Friday, 26 November 2010

Brewing in 19th-century India

As I've said many times before, I'm easily distracted. The chance find of a reference to Indian-brewed Porter prompted me to dig further. Trying to find out more about Meakin & Co. Here's one of the results.

History Of European Brewing In India.

The history of the manufacture of malt liquors in India, is, to some extent, the history of a series of unsuccessful efforts at establishing an exotic industry, in a country then unfavourably placed for its prosperity as a remunerative enterprise It is only within recent years, as a consequence of the growth of large European communities and the existence of army contracts, given out by Government to the Indian brewers, that the industry has at last been able to firmly establish itself in this country.

The pioneer brewer in India appears, says Mr. Whymper, to have been a Mr. Henry Bohle, who commenced business at Meerut and Mussoorie in 1825. His attempts were, however, very disappointing, and in 1852 his business passed into the hands of his partner, Mr. John Mackinnon, the founder of the firm of that name now in Mussoorie. It was not, however, till about the year 1870 that success dawned upon the enterprise. In the meantime, between the years 1850 and i860, several small breweries were opened in hill stations, most of which operated but for a short time and then failed. In fact, it may be said that one only, of the early breweries of Northern India has survived. It was started at Kussowlie by Captain Bevan, who, in 1854, finding it a fruitless enterprise, disposed of his interest to Mr. Dyer. The concern thereafter passed into the hands of a Company, and subsequently was bought by Mr. Meakin, who still retains an interest in it and has made it a success.

In i860, a brewery on a more pretentious scale was started by Messrs. Conill & Hay in Simla. The lines on which it proposed to work may be said to have foreshadowed its failure. Even the bricks, which were employed in the construction of the buildings, were imported from England at an enormous cost. Expenditure on other branches of the concern were equally reckless, and the business closed and finally passed into the hands of Mr. Meakin. Balfour (Cyclopedia of India) says that in Southern India Captain Ouchterlony initiated the industry about 1850. He failed, and was followed by Mr. Honeywell, who may be said to have carried on the business ever since. A curious experiment, Mr Whymper tells us, was made at Bangalore not long after, vie., to manufacture beer from imported concentrated wort, but it is probably needless to add that this venture also proved a failure. It would be beside the purpose of the present article to refer to the establishment of each and every brewery in India. Suffice it to say that there are now 25 breweries at work, of which 20 have been established since 1870, and of these 12 have sprang into existence within the past ten years (1879-89). This progress may be still further exemplified by the figures of outturn. In 1881 some 21 breweries were working and these produced 2,448,711 gallons, of which the Commissariat Departments purchased 1,764,927 gallons During the succeeding eight years (1882-89) the production and Government purchases rose steadily until, in 1889, the figures stood at 5,165,138 [143,476 barrels] made in India and 3,778,295 [104,593 barrels] gallons purchased by Government. In the previous year the Government purchases of Indian beer amounted to 4,628,175 gallons.

Of the 25 breweries at work during 1889 the following were the more important:—

The Murree Brewery Co., Limited, at Murree (1,148,949 gallons), at Rawalpindi, 205,632 gallons, at Ootacamund (336,558 gallons), at Bangalore (267,408 gallons), with smaller concerns at Quetta and Ceylon: Meakin & Co. at Poona (501,816 gallons), at KasauTi (450,000 gallons), with smaller breweries at Chakrata, Darjiling, Dalhousie, and Ranikhet. Dyer & Co. at Lucknow (340,038 gallons), at Mandalay (232,804 gallons), at Solon (133,272 gallons): Mackinnon & Co. at Mussoorie (183,591 gallons); also the Orown Brewery Co. carrying on business at Mussoorie (411,183 gallons) and the Naini Tal Brewery Co., at Naini Tal. The total outturn for the year was returned at 5,165,138 gallons.

Mr. Whymper, in concluding his historic sketch of Indian breweries, remarks : —

" There are few Indian, or Native, breweries in the Mysore State. They are of slight consequence. About 1875 a brewery was started at Bandora near Bombay. The peculiar feature of this establishment was that tidal water was used in brewing. This water was frequently quite salt and the beer was very nauseous; it however kept sound in a most remarkable manner. The beer was sold for some time in Bombay.

