Session #142: Funeral Beer

Guinness.

This is our contribution to the final edition of the Session hosted by Stan Hieronymus: “Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.”

Funeral beer is whatever beer they have on at the pub near the crematorium, or the social club in town.

That usually means big brand lager or smoothflow bitter. Auntie Joan on the sherry, let’s raise a whisky in memory, it’s what they would have wanted.

Or Guinness.

And, let’s face it, Guinness fits a funeral best of all, permanently dressed in that old black suit.

It feels as if Ireland owns funeral drinking in some sense born of stereotypes and heavy literature, so even if you aren’t even slightly Irish on your mother’s side, Guinness fits.

It is dark, slow, bitter.

And these days, a little sad, too.

A monochrome beer for a monochrome mood, sitting on your stomach like a raincloud.

Draught Guinness 1958: Two Casks, One Tap

Draught Guinness™ is something different to draught Guinness. Exactly how it worked, and how it changed over time, has long puzzled us. Now, we at least have a clear explanation from one point in time – 1958.

The edition of Guinness Time for spring that year includes a four-page article, heavily illustrated, on draught Guinness. It clears up some of the confusion we felt when we wrote this piece a couple of years ago based on a similar article from 1971.

Men working with metal casks.
‘T. Byrne and A.E. George cleansing casks under the supervision of Foreman L. Elliott.’
1. Wood gives way to metal

It begins by setting out the political situation around metal and wooden casks:

Although a few Public Houses still serve Draught Guinness ‘from the wood’, is is now normally set out in Stainless Steel metal casks. The development of metal casks suitable for containing Draught Guinness was not as easy as it may sound and it involved the introduction of new taps and other associated fittings. The original inventor of the equipment was Mr J.F.T. Barnes, the founder of Universal Brewery Equipment Ltd… but many improvements in design were effected by the late Mr E.J. Griffiths and J.R. Moore. The transition from wooden to metal casks, which attracted a great deal of criticism during the early days just after the last War, has now been virtually completed and is accepted everywhere.

There are hints of the Society for the Preservation of the Wood yet to arrive, in 1963, and this helps us pin down when ‘beer from the wood’ became a common phrase.

Continue reading “Draught Guinness 1958: Two Casks, One Tap”

Hilltop, “a new venture in public houses”, 1959

All pictures and text from Guinness Time, Autumn 1959.

“Guinness have, in the past four years, been privileged to take part in a project which has now resulted in the opening of a new public house which, both in its physical layout and in the method of its planning, exhibits several new features.”

Modern pub windows.
The exterior of Hilltop.

“The new pub is called Hilltop , and is in the South End neighbourhood of Hatfield New Town. It is owned and operated by Messrs. McMullens of Hertford, and it came into being after a most unusual piece of co-operation.”

A crowd around the ale garland.
“Once the ale was pronounced good the Ale Garland was hoisted.”

“It began when we found that the Hatfield Development Corporation had no public funds available to provide the meeting place it had planned for the new population of this rapidly growing neighbourhood. The central site which had been reserved for this community centre would remain empty and the only social building would be a small public house which could not be expected to meet all the needs of the locality. We thought this situation offered a wonderful opportunity for an experiment.”

1950s pubgoers.
“The busy scene in the Saloon Bar after the official opening.”

“We approached the Corporation and asked them if they would consider permitting a brewer to provide the amenities they had planned to include in their community centre. They agreed. We asked Messrs. McMullens if they would consider expanding the plans of the public house they were to build in the neighbourhood to provide these amenities, and they readily agreed.”

A bland looking modern cafe.
The cafe.
A group of families and children.
“The children, too, had free drinks (and buns) on opening night.”

Hilltop offers the usual facilities of a pub, three bars and an off-licence where alcoholic refreshment is available during licensing hours. It also has an unlicensed cafe where soft drinks and light meals are served. Then there is a large hall for use as a theatre or for dancing or dinners, and three committee rooms. All these rooms may be attached either to the licensed or unlicensed part of the building… by locking the necessary doors. In additional the Hertfordshire Health Authorities have two rooms allotted to them in which they run a local Health Clinic.”

Cool looking young men with guitars and cowboy hats.
“A local skiffle group entertains customers on opening night.”

Notes: Hilltop was designed by Lionel Brett, opened on 11 August 1959, and is still trading as a pub under McMullen’s, albeit renamed The Harrier. Here’s how it looks today:

GALLERY: Guinness Time in the 1950s – design of the times

The set of Guinness papers we’ve been sorting through for their owner includes a fairly complete two-decade run of Guinness Time, the in-house magazine for the brewery at Park Royal.

While the contents is on the whole fairly dull (egg and spoon races, meet the toilet attendants, and so on) the covers are works of art, redolent of the periods in which they were produced.

Those presented below are all from the 1950s and so there are a couple of references to TV, the hot trend of the day.

Guinness Time Summer 1956 -- a topiary seal.
Summer 1956. Illustrator: Tom Eckersley.
A man uses a giant bottle of Guinness as a telescope.
Autumn 1956. Illustrator: John Gilroy.

Continue reading “GALLERY: Guinness Time in the 1950s – design of the times”

Guinness: ‘PR 2/50/12 — Mr Shildrick’s Programme’

Among the big pile of Guinness documentation we’ve been sorting through on behalf of its owner there is one item sexier than all the rest: a head brewer’s process chart, about a metre long, printed on canvas.

Here’s a photo:

Guinness brewery wallchart.

On the back in pencil is written:

  • PR 2/50/12
  • Mr Shildrick’s Programme
  • 10 am mash

From David Hughes’s invaluable reference A Bottle of Guinness Please we know that Mr Shildrick was Major Lance Shildrick, Guinness head brewer from 1949 to 1953. From that, and the code written on the back, we’d guess that this chart was produced in 1950, but that is only a guess.

Because this document is such an odd shape, and is fairly battered, it proved challenging to scan until we bit the bullet and did it one tiny section at a time using a small portable device.

We then tried to stitch it together automatically using various bits of software but none worked.

In the end, we had to manually fit the pieces together in Photoshop, lining them up, nudging them this way and that, straightening and rotating by tiny degrees.

We then converted it to black and white and inverted the colours it to make it, we think, easier to read.

The end result isn’t perfect, but it’s not terrible either.

You can view or download the full 1mb image file here.

We’ll be trying to make some sense of this ourselves but in the meantime would welcome insight and commentary from brewers, or anyone else who can glean useful info from the chart.

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Scanning, stitching and tidying up this document took something like five hours so we must once again thank Patreon subscribers like Mason Singleton, Sam Schwab and Tom Furniss whose ongoing support encourages to spend our free time on this kind of thing.