At one time they were serious rivals to bass, both in the Indian and domestic markets. But, when like many other large brewers they became a limited company towards the end of the 19th century, things started to go wrong. They over-invested in tied houses, paying over the odds for many in their haste to acquire them. The company ended up in the hands of the receivers, but managed to struggle on until the 1930's, when they merged with Ind Coope. The combined company, Ind Coope and Allsopp, later joined with Tetley's and Ansells to form Allied Breweries, one of the Big Six of the 1970's.
End of history lesson and time for the text:
An eye-witness of a banquet given by Peter the Great has left the following description :—" As soon as you sit down you are expected to drink a cup of brandy, after which they ply you with great glasses of adulterated Tokay and other vitiated wines, and between whiles with a bumper of the strongest English beer." Burton ales then were of a very different character to the excellent bitter of to-day ; Dyche spoke as to their strength, and they were so rich and luscious that if a little was spilled on a table the glass would stick to it.
At this time a brewer named Hodgson had the whole of the Indian export trade, but Messrs. Allsopp & Son, at the suggestion of a Mr. Majoribanks, brewed and exported ale similar to Hodgson's. Their venture met with marked success, and for many years the firm held the chief place among the exporters of Indian Pale Ale. The first Burton specimen of that beverage, many thousand hogsheads of which are now brewed annually, was compounded by Job Goodhead, Mr. Allsopp's veteran maltster, in a tea-pot.
Space forbids a long account of Mr. S. Allsopp's life. To his endeavours was chiefly due the bringing of the Derby and Birmingham railway system close to Burton. In both public and private life Mr. Allsopp was charitable to a fault, and greatly beloved. He died in 1838, and was succeeded by his two sons, Charles James and Henry. The latter, so long the head of the firm, is too well known to need mention here. He it was who took a leading part in refuting certain mischievous charges, which were to the effect that the Burton brewers used noxious materials in the manufacture of their bitter beer. He represented Worcestershire from 1874 to 1880, and in 1880 was created a Baronet. In the early part of 1886 he had the honour of being raised to the peerage under the title of Lord Hindlip of Hindlip and Alsop-en-le-Dale, having retired from the firm for some years in favour of his three sons, the Hon. Charles, George and Percy Allsopp.
The New Brewery is an immense structure, no single building being in existence which has a greater brewing capacity. The union room is of very fine proportions, being 375 feet in length and 105 in breadth. It contains 1,424 unions, which can cleanse 230,688 gallons at onetime. The union rooms, taken altogether, contain about 4,500 unions, each with a capacity of 695 gallons.
Next to the New Brewery comes the Old Brewery, and lastly the Model Brewery, which seems a mere toy compared with the others. It is used chiefly for experiments, and for occasional brews of stout and porter. The firm also possesses extensive maltings, and, it is almost needless to say, large cooperages, stables, &c.
A feature in the conduct of Messrs. Allsopp & Sons' business is the consideration shown to the employees, who, without counting clerks and the office staff, number 1,600. For their benefit the firm maintains a cricket ground, bowling green, a sick and funeral club, and a library managed by a scripture reader, who also visits the men and their families. Here and there about the breweries and maltings may be seen tottering old men, who seem out of place among so much life and bustle. These are the pensioners, who work as much or as little as they like. We believe that Messrs. AIlsopp and Sons rank third among the brewing firms of the United Kingdom, and the extent of their business may be inferred from the simple fact that they have an annual expenditure of £1,400 to £1,500 in postage stamps alone. In the busy periods of the year upwards of 20,000 casks pass weekly through their racking rooms. It would be presumption to attempt to criticise the malt liquor produced by this firm or, indeed, that of any of our leading brewers."
"The curiosities of ale & beer" by John Bickerdyke, 1886 , pages 336 - 338.
Nice that Bickerdyke confirms the difference between Burton Ale and Pale Ale. The former was thick and syrupy. A Strong Ale, not a Pale Ale. Those bashes of Peter the Great sound, well, great. Just my cup of tea. Though I guess that was probably one liquid that didn't get served.
4,500 unions. That must have been quite a sight. And a considerable investment. Notice that Bickerdyke says they were used for cleansing, not fermentation. An important distinction, that.
Any idea what a "scripture reader" might be? Some sort of lay preacher, perhaps?