About the IBD

The Institute of Brewing & Distilling

Our History


Trusted Knowledge Since 1886

The IBD was originally formed as The Laboratory Club in 1886, a time when the world of brewing and distilling was very different.

There were nearly 20,000 licensed breweries in the UK with the two largest being Arthur Guinness in Dublin and William Bass in Burton-on-Trent. Dark, porter style beers had been the most popular for decades but these were beginning to be superseded by lighter, pale ales from Burton, which were easier to drink and quicker to produce – Brettanomyces fermentations were being overtaken by Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. Beer quality was often poor, with tonics and remedies being sold to counteract the side-effects of impurities which included high levels of arsenic.

In distilling, Coffey Stills were being used to produce high quantities of gin and whisky for the few distilleries who had them installed. However, the majority of distilleries still used pot stills. Usher and Dewar had introduced blended whiskies, increasing the reach and popularity of this drink.

Technology-wise, external mash mixers were finding their way into the industry as was sparging and the use of cast iron vessels in the brewhouse instead of wood. Wooden fermenters were beginning to be lined with copper to improve sanitation. Bottling was still done by hand and with no method of forced carbonating, all beers were secondary fermented in the serving vessel.

Science was just beginning to be accepted in the industry, which had long run on the principles of “we’ve always done it this way”. With many chemists being employed in a consulting role, there was friction between them and the brewers who claimed they lacked practical knowledge.

Pasteur had published “Etudes de la Biere” in 1876 and further works by the likes of Hansen, Lintner, Siebel and Tabberer Brown were making their way around the industry.