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.
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.
Keg beer dispense quality is not often talked about in the UK, at least in contrast to the perpetual hand-wringing that goes on with regard to cask ale. But it deserves to be a very big issue, because a huge number of pubs and bars in the UK are not set up to serve craft keg beer in the best condition.… That’s because most keg dispense equipment in the UK has been designed to suit low-carbonation, sterile-filtered big-name lager brands, which are relatively easy to look after. But modern craft beers come in a bewildering variety and they need individual treatment, be that a higher temperature of serve or a different gas mix.
I knew I had mere hours with a man I didn’t know. But with a hundred questions in my head none of which could be answered by someone intent on impressing me, I would need to put my questions aside and make him feel at ease enough to remove his veneer. But how would I do that? Strangely enough, I did know. I needed just two simple props: a pub table and some beer.
Reines and I are sharing a quiet moment at the after-party of the town’s homebrew competition and festival, which he organizes. Things are getting a little philosophical because, well, we’ve been drinking since lunchtime. We’ve just spent a half hour kneeling on the floor in front of his new sound system, listening to Nordic heavy metal at a volume I was sure would echo across the fjords and all the way back to my home in England.
Our favourite thing? Fritz the bucket. (Oddly misnamed Franz in the text.)
I am fully aware and appreciative of the costs involved in creating beer and I am in no doubt that prices are fair (for the most part). I just know that I’m not flush enough. So what am I suggesting here? That breweries should make no-frills beer for us poor people too? That there should be a pay-it-forward scheme involved? No, of course not. I’m just highlighting the fact that keeping up with trends in craft beer is exclusionary in it’s nature and there should be some awareness of this. Not everybody can take part. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the people who can’t or don’t take part are any less enthusiastic about beer than the people collecting new cans like Pokémon cards.
There’s been a fair bit of news on the sexism-in-beer front this week:
Brewers! You will want to get your hands on the new e‑book by Andreas Krenmair, Historic German and Austrian Beers for the Home Brewer. He’s undertaken lots of painstaking research to come up with recipes for everything from Dreher-style Vienna lager to Mannheimer Braunbier. We bought a copy and have already found lots to chew on even though we don’t have any immediate plans to brew.
Here’s something a bit different: from the BBC World Service programme Outlook, some audio, on the subject of Rwandan ‘banana beer’. Christine Murebwayire grew up in a family of banana beer brewers and then, many years later, used it to drag her family out of poverty:
“A lot of people like to drink banana beer but some educated, smart people feel uncomfortable drinking it because it’s not a very sophisticated drink. So I thought, if I could make a smarter drink to drink on social occasions, it will appeal to a bigger market.…”
(We think you should be able to listen to this worldwide; apologies if not.)
This week we’ll finish not with a Tweet as usual but with a film trailer: Walk Like a Panther is a real sign of the times – a Full Monty style comedy about a community banding together to save the local pub from closure.
‘What was the first kegged “craft”? Freehouses had keg lines – something must have been number one.’ Paul, Edinburgh (@CanIgetaP)
Bailey has recently been reading What Was the First Rock’N’Roll Record? by Jim Dawson and Steve Propes. Rather than declare an answer it puts forward a list of 50 candidates from 1944 to 1956 and explains the claim each has to the title. We’re going to steal that approach.
1. Watney’s Red Barrel, London, 1931.
Wait, bear with us! It was the first keg bitter, full stop, and when it first emerged was a well-regarded export quality beer. We’ve tasted a clone of a 1960s version and it was better than some keg red or amber ales currently being put out by larger breweries through their craft sub-brands.
2. Draught Guinness, 1958.
Please continue to bear with us. In the mid-20th Century draught Guinness was a super-hip beer and apparently very tasty, but hard to find. Technicians at the brewery worked out a way to reliably dispense it from one vessel with a creamy head and it went on to take over the world. It was brewed in both Dublin and London. CAMRA veteran Barrie Pepper is once reported to have said that if all keg beer had been as good as draught Guinness CAMRA would never have got off the ground.
a. German and Belgian beers began to appear more frequently in Britain at the end of the 1970s, usually bottled, but occasionally on draught. In the mid-1980s Sean Franklin at Rooster’s and Peter Austin at Ringwood considered kegging their beers but neither bit the bullet.
He argues that, on the whole, ‘backward facing motions were defeated, while progressive motions were passed’. Among those carried was Motion 15:
This Conference instructs the National Executive to investigate a labelling scheme for naturally conditioned Key Keg beer, which would allow customers to identify which beers, at the point of sale, conform with the CAMRA criteria for real ale.
This is significant, as we understand it, because it paves the way for beer in ‘key kegs’ to appear at CAMRA beer festivals, as long as they meets certain technical criteria – that is to say, that they are unfiltered and unpasteurised, contain a certain proportion of live yeast, and are carbonated without the addition of CO2 from an external source. (Key kegs use gas, but the gas doesn’t actually come into contact with the beer.)
This is not a wholehearted embrace of keg beer, overturning 40+ years of principles upon which the Campaign was built. Nor is it ‘CAMRA goes craft’. And we suspect it will take a long time for the results to be evident in the wild, too, with much bureaucracy to negotiate.
But it is important as a gesture, like that simple handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro last December.
The letters page in next month’s What’s Brewing should be fun, though, while those passionate craft beer types who CAMRA has already alienated will probably regard this, sourly, as too little, too late.
@BoakandBailey To be fair, real ale served via key keg was approved by CAMRA’s TAG some time ago – motion was more about clear labelling.