IPA, a beer brewed for export, arrived in Britain by default. In 1827 a ship carrying some 300 giant hogsheads—a hogshead is a cask containing 56 imperial gallons or 63 U.S. gallons—was wrecked in the Irish Sea, bound for India. The salvage company auctioned the beer in Liverpool and word soon spread that a remarkable new pale and bitter beer was available. But sales did not grow appreciably until 1839 and the onset of “railway mania.” As railroads spread throughout the country, trains took Burton-brewed pale ale to all parts, replacing slow canals. When St. Pancras Station was built in London, its cellars had arches high enough to accommodate hogsheads of beer, which arrived on a direct line from Burton. Richard Wilson, the official historian of British brewing, has described Burton pale ale as “the beer of the railway age.” Michael Thomas Bass, son of the founder of the Bass dynasty, was elected Member of Parliament for Derby, a major train-building town close to Burton, and gave generous donations to the first railroad labor union: he believed a contented workforce would look after his beer well on long journeys. By 1874 Bass, with an annual production of 900,000 barrels, became the biggest brewery in the world. By the turn of the century it had a yearly production of one and a half million barrels and a workforce of 2,760.
Published September 2007, Volume 28, Number 4