As you can probably tell, I'm working away on the next volume of my mega series on the history of UK beer. 60,000 words or so, currently. Still a along way to go, though. Loads more recipes to write.
This week, I wrote 13,000 words on bottling. Like these ones:
Several different methods of sealing bottles were employed. The oldest, and one still used today, was a cork. This was very effective, but relied very much on the quality of the cork itself. And good quality corks were expensive. It was also easy to disturb any sediment when removing it. There was also a risk of contamination from corks as they naturally contained moulds and yeasts.
"there is nothing to beat a corked bottle beer — provided the cork is steamed and washed in a revolving wire drum to remove all dust and to soften and sterilise it."
The most popular type was the internal screw stopper. They were usually made of very hard wood and fitted with a rubber washer. That such stoppers could be reused was a double-edged sword. As they used a standard thread, they would fit any brewer’s bottles. Unlike the bottles themselves, customers made little effort to return stoppers to the right brewery. Which meant that even if you bothered to buy good quality stoppers you would inevitably end up with inferior ones from your rivals. I can remember buying quart bottles with this type of closure in the late 1970s.
Flip-top stoppers – like those used by Grolsch – weren’t much used in the UK, despite their popularity in the USA and the rest of Europe. Its use was mostly limited to Lager and rarely used for British-style beers.
Various weird and wonderful single-use stoppers were in use, most of which didn’t hang around for long. One did, however, stand the test of time: the crown cork. In the run up to WW I this was becoming increasingly popular, especially for half pints.
"He [Mr. Robert D. Clarke] believed that the crown cork would prove to be the cork of the future. It imparted no taste, and being soaked in paraffin it was absolutely clean and satisfactory. He had practically scrapped the whole of his ordinary cork bottles, and was using nothing but crowns and porcelain stoppers."