A Glossary of Terms

Amongst all the chat about the Campaign for Real Ale’s AGM at the weekend we noticed a few old questions resurfacing: why, exactly, does CAMRA campaign for Real Ale and not Cask Ale? And, of course, “Why is everyone using that bloody awful, meaningless word ‘craft’?”

With that in mind, this isn’t an attempt to jus­ti­fy or pro­mote any one term over anoth­er but rather a chrono­log­i­cal list of terms and that we’ve noticed in cir­cu­la­tion, how they have been and con­tin­ue to be used, and (to the best of our reck­on­ing) where they came from.

If there is a point we’re try­ing to make it’s prob­a­bly that most of these terms are new­er than they seem, and that their mean­ings are less fixed in law or tra­di­tion than you might assume.

If there are terms you think ought to be added, let us know in the com­ments below.

And if you want more detailed accounts of some of this click the links through­out which will take you to old posts of ours, and get hold of a copy of our 2014 book Brew Bri­tan­nia which cov­ers the birth of CAMRA and rise of craft beer in some detail.

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Beer from the Wood, 1880s. A near-syn­onym for cask ale, prob­a­bly derived from ‘Wines from the Wood’ (1850s) which dis­tin­guished wine dis­pensed on tap from bulk wood­en casks from the bot­tled prod­uct. The Soci­ety for the Preser­va­tion of Beer From the Wood (SPBW) was found­ed in 1963 and were prob­a­bly drawn to the phrase because of it’s stout yeo­man of the bar archa­ic qual­i­ty. It was used freely in the 1960s, e.g. in Bats­ford guides, often but not always refer­ring to what we now call cask ale, even though by this time most casks were not actu­al­ly made of wood. These days, it refers specif­i­cal­ly to cask-con­di­tioned beer served from wood­en casks – a grow­ing trend.

Keg Beer, 1955. Keg beer as we know it – stored and served from pres­surised con­tain­ers – was pio­neered by Wat­ney’s in the 1930s but this par­tic­u­lar phrase was first used by Flow­ers in the mid-1950s. The ter­mi­nol­o­gy was mud­dled for most of the decade that fol­lowed with kegs some­times called casks and so on. Which leads us to…

1956 Flower's Keg beermat.
Flow­er’s Keg – not the first keg beer, but the first to use the word in this way, in 1955. It then became (to their annoy­ance) a gener­ic term.

Cask Beer, 1968. The British Gov­ern­men­t’s inquiry into monop­o­lies in the beer indus­try at the end of the 1960s required the firm­ing up of some pre­vi­ous­ly vague ter­mi­nol­o­gy. “We use the descrip­tion ‘draught’ beer to include any beer which is sup­plied to the retail­er in bulk con­tain­ers and drawn to order in the pub for each cus­tomer”, the final report said. “Although the word ‘draught’ is some­times used to dis­tin­guish tra­di­tion­al draught from keg beer, for the pur­pos­es of this report we call the for­mer ‘cask’ beer.”

Bière Arti­sanale, French, c.1970. We’re a bit shaky on this one because it’s hard­er to access sources, and we under­stand them less well even when we can dig them up, but there are def­i­nite­ly instances of this exact phrase in print from around 1970 onward. (And see Craft-brew­ing, below.) Arti­sanale and direct trans­la­tions in oth­er lan­guages are used wide­ly on the Con­ti­nent in a way that rough­ly cor­re­sponds to the late 20th cen­tu­ry sense of craft beer in Eng­lish, i.e. dis­tinc­tive, spe­cial, inter­est­ing, and prob­a­bly from small­er inde­pen­dent pro­duc­ers. The union of Bel­gian Lam­bic pro­duc­ers, HORAL, for exam­ple, found­ed in 1997, is De Hoge Raad voor Ambachtelijke Lam­biek­bieren, and trans­lates its name in Eng­lish as the High Coun­cil for Arti­sanal Lam­bic Beers.

Sign: "Traditional Real Ales".

Real Ale, 1973. In 1971, the founders of the Cam­paign for the Revi­tal­i­sa­tion of Ale (CAMRA) chose the word ‘ale’ rather than beer because it seemed more down-to-earth than ‘beer’. Then at the 1973 CAMRA annu­al gen­er­al a deci­sion was made to change the organ­i­sa­tion’s name so it would be eas­i­er to say (espe­cial­ly after a few drinks) and activist Peter Lyn­lie sug­gest­ed the Cam­paign for Real Ale, to per­mit the reten­tion of the exist­ing acronym. And so Real Ale, almost by acci­dent, became a syn­onym for Cask Beer.

