Really Real, Man
If we have learned anything, and I say this with the due humility any historical investigation mandates, it is that American “still ale”, our modern cask ale, was a draught beer. It might be cloudy, it might be clear. It might be young, it might be old. Pale, or brown.
But it was draught. Its bottled counterpart was bottle-conditioned ale. In contrast to the draught bottled beer was gassy due to continued maturation in the bottle.
This duality originated in the U.K. and was duplicated in the United States as well as Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.
Each form of ale was considered to have its own character.
Much cask ale in the U.K. and all of it in the U.S. finally evolved into filtered draft – keg, tank, most craft beer. And bottled beer in both places (most) evolved into a filtered, often pasteurized form.
These newer forms were more stable due to foreclosed microbiological action. Perhaps they didn’t taste quite as real, though.
This has been the schema of Anglo-American top-fermented beer since the 1800s.
Hence, a bottled still ale was a non-sens, an incongruity. It could not have existed and did not in Britain. It could not have existed and did not in America. Except that it did.
Some breweries sold bottled still ale in New York State in the Teddy Roosevelt period.
This is an example in the Cohoes Republican in 1908:
Bolton Brewery, north of Troy in Lansingburgh, NY in the Hudson River Valley, sold it next to its bottled bitter pale ale. Here we see them distributed by Stoll, a lager brewer in Troy.
Stoll didn’t brew ale from our inquiries so the brewers were working symbiotically.
The price difference between the still and bitter pale ales is quite notable. Maybe the bitter pale was well-matured, an I.P.A. style, while the other was new beer and not as expensive to hop and mature.
Here is another example of bottled still ale, from Harry Bowler in Amsterdam, NY.
Not all brewers who marketed a still ale bottled it. Bartels in Syracuse, NY in 1901 hewed to the binary noted earlier:
(It made up for not bottling the still by kegging the brill, we might say).
What was bottled still ale like? Perhaps like the mini-cask ale being sent to homes right now in the U.K. The very low carbonation would mean presumably the bottles were not stored very cold, in contrast to usual bottled ales and of course lager. You would need a warmer temperature, similar to that for cask ale, to ensure the minimal carbonation wasn’t locked in too tight.
See, the Americans do things their way, finally. They created a form of pale ale unknown in the homeland of ale. We can call it “really real ale in a bottle”.
The image of Bolton’s pictured, from the website of Lansingburgh Historical Society, shows a handsome, old-style brewery. Rather like a Victorian brewery in a rolling part of Britain, Shropshire, say. Southam’s comes to mind.
But it was American, finally.
Note: Source of each image above is identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.