Sunday, 14 February 2021

Draught Guinness dispenser

A bit of a change from all the Boddington stuff.. 

Someone on Twitter very helpfully posted images of this article in Guinness's in house magazine. It tells a little of the history behind the new-fangled way of serving their Extra Stout on draught. 

It mostly discusses the new, larger apparatus. And when they say big, they mean big. As you'll see from the photos, the thing is ginormous.

"ONE striking development of Guinness trade in Ireland in recent years has been the rapid spread of the draught Guinness dispenser.

After the shake-up of World War II everyone began to look for higher standards all round and pubs were no exception. People wanted their pubs to be cheerful, comfortable and clean. Bar operators wanted drinks that were easily served. Sawdust and drabness had had their day.

One of the problems that we had to overcome in this minor revolution was the problem of serving draught Guinness. The permutations of pouring from cask to jug to glass to another glass and so on until draught in high condition was tamed into a creamy headed pint were endless. As you drank it you possibly wondered about that most sinister of bar characters, the “old man".*

Our answer to this problem was the Dispenser. It was originally devised in Park Royal by the late Mr. E. J. Griffiths, for the English trade and was later developed in conjunction with Messrs. Airpel, the manufacturers. When we in St. James’s Gate adopted the dispenser about three years ago, it was necessary to design a larger model (now known as Mark III) for the pint draught trade over here, and now we are working on a further model — a veritable giant compared with the original Mark I — which will cope with a still larger trade.

As well as turning out a piece of equipment which worked competently, much thought was spent in making the design of dispensers attractive. The measure of success achieved can be judged by the fact that dispensers are now to be found in the most exclusive bars, while formerly only those who visited the less pretentious hostelries enjoyed draught Guinness.

Already there are over 520 dispensers in trade in Ireland and we have a waiting list of a further 470 to be supplied as soon as possible. By next Summer we estimate that the number of dispensers in trade will be more than 1,500. These figures show very clearly that there was a real need for a new approach to serving draught and they also lead us to believe that we have coped with this problem successfully.

* Beer which spilled or overflowed during the pumping or pouring operation at the bar and was collected for re-use. The dispenser eliminates any necessity for spillage or overflow."
Guinness in house magazine, 1960, pages 2 and 3.

I was intrigued by the description of the old method of serving draught Guinness: "The permutations of pouring from cask to jug to glass to another glass and so on until draught in high condition was tamed into a creamy headed pint were endless."

This doesn't sound either like the way Guinness Porter was poured from two casks, nor like the English method of serving through a handpump.It sounds as if the beer could be being brought up from the cellar in jugs. Which is a very old-fashioned way of serving. It also sounds like the Stout was all highly carbonated, hence the need to tame it.

I have seen film of people drinking draught Stout in Ireland sometime in the 1950s, and that featured jugs of beer. So what the hell were those beer engines for in Dublin pubs?

I didn't get why the dispensers needed to be so enormous. Was it just a marketing thing, to have something on the bar which couldn't be missed? As later versions were far more discrete, I doubt there was any technical reason for such a massive device.

His also caught my eye: "formerly only those who visited the less pretentious hostelries enjoyed draught Guinness.". It seems to say that the nicer pubs in Dublin didn't sell draught Stout at all.


Scoats said...

Regarding the size, there might be a clue in the text about the Mark III, where it had to be larger to serve larger crowds.

If whatever happened to the beer while in the dispenser that wasn't instantaneous, the larger the dispenser, the more you could serve.

Unknown said...

The large top is likely a reservoir that allows the high-conditioned beer to de-gas, providing the described benefit of not having to "tame" the beer. You can see the fill line connected to the bottom, presumably coming from the cellar. What I wonder about is by what means they fill the reservoir from the cask. Surely they're not pushing with head pressure but they had to get the beer up there somehow.

Mike in NSW said...

Guinness: The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint.Bill Yenne.
I've read the book that I borrowed from a home brew club library. Yenne was housed in a flat at St. James Gate and given access to Guinness records.

Great read and information.

"Introduced in limited release in the summer of 1959, to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the signing of the brewery’s Dublin lease, the Guinness [nitrogen] pouring system spread throughout the British Isles and Ireland, and then the world, during the following decade."

I'd guess the monstrous early versions of the servers as depicted were soon refined and downsized. And they would have been supplied from kegs.

Ron Pattinson said...


pretty sure that this wasn't cask and was top-pressure nitro beer served from a keg.