Craft-brew­ing, 1977. Used by British writer Michael Jack­son in his World Guide to Beer to refer to rare exam­ples of non-indus­tri­al “spe­cial­i­ty brews” in France, along with craft-brew­ers in the sec­tion on the Amer­i­can brew­ing indus­try dur­ing pro­hi­bi­tion. It was prob­a­bly a direct trans­la­tion of bière arti­sanale.

Micro-brew­ery, 1982. A phrase that first began to appear in print with ref­er­ence to Amer­i­can brew­eries at around the time of the first Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val, and which saw off ‘mini-brew­ery’ and ‘bou­tique brew­ery’ (see Bou­tique Beer, below) as com­peti­tors. In Britain these were gen­er­al­ly called ‘small’ or ‘free trade’ brew­eries until the 1990s. An ambigu­ous term, Micro-brew­ery was also often applied to what we might now dis­tin­guish as Brew­pubs.

Zero Degrees, Bristol.

Brew­pub, 1982. At the 1982 con­fer­ence of the Amer­i­can Home­brew­ers’ Asso­ci­a­tion David Bruce, of Firkin fame, gave a talk enti­tled ‘The Eng­lish Brew­pub and the Resur­gence of the Small, Local Brew­ery in Eng­land and Amer­i­ca’. In Britain pubs that made their own beer on the premis­es were known as ‘home-brew hous­es’, or ‘home-brew pubs’, which mor­phed into Brew­pub, we would guess, to avoid con­fu­sion with home-brew­ing of the ama­teur vari­ety.

Bot­tle-con­di­tioned Beer, 1984. In 1980, CAMRA was describ­ing bot­tled Guin­ness as nat­u­ral­ly con­di­tioned. By 1983 it was con­di­tioned in the bot­tle. Then in the 1984 Good Beer Guide it was final­ly described using the phrase we know today.

Craft Beer, 1986. There are almost cer­tain­ly ear­li­er uses of this exact phrase but 1986 is when it start­ed to appear in print in US pub­li­ca­tions such as this news­pa­per arti­cle and Vince Cot­tone’s Good Beer Guide: Brew­ers and Pubs of the Pacif­ic North­west. The ear­li­est instance in a British pub­li­ca­tion we’ve been able to find is from CAM­RA’s What’s Brew­ing for August 1993, in an arti­cle by an Amer­i­can writer, but Roger Protz and oth­er soon took it up. Ini­tial­ly used as a delib­er­ate­ly vague catch-all to dis­tin­guish sup­pos­ed­ly interesting/distinctive/independent beers (includ­ing, but not exclu­sive­ly refer­ring to, Real Ale) from loathed bland/industrial/macro prod­ucts.

Bou­tique Beer, 1988. Used by Michael Jack­son in the 1988 edi­tion of his World Guide to Beer and occa­sion­al­ly up until the present day. In Jack­son’s usage exact­ly syn­ony­mous with Craft Beer, above. Ear­li­er in the decade a vari­ant, ‘Bou­tique Brew­ery’, had occa­sion­al­ly been used as an alter­na­tive to Micro-brew­ery.

Design­er Beer, 1991. Over­lap­ping with Craft Beer but with more focus on style and brand­ing than the beer itself. Sap­poro, in its weird pint-glass-shaped can, was con­sid­ered design­er, but does­n’t seem to have qual­i­fied as craft.

Microp­ub, 2005. The first Microp­ub was launched in Herne, Kent, by Mar­tyn Hilli­er and as far as we have been able to ascer­tain was described that way from the very start. The term was Hillier’s own inven­tion inspired by the idea that it was the pub equiv­a­lent of the Micro-brew­ery. By his own admis­sion he has spent a lot of time since explain­ing that, no, it isn’t a Brew­pub or Micro-brew­ery.

Nano-brew­ery, c.2005. As some of the first wave of Micro-brew­eries got big a word was need­ed to describe tiny com­mer­cial setups oper­at­ing on a home-brew scale. We can’t trace the exact roots of the phrase but here’s a 2006 post on Beer Advo­cate which seems to sug­gest it was in gen­er­al cir­cu­la­tion among the cognoscen­ti by this point.

