The solution wasn’t particularly technical. In fact, it’s the way I might have solved the problem.
“On the following Monday, a cellar inspector reported that one of the pubs had discovered a solution; the frantic wife of one tenant in despair and rage had beaten the metal sides of the beer container with a broom handle to vent her feelings, and the beer had flowed better, with less froth. Much like an unexplained miracle, all flocked to see her in action. It seemed to work. Immediately, Bradford ironmongers were stripped of their stocks of broomsticks and the brewery inspectors delivered supplies by hand to all outlets with instructions to order cellar men to beat the pipes during opening hours. The sound of wood on metal coming from the cellars through the bar room floors was a new experience for customers, the noise not dissimilar from that produced by the music of the popular skiffle groups, but at least some beer flowed. Needless to say, within a short space of time a lot of knowledge was acquired about excessive gas pressures in pipes, poorly calibrated pressure reducing valves and the necessity for quick turnover of the beer - plus the revelation that Cornbrook beer was peculiarly suited to the system, whereas Tadcaster beer was not. The stick beating did have a scientific basis; it knocked the excess gas out of the beer before serving.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, pages 77 - 78.
There you go – hit the tank with a stick. I’m sure publicans were impressed. This great new system, whose introduction had been so heralded, needed broomsticks to make it work. It sounds as if they had rushed into installing the system without testing it out properly. As well as dodgy technology, education was probably at fault, too. Landlords wouldn’t have been used to CO2 pressure at all, unless they were one of the few outlets selling draught Lager.
There Avis goes again talking about the unsuitability of Tadcaster beer for the system. Why was that? How did it differ from Cornbrook’s beer?
Fobbing wasn’t the only problem. After a while something worse popped up:
“The system limped along for some months, and then it lost its biggest recommendation - that it served up a clear pint each and every time - it was coming up cloudy and with a metallic taste. Enquiry revealed this was because cleaning procedures were necessary after all, and not only of the equipment in the pubs, but also in the delivery wagons, and moreover, complicated cleaning procedures, beyond the competence of the licensee and needing specialist equipment. So, hurriedly, brewery cleaning teams had to be assembled, trained, and sent out. Then the problem of the reaction of the bulk containers' plastic lining on the beer was discovered, which took a considerable scientific effort to solve; the containers themselves began to shew alarming signs of rusting, being made of mild steel, with a coating of paint. The bar counter top dispensers had to be redesigned.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 78.
It seems incredible that they could have believed that no cleaning of the equipment was necessary. Surely technical brewers couldn’t have believed that? Brewing is all about keep everything clean. It seems incredibly naïve to imagine you could keep filling tanks with beer and never have to clean them. Cornbrook must have been cleaning their tanks. Mustn’t they? It all sounds like it was getting very expensive and complicated. I don’t like to think about what was happening in the tanks if the beer was coming out cloudy and metallic.
I’m not surprised that the tanks started to rust, just being made of mild steel. Sounds like they picked the wrong material. Stainless steel, the obvious choice, was doubtless too expensive. Trying to implement a radically new system too cheaply and too quickly looks like the main cause of the trouble.
I’ll leave you with some random information about the Cornbrook Brewery. They were unlucky during the war, suffering war damage, presumably through German bombing. That’s the way you break down a country’s morale, by destroying its breweries.
“THE CORNBROOK BREWERY Co. Ltd.
PHOENIX BREWERY Co. Ltd. MANCHESTER .
The Directors of the above companies Pleasure in announcing that they are now again brewing themselves their own NOTED ALES AND STOUT.
They would like to take this opportunity of thanking their licensees and customers sympathetic co-operation during the serious inconveniences, and almost unsurmountable difficulties, experienced since their Brewery was put out of action by enemy activity.
The rebuilding of the Brewery and plant is proceeding and they hope in a few months' time to return to normal business at their own Brewery.”
Manchester Evening News - Thursday 03 April 1941, page 7.
Next time we’ll be rounding off the great Bradford tank beer disaster.