"E" is for Beer Engines
ENGINES–beer engines to be exact!
In the earliest days of making beer, most likely simple open vessels were used, and the beer was ladled out to cups or bowls. Can you imagine?
Obviously, that wasn’t a good long-term solution for getting beer into mouths quickly and efficiently. Welcome Dutch inventor John Lofting to the beer scene. According to the internets, he moved from Amsterdam to
London in 1688 and a couple of years later patented “a very useful engine for starting beers and other liquors.”
Lofting’s invention allowed a pub to store beers apart from the
bar itself (often, again, below the bar) and through a siphon and hose, would be able to “pull” the beer from the barrel up to a tap in the bar. Because of this, the taps in England today of this type are still known as “hand-pulls” or hand-pulled taps. To pour a proper pint, it might take three or four “pulls” to fill the glass.
And although the beer engine and other similar systems (like the firkin) fell out of style in the 1970s and the use of our modern, mechanized tap system prevailed, there has been a call for a return to the “old ways” in parts of the world.
For instance, CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), which was founded in 1971, believed its purpose was “to secure the long-term future of real ale, real cider and real perry by increasing their quality, availability and popularity” and “to promote and protect pubs and clubs as social centres and part of the UK’s cultural heritage.” They state that real ale is a “traditionally kept beer, served from a specific type of barrel called
a cask, without the injection of additional carbon dioxide gas.”
Here at Beards, we like to mix it up! While our tap system can be called modern, we do like to serve special ales in firkins from time to time, usually on special occasions.
**A good rule of thumb when you see a firkin or a hand-pull system: expect your beer to be served on the room temperature side of things with less carbonation–that is after all, the traditional way!
A beer served at a warmer than usual temperature with less CO2 will change the flavor, aroma, mouthfeel and general experience–IN A FUN WAY, WE PROMISE! The next time you see a firkin or beer engine at a local pub, ask the pubtender about it and be sure to try it out. Exploring new things in the beer world is half the fun!
*Pictured is a vintage photo of Harbinger Emily serving Beards beer from a firkin at our original pub on Howard St. back in 2017*