KeyKeg, 2006. This is a trade­mark for a spe­cif­ic line of prod­ucts pro­duced by Light­weight Con­tain­ers, a Dutch com­pa­ny, and launched at a brew­ing trade fair in Novem­ber 2006. Where­as tra­di­tion­al Keg Beer is exposed to pro­pel­lant gas KeyKeg beer sits in a bag inside a pres­surised ball and does not come into con­tact with the pro­pel­lant. Depend­ing on how the beer derives its car­bon­a­tion, it may or may not qual­i­fy as Real Ale under the stan­dards of CAM­RA’s Tech­ni­cal Com­mit­tee. (Key­Cask is also a trade­mark of Light­weight Con­tain­ers, applied to essen­tial­ly the same prod­ucts.)

Craft Keg, 2010. This is a hard one to pin down but this 2012 arti­cle by Adri­an Tier­ney-Jones for All About Beer places a mark­er point for the term hav­ing tru­ly arrived. Before this, from around 2010, most peo­ple were care­ful­ly refer­ring to “craft keg beer” – that is, Keg Beer, that was also Craft Beer, but look­ing at old Tweets you’ll see peo­ple like Dave ‘Hard­knott’ Bai­ley using it quite freely. There was­n’t real­ly an urgent need for a way to dis­tin­guish good keg from bad (yes, we know – just a short­cut) until the 1990s because until then all keg was bad; and that need did­n’t become urgent until after Brew­Dog began to make waves.

UPDATED 26/04/2018: Added entries for Micro-brew­ery, Brew­pub, Nano-brew­ery, Microp­ub and KeyKeg, and amend­ed oth­er entries to fit as required.

Q&A: Electric Beer Pumps

We like it when people ask us questions. Yesterday, we got this one from Simon Briercliffe:

These days, hand-pulls are the stan­dard sym­bol of Prop­er Real Ale­ness, but in the 1970s mea­sured elec­tric dis­pense (push the but­ton once for a half, twice for a full pint) were com­mon enough, espe­cial­ly in the north, to war­rant a dia­gram and descrip­tion in mul­ti­ple edi­tions of the Cam­paign for Real Ale’s Good Beer Guide, first pub­lished in paper­back form in 1974. The main image above is from the 1976 edi­tion and is accom­pa­nied by text say­ing: “Taps oper­at­ed by lit­tle levers or push-but­tons can, how­ev­er, work either by elec­tric­i­ty or CO2 pres­sure and the only way to tell the dif­fer­ence is to pay your mon­ey and taste the stuff in your glass.”

Work­ing back through a selec­tion of how-to-run-a-pub guides in our library we dug up this ref­er­ence from James H. Coomb­s’s 1965 book Bar Ser­vice: “For some time beer meters have been installed through­out the coun­try and their oper­a­tion takes all the guess­work out of draw­ing beer.” (We fil­let­ed that book in two posts here and here.) That helps nar­row the search but left us mild­ly dis­sat­is­fied – sure­ly there must be some more con­crete dates we can pin down?

Well, here’s the low­er bound­ary: it would seem that in 1948 when J.W. Scott deliv­ered his paper ‘From Cask to Con­sumer’ (PDF) to a meet­ing of the Lon­don sec­tion of the Insti­tute of Brew­ing, reli­able beer dis­pense meters were not wide­ly avail­able on the UK mar­ket. He had designed his own which, while intend­ed to deliv­er half a pint at a time, was not pre­cise:

Mr H.G. SPILLANE asked whether it was pos­si­ble for the author’s dis­pense to be reg­u­lat­ed to serve half-pints of mixed beers… Mr SCOTT replied.… [that the] machine he had described did not give a def­i­nite mea­sure, thought it was attempt­ed to approach it close­ly; he could then give a head, or could fill the glass right to the top by means of the top­ping-up or agi­tat­ing device. It was almost impos­si­ble to design a machine to give a pre­cise mea­sure because of the vary­ing con­di­tion in the beer, which cov­ered a fair­ly wide range when a vent peg was used.

