I'm still reading A Bottle of Guinness Please by David Hughes, a history of the famous Dublin stout brewery.
Throughout the nineteenth century, Guinness sold casks to independent retailers and shippers who then bottled the beer. Guinness started bottling itself in the 1950's but carried on supplying independent bottlers. By then though the number had dropped, from 12,000 in 1904 to 1,400 in 1953.
This report of a Guinness bottling inspection in Tipperary in 1970 made me laugh:
"The man is a long-retired creamery manager who is probably in his nineties and he bottles a barrel a month. The pub was closed when we called and we found him half-lying, half-sitting on a sort of couch in a room at the the back of the house.
My partner Sonny explained why we had called and asked if we could see the bottling store...The store is in a terrible state...The floor is a combination of mud and flags, the walls are unplastered and there was a heavy unpleasant smell of decaying matter. There are no shelves and the bottles are stored on the floor...
We tried to explain that there was no question of court cases or cutting off supplies and were interrupted by Mr Nolan who said that a Mr Gray of Guinness took away samples of his about twenty years ago and he assumed his stout was first class as he hadn't heard from Gray, good, bad or indifferent, since. He then inquired: "Is that fella living or dead?"
At this stage his grandson arrived and Mr Nolan told us he is thinking of handing over the business to the grandson. We enquired when this might be and were told: "sometime between ten and fifty years from now." Sonny made a very suitable comment and for a moment we thought Mr Nolan was going to fight us as he attempted to remove his shirt."