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”

A New Axis: Classic | Standard | New-Local

A pint of beer.

Where are we in the cycle? At the point where seeing Elland 1872 Porter, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Thornbridge Jaipur, Fyne Ales Jarl, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted and Bank Top Mild on offer in our local is tremendously exciting – that’s where.

Andy Hamil­ton, who writes about booze and for­ag­ing, and for­ag­ing for booze, is pro­mot­ing a book and con­vinced the Drap­ers Arms to hold a mini fes­ti­val fea­tur­ing some of the beers it men­tions.

The Drap­ers has a pret­ty seri­ous com­mit­ment to local beers, list­ing dis­tance trav­elled for each beer, and aver­age dis­tance for the entire list, on the menu black­board.

In fact, that’s a trend reflect­ed across Bris­tol: it’s not unusu­al to walk into a pub and find the whole beer list made up of beers from with­in the city bound­aries.

The beer list at the Drapers Arms.

That can be great – we’ve dis­cov­ered some impres­sive West Coun­try brew­eries this way, and it’s cer­tain­ly fuelling the Bris­tol brew­ery boom – but is also mild­ly frus­trat­ing.

Let’s con­sid­er Jaipur. It’s a beer that’s well into its sec­ond decade and has gained the sta­tus of a clas­sic. In bot­tles, it’s rea­son­ably easy to find in super­mar­kets. But how often do we get to drink it on cask? Twice, maybe three times a year? And that’s most­ly in Wether­spoon pubs.

Old Peculi­er is anoth­er beer we’ve encoun­tered on cask only a hand­ful of times in more than a decade of beer blog­ging, and which we’re hop­ing will still be on when we pop round to the Drap­ers after post­ing this. We felt a gen­uine thrill when we saw the A-board out­side the pub announc­ing its arrival last night.

All this has made us think that as well as our long­stand­ing wish for more pubs to make a point of hav­ing one of each colour (brown, yel­low, black) per­haps there ought to be anoth­er axis: big clas­sic + stan­dard + local/new.

We can imag­ine going into a pub with that kind of mix and start­ing on the clas­sic, try­ing the new­com­er, and then decid­ing where to stick for a third round depend­ing on how the first two tast­ed.

In the mean­time (this kind of thing is always fun) what’s your sug­ges­tion for a line-up which cov­ers brown/yellow/black and clas­sic/­s­tan­dard­/lo­cal-new?

Old Peculi­er, Lon­don Pride and Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry Nova would do us nice­ly, for exam­ple.

The Magic Guinness Blend c.1939

Cover of the Guinness brewing manual.

When a colleague of mine told me that her father had been head brewer at Guinness’s London brewery and wondered if I might be interested in seeing his papers, I got a bit excited.

Final­ly, months lat­er, we got round to vis­it­ing to check out what was in her col­lec­tion. Based on a quick audit the answer is: every­thing.

We’ve agreed to take pos­ses­sion of the whole lot, cat­a­logue it, copy bits we might be able to use for our own research, and then help with arrange­ments to have the impor­tant bits tak­en into appro­pri­ate archives.

For now, though, here’s a nugget from the hand­ful of doc­u­ments we brought away with us on Wednes­day night: insid­er info on how Guin­ness gained its once leg­endary com­plex­i­ty at the blend­ing stage.

This comes from a typed doc­u­ment in a plain brown wrap­per writ­ten in 1939 and updat­ed to take account of wartime brew­ing restric­tions. The copy we have seems to come from around 1943 but was in appar­ent­ly still in cir­cu­la­tion in the 1950s.

The first page bears the title ‘The Process of Brew­ing Guin­ness’ and the 46 pages that fol­low offer detailed notes on the basics of beer mak­ing (how hops are dried, for exam­ple) as well as specifics about Guin­ness.

Section header: "making up".

Here’s the sec­tion on ‘Mak­ing Up’:

Beer in stor­age vats [after fer­men­ta­tion] is quite flat and is cloudy and bit­ter and unin­ter­est­ing to taste. Before it is ready for sale it must be ‘Made up’… Beer from say six dif­fer­ent brews forms the basis. These are cho­sen in such pro­por­tions that when mixed with unfer­ment­ed beer (i.e. wort that has been pitched but not allowed to fer­ment) known as gyle, their residues added to the fer­mentable mat­ter of the gyle will give a suit­able ‘Prime’. ‘Prime’ is the fer­mentable mat­ter in beer after mak­ing up just as ‘Residue’ is the fer­mentable mat­ter as the beer enters the stor­age vat. It is mea­sured as the dif­fer­ence between the present grav­i­ty of the beer and its per­fect pri­ma­ry.

In addi­tion to these beers there are added:–

  1. Barm beer: this is the beer which is skimmed off from the skim­mers with the yeast and is sep­a­rat­ed from the yeast in a fil­ter press. It is intense­ly bit­ter but adds very mate­ri­al­ly to the flavour of the flat, unin­ter­est­ing stor­age vat beer.
  2. O.B.S.: old beer stor­age is old acid beer that, like barm beer, improves the flavour of the fin­ished beer although it is itself very unpleas­ant.
  3. Draw­ing: these are residues of made up beer which was not bright enough to put into the trade with­out fur­ther treat­ment. It is exact­ly sim­i­lar in com­po­si­tion to made up beer.
  4. Fin­ings: this is a solu­tion of isin­glass in stor­age vat beer. Only minute traces of isin­glass are required but it brings about the very rapid sed­i­men­ta­tion of all the float­ing par­ti­cles which make the beer cloudy.

All the con­stituents of the make up are pumped into a ‘Rack­ing Vat’ togeth­er and there allowed to stand for 24–48 hours.

So, there you have it. We sort of knew the gist of this but this is the most explic­it expla­na­tion of the process we’ve seen in writ­ing from a pri­ma­ry source, we think.

QUICK ONE: An Unexpected Beer in an Unexpected Pub

The Beaufort Arms, off Durdham Down.

Trying to visit every pub in Bristol takes us out of our way sometimes, as on Saturday when the mission nudged us up a side street towards The Beaufort Arms.

It’s on a steep, nar­row lane called, odd­ly, High Street, which feels more like part of some windswept coastal vil­lage than some­where two min­utes walk from White­ladies Road. Back­street pubs are an endan­gered species in gen­er­al which made this one seem all the more note­wor­thy.

It’ll be poshed up,” we thought, but as we approached we saw plas­tic patio chairs lined up on the pave­ment out­side, sig­nalling oth­er­wise. A young man was sat on one of them eat­ing a Miss Millie’s fried chick­en meal from a box nest­ing in a car­ri­er bag, swig­ging from a can of ener­gy drink.

Inside we found a sin­gle large room psy­chi­cal­ly divid­ed into pub­lic bar vs. games-room/dead­zone. Every­thing was brown and warm, dim and well-worn, the walls cov­ered in nick-nacks and in-jokes, pho­tographs cut from news­pa­pers and hol­i­day post­cards from reg­u­lars. The accents were West Coun­try, not west Lon­don. Most peo­ple seemed to be drink­ing cider, includ­ing cans of Natch, the avail­abil­i­ty of which divides a cer­tain type of seri­ous, old-fash­ioned Bris­tol booz­er from the design­er-gin and craft-beer lifestyle exhi­bi­tions.

In this con­text we were rather star­tled to see Theak­ston Vanil­la Stout on offer. No, scratch that: we rather star­tled to dis­cov­er the exis­tence of Theak­ston Vanil­la Stout, and even more star­tled to find it here. Not as star­tled as the woman behind the bar seemed when we ordered a pint of it, though, along with a half of St Austell Trib­ute as a safe fall­back.

Our aston­ish­ment inten­si­fied fur­ther when it turned out not only to be in good con­di­tion, but also a quite bril­liant beer. We (Jes­si­ca espe­cial­ly) have been fas­ci­nat­ed by Tiny Rebel’s Stay Puft Marsh­mal­low Porter for the past few months, half-repelled by its kitsch, arti­fi­cial char­ac­ter, but unable to stop dip­ping back in. This Theak­ston beer was in remark­ably sim­i­lar ter­ri­to­ry, loaded high with sick­ly can­dy-bar flavour­ing, but some­how also irre­sistible – full of beans if you like, ho ho. But also clean­er than the Tiny Rebel beer, and with­out any pre­tence of being hop­py. If Young’s Dou­ble Choco­late is to your taste, or those Saltaire beers that seem like they’ve had Nesquik syrup squirt­ed into them, then you’ll enjoy this one, too.

That’s two impres­sive “cask craft” (their phrase, not ours) beers from Theak­ston in the past year, for those who are keep­ing count. And anoth­er pub for our grow­ing list of The Prop­er Pubs of Bris­tol.

Magical Mystery Pour #31: High Weald Charcoal Burner

The second Sussex beer chosen for us by Rachael Smith (@lookatbrew) is a 4.3% ABV oatmeal stout from the High Weald brewery of East Grinstead.

We bought our 500ml bot­tle for £2.75 by mail order from South Down Cel­lars.

Rach says:

High Weald has been on the scene since 2012 and recent­ly under­went a mas­sive re-brand, which seems to have thrust the core beers forth and more into the local spot­light than ever before. This oat­meal stout is a favourite of mine on cask where it takes on a creamy char­ac­ter. It’s a great ses­sion strength brew, smooth, with all the clas­sic char­ac­ter­is­tics of choco­late, cof­fee, a touch of smoke and bal­anced sweet­ness.

We don’t advo­cate judg­ing books by their cov­ers but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a moment to appre­ci­ate a nice bit of graph­ic design.

The label for High Weald Charcoal Burner: farmer chased by Dragon.
SOURCE: High Weald web­site.

High Weald’s labels look like cov­er designs for Non­such-era XTC sin­gles and (we’d guess) were inspired by those for US brew­ery Odell’s. Print­ed on tex­tured paper, they look even nicer.

When we opened this work of art there was only a faint air-kiss of car­bon­a­tion and it looked flat as it poured. Then one of our favourite things hap­pened: a just off-white head mag­i­cal­ly mate­ri­alised out of the black body of the beer.

The beer smelled smoky, autum­nal and entic­ing.

High Weald Charcoal Burner.

The flavour was less imme­di­ate­ly impres­sive – that stale note we so often get in pack­aged beers from small brew­eries dom­i­nat­ed for the first mouth­ful or two, mut­ing the oth­er flavours so that the beer seemed almost bland. Through­out the mid­dle stretch, things improved and we start­ed to throw about words like rum and choco­late. At the very end there was anoth­er dip – it began to seem mere­ly sug­ary, like the dregs of a cup of sweet, creamy cof­fee.


Over­all, we felt fair­ly warm towards it. It’s a stout, of which there aren’t enough, and a decent one at that. A few tweaks would improve it, though – more body to hold the sweet­ness, or more bit­ter­ness to match the body. As it is, it remind­ed us a bit of a watered down impe­r­i­al stout. But remem­ber, we are fussy dev­ils. At any rate, we’ll cer­tain­ly try more beers from High Weald if we get the chance and (that now famil­iar catch­prase) look for­ward to try­ing this on cask one day, per­haps near an open fire.