Scan­ning more close­ly between those dates we find an arti­cle in the Decem­ber 1955 edi­tion of trade mag­a­zine A Month­ly Bul­letin on short mea­sures:

From time to time var­i­ous meth­ods of serv­ing draught beer [cask ale] with­out over­spill have been pro­pound­ed. One was the adop­tion of a dis­penser which would mea­sure out exact­ly ten ounces in over­sized glass­es. Such a device would have to be easy to clean, quick to oper­ate, sim­ple to use and main­tain. So far as is known, no machine has yet been invent­ed that could be used with beer engines or in draw­ing beer from the wood. It is pos­si­ble to adjust a beer engine to deliv­er an exact half-pint with one even and con­tin­u­ous pull. That is, in favourable con­di­tions; in prac­tice, to use a beer engine as a mea­sur­ing device would depend too much on the care and skill of the oper­a­tor.

There are tan­ta­lis­ing men­tions through­out the 1950s, locked behind pay­walls and copy­right bar­ri­ers, of Mills Elec­tric Beer Engines. If any­one can tell us more about that, from sources un-Google-able, we’d be grate­ful. Here’s a (fair­ly use­less) morsel we did find in a 1957 edi­tion of the More­cambe Guardian from 1957, via the British News­pa­per Archive:

Mills Electric Beer Engine advertisement.

It’s not clear from that whether the Mills device was mere­ly an elec­tric pump, not nec­es­sar­i­ly metered, or some­thing more sophis­ti­cat­ed.

One oth­er impor­tant date would seem to be 1963 when a new Weights and Mea­sures Act came into force. Before this, as we under­stand it, short or long mea­sures of alco­holic drinks weren’t actu­al­ly ille­gal, mere­ly frowned upon. Sud­den­ly, pub­li­cans were oblig­ed to pro­vide exact­ly a half pint or full pint or risk pros­e­cu­tion. Speak­ing in the House of Com­mons in July 1966 the Min­is­ter for the Board of Trade, George Dar­ling MP, described a pro­posed amend­ment to the Act to allow for the use of meters (our empha­sis):

What the Order does is to recog­nise approved new appli­ances for mea­sur­ing beer and cider in pub­lic hous­es and bars of hotels which have come into use gen­er­al­ly since the Act was passed.… Hon. Mem­bers who take a mod­est glass of beer or cider occa­sion­al­ly will have seen these new devices in oper­a­tion. They usu­al­ly have the appear­ance of a glass or trans­par­ent plas­tic cylin­der which, when a tap is turned or a lever pulled, fills up with beer or cider to a mark on the cylin­der and then emp­ties that amount into a glass or mug.

At the oth­er end of the time­line, dig­ging around high­light­ed what might be anoth­er impor­tant moment: Gaskell & Cham­bers, man­u­fac­tur­ers of beer engines since the 19th cen­tu­ry and the dom­i­nant name in beer dis­pense equip­ment, announced plans to mar­ket their new beer meter­ing sys­tem in the com­pa­ny state­ment for 1966–67, pub­lished in May 1967. Here’s some blurb from an accom­pa­ny­ing adver­to­r­i­al pub­lished in the Birm­ing­ham Dai­ly Post on 4 May 1967:

Changes in the phys­i­cal han­dling of beer at the point of sale have been helped along by Gaskell & Cham­bers.… The old man­u­al beer engine which has for so long typ­i­fied the Eng­lish hostel­ry is slow­ly yield­ing ground to neat­ly styled dis­pense taps in dec­o­ra­tive hous­ings, and to beer meters.

So the guess in Simon’s orig­i­nal Tweet does­n’t look far off the mark: 1963–1967 is when metered dis­pense real­ly took off.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 8 July 2017: London Fields, St Ives, Anywhere

Here’s all the beer writing and news from the past seven days that’s grabbed our attention, from brewery takeovers to the (literal) essence of craft beer.

First, a bit of beer blog­ging admin: the British Guild of Beer Writ­ers has launched its annu­al awards. If you’re a blog­ger, as opposed to a pro­fes­sion­al or semi-pro writer who hap­pens to have a blog on the side, do con­sid­er enter­ing in the Cit­i­zen Com­mu­ni­ca­tor cat­e­go­ry.

A sign points to London Fields Brewery.
‘Wall’ by Matt Gib­son from Flickr under Cre­ative Com­mons.

