Beer history

Complexifying Guinness, 1967

We’ve shared a few accounts of how Guinness was produced in its heyday and here’s yet another, focusing on the conditioning and packaging stage.

It comes from the spring 1967 edition of Guinness Time, the staff magazine for the London brewery at Park Royal, and picks up on a piece from winter 1966 on the brewing process proper which, unfortunately, we’ve never managed to get hold of.

Men at work.
“Albert Addison supervising our own bottling line with fitter Bill Morse looking on.”

Here’s where this piece begins:

Storage – The beer is stored in large stainless steel vats, the two largest of which can each hold a whole day’s brew, about 160,000 gallons. The beer remains in storage vat for between three and ten days and during this period a certain amount of maturation takes place…

A brewery worker looking into a vat.
“Yeast’s eye view of Bill Childs dipping a racking vat.”

The section that really grabbed our attention, because it provides specific detail about a sometimes mysterious part of the process, is entitled ‘Make-up’:

Beer cannot be despatched direct from the storage vat, for it is quite flat and tastes rather uninteresting in this state. So to form the famous Guinness head when the beer is poured and to give it life and sparkle when it is drunk, we blend in a small of amount of gyle, which is beer containing malt-sugars and yeast… but which has not been allowed to ferment. This we achieve either by using the beer immediately after declaration to the excise officer or, if we want to use it the next day, by chilling it in the storehouse…

The blending of the gyle with storage vat beer is known as the ‘make-up’ and takes place daily in the racking vat. It also affords an opportunity of blending several days’ brewings together, to even out the inevitable small differences that exist between different days’ brewings. Various other beers are added, such as barm beer from the yeast presses, which are pasteurised before the make-up.

A man checking meters.
“Senior jackman Tom McCann on duty in the sight room.”
Workers on the shop floor.
“Vatman Tom Jones couples up prior to bottoming a storage vat, with Peter McMullen looking on from the electric truck.”

That’s the bottled product; here’s the draught process:

Meanwhile, in the racking vathouse, Draught Guinness will have been made up in the same way as the Extra Stout but with a slightly lower proportion of gyle since the beer is processed rather differently. The aim of this processing is to turn the still rather unexciting racking vat beer into the attractive palatable final product, for when Draught Guinness leaves the brewery it must be in all respects ready for drinking.

After conditioning in tanks, the beer was run through a pasteuriser at 190°F (88°C) before being put into specially designed casks (kegs).

That’s fascinating for two reasons.

First, there’s an acknowledgement that without blending with mature beer, Guinness was a bit boring.

Secondly, Draught Guinness was, in fact, distinctly less interesting than bottled, as beer geeks always insisted.

11 replies on “Complexifying Guinness, 1967”

So Guinness was krausened, and the Anglo-Irish translation for krausening is “make-up”. Bit of a dull term! (-:

Kräusening is slightly different. They were adding fresh, chilled, unfermented wort. Kräusening is adding beer which is already vigorously fermenting.

Small typo alert: “beer containing malt-sugars and years…”

“without blending with mature beer, Guinness was a bit boring” – unless I’m misinterpreting, they weren’t blending with mature beer, but fresh, unfermented, yeasty beer, which would have kicked off a new fermentation and added life to the beer. According to notes I saw at Park Royal around 2002, in the mid-1960s in Ireland they DID add two per cent of matured high-gravity beer to the draught Guinness, which was the difference between St James’s Gate and Park Royal draught.

It’s far more likely that we’re misinterpreting than that you are. Perhaps we read a bit much into ‘various other beers’ based on previous accounts of the process we’ve come across.

I’m interested to know if the distinction between bottled and draught Guinness still remains, i.e. that bottled is more interesting than draught?

In those days the bottled product was almost all bottle-conditioned, so a pronounced difference then. I’ve tried the current bottled and wasn’t much impressed, although I found some 5%ABV bottles that was for export in a pound shop a year or so ago and that was much richer.

I think the difference that sets these two beers apart is strength, as well as character. Today’s draught product is just over 4% abv and the bottled Extra is 5.7%. That would explain the favored status by some of the bottled Extra and I appreciate reading how it’s naturally carbonated. The draught version relies on nitrogen at the point of service, which is significant, but it is a “lighter” brew.

You have your stouts crossed there, Bill. The Extra Stout referred to above is the one they’ve since relabelled (problematically) as “Guinness Original”. It’s the same as the draught product, just packaged and carbonated differently. The 5.6% Extra Stout is brewed in Canada and doesn’t exist outside North America. I don’t know if it existed in 1967 but it wouldn’t be familiar to the staff at Park Royal.

There was, of course, Export Stout, which was 1058º and brewed at St James’s Gate from 1949 for Europe, subsequently being brewed under licence in South Australia by 1964 (see David Hughes, A Bottle of Guinness Please, p79): I suspect this may be the father of the Canadian 5.6% version.

Ah, so Guinness Export Stout when no longer exported became Guinness Extra Stout, which now says “imported” on the label in the US because it’s exported from Canada, and despite Guinness Extra Stout already existing in Europe as the stout that’s extra to Guinness Porter which no longer existed. Quite simple when you put it like that.

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