Monday, 20 June 2011

Messrs. Ind Coope and Co. Limited (part two)

As promised, here's what Barnard had to say about the fermenting and cleansing rooms at Ind Coope's Burton brewery.
"We next bent our steps to the fermenting department, and first entered the No. 1 room, under the great malt receiving floor, which latter is supported by eighteen cast iron columns. This room contains twenty-eight fermenting squares, to which the liquor is conveyed from the refrigerators by means of copper pipes coated with tin. Passing along, we reached No. 2 and 3 rooms; the former contains sixteen and the latter twenty fermenting vessels, all of a similar size and style as in the other Burton breweries. After proper fermentation, the beer is discharged  from these squares into cleansing casks or unions, of which there are as many as 1,424 in this brewery, with a total content of 205,000 gallons.

Following our guide down a narrow staircase, we reached the first of the rooms wherein they are placed. It is a noble saloon, well-lighted, beautifully clean, and contains 304 unions or sparging casks, each holding four barrels; we then crossed over a pretty latticed iron bridge to a second building, containing four large rooms, all on same level, and devoted to the same purpose, containing together 1,120 unions of same capacity. The barm or yeast, which rises to the top of the unions, is collected into troughs, and then passed through two of Musto and Co.'s patent improved yeast presses, each divided into thirty-six chambers ; after which it is sold in the usual way.

These beautiful rooms should be a model  for every brewery, both as to their form, construction, and  arrangement. They are sustained by iron girders running transversely and longitudinally, from wall to wall, filled in with concrete and supported underneath by iron columns as thick as a man's body. They are all, of course, perfectly watertight, and easily kept clean and sweet by a simple process. All round the walls are laid pipes, from which runs cold water, so arranged that there is always a thin stream of water flowing over the floors in summer time, keeping the place beautifully clean and cool. When properly cleansed, the beer is run into large settling backs through copper pipes, also coated with tin, whither we followed it.

In the rooms below, we found twelve large settling, or depurating backs, each holding 150 barrels. When the beer is sufficiently clear, it is drawn off from these vessels and racked into casks of various sizes, which are then conveyed by railway waggons to the various stores or depots.

Before leaving this department, we entered the ice machine room, situated on this floor, beneath the fermenting room—there being no special room constructed to receive it—and were much surprised at seeing the massive iron cylinders, with the numerous pipes, covered with frost, caused by the moisture of the atmosphere condensing on their cold surfaces.   This machine cools a large square room, 80 feet by 60 feet, down to 52 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, also a union room, 150 feet by 50 feet, and a yeast room, 20 feet by 20 feet; it is also proposed to extend the cooling power to the other union and square rooms, and to a refrigerator for cooling 100 barrels of liquor through 10 degrees Fahrenheit per hour, for attemperating and refrigerating purposes."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 2", Alfred Barnard, 1889, page 58 - 61.
I'm coming to realise that Burton breweries were all kitted out in a very similar way, with regards to mash tuns, coppers, fermenting squares and union rooms. Presumably everyone followed the lead of the larger brewers, that is Bass and Allsopp.

Assuming Bass to the archetypal Burton brewery, if you recall they had relatively small fermenting squares, holding just 45 barrels. Salt's were slightly smaller, at just 40 barrels. Allsopp had 140 holding just 15 barrels and 70 holding 110. It's now compare and contrast time. London brewers seem a good choice, as they were operating on a similarly large scale to those in Burton.

Let's look at Whitbread's fermenters. These sizes are approximate, because they are based on the amount of wort put into them in brewing records. The fermenters would have had a slightly larger maximum capacity than given:

Whitbread's fermenting vessels circa 1890
vessel number contents (barrels)
1 753
2 839
3 818
4 211
5 200
6 216
7 56
8 60
10 73
11 203
12 88
13 195
14 141
15 448
17 195
18 195
19 174
20 160
21 292
22 292
23 270
24 270
25 269
26 286
Whitbread brewing records held at the London metropolitan Archives.

You'll see that only a couple have a capacity of fewer than 100 barrels. Most held 200-300 barrels and the largest over 800 barrels.

Remembering that at this time Bass was producing three times as much beer as Whitbread, this raises an obvious question. Why were Bass's (and other Burton brewers') fermenting vessels so small? There has to be a reason. Commonsense would prompt brewers to scale their fermenting vessels according to the amount of beer produced. This clearly wasn't the case for Burton brewers. What could the reason be? I've never seen this question asked before. Everyone has been hypnotised by the unions.

Like everyone else in Burton, Ind Coope had union sets. And lots of them. As you can see from the illustration, they were an imposing sight. Once again, I'll remind you that these were not fermenting but cleansing vessels. Yes, there was some fermentation activity in them, but their main purpose was to remove yeast, a particular obsession of Victorian brewers. Sparging cask is not a term I've come across before. I can't find it mentioned anywhere on the web.

The size of union casks seems pretty constant across Burton breweries, too. Bass's, according to Barnard, contained 160 gallons. Ind coope's hes says were 4 barrels, or 144 gallons. Another point I've just thought of. The fermenting squares, at 40 to 45 barrels, had about 10 times the capacity of a union cask. So, for 28 squares you'd expect there would be about 300 union casks. Yet there were more than four times that number. That implies that the beer spent much longer in the unions than in the squares.

Constantly dribbling cold water into the union room is another novelty. I'm sure it would have been reasonably effective in keeping down the temperature of the room and keep the floor nice and clean as a bonus. Though Barnard does reveal that they were planning on moving to a more modern way of cooling the union rooms: a giant cooling machine. It seems to have been a pretty versatile and powerful machine, as it was also cooling the water for the attemperators. I won't repeat what they are. If you can't remember, just do a search. But their invention is one of the most important but most little remembered technological developments of the 18th century.

That's me done with Ind Coope. Except for one last number. According to Barnard, their Burton brewery turned out 200,000 barrels a year. Their Romford brewery produced a similar amount, giving a total of 400,000 barrels. This is how that compared with the big London brewers:

Output of the largest London brewers in 1889 (barrels)
Barclay Perkins 502,656
Whitbread 336,052
Truman 426,140
Meux 350,000
Combe 450,000
The Red Barrel Hurford Janes, page 132
The British Brewing Industry, 1830-1980 T. R. Gourvish & R.G. Wilson, pages 610-611

Ind Coope weren't in the same league as Bass or Guinness (who both brewed over 1 million barrels), but were definitely in the second division promotion race.

No comments: