Saturday, 20 November 2010

A pure beer brewery in Sheffield

Back to the Parliamentary committee on beer materials. And a revealing interview with the managing director of a brewery in Sheffield.

"5940. (Chairman.) You are the Managing Director of Henry Tomlinson, Limited, of the Anchor Brewery, Sheffield ?—Yes. The Brewery was erected by the late Henry Tomlinson in the year 1889, with a brewing capacity of 200 barrels per week. The buildings have been increased at various tinie3 since 1894 by putting down additional squares, and a duplicate plant which enables us to brew over 1,200 barrels per week.

5941. (Professor (Odling.) Are you in the habit of brewing 1,200 barrels per week ?—No ; we can do it, but, of course our business does not require us to brew so much as that— about half of it.

The Brewery is worked upon what is known as the Yorkshire stone square system, and the business was conducted as a private concern until Mr. Tomlinson's death in June, 1891. The property was acquired by the present company, which has a total capital of 105,000£. Since the business was established there has been nothing but barley-malt and hops used for brewing all malt liquors. It is our rule to purchase all English malt of fine to finest quality and selected from three distinct districts and a portion of foreign malt blended together, according to the class of beer required. Our total consumption of malt is about 6,000 quarters per annum. As to hops, we use fine to finest East and Mid Kent hops; also Worcesters and a portion of choice Bavarians. I am not a practical brewer, but the Managing Director of the company and a very large holder of shares. It is to my interest not only as Managing Director, but as shareholder, to make the most profit out of the business; but in using all barley-malt and hops I find it against the interest of the company. The advantage to the shareholder in using, say, 75 per cent, of barley-malt and 25 per cent, of substitute would mean from 7.5 to 10  per cent more dividend on our ordinary shares; I believe that a considerably larger portion of substitute than this is used in some breweries. Beer supplied to our family and free and "tied" trade are exactly the same quality, according to the price paid, and 80 per cent, of the beers sold to public-houses are of the best quality— medium quality, that is. The family trade is chiefly of light table beer; gravity about 50, or 18 pounds. The beers generally brewed in Sheffield are of a good quality and chiefly brewed at a gravity of from 65 to 67, or about 24 pounds, and all the Sheffield breweries charge about one price. In my opinion it is not necessary to use anything but barley-malt and hops. We find the use of, say, 25 per cent, of good foreign barley and choice Bavarian hops improves our beers, as it helps them to fine and keep better; but the disadvantage is they cost more than malt substitutes would do. Our beers are in every way equal in appearance to any beers brewed from substitutes, with the exception that sometimes our customers complain that they do not carry the head which all beer consumers like to see. Priming is in no form used in our brewery; but I am inclined to think that a small quantity of sugar, or malt extract, used as priming would be an improvement in that respect. Our ordinary beers are ready to sell in about 10 to 14 days. I know beer consumers who will go considerably out of their way to obtain our beers on account
of our guaranteeing them to be brewed from pure barley-malt and hops only. Hotels and beer-houses owned or leased by us, as far as possible, are let upon best terms, and we supply them with the same quality of beer as a free house. We make no distinction in this respect. I would require all casks and bottles containing beer brewed with substitute to bear a distinct label or declaration to that effect, as is now required to be done with margarine. The absence of such label or declaration should be regarded as a guarantee that the contents were brewed wholly from malt and hops, just as the neglect to affix a label to margarine is held to prove that the article was intended to be sold as butter. Taking 1893 as a basis, our business has increased in 1894, 2.75 per cent.; in 1895, 17 per cent.; in 1896, 47 per cent.; in 1897, 72.5 per cent., and in 1888, 91 per cent. The sales are now nearly double the sales of 1893 (the last whole year of the firm trading as a private concern). The increase has been both in the private trade and public trade. The private trade has grown by impressing and advertising the fact that our Anchor beer is brewed solely from barley-malt and hops, and that no act of Parliament is needed to secure its purity. Of course, in our Sheffield daily papers we have an advertisement which has appeared for sometime Anchor as follows: 

" The Pure Beer Bill—'Anchor' beers are absolutely pure. They are brewed from finest barley, malt, and choicest hops only. No other ingredients used. Sold by all dealers, or direct from the ' Anchor' brewery in casks of 9, 12, and 18 gallons at 1Is., ls. 2d., and 1s. 4d. per gallon." 

There are two other Limited Companies, I believe, in Sheffield in addition to ours which brew their beers solely from malt and hops. I exhibit a copy of our advertisement which we have in most of the papers published in Sheffield. That is taken out of the Railway Guide."
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, pages 226 - 227.
Evidence given by George Harston, Managing Director of the Anchor Brewery, Sheffield.

Loads of good stuff in there. Let's sum it up:

  • they used a mix of East Kent, Mid Kent, Worcester and Bavarian hops (presumably Hallertauer)
  • the family trade - beer sold to be drunk at home - was mostly light table beer with a gravity of "just" 1050º
  • customers bought cask of beer for their homes
  • most Sheffield beers were around 1065-1067º
  • they were using Yorkshire squares

Not bad for just one long paragraph.

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