Allsopp on the Seneca (Part III)

Here is a fuller story on Allsopp Brewery’s purchase of the Pfaudler vacuum fermentation system. It is clear from the account, and e.g., the total time for the brewing and fermentation cycle, that lager was the main object of this system.

It’s from an 1899 article in American Brewers Review that in turn quotes a local source in Burton-on-Trent.

To what degree therefore was Allsopp’s and National Brewery’s (in Syracuse, NY) brilliant ale, an ale? The 1901 Syracuse news article I cited in Part I stated specifically that brilliant ale made by this system had an ale, not lager, character.

This more detailed account in 1899 of vacuum fermentation, by H. Van Laer in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing, indicates clearly that top-fermentation beers are suitable for the system. In the article, “Cold and Sparkling Ales”, Van Lear is more pre-occupied by other details, for example the order of cooling and filtering, to preserve ale character.

He considers that cooling, to 32 F, should precede filtering and carbonating. His description pretty much is what is done today via cold crashing and the subsequent steps to render beer bright and sparkling.

I’d think therefore Allsopp and National Brewing in Syracuse adapted the Pfaudler system to ale production.

Earlier, I had been aware of course of Pfaudler conditioning tanks in this period, often mentioned in period ads by brewers.  I was not specifically aware though, or did not recall, that it encompassed fermentation via an enclosed vacuum process. One of its purposes was to collect carbon dioxide later to be used to carbonate the beers.

Note how Van Laer lyricises the results of chilling and carbonating ales, going so far to state the palate is improved and an “extremely pure” taste results. This is exactly the converse of what CAMRA and other real ale devotees argued viz. “keg beer”, a later version of Van Laer’s “bright” beer.

One can see that brewing technology in the 1960s, the same type that resulted in Guinness’s nitrogen-dispense system for chilled, filtered stout, had a long history. So long and potent was it that American craft beer for the most part from onset was in fact this keg or bright beer.*

However, by virtue of being all-malt – almost invariably in early years and still to a great degree, using large amounts of hops in line with historical example, and not being pasteurized, the result was beer of excellent character – probably much like Van Laer had in mind.

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*A variation today is some beer is left hazy, but often more from proteins than residual yeast. Moreover very little craft beer isn’t dispensed well-carbonated and ice-cold.