Allsopp’s 1911 Cask/Keg Beer (Part II)

Moving along, let’s consider this article, published 12 years after Allsopp’s sends pale ale in small kegs to New York. It was by Walter Scott, called “Draught Beer for the Private Trade”, published in what is now the Journal of the Institute of Brewing.

I think it is safe to say that the technical discussion in Scott’s article did not reflect anything new in the industry since 1911, other than the author’s modification of the tapping system for cask beer. Certainly Scott made no claims of novelty for the background he described, at least intra industry.

Beer, of course, had always been sent to private homes and country estates. Smaller containers were used than the standard 36 gal. barrel for pubs and hotels. A firkin, holding 9 gal., or pin, 4.5 gal., were typical containers. The Allsopp’s Pale Ale advertised in “automatic casks” of 1.5 and 3 gal. (possibly American units), was clearly a specialty item, perhaps meant for seasonal or export trade, but the standard pin was functionally similar.

The article advises how brewers can sell more beer for the private or family trade, as well as formerly isolated country pubs finding flat beer an issue due to legions of “motorists” now arriving at their door. He considered two types of small barrel, first, the traditional cask (real ale), second, a barrel that held chilled and filtered beer under pressure.

It is clear from his remarks that cask ale often went flat in firkin or pin casks. This reflected a broader issue of concern to British brewing through the 19th century – flat beer was not just a foreign talking point, in other words. Scott made clear, as many real ale fans know, that a properly conditioned beer – naturally conditioned in cask – offered a satisfactory level of carbonation.

He came up with a personal improvement, which as I understand it, placed not just the tapping hole at the bottom of the round cask head (as invariable for any real ale cask today), but also the cork or bunghole via which the barrel was filled. In other words, for a cask set in tapping position, there was no shive hole at the top “over” the beer level.

He invented a special tap to ensure the beer would still flow. He also discusses priming, or adding sufficient sugar solution, to deliver enough natural carbonation to ensure condition and “displacement” of the beer when drawn.

If I get what he is saying, under his system, there was enough pressure in the cask to force the beer out. It wasn’t dispensed by gravity or only that, but by the pressure of the beer in the cask.

He discusses as well, as an alternate method, chilling and filtering beer for kegging in a way to permit the flow on tapping: he says to fill it only two-thirds, and adjust the top pressure at a level (see article) to ensure the beer will exit the keg. As earlier noted, he does not explain this as new, and in fact refers to some chilled and filtered beer being sent to the trade in the south (he spoke in Birmingham), but states no brewer in the Midlands was using this system.

He makes clear his aversion to this chilled and filtered draft beer, on grounds of palate. Of course, commercial expediency finally pushed matters in a different direction, via development of mass-marketed keg beer and lager from the 1960s.

He uses the term “automatically” once in relation to condition. Interestingly, he relates it, not to chilled and filtered beer, but the opposite: cask ale. He explained that cask ale conditions itself automatically. This is true, in the sense that one doesn’t need to inject the beer with CO2 or nitrogen gas.

In this light, I think Allsopp’s “automatic” cask may have been naturally conditioned beer, perhaps using a nifty term thought to appeal to 20th century Manhattanites. Scott seems clearly to indicate that a high condition can be achieved in cask ale, enough to force it all out. (We know this was true of course with highly krausened American beer casks of the same period, gas injection was not necessary to get the beer out).

So, especially with air hand-pumped in, maybe that was Samuel Allsopp’s pale ale in the automatic cask. On the other hand – see my comment to Part I – we know Allsopp’s was instrumental before WW I in devising technology for chilling and filtering beer…

I don’t know the final answer, but incline that the 1911 keg was an early form of keg beer as understood today.

Finally, on a more general plane of cask ale vs. keg beer, read carefully pg. 738 of the article. Our old friend Memel wood appears, and Scott asserts with confidence that the best beer for palate, condition, and stability was delivered in casks well-made from this wood. The way he talks about metal in contrast, makes one think the Memel beer must have been rather special.

The beer filling in the image above of c. 1950 was almost certainly into Memel oak.

Note re image: the image above  is from the website of the historic Timothy Taylor brewery in Britain, see its gallery of historical images. Image is sole property of Timothy Taylor’s. Used here for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed. 


1 thought on “Allsopp’s 1911 Cask/Keg Beer (Part II)”

  1. See also pg. 117 in this 1905 article in the same Journal, in which the writer Field promotes chilling and filtering of beer specifically for the family trade, among other uses. It shows the matter was in the air just a few years before Allsopp’s automatic cask appears. Further, this 1909 article in a U.K. hospital journal, commenting on beers exhibited at a trade fair, states Allsopp’s bottled beers were “sterilized”, i.e., pasteurized … There are stray references to carbonating draft beer, also ginger beer (not dissimilar for these purposes) in the 1800s, akin say to forecasting the possibility of a metal cask. Nothing was concrete until the first quarter of the 20th century.

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