" The brewery, which works most satisfactorily, under the most trying conditions to be met with in India, is said to be that at Dapooree, near Bombay. This belongs to Messrs. Meakin & Co. The writer visited this brewery on the 22nd April 1886 The temperature of a well-shaded verandah at 8 that morning was 93º; at noon it was 106° F the brewery office at the same time was 100°. By using a five-ton ice machine as much as possible, the average pitch heats had been about 75º in that month. Nothing had been pitched under 72°. One gyle had to be pitched at 88°, it rose to 101º, at which the attemperators were able to hold it. Beers, brewed under nearly the same unfavourable conditions three months before, were examined and were perfectly sound to the palate. The writer is fully aware this will not receive ready credence in England. The owner, Mr. H. G. Meakin, is an elder brother of the Burton maltsters, and possesses an unusually venturesome spirit which has so far carried with it well-merited success.

" It must not be supposed that all brewers have anything like such unfavourable conditions to contend with as Mr. Meakin has had. The majority of Indian breweries are situated in the mountains of Northern India, or of the Madras Presidency. There is one brewery at Lucknow which has only' a very short winter, but still it does have some cold weather, whereas the Dapooree one has none. The breweries in the Northern Hills (as the mountains are always called) have cold winters, some have as much as six months' good brewing weather, and Messrs Mackinnon are so well situated that they can brew sound beers all the year round. The breweries in the Neilgherry Hills in Madras, and the brewery in the Ceylon Mountains, both being at an elevation of over 6,000 feet, can also brew every day in the year for export trade. The trade of the latter is principally with Lower Burma. Sir Samuel Baker was the pioneer brewer in Ceylon, but it is doubtful if he ever foresaw that Ceylon would eventually have an export beer business. The Murree Brewery Co. purchased the present brewery site from a German firm which did not succeed in brewing to meet the public taste.

" The brewery at Quetta has, perhaps, the most extraordinary climate of all Indian positions, the sun being so intensely hot, even in the winter months, that a brewer has to wear a sun helmet whilst at the same time he has to clothe himself in a fur-lined coat to protect himself from the biting cold which there is in the shade. Whilst prospecting for a brewery site, the servants of the Company suffered from both sun and from frost-bites. The cold which is occasionally experienced is too great to make it safe to employ much steam power, and although the Company, in the first instance, erected a steam plant, it had to be replaced by the open boiling system ; pipes, pumps, and injectors, steam pressure gauges, and blow-off cocks were all frozen up, and burst in the most impartial manner."
"A dictionary of the economic products of India, Volume 5" by Sir George Watt, 1891, pages 126-128.

Brewing in that heat without refrigeration sounds like great fun.

This section is slightly more specific about how and what was being brewed:

The following information furnished by Mr. H. Whymper will, however, be read with special interest as giving facts of an Indian nature:—"The brewing season for nearly all Indian breweries is restricted by the short Winter. In Ootacamund the temperature allows brewing to be carried on all the year round, but elsewhere the season is from October to March. The worts are cooled in the ordinary manners first by exposure on shallow vessels termed coolers and thereafter by flowing over ordinary refrigerators through which cold water flows. Cellars are cooled by being left open in the coldest weather. No artificial means of cooling has yet been adopted, but the largest brewery (that recently erected at Rawalpindi) is now constructing powerful ice machinery for cellar cooling.

" The class of beers, &c, made in India is practically the same as in England, more light gravity beer is consumed, however, than in England. Wood is almost invariably employed as fuel except for drying malt on kilns when charcoal is used.
"A dictionary of the economic products of India, Volume 5" by Sir George Watt, 1891, page 138.

Same types of beer being brewed as in Britain, except more of the weaker stuff. Not really a surprise that, given the climate. Though wasn't IPA supposed to have been brewed especially strong to survive the journey to India? I remember, that story is complete bolllocks.

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