DCM was David Constable Maxwell, managing director of Cornbrook,
“Under DCM's tutelage, Cornbrook had pioneered their system of handling draught beer through delivery by motor tanker wagon into bulk containers in the outlets and dispensing it by measuring pumps on the counters. It was popularly called tank beer, and had its origins in a system used by Hull Brewery company in that city from the 1920s. It had been updated in the light of modern scientific application and was manufactured by a Lancashire company Porter Lancastrian, with which DCM was connected, although, unusually for him, he did not reveal this until actually asked. As stated, bitter beer was taken from the brewery by tanker and filled into metal tanks in the cellars of public houses and kept under carbon dioxide pressure, and thence through a measuring pump into the customers' glasses. The principle was good, in that all responsibility for quality was removed from the licensee, as was the necessity to ensure the scrupulous cleanliness of all utensils in the retail outlet exposed to the atmosphere.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 75.
The Hull Brewery used large ceramic jars to store beer in pub cellars. There was a bit of a controversy back in the 1970’s whether their beer counted as cask or not. It was rough filtered and the ceramic vessels it was served from weren’t pressurised, unlike Cornbrook’s metal tanks. I seem to remember CAMRA accepting it nationally, but the Hull branch not putting any pubs in the Good Beer Guide that sold it.
Just checked the 1978 and 1980 Good Beer Guides. Hull counted as cask in 1978, but not in 1980, when the GBG notes that all their beer was filtered. Obviously CAMRA had a change of heart.
Obviously, for the free trade Hull didn’t use tanks. The Town Hall Tavern in Leeds used to sell their Bitter, presumably from a cask, but filtered. I don’t recall it standing out in either a good or a bad way.
The move to tank beer was prompted by a recurring theme in the 20th century: publicans messing up the beer in the pub cellar. Keg and tank beer were seen as a way of taking a landlord’s incompetence out of the equation. Foolproof beer was the aim. Of course, it never quite worked out like that.
The enthusiasm of some management for tank beer saw United Breweries rather rashly rush into adopting it more widely in the group.
“DCM sang the praises of the system extravagantly, as did his general manager, Joe Barlow, when Cornbrook came into the UB group. Lightning and carefully controlled tours of the brewery and as carefully controlled inspections of selected pubs, were arranged to make its virtues known more widely to other executive managers in UB. Since the system was new, it had not been tested on a large scale - of time, dimension or its tolerance of draught beers brewed differently to that of Cornbrook. Apart from the assertions of the system's success by the Cornbrook directorate, independent actual and factual statistical evidence was hard to come by; it was therefore difficult for an objective assessment of its merits to be made. However, WTD [William Tudor Davies] who had advanced his career from being the outside management consultant from Urwick Orr & Partners to being the managing director of Hammonds, and then the sales director of UB, was convinced the system should be adopted, despite doubts within the company that it still had to be proved. The compromise was to have a field trial of the system on a grand scale, in that all the group's outlets in the Bradford area were converted to the "tank beer" system.
WTD was convinced it was a significant breakthrough in brewing technology and product service to the customer.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 76.
No-one really understood the technology that well. But went ahead anyway. You can probably guess what happened. But I’m saving that for next time. I will leave you with a couple of Cornbrook beers:
|Cornbrook Brewery beers 1927 - 1961|
|1961||Keg Mild||Mild||16d to 17d||pint||draught||1035||1002.3||4.09||93.43%||20|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.|
Note that the Keg Mild is pale in colour.