Monday, 28 September 2015

Dodgy 1950’s beer

I’m glad that Avis occasionally mentions the stuff the breweries produced: beer. Mostly when there were problems with it.

This is talking about the Tadcaster brewery. I think.

"There were frequent occurrences of cloudy beer, for which the brewer, Gerald Fielding, could not account. Being on friendly terms with Ind Coope & Allsopp of Burton, it was arranged that their laboratory would provide an inspection and monitoring service, which continued for several years from 1955. The problem was infection in the brewery and in the casks, caused in part by ignorance and in part by slackness in observing strict cleaning procedures. This led Hammond's to institute courses for staff and licensees in beer cellar management and hygiene, and the writing and issue of modern instruction manuals; it was the first step along the road of initial instruction and continuing education, so familiar today, but pioneering then. Out of this crisis developed the licensee training courses for new licensees entering the trade, replacing the traditional method of spending a few weeks working for an experienced publican in the hope of picking up the rudiments of trade expertise. There also was a renewal of the traditional brewing wisdom that cleanliness was not next to godliness, it was primary. The deadly phrase "wild yeast", a frequent entry in the company's official report books, disappeared overnight, and never resurfaced. Research began on other ways of packaging, handling and dispensing beer, lessening the role of the licensee, or other customer, in the handling of the product. There was a price to be paid for the improvement however - the loss of character in the beer, despite the protestations put out by the brewery companies."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 34.

I’m not quite sure I know what he means by “the loss of character”. Was wild yeast contributing to the flavour of the beer? I can’t see how improved hygiene would reduce character in any other way.

Bentley’s Old Brewery, on the other hand, had no problem with infected or bad beer:

"The beer from BOB was consistently good, and was economically produced. The quality was not the result of superior skills in brewing techniques and practices, although good housekeeping and cleanliness were pursued as standard; it was quick turnover through large barrelage outlets which was the secret. Stock control in the brewery and the public houses was very good; the brewer and the cellar inspectors could carry out immediate remedial action on their visits to correct any problems. Beer returns in the 1950s averaged 0.05% of sales; if the figure reached 0.75% in hot weather, alarm reached crisis level. The average time a cask was in trade was twelve days; briefly; quick delivery and quick sale ensured good beer."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 42.

That seems like a very low level of returns. Especially as the majority of the bulk beer would have been cask. Cellar inspectors? Was that common, to have people inspected the tied estate’s cellars? Sounds like good practice. At larger concerns, brewers were deeply frustrated by their lack of control over their beer once it left the brewery.  At Whitbread, for example, the pubs were run by an organisation independent of the brewing division.

To return to Home Ales, one of the reasons their beer was usually in good nick was that they had lots of pubs with a big trade. Just two draught beers, Bitter and Mild, that sold quickly. Wonder if they inspected cellars, too?

More good beer next.

3 comments:

Tim Nicholas said...

"Research began on other ways of packaging, handling and dispensing beer, lessening the role of the licensee, or other customer, in the handling of the product."

I read that as "Keg", which would explain a decline in character and variation.

marquis said...

Home Ales pubs were usually rammed every night of the week, even in the sticks.I know a person who was landlord of the Red Lodge on the A46 who had all his beer delivered in 36s and this must have been the norm.
On a brewery visit to either Home or Shipstones , can't remember which,we were told that most casks came back empty within around 8 days from despatch.
The quality of Home and Shippo's (though the latter needed good cellarmanship) probably accounted for the fact that Nottingham largely escaped the "Keg Revolution" in the 60s and 70s.

Ed said...

I'm sure wild yeast would add character to a beer, Harveys Imperial Stout for example.