 0.06 1072.6 1022.1 6.56 69.56% 95
1955 Scotch Ale (purchased in Belgium) Scotch Ale 0.08 1072.3 1022 6.54 69.57% 75
1954 Magnet Stout Stout 28 0.04 1047 1021.6 3.27 54.04% 195
1959 Magnet Stout Stout 24 1047.9 1021.2 3.44 55.74% 250
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Some interesting beers in there. A strongish bottled Pale Ale, Magnet. An even more powerful Pale Ale, almost full pre-WW I strength. But most surprisingly, a full-strength Barley Wine as early as 1950.

I’ve mentioned before the oddity of this Yorkshire brewer producing Scotch Ale. I suspect that it was purely for the Belgian market and that all the samples were bought there.


Bailey said...

A similar story is paraphrased in Dr Foster's Book of Beer (1979) but that version specifies 'the appointment of a new Head Brewer in 1889 who held the view that since glasses had by then come into common use for serving, the beer in them should be bright'. So maybe the speaker got his dates confused, or the transcriber?

Gary Gillman said...

Dr Foster's recounting makes it clear that one must be cautious about the degree of clarity being discussed here. A "heavy yeast suspension, which is what is now daily encountered and has lodged itself in part of England under the mocking term London Murky, would not have been palatable quite literally to drinkers in John Smith's trading area or many others, I'm sure. It was simply that the pots made it easier to rack and condition a beer which ended as lightly veiled. This kind of beer has never disappeared, jokes about "pond life" were legion into the mid-1970's. Yet the fact remains: what experienced brewers rejected at one time as unbalanced and yeast-bitter beer now is considered quite acceptable by many in the U.S. and Britain. This is probably due to earlier familiarity with different styles of wheat beer and unfiltered lager.


Gary Gillman said...

P.S.: Slighting is a better term than mocking perhaps for the murk style, at least as the term is used by many around the blogosphere. (A good 1700's-1800's equivalent was muddy).

And of course many people like beer presented that way, the discussion is more to the point of public taste/expectation shifting over time.