Allsopp on the Seneca (Part II)

Stock Sparkling Ale: Yesterday and Today

This link illustrates well the original sparkling ale process as classified in the 1935 American Brewers’ Review article, discussed in my Part I. It is page 362 of a 1907 article by Thomas Hyde, “Practical Notes on a Visit Through American and Canadian Breweries”.

Hyde, a Briton, wrote his report for the U.K.-based Journal of the Institute of Brewing. He describes the ale of “Brewery No. 3” as stored a few months without refrigeration, hopped down, in vats and barrels. It was of stock ale strength, probably around 7% abv. It was then chilled (to clarify it), carbonated, filtered (to render it brilliant), and sent out.

The carbonation was not effected here by krausening but the use of a matured ale as the base of the brilliant ale, with no further aging given after carbonation, shows the essence of the old system. The 1935 article acknowledged that force-carbonating tended to replace krausen – “heading” in U.K. terms – once available.

Hyde did not like the flavour, finding it harsh. He thought that non-cooled storage should be replaced by a cold-storage system. A page or two earlier, his describes brilliant ale at Breweries No. 1 and No. 2 as being cold-stored for different periods, in one case after krausening. The krausen type was not stated, it may have been heading, or partly-fermented ale wort.

All are variations on a theme, designed to get a brilliant glass of fizzy beer based on a top-fermentation (ale) process.

Earlier in the article he describes cream or lively ale barrelled at high pressure. He confirms that such beer received no storage at all. This is the cream ale/lively ale whence the 1935 article spoke, the other side of the divide. He detects an “old” flavour but clearly here it was from the yeast, probably cropped and reused many times and deteriorated; the context makes this clear, imo.

Wahl & Henius, and the two British visitors I’ve mentioned, all explained aspects of cream and sparkling ale in ways consistent with the 1935 article, as did other sources. But without a codification so to speak of the practices, a full picture of these types was elusive.

Hence the significance of the 1935 article I discussed in Part I. In that year, with the benefit of a long hiatus from commercial brewing and the passage of a generation, a corner of North American brewing history was illuminated.

This was reinforced by the commentary I’ve discussed earlier, in the same journal in the mid-1930s, linking steam beer to cream/lively ale.

In Canada, O’Keefe Extra Stock Ale (possibly still available on the West Coast), Labatt Extra Stock (defunct I think), and Molson Stock Ale, still made in Ontario, descend from the original sparkling ale type. So did the long-disappeared Brading’s Old Stock Ale.

Another sparkling ale, Sleeman’s in Ontario, perhaps represents more the type that merged with cream ale, but was inspired by a historical recipe certainly. Canadian Beer News gives some background, here. The beer is an occasional or seasonal release, and is quite good.

Mill St. Brewery in Ontario has a stock ale (pictured), here is some detail from the website. A note states:

Our Stock Ale was inspired by old school Canadian golden ales. “Stock Ale” was (and still is!) the term used by Canadian big breweries to refer to the best beer in their breweries before dilution or blending. This is one of the best “lawn mower” beers in the country!

I mean to try this soon, or rather again, it’s been some years.

For Part III of this study, see here.



1 thought on “Allsopp on the Seneca (Part II)”

  1. There is no question, as I mentioned before, that the terms cream, lively, sparkling/brilliant, and present use were not always used consistently, stock too for that matter, as over time different periods were said to denote stock beer, from three to six months for the minimum period, for example.

    This 1899 article in Oswego states a brewer’s view that his beer aged three months or more – a proposed legal standard – was stock, while his beer aged not more than one month was present use beer. He made it clear after a month in barrel the beer risked going sour, “stocky”, and that most customers preferred fresh beer. However, even where fresh or newly-made ale was the basis of a brewer’s sparkling (brilliant) ale, it was typically chilled by refrigeration and kept cold for a few weeks. We saw this via the 1907 article referenced above. To use a more modern formulation, it was “cold-aged”.

    One way or another, sparkling ale was aged for some weeks or more either before conditioning – Brewery No. 3 in example above – or after in refrigerated tanks – Breweries 2 & 3 where different temperatures were applied progressively over a month or so.

    In contrast, the original cream aka lively ale was ready shortly after fermentation was completed. All it needed was carbonation, initially via krausening. Steam beer was the same. No chilling, no weeks in store.

    This basic difference endured between the two classes until they finally merged. They merged because, all commercial brewing ended by, i) making a crystal-clear product, that ii) was mechanically chilled at some point in its process.


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