Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Lining British casks

I occasionally have arguments on the interweb with people who claim British casks were regularly lined with pitch of some other sunstance during the 19th century. I've never seen any real evidence to confirm it. And planrty of circumstantial evidence that pointss the other way.

This is another peice of such cicumstantial evidence. It's been plucked from the prospectus of a company specialising in lining wooden casks. The impliactaion of the text is clear: that most brewers weren't using lined casks. Otherwise why would you need to persuade them what a good idea l9ining was?


This Company is formed to acquire the British business of the Patent Sterilised Cask Company Limited, and the British patents and patent rights held in connection with the "Sterax" process, and also the TradeMark in the word "Sterax."

The ADVANTAGES OF THE "STERAX" PBOCESS may be summarised as follows : -

1. It ensures perfect Sterilisation, with absolute immunity from beers becoming affected by varying cask conditions, thus securing uniformity of character in beers.
2. It produces absolute Sealing of the pores of the wood and so prevents escape of Carbonic Acid Gas, thus ensuring maintenance of condition in beers.
3. It prevents acidity or fust by interposing the neutral substance "Sterax" between the wood and the contents of the cask.
4 It effects a great saving of expense by economy at: —(a) Time and Labour; (b) Fuel and water; (c) Cask repairing and storage space ; (d) Loss incurred through returned beer.

BREWERS WHO HAVE ADOPTED THE "STERAX" PROCESS.—The following brewers have taken licences from the Patent Sterilised Cask Company Limited to use the "Sterax" process, and plants have already been erected in six of the Breweries. Each firm has agreed to pay an annual royalty in addition to the cost of the plant; the royalties will belong to this Company :—

Messrs. Samuel Allsopp and Sons Ltd., Burton-on-Trent.
Messrs. S. and T. N. Blake and Co. Ltd., Gosport.
Messrs. Fox and Sons, Farnborough. Messrs.
Thomas Salt and Co, Ltd., Burton-on-Trent. Me»srs.
Thomas Usher and Son Ltd.. Edinburgh. Messrs.
Thomas Wethered and Sons Ltd., Marlow. Messrs.
Wm. Whitaker and Co. Ltd., Old Brewery, Bradford.
Messrs. Worthington and Co. Ltd., Burton-on-Trent.

The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery. Ltd., Shepton Mallet; the Lamb Brewery Ltd., Frome: Messrs. A. Gordon and Co., London; Messrs. Crowley and Co., Alton; Messrs. Barlett and Co., Ltd Warminsier; Messrs. W. Cooper and Co., Ltd., Southampton; and Messrs. John Furze and Co., London, have also adopted the Process, having acquired the right to use it from the inventor, who retains the protits therefrom.

The "Sterax" process has been in constant use for about two years at the Anglo-Bavarian Brewery Limited, and for shorter periods in many of the other Breweries mentioned ; its advantages have thus been thoroughly tested and demonstrated in practical working.

In addition, upwards of 100 firms of brewers have had casks treated lor the purposes of practical trial, and negotiations are in prepress with many of them for licenses.


PROFITS.- The royalties payable to this Company by the nine firms of brewers above mentioned will amount to over £2,500 a year and profits are being earned from treating the casks used by smaller brewers, and from treating new casks before they leave the coopers' yards. Owing to undertakings given to the  various brewers the separate amounts of the royalties payable by each cannot be disclosed, as each royalty is based upon confidential information as to the trade done.

According to the latest excise returns the number of brewers in the United Kingdom in 1899 was 6,888, and the beer produced in the year ending 31st December, 1899, was 37,404,383 barrels.

While it is not claimed to be probable that all brewers will adopt the process, yet it should be remembered that it ensures a saving in money to brewers who do adopt it estimated at three times the amount of the royalty charged, and if all brewers adopted the "Sterax" process, royalties calculated on the same basis as those fixed in the licenses already granted would amount to over £75,000 per annum, while if only 50 of the largest brewers actually adopt it, the annual royalties calculated on the same basis would amount to not less than £29,488 per annum, a sum sufficient to pay 20 per cent on the issued capital of this Company, and leave the ample margin of £15,966 for management expenses. reserve, and further dividend.

The "Sterax" process is also believed to be applicable the casks used in the vinegar and cider trades, and practical tests are now proceeding by members of these trades. Inquiries have also been received firms engaged in wine, milk, butter, fish, tallow, oil, fruit and other trades. The extension of the process in these directions would greatly extend the scope of the company's operations and profits.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Tuesday 20 March 1900, page 1.
The list of brewers who had licences for the process is an odd mixture of the large and famous and the obscure. Fascinating that it includes three large Burton brewers: Allsopp, Salt and Worthington. I wonder if there's any connection in Allsopp's use of it and the Lager they had just started brewing. An air-tight cask is much more important when you're filling it with Lager.

This has all the hallmarks of a wildly over-optimistic launch, with the plump profits dependent on mass acceptance of the process, at least among large breweries. Something that I'm pretty sure never happened.


Jeff Renner said...

I can imagine that pitch had been used before this and that this produce (stearic wax?) was a new product that they were flogging as superior.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, that could be true. But it doesn't read to me like it's being pitched as a replacement, more something new.

I've still never seen any evidence of the use of pitch in British breweries in the 19th century. Some Lager ones probably did.

It's a really tricky one to pin down.

Lady Luck Brewing said...

Shouldn't Fuller's archives be able to provide some insight into what they have done in the past? I've read multiple things that Fuller's are very supportive of history inquiries.