Saturday, 4 December 2010

How to bottle Bass

When I get my time machine working and travel back to the 19th century to become a bottler, these tips should come in really handy. Not likely, you reckon? Well, you never know. You never know.

The practice of sending out barrels of beer to third parties for bottling was quite common in the 19th century. And it wasn't just the obvious candidates like Bass and Guinness who were up to it. I've seen Barclay Perkins labels that indicate bottling in Scotland. Third-party bottling continued in the 20th century, though it mostly withered away as brewers took up bottling themselves. Guinness still do it, I think.

Letting other brewers bottle their beer was one of the ways Guinness and Bass got their beer into pubs tied to others. By bottling, the other brewer would be getting some of the profit from the beers. And there was the added advantage of Guinness and Bass advertising their products for them. You can see why it benefitted everyone.

"According to Wright, ale for bottling should be allowed to go through all its cask changes, spontaneous brilliancy (unaided by finings) at the end of them being the simplest criterion of ripeness for bottling.

The temperature of the bottling cellar should not exceed 55° F. (10° R.), and may well be lower, and a fair amount of ventilation, if it can be managed, with a uniform temperature is desirable. When bottled, however, a higher temperature is required to insure, proper condition, say from 58° to 6o° F. (11.5° to 12.5° R.) ; but note that too speedy maturity is not to be wished for. pointing, as il does, to faulty brewing or incomplete secondary fermentation.

Messrs. Bass & Co. used to issue the following instructions to their agents:

'The proper season for bottling pale ale commences in November and ends in June.

Pale ale should not be bottled during the summer months, nor after hot weather has set in, even though the temperature should afterward become cool.

The ale should be placed bung upward in a cool, ventilated store, about 50° to 55° F. temperature.

If the ale should get into a brisk state of fermentation, a porous cane or porous oak spile should he inserted in the hung until the excessive fermentation has subsided, when a tight, close peg should be substituted.

Ale should never be allowed to become flat.

It should be bright and sparkling when bottled, but not fermenting. The bottles to lie corked directly they are filled.

In bottling, a tap with a tube reaching toward the bottom of the bottles should be used.

When corked, the bottles to be piled standing upright and not lying on their sides.

When the ale becomes ripe, a sediment will be deposited in the bottles. In uncorking be careful not to disturb it, but empty the contents of the bottle into a jug, keeping back the sediment.'"
"American handy-book of the brewing, malting and auxiliary trades" by Robert Wahl and Max Henius, 1902, pages 811 - 812.

I love the idea of bottling, just like football or cricket, having a season.


Barm said...

Wm Younger were still doing this in the 1950s. I've seen a book of labels that imply they bottled in the brewery for the Scottish market. Beer for England and Ireland went to local bottlers.

Rod said...

"Third-party bottling continued in the 20th century, though it mostly withered away as brewers took up bottling themselves. Guinness still do it, I think."

Ron - Meantime have in the past contract bottled beers for other breweries.

Ron Pattinson said...

Rod, that's slightly different. As I understand the old system, the third party bought casks of beer from Bass or Guinness, bottled it and then sold it on.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where this fits on the bottling spectrum, but in the 1980s, Bass was importing Staropramen by tanker, then canning it at Cape Hill in Birmingham.

I think this kind of beer shipment still goes on.

Gary Gillman said...

Interesting the insistence on bottling only after proper cask maturation. Other authorities state this too. Yet today, beer is bottled with yeast straight from the tank usually (or so I understand).

Since beer will slowly condition anyway in bottle, why did it need this long cask preparation first? Is it because it won't significantly ferment further in the bottle and therefore to get a matured character you need to do it in cask first? A lot of bottle-conditioned beer I buy today seems quite raw even after a year in bottles. I am wondering now if it is being bottled too soon. I once read that further fermentation in bottle isn't actually that prolonged, it might go on for a couple of weeks or so and that's it. Maybe a further reason (or explanation) why English brewers matured beer first before bottling, is they felt the bottle wouldn't do much for the beer bottled green. I recall that Courage's Russian Imperial Stout was until the 1980's aged for a year before bottling - now I can see why. In its last years I understand it was bottled without a lengthy cask maturation, they put it in the bottle straight away or almost from cleansing. Some felt (I think Jackson may have) that it wasn't as good without the lengthy pre-conditioning. Or I think what he actually said was, the brewery left to the pub the job of aging the beer for the usual time.

