When we picked up a few editions of Guinness Time, the brewery’s UK-focused in-house magazine, one thing that leapt out at us was an account of the roll-out of draught Guinness after WWII.
It appears as part of an article called (rather long-windedly) ‘The Men Who See That Draught Guinness Runs Smoothly… The Service Representatives’ from the Spring 1971 edition.
First, there are some helpful numbers:
In 1970 we sold more than 16 times as much draught Guinness as in 1956. Fifteen years ago the number of outlets could be counted in hundreds. In 1962 there 3,200 and now in 1971 there are over 40,000 pubs and clubs where devotees of draught Guinness can get their favourite brew.
By way of context, in those mid-1960s Batsford pub guides we’ve been trawling through draught Guinness is frequently mentioned as a sign of an interesting pub in much the same way, say, BrewDog Punk IPA might be today. That is, by no means obscure, but still noteworthy, and a welcome sight for many beer geeks.
The article goes on to give some specific details of how the roll out happened and (something that still generates debate and confusion) how it was dispensed at various times:
Before the Park Royal brewery was built draught Guinness came in wooden casks as it had done for generations, from Dublin to our Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow stores and to the London docks. There were then a few specialist outlets largely patronised by Irish afficionados of draught Guinness.
During the last war the late W.E. Phillips set up an organisation at Park Royal to ensure that the troops got their Guinness. This was delivered to canteens, messes and barracks direct by us and had to be in draught form since we undertook no bottling ourselves. This original Park Royal draught beer went out in 8-gallon casks with a top pressure of 50 lbs. Came the peace, and draught Guinness was sent out in the 8-gallon casks to the retail trade direct from Park Royal.
This kind of language perhaps explains the confusion over whether post-war draught Guinness was cask-conditioned. This sounds like what we would now call keg, doesn’t it? But…
In 1946 when old-stagers with us now were breaking in their 32″ bottom demob suits our metal cask department was formed and managed by E.J. Griffiths. His assistant was Jack Moore now regional manager in Leeds. Even in 1946 the houses which specialised in draught Guinness such as Mooneys and Wards were being supplied from Park Royal ‘in the wood’. Don’t forget, we still had a cooperage and there was no tanker delivery.
So, in other words, if you were a connoisseur and went to the right pubs, you could get cask-conditioned draught Guinness; otherwise, it was some form of kegged beer. (And if you get the urge to visit ‘Mooneys’, you’ll find one branch on Fleet Street and still an Irish pub under the name The Tipperary.)
New outlets were opened by the metal cask department and there were experimental stages in the casking and dispensing systems. The first cask with a simple tap was placed on the bar counter and drawn direct. Then came the ‘two-way’ tap system which incorporated a vented cask on the bar counter and a pressurised cask below the counter.
This sounds a bit weird — sort of half cask, half keg, with some of the beer exposed to oxygen in an intermediate stage just prior to serving. It would be interesting to know more about how this worked — maybe it’s something that could make a comeback, just to really confuse the hell out of everyone.
This was followed by a stainless steel dispenser placed on the counter and operated from a single cask under the counter, and high (‘brisk’ in Scotland) and flat beer could be regulated by the barman. The arrival of the Alumasc cask with an internal reducing valve meant that we could use a dispensing fount which served a glass of Guinness direct from the tap… This was the breakthrough — its name — the ‘Easy Serve’.
This is beginning to sound like draught Guinness as we know it today, although there’s no mention of nitrogen. The big roll-out of ‘Easy Serve’ seems to have taken place between 1953 and 1960.
The rest of the article is about the organisational structure of the service department — not so interesting! — but for the sake of anyone Googling trying to track down relatives, some names mentioned are: Ron Mennie (cask dept), M.R. Hatfield (brewer), Michael Ash, Percy Watts, Gordon Penrose, Jack Plackett, Les Beland, Pat Miles, John Groves, John Beamish, Alistair Campbell-Harris, Con Martin, F.P. Clift, Paul Woods, Gerry Rickman, Neil Lewis, Douglas Carnaghan, Stan Smith, Jock Riddle, Bob Simpson, Stan Brock, Harry Martin, Paddy Elliot, Douglas Skelton, Frank Butler and Dick Evans.