The big news of the week was that, hav­ing enig­mat­i­cal­ly trailed such a pur­chase a few months ago, Carls­berg has just acquired a UK craft brew­ery: the trou­bled, moral­ly murky, unloved Lon­don Fields. We did­n’t have time to pro­duce any­thing sub­stan­tial about this (just a Tweet) but if we had, we’d have writ­ten some­thing much like this from Richard Tay­lor at the Beer­cast:

From their Hack­ney base… the Danes will have a Lon­don-cen­tric brand to push across the coun­try and beyond. And the fact that it has the city name in the brew­ery title is an added bonus… Look­ing at some of the tweets from beer indus­try peo­ple – par­tic­u­lar­ly those based in Lon­don – was an almighty WTF moment. Of all the brands to acquire, why pick one with so lit­tle pub­lic recog­ni­tion and so much indus­try resent­ment? The con­tin­u­al atti­tude and actions of the founders have black­ened the name of Lon­don Fields with­in the beer com­mu­ni­ty – but, as we’ve all seen since time began, the big lager boys don’t real­ly care for that any­way. It’s the bot­tom line that mat­ters, and in their eyes, pick­ing up Lon­don Fields for even £4m is peanuts com­pared with what they would have to fork out for oth­er alter­na­tives.


The bar at Beer & Bird.

Those of you head­ing down to Corn­wall on hol­i­day this sum­mer might find the lat­est post at Pints and Pubs use­ful: it’s an extreme­ly com­pre­hen­sive run down of the pubs of St Ives. It includes news of an inter­est­ing devel­op­ment in the form of a bar that has spun off from the town’s impres­sive spe­cial­ist off-licence, John’s:

The most recent addi­tion to the beer scene in St Ives, next door to the Cas­tle Inn… It has eas­i­ly the most exten­sive bot­tle and can list of any of the St Ives pubs, but also a decent selec­tion of draught, with three cask and five keg when vis­it­ed – we had good pints of Fire­brand Equinot and Black Flag Sim­coe Amar­il­lo Pale.


Sign: "Traditional Real Ales".

Reflect­ing on the dif­fer­ence between Real Ale and Craft Beer as sub­cul­tures Pub Cur­mud­geon makes an inter­est­ing sug­ges­tion with ref­er­ence to a wider divi­sion in post-Brex­it Britain:

There’s obvi­ous­ly a big area of over­lap, as after all both are broad­ly about ‘qual­i­ty beer’, but the well­springs of sen­ti­ment from which real ale and craft grow are essen­tial­ly dif­fer­ent things. One is, at heart, about tra­di­tion and roots, the oth­er about moder­ni­ty and inno­va­tion. It’s basi­cal­ly the Some­where ver­sus Any­where divi­sion expressed in beer.

Those on the oth­er side of the polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al divide from the Cur­mud­geon prob­a­bly would­n’t dis­agree with the idea but might spin it dif­fer­ent­ly: ‘Real ale is inward and back­ward look­ing, while craft beer points for­ward and out­ward!’ At any rate, he might be on to some­thing.


A portrait of Bim looking pensive.

Jor­dan St. John at St John’s Wort, one of the co-authors of the Ontario Craft Beer Guide, paints a por­trait of Luc ‘Bim’ Lafontaine, a revered Cana­di­an brew­er whose new ven­ture is strain­ing under the weight of expec­ta­tion:

[Peo­ple] talk about the brew­ery before the open­ing in mes­sian­ic terms; as though Bim walked into town across Lake Ontario. At one end of the spec­trum a local wag claims on twit­ter that the beer is ter­ri­ble and two of the first three batch­es should have been drain poured. At the oth­er end is a wine pro­fes­sion­al who pro­claims the Eng­lish style IPA the best he has ever had. On both ends is the response to the expec­ta­tion that God­speed will some­how redeem the Toron­to beer scene, as if it need­ed it… Bim has been try­ing not to look at the reviews although they fil­ter in. There are some con­cerns about the pric­ing. $3.75 a can for 355ml seems high to the pub­lic… The oth­er gripe is about the styles of beer being brewed. There are peo­ple review­ing it who are will­ing to dis­miss a third of the nascent brewery’s pro­duc­tion because there is a Dort­munder Lager involved. I know through the rumour mill that Bim has spent much of the last two years drink­ing Spat­en Munich Helles.


Final­ly, the Beer Nut high­lights the exis­tence of Essence of Craft:

BREAKFAST DEBATE: Is the Cloudwater News the End of the World?

Eggs with sriracha chilli sauce.

The highly-regarded Manchester brewery Cloudwater is to stop producing cask ale – is this a portent of doom, or a drop in the ocean?

The news dropped this morn­ing in a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly open blog post from brew­ery boss Paul Jones:

We wor­ry that cask beer has backed itself into a cor­ner that risks becom­ing unat­trac­tive to mod­ern brew­eries. Where we can just about tol­er­ate today’s mar­ket pric­ing for our keg and bot­tled beer… we see lit­tle sense in con­tin­u­ing to accept the labour of rack­ing, han­dling, and col­lect­ing casks whilst we make insuf­fi­cient mar­gin… When we take into con­sid­er­a­tion the sort of beer the cask mar­ket laps up we see high demands for tra­di­tion­al beer, albeit with a mod­ern twist. In com­par­i­son, the keg and bot­tle mar­ket demands our most inno­v­a­tive and pro­gres­sive beer… There’s anoth­er often encoun­tered set of issues we face with the cask beer mar­ket – if cask beer isn’t bright the qual­i­ty is often ques­tioned (and in some cas­es our slight­ly hazy casks are flat­ly refused, regard­less of flavour), but if casks are still con­di­tion­ing out, and because of that, or because of inad­e­quate VDK re-absorp­tion at the end of fer­men­ta­tion, tast­ing of diacetyl, then it’s all too often good to go.

In oth­er words, for a brew­ery like Cloud­wa­ter, pro­duc­ing cask is fair­ly thank­less task, offer­ing poor finan­cial returns, lit­tle sat­is­fac­tion for the brew­ers, and huge risk to rep­u­ta­tion because of point-of-sale issues beyond their con­trol.

We read it bleary-eyed with our morn­ing tea and then dis­cussed over break­fast with this par­tic­u­lar ques­tion in mind:

Boak: This does wor­ry me. My impres­sion – and it is just an impres­sion – is that younger drinkers are less inter­est­ed in cask than our gen­er­a­tion was, and that this is part of an increas­ing diver­gence in the  mar­ket where­by cask is about price and keg is where the real­ly good beer is. I keep think­ing about that pub in Bolton that was sell­ing some well-kept but pret­ty ter­ri­ble cask ale pure­ly, as the land­lord admit­ted, to reach a price point his cus­tomers demand­ed, while at the same time my broth­er tells me [he works at Tap East] that some cus­tomers won’t drink cask at gun­point even if the beer is bet­ter and cheap­er than the near­est keg alter­na­tive.

Bai­ley: I think there’s some hys­te­ria here, though. How many keg-only craft brew­eries do we actu­al­ly have? Off the top of my head it’s Brew­Dog, Lovi­bonds, Cam­den, Bux­ton (kind of) and now Cloud­wa­ter. Let’s say there are a few more I don’t know about, or even let’s say the top twen­ty coolest craft brew­ers (def­i­n­i­tion 2) go keg-only – that’s still only a hand­ful of the 1,800 total. Most brew­ers are real­ly into it. And I don’t think we can equate the era of the Big Six with what’s going on today. Cloud­wa­ter’s keg beer isn’t Wat­ney’s Red Bar­rel.

Boak: No, although there’s a dif­fer­ent kind of homo­gene­ity in craft beer. And your first point… That sounds com­pla­cent to me. I can eas­i­ly see this being a tip­ping point for some brew­eries that have been con­sid­er­ing going keg-only. Cloud­wa­ter is a role mod­el for a lot of small­er, new­er brew­eries – more so than Brew­Dog who have tend­ed to alien­ate peo­ple. And I reck­on we could quick­ly slip into a sit­u­a­tion where the places that are known for good beer ditch cask alto­geth­er. Or where more dis­trib­u­tors start to find it too much has­sle to han­dle cask when keg is eas­i­er and more prof­itable so that even pubs that want to stock cask can’t get a steady sup­ply of the good stuff.

Bai­ley: But that has­n’t hap­pened! Peo­ple are bor­row­ing trou­ble. Cask ale is every­where and, admit­ted­ly with a bit of research, you can reli­ably get good cask ale almost every­where in the coun­try. Sure, chalk this up as a warn­ing sign and be wary, but do you real­ly think we’re worse off for cask now than around 2005 when we start­ed tak­ing an inter­est?

Boak: I think maybe Lon­don is worse than it was, and I think it’s on the verge of get­ting much worse again. I love Fuller’s but the fact that we can have such a vari­able expe­ri­ence of cask ale in Fuller’s own pubs wor­ries me. Oh, I don’t know… Maybe it’s not worse but cask in Lon­don has­n’t made much progress and I still find it hard to get sat­is­fy­ing pints there which sure­ly can’t be right in the age of the Craft Beer Rev­o­lu­tion.

Bai­leyOK, so if this is one warn­ing sign, what might be some oth­ers?

Boak: If a big region­al went keg-only, I would be very con­cerned – Fuller’s, Adnams, one of the brew­eries that’s been exper­i­ment­ing with craft beer in keg. Or Oakham. Or Thorn­bridge! If they went keg-only, that would real­ly freak me out.

Bai­ley: Me too but I can’t see that hap­pen­ing any time soon. I’d be more wor­ried if Doom Bar or Greene King IPA sud­den­ly became keg-only beers because I bet there are a lot of pubs that would ditch cask alto­geth­er with­out those – would lit­er­al­ly, 1975-style, rip out their beer engines and lose the capac­i­ty to sell cask. The infra­struc­ture would dis­ap­pear.

Boak: If the Craft Beer Com­pa­ny stopped sell­ing cask that would be a real­ly bad sign. They seem pret­ty com­mit­ted to it at the moment – lots of pumps – but who knows? I’d love to know how much they actu­al­ly sell and what the split is with keg.

Bai­ley: That microp­ub in New­ton Abbot sells 60 per cent keg, 40 per cent cask.

Boak: Hmm. Relat­ed to that, I guess microp­ubs might be the coun­ter­bal­ance, because (that one in New­ton Abbot aside) they’re so cask-led, and so flex­i­ble when it comes to pur­chas­ing, that they might give that side of the indus­try a boost. But they’re not, to gen­er­alise, pop­u­lar with young peo­ple, are they? So they don’t do much to win the next gen­er­a­tion over to cask.

Bai­ley: There’s Wether­spoon’s, too – they’re play­ing with craft keg and cans and what have you but there’s no indi­ca­tion that they want to ditch cask. If any­thing, they seem more com­mit­ted to it now than ever. Maybe what we need is a big chart with plus and minus columns for the health of the cask ale mar­ket in the UK.

Boak: That’s our home­work, then. On bal­ance, the reac­tion to this par­tic­u­lar news does seem over the top, but I have to say I’m less con­fi­dent in my view that The Bat­tle has Been Won than I was when we wrote the book. I think it’d be pret­ty cat­a­stroph­ic if the only cask ales you could get any­where were Doom Bar and GK IPA.

Bai­ley: Me too, I sup­pose, although I’m only a tiny bit con­cerned. As I’ve said before, we can’t be on a per­ma­nent war foot­ing–

Boak: But we have to be ready to remo­bilise if the threat re-emerges and, at the risk of invok­ing God­win’s Law, make sure that the next gen­er­a­tion is edu­cat­ed in the dan­ger signs so that they don’t repeat the mis­takes of his­to­ry.

This has been edit­ed to make it vague­ly coher­ent. We actu­al­ly ram­bled a lot more and you don’t need details of our dis­cus­sion about what to have for tea.

Beer in Pubs, 1951

Spread from LHATM.

It’s always exciting to come across specific notes on how beers of the past looked and tasted, especially when those notes are from someone inside the industry.

Through a foot­note to a foot­note in some­one else’s book we recent­ly came across Licensed Hous­es and Their Man­age­ment, a three-vol­ume guide­book pub­lished in mul­ti­ple edi­tions from 1923 onwards and edit­ed by W. Bent­ly Cap­per. It’s made up of a whole series of essays and arti­cles by dif­fer­ent authors cov­er­ing every­thing from book-keep­ing to ‘han­dling female staff’. We’re going to post a few more bits from it in the Bits We Under­lined for­mat at some point but, for now, the stuff on beer seemed too inter­est­ing not to share in its own right.

The sec­tion is called ‘Ales and Stouts and Hints on Cel­lar Man­age­ment’ and is cred­it­ed to an anony­mous ‘A Brew­ery Cel­lars Man­ag­er’. (Worth not­ing, maybe, that the accom­pa­ny­ing pics are from Fuller’s.)

First, we should say that, through­out, it is made clear that beer should def­i­nite­ly pos­sess ‘bril­lian­cy’, i.e. must be com­plete­ly clear. We’ve col­lect­ed lots of exam­ples of peo­ple not mind­ing a bit of haze in their beer, or even pre­fer­ring it, but there was cer­tain­ly a main­stream con­sen­sus that clar­i­ty was best by the mid-20th Cen­tu­ry.

There are three types of dis­pense list­ed: straight from the cask, via beer engine and ‘the Scot­tish method of draw­ing’ – that is air or top pres­sure. (The cause of so much strife in CAMRA dur­ing the late 1970s.) There is also a love­ly men­tion of what are now known as sparklers:

With the beer engine, there is some­times a dif­fi­cul­ty dur­ing the win­ter months of pro­duc­ing a good head on the beer… To com­bat this there are sev­er­al excel­lent fit­tings on the mar­ket in the shape of ‘noz­zles’ or ‘sprin­klers’ which are fit­ted to the spout of the engine. These agi­tate the beer as it pass­es into the glass and pro­duce a head, with­out affect­ing the palate in any degree.

Right, then – time for the main event: BEER. This sec­tion begins by high­light­ing the impor­tance of choos­ing good beers and the strength of ‘local con­di­tions and prej­u­dices’:

In Lon­don, for instance, one class of beer will find favour in one dis­trict, whilst in anoth­er part of the town the same beer would not be appre­ci­at­ed. The same thing applies through the whole of the coun­ties…

The author then very use­ful­ly breaks it down by style:

Mild Ales… In some parts a dark, sweet ale must be served. This must be as fresh as pos­si­ble and quite bril­liant. In the indus­tri­al cen­tres this beer will be in very great demand… In the res­i­den­tial or sub­ur­ban areas, a mild ale of a lighter colour is more in favour…

Ron Pat­tin­son has explored the dif­fer­ence between urban and coun­try milds but we love the idea of Metroland Mild!

Bur­ton… is a heavy-grav­i­ty ale, very red in colour, and with a dis­tinct dry-hop flavour. There is a very steady demand for this beer all the year round, but in win­ter-time the sales in some dis­tricts equal those of mild ale… [It should be] nei­ther too bit­ter nor too sweet, but [have] a round, full-bod­ied flavour.

Colour and flavour notes! Red ale – sounds quite trendy, does­n’t it?

Bit­ter… Bit­ter ales form the great part of the saloon and pri­vate-bar demand. These beers are the most del­i­cate and sen­si­tive of all brewed. The colour must be as of bright pol­ished amber, and the pun­gent aro­ma of the hops must be well in evi­dence. It is very impor­tant… that the palate is quite clean as the great charm of bit­ter ales lies in their del­i­cate palate flavour… There is lit­tle doubt that the Bur­ton-brewed ales are the best of this vari­ety, although great progress has been made in oth­er parts of the coun­try by brew­ers and com­pe­ti­tion is very keen in this beer.

In case you don’t know how social class mapped to bars, the saloon and pri­vate-bar were the rel­a­tive­ly posh ones. Bit­ter was a pre­mi­um prod­uct, the craft beer of its day, drunk for flavour as much as alco­hol con­tent or nour­ish­ment. (There’s more from us on the his­to­ry of bit­ter here.)

Stouts… are brewed from high­ly roast­ed malts and are there­fore dark brown in colour. The palate should be full and creamy, but not too sweet. Avoid stouts that are not in con­di­tion or that have too bit­ter a flavour. There is lit­tle doubt that among the best stouts the best are those brewed in Lon­don…

An ear­ly use of creamy to describe beer, there? From long before nitro was a thing, too. But what is the dif­fer­ence between stout and porter?

Porter… is a light-grav­i­ty black beer which is usu­al­ly much sweet­er than stouts.

There you go. Sort­ed. Sort of.

There are many more edi­tions of LHATM stretch­ing back 25 years from this one – if you have a copy from before World War II, per­haps you can check whether this advice changed over the years?