And so maybe it's all essentially a timing issue, ie. if you bottled from cleansing and kept the bottles long enough (2 years say) that would equate to a year in wood and then the time in bottle before consumption (typically) in the following months. Or is it?


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, maturing in cask before bottling was standard practice for bottle-conditioned beers. Beers that were to be chilled and carbonated were matured in tanks. It was deemed essential to properly mature beers before bottling.

Martyn Cornell said...

In Ireland, third-party bottling, even down to the level of individual bars bottling beers sent to them in cask by the likes of Guinness and Smithwicks, went on until the 1960s. This, of course, meant that bottle-conditioned ales, as well as bottle-conditioned stout, was widely available in Ireland far later than it was in Britain, because few or no independent Irish bottlers could afford pasteurising kit and the rest.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, right but we are talking many months or indeed a year of cask maturation before bottling with yeast. That's different (much longer) than typically for ale conditioned at the brewery and then filtered and pasteurized. I am wondering why the lengthy wait.

I think it's because bottle-conditioning doesn't actually do that much for beer, or if it does, it takes too long before it's typically consumed. Even for IPA we have read that the beer had to mature for months in cask before being sent over. Why not send it over raw and let it mature in the cask or bottle? The voyage wasn't enough. It's not just the concern for uncontrolled fermentations on the voyage because evidently the stock beers were treated before bottling domestically the same way.

I know I've read brewers' accounts (modern) that bottle-conditioning does not last years and years, it lasts - re-fermentation - only a few weeks at most after release from the brewery. Flavours will still evolve (they always do) but the yeast is not active after a few weeks. Whereas this must be different for maturation in wood, perhaps due to porosity and effects of the microflora you don't get in a sanitized bottle.


Mike said...

In the late 1990's a pub, The Sun Inn in Buxton,Derbyshire was being renovated, making it more like it's original coaching house beginnings, which was back in the late 1700's, if I recall correctly.
The interior was stripped down to the original walls and floors, during the process some old bottles were dug up which were marked with the name of the pub and were, I believe, evidence of the pub bottling either their own beers or beers from larger brewers. I was told that the pub was still bottling beers in the early part of the 20th C. I never found out when brewing ceased at the pub.

Jeff Renner said...

What hasn't been mentioned here is how carbonation was produced. I don't think that the amount in the cask would have been sufficient, especially since some would be lost in the process.

I think that this is where Brettanomyces claussenii came in. I remember reading an article by Michael Jackson that White Shield was conditioned with a different, true secondary fermentation yeast. I think that must be B. c.

Here is the article from 1992:

Historically, this secondary yeast was no doubt simply a part of the mixed culture that was used.

I have done a bit of bottling with this, as I think I have mentioned here before. I currently have a strong bitter brewed from an 1880 Symonds Brewery recipe from the Durden Park booklet. I primed half the bottles with sugar, and the other half I inoculated with B.c. from Wyeast. The difference is distinct, with the sugar-primed beer being much the same as when it was bottled, while the B.c. bottles having a complex, spicy, fruity flavor and aroma.

Rod said...

"I think that this is where Brettanomyces claussenii came in. I remember reading an article by Michael Jackson that White Shield was conditioned with a different, true secondary fermentation yeast. I think that must be B. c."

What makes you think that? Nothing in MJ's article suggests that brett was being used, and I'm sure he would have mentioned it, the way that he mentioned that brett was used in Orval.
My Grandfather, after he retired as an Eldridge Pope tenant, only ever drank White Shield at home, and when I visited in the '70's and early 80's it was mandatory to drink a few bottles with the old chap. My impression (compared with Orval) is that there wasn't any noticable brett character, but it's a long time ago now and I could be wrong.
It presumably wouldn't be difficult to find out, though.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, "true secondary fermentation yeast" if a brewer said it, implies some sort of brett. to me. too. Well, in the old days at least.

Gary Gillman said...

Interesting comments from Jeff. I too drank White Shield in the mid-80's and found it rather bland actually. I think the second yeast was more to encourage maximum stability and ensure good flocculation (so the beer would keep as bright as possible) than anything else. The comments about brett though make me think that was the office of the long secondary conditioning in oak. You couldn't get it by bottling mild beer in glass right away as indeed Jeff's comments about sugar and priming suggest. It had to be imparted by microflora in barrels and the atmosphere of the cellars or warehouses. The bottling was just a final flourish, a way to get the beer to the consumer, even the India-based ones. The heavy lifting had already been done.

I must say I don't like brett though, or maybe I haven't had the best examples of its use in brewing. To me it seems very barnyard-like.


Graham Wheeler said...

The origin of those Bass bottling instructions can be found an 1879 booklet "A Glass Of Pale Ale" republished by the Bass Museum. They are more comprehensive, but apart from that they are almost word-for-word the same. They are aimed at publican bottling rather than agency bottling.

The White Shield bottling yeast is/was just a different brewing yeast - not Brett. clauseni. It is simply that the type of yeast used in the Bass conicals is too powdery, too fluffy for bottling, making it difficult to pour, so they replace it with a yeast that sediments more firmly. That would have been true in Michael Jackson's day too.

It is a good top-working brewing yeast in itself. For years it was one of my stock home brewing yeasts, along with Guinness yeast. Today many British home brewers culture the yeast from a bottle of White Shield because it is vigorous, reliable and behaves as a top-worker should, in contrast to the performance of many packaged yeasts.

The reason for maturing bottled beers in cask or vat before bottling is because some of the by-products of fermentation and maturation are obnoxious or certainly undesirable. Fortunately these are volatile and are expelled when the cask is vented prior to consumption or bottling. These undesirables cannot escape from a bottle.

Even today every beer, no matter how cheap and nasty, has a short period in conditioning tanks before kegging, canning or bottling. Just look at the cartoon of the brewing process on the Coors (UK) web site. Everything except cask ale goes to conditioning tanks before packaging.

There is no need to prime any well-brewed beer; there will still be plenty of slowly fermenting sugars remaining after months of maturation and the beer will come into condition after bottling without priming - it just takes longer, but it is probably better for it.

Indeed, beers destined for bottling, particularly the weaker beers, were often brewed differently to the same beers intended for immediate cask consumption; brewed to encourage plenty of the higher-order sugars that maintain condition during maturation and bottling. They were probably "stopped" a little earlier too.

Rod said...

Graham -
yes, of course. I'd forgotten that many home brewers used to propagate yeast from the dregs of White Shield bottles.

Jeff Renner said...

Graham - Like Rod, I also had forgotten about homebrewers culturing White Shield yeast back before good, non-dried brewing yeast was available.

I do think that somewhere, though upon reflection, not the MJ article, I read about "true, secondary fermentation yeast" that did its job after primary fermentation has ceased.

My limited experience (two bottlings over two years) suggests that Brett. c. does not have the barnyard, horse blanket, leather flavors and aromas of B. bruxellensis and B. lambicus and whatever Orval uses (which a quick search hasn't turned up).

The Simonds bitter I bottled several months ago is definitely mild in flavor and not at all like Orval. I've not been drinking it much as I am letting it mature more.

Jeff Renner said...

I've just sampled a bottle of my Simond's strong bitter, bottled 28 August, 2010. It definitely tastes "infected" compared to a non-B.c. inoculated sample. Clean generic Christmas spice, Cordovan leather (actually, that's BS, because I can't tell Cordovan leather from any other, but it sounds classy), light fruit (perhaps pineapple). None of the Orval character that I find rather harsh.

But here is an epiphany - I heated it to bring out the aromatics and was struck by impressions of nutritiousness and food. No specifics, here, only non-verbal impressions. Is this the fifth flavor umamame - brothy, meaty flavors? I don't think so, although that can result from autolyzed yeast, The sample I heated was clear, decanted from the sedimented yeast. And it was more subtle than that.

Is this the reason that ale drinkers of old plunged a hot poker into their pot of ale? (I confess that I used the microwave.) I've never cared for heated ale that I've tried in the past, but this was quite appealing.