England: Bottles and Bubbles, Specialty Malts

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

The English were late to accept hops, but pioneered in the making of bottled beer. Ordinary ale—the original English word for beer—was fermented in an open tank, and like wine it lost all its carbon dioxide to the air: the bubbles simply rose to the surface and burst. Some residual yeast might grow while the liquid was stored in a barrel, but it would lose its light gassiness as soon as the barrel was tapped. Sometime around 1600, it was discovered that ale kept in a corked bottle would become bubbly. Quite early on, the discovery was attributed to Alexander Nowell, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Thomas Fuller, in his 1662 History of the Worthies of England, wrote: