Patent No. 322853A: Combined Bung And Faucet For Ale And Beer Barrels

Today in 1885, US Patent 322853 A was issued, an invention of Robert Reilly and Francis King, for their “Combined Bung and Faucet for Ale and Beer Barrels.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

Our invention relates to a combined bung faucet for beer, ale, and other casks.

The object of the device is to provide a bung normally closed by a spring-valve and the gaspressure of the contained liquid, and only opened by the introduction of the faucet.


Patent No. 795237A: Bung

Today in 1905, US Patent 795237 A was issued, an invention of Henry Schmidt, for his “Bung.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to new and useful improvements in bungs especially designed for use in connection with beer-kegs, beer-barrels, and similar vessels or packages; and it consists in the construction and arrangement of parts hereinafter fully set forth, and point ed out particularly in the claims.

The object of the invention is to provide simple and efficient means for closing the bung-hole or the aperture through the bung bushing in a manner to prevent the escape of the contents, to protect the rubber or other compressible washer from the deleterious action of the beer or similar liquid, and to enable the bung to be quickly and easily removed and readily replaced, the same bung being adaptable for use many times.


Patent No. 28799A: Ventilation Of Casks Containing Liquids

Today in 1860, US Patent 28799 A was issued, an invention of Louis Wilhelm, for his “Ventilation of Casks Containing Liquids” or “Cock.” There’s no Abstract, though it’s described this way in the application:

The nature of my invention consist-s in the arrangement of a ventilator in the top of the cask and the connection of the same by means of a cord or chain to the tap or faucet so that when the plug of the faucet is turned to allow the liquor to escape from the cask the ventilator will be opened and admit air in at the top of the cask and when the plug is turned to stop the flow of the liquor the ventilator will close itself by the action of a spring.


Historical Beer Birthday: John Lofting

Today is as good a day as any to celebrate the birthday of John Lofting (1659–June 15, 1742). Like many people born centuries ago who weren’t royal or otherwise well-born, we don’t know the exact day he was born, but we do know that he died today. Lofting was a Dutchman who lived in London as an adult, and patented several devices, the most famous of which was the fire engine, but he may also have been responsible for the beer engine.


Here’s his Wikipedia entry:

Originally Jan Loftingh, John Lofting was an engineer and entrepreneur from the Netherlands. His parents were Herman and Johanna. He moved to London, England, before 1686. He patented two inventions being the “sucking worm engine” (a fire engine) and a horse-powered thimble knurling machine. His mill was set up in Islington, where Lofting Road is named after him. However, in or about 1700, he moved his main operation to Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire to take advantage of the River Thames’ ability to turn a water wheel which improved productivity, enabling the production of over 2 million thimbles per year.

The Sucking Worm Engine, from the British Museum.

And while Joseph Bramah patented the first practical beer engine, Lofting’s design made it possible for Bramah to build on and create his. Although there’s little I could find specific about Lofting’s invention, it is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for the beer engine:

A beer engine is a device for pumping beer from a cask in a pub’s cellar.

The beer engine was invented by John Lofting, a Dutch inventor, merchant and manufacturer who moved from Amsterdam to London in about 1688 and patented a number of inventions including a fire hose and engine for extinguishing fires and a thimble knurling machine as well as a device for pumping beer. The London Gazette of 17 March 1691 stated “the patentee hath also projected a very useful engine for starting of beers and other liquors which will deliver from 20 to 30 barrels an hour which are completely fixed with brass joints and screws at reasonable rates.”

The locksmith and hydraulic engineer Joseph Bramah developed beer pumping further in 1797.

The beer engine is normally manually operated, although electrically powered and gas powered pumps are occasionally used; when manually powered, the term handpump is often used to refer to both the pump and the associated handle.

The beer engine is normally located below the bar with the visible handle being used to draw the beer through a flexible tube to the spout, below which the glass is placed. Modern hand pumps may clamp onto the edge of the bar or be mounted on the top of the bar.

A pump clip is usually attached to the handle by a spring clip giving the name and sometimes the brewery, beer type and alcoholic strength of the beer being served through that handpump.

The handle of a handpump is often used as a symbol of cask ale. Keg beer dispensers usually feature illuminated countertop fittings behind which a handle opens a valve that allows the gas pressure in the keg to force beer to the attached spout.

A modern beer engine.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Bramah

Today is the birthday of Joseph Bramah (April 13, 1748-December 9, 1814). Bramah was an English engineer, and inventor, whose most famous invention was the hydraulic press. But he also made improvements and created a practical beer engine, creating his beer pump and engine inventions between 1785 and 1797.

Joseph Bramah- portrait in oils

Another summary of his achievements is quite flattering:

English engineer and inventor whose lock manufacturing shop was the cradle of the British machine-tool industry. Central in early Victorian lockmaking and manufacturing, he influenced almost every mechanical trade of the time. Like Henry Ford, his influence was probably greater for the manufacturing processes he developed, than the product itself. He took out his first patent on a safety lock (1784) and in 1795 he patented his hydraulic press, known as the Bramah press, used for heavy forging. He devised a numerical printing machine for bank notes and was one of the first to suggest the practicability of screw propellers and of hydraulic transmission. He invented milling and planing machines and other machine tools, a beer-engine (1797), and a water-closet.

As for the actual patents, there were two of them. The first was in 1785 and was for what he called a “beer pump.” Then, in 1793 he was granted Patent No. 2196 for his improved version, now referred to as a “beer engine.” It was actually a Dutchman, John Lofting, who had first invented the beer pump in 1688, but Bramah’s were more refined and practical, and more importantly, patented. Curiously, Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History lists the patent dates as 1787 and 1797, so it’s unclear which are the correct dates.

In this engraving, entitled Men of Science Living in 1807-8, Bramah is on the left side, the tenth one in the back from the left. He’s the one with the wide sash across his chest and the star-shaped badge on his jacket. Others include Joseph Banks, Henry Cavendish and James Watt.

NPG 1075a; Engraving after 'Men of Science Living in 1807-8'

There’s even a J.D. Wetherspoon’s pub in his home town of Bramley called The Joseph Bramah


Patent No. 517400A: Pitching Casks

Today in 1894, US Patent 517400 A was issued, an invention of Louis Wagner, for his “Pitching Casks.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

It is the object of my present invention to provide for heating the interior of casks, such as those used for the storage and transportation of beer, for the purpose either of applying new pitch to the same or for the purpose of melting and removing the old and impure pitch to allow of the reapplication of a fresh coating. By my improvements I provide for heating the casks interiorly in a rapid, thorough and economical manner, and at the same time enable the heat so applied to be accurately tempered in order that the heat and fuel may not be wasted or the interior of the cask or the pitch, injured. For this purpose I combine with a suitable heating chamber analogous in construction to a steam boiler and having an air inlet, a steam injecting apparatus adapted to force into the heating chamber such amount of air as will together with the steam when highly superheated produce the volume of vapor necessary for heating the cask. The steam jet forms the motive power for passing the vapor to be heated through the heating chamber and for applying it interiorly to the cask, and at the same time serves by the regulation of its amount to accurately determine the temperature of the vapor at the point where it performs its heating function. I further provide a stand of improved character to receive the Cask or keg while it is being operated upon.


Patent No. 722509A: Cooler For Kegs Or Casks

Today in 1903, US Patent 722509 A was issued, an invention of Samuel M. J≥ House, for his “Cooler for Kegs or Casks.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

My invention relates to a new and useful improvement in coolers for kegs or casks, and has for its object to provide the kegs or casks with an interior receptacle one end of which opens through one head of the keg, and into this receptacle may be placed cracked ice, liquid air, or any cooling substance for the purpose of cooling the contents of the keg or cask.


Patent No. 148297A: Improvement In Casks For Preserving Beer

Today in 1874, US Patent 148297 A was issued, an invention of Ole Heggem, for his “Improvement in Casks for Preserving Beer.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

That which I claim as new, and desire to secure by Letters Patent, is —

1. The combination, with a beer-cask, of a collapsible bag, capable of filling the entire interior of said cask, and secured to the interior of the cask at its mouth, by means of the head of the cask being set in against the edges of said bag, lying between the edges of the head and the staves, said head being provided with an open vent, as specified.

2. In combination with the bag and cask, the head, provided with a vent-hole, guarded by the plates at each side, and having the grooves 0, as specified.


Patent No. 694477A: Beer Valve

Today in 1902, US Patent 694477 A was issued, an invention of Frank E. Howland, for his “Valve.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

My invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in apparatus for carbonating and dispensing liquids. More particularly, my invention relates to a device adapted to be applied to casks, kegs, or other receptacles whereby in its use it is practicable to completely fill the receptacles in the first instance and in such filling and as the liquid is dispensed a constant recarbonating process is instituted which continues until all of the liquid is Withdrawn from the receptacle.

The device is adapted to a receptacle being filled, and by a certain manipulation of the valve part of the device an inlet into the receptacle, which permits the filling, and a vent or air-escape is provided, thus enabling the receptacle to be completely filled.


Patent No. 554806A: Filling And Bunging Apparatus

Today in 1896, US Patent 554806 A was issued, an invention of Marion Warren, for his “Filling and Bunging Apparatus.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

The object of my invention is to provide apparatus for filling packages with liquid and bunging the same expeditiously and securely, the same being especially adapted for the treatment of carbonated beverages, such as lager-beer, which by means of my improved apparatus I am enabled to place in the trade or selling package without material loss of gas or pressure.