Thursday, 12 May 2022

Bottling 1880 - 1914

Bottled beers were becoming increasingly popular and this popularity had inspired brewers to come up with new methods for producing them.

For some breweries, such as Whitbread, bottled beer was starting to be a hugely significant part of their sales. Between 1901 and 1904, bottled beer increased its proportion of their total sales from 25% to 50%.

Whitbread Draught and Bottled sales 1901 – 1914
  total draught Bottling Burton  
Year barrels % barrels % barrels % Total
1901 538,097 73.63% 188,525 25.80% 4,153 0.57% 730,775
1902 546,043 72.92% 198,812 26.55% 3,975 0.53% 748,830
1903 552,383 71.00% 221,651 28.49% 3,998 0.51% 778,032
1904 546,402 69.40% 237,522 30.17% 3,379 0.43% 787,303
1905 538,584 67.67% 254,373 31.96% 2,983 0.37% 795,940
1906 526,766 64.32% 289,898 35.40% 2,361 0.29% 819,025
1907 513,881 61.49% 320,140 38.30% 1,749 0.21% 835,770
1908 477,470 58.97% 330,767 40.85% 1,459 0.18% 809,696
1909 456,638 56.14% 355,212 43.67% 1,481 0.18% 813,331
1910 446,477 55.72% 353,534 44.12% 1,325 0.17% 801,336
1911 459,908 53.81% 392,899 45.97% 1,564 0.18% 854,371
1912 464,539 49.95% 463,938 49.88% 1,548 0.17% 930,025
1913 436,095 51.17% 414,661 48.66% 1,415 0.17% 852,171
1914 418,402 49.38% 427,455 50.45% 1,415 0.17% 847,272
Whitbread Bottled Beer Sales ledger held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/16.

Not all types of beer were bottled. Most notable of the excluded types was Mild Ale. Despite being the most popular style at the time, it was rarely bottled. The name Porter also rarely appeared on a label. Not because it wasn’t bottled, but because bottled forms were marketed under another name, such as Luncheon Stout or Cooper.

Bottled beer types
Type Min. OG Max OG
Strong Ale 1069.5 1111.2
IPA 1055.6 1069.5
Light Pale Ale 1041.7 1050.0
Stout 1055.6 1077.8
Luncheon Stout 1044.5 1050.0
“A Treatise of Practical Brewing and Malting” by Frank Thatcher, 1907, page 477.

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." 



Phil said...

The name "Luncheon Stout" is a glimpse of a vanished world.

Imagine the advertising slogans - "Luncheon stout - the stout you can drink between shifts!"

Anonymous said...

"Not all types of beer were bottled. Most notable of the excluded types was Mild Ale. Despite being the most popular style at the time, it was rarely bottled."

I remember you writing that brewers later started bottling milds and marketing them as brown ales. When did that take off?