Thursday, 23 June 2011

Messrs. P. & H. Egan, Tullamore

Damn you all. You've gone and got me all intrigued about Irish brewing. In particular the types of beer brewed.

I found a quite useful article about the brewery of Messrs. P. and H. Egan on the web. It's obviously from a book published around 1900. Unfortunately, the web page doesn't give the original source.

It kicks off with some general bumph about the company:

"Church Street Premises, and History of the Firm.

Our readers will take an interest in hearing a few facts about the firm of Messrs. P. and H. Egan. This business, established in 1852, and carried on the Bridge House under the name of P. and H. Egan, was converted into a Limited Liability Company on 1st January. 1896, with a nominal capital of £80,000. They purchased the old established business of Stirling and Co., in March. 1896, and now trade under the title of Power and Co., in those premises. The capital of the new company was subscribed privately, and since that time the business has increased by leaps and bounds, additions having continually to be made to the premises and plant to cope with the extension of the trade. The requirements of their business compel the firm to keep between forty and fifty horses on the road constantly. These horses travel over a radius of thirty miles, taking frequently two-days' journeys, and a staff of between 200 and 250 hands are constantly employed, this staff being considerably increased during the busy seasons of the year."
A couple of hundred staff is quite a considerable number. Or would be if it was just for the brewery. Egan, however, ran a series of businesses including a malting, grocery, saw mill, bacon smoker, wine merchant, tea merchant, tobacco merchant. A bit of everything, in fact.

"Beer Bottling Stores

In these stores are bottled ale, porter, lager beer, hops, etc. Here are bottled yearly over 600 hogsheads of Bass and an immense quantity of Guinness, lager beer, etc. Messrs. P. and H. Egan also bottle Bass's light dinner ale, and they are, we believe, almost the only people in the province of Leinster that bottle that particular ale. The label is similar to the ordinary Bass label in outline, but differs by having a blue instead of a red diamond in the centre. Off these stores are situated the Bottled Drink Storerooms. These rooms are divided off into sections, each section being capable of holding a hogshead. These several sections were either filled or being filled on the day of our visit, the supply being constantly renewed. The bins are dated as they are filled, and thus the length any bin is filled can be seen at a glance. Next these rooms is the Mineral Water Store. Here is a large supply of minerals of every description, in syphons and every shaped bottle. The output of mineral waters amounts to almost ten thousand dozen a month."
I'm not surprised at them bottling Guinness and Bass. That's to be expected. But lager beer? Seems very early for Lager to have penetrated so far into Ireland. It is at least confirmation of the popularity of Pale Ale in Ireland. Though 600 hogsheads doesn't seem that much compared to Salt's London stores that held 20,000 barrels.

Light Ale. It's a surprise to see that, too.I've never associated Light Ale with Ireland. Though come to think of it, the Irish labourers in Bolton were drinking Light Ale in the 1930's (according to "The Pub and the People"). Maybe I've missed something.
"The Brewery,
in which this famous and old-established firm brew their several makes of porter and ale. Here we were handed over by Mr. Power to Mr. Patrick J. Egan, son of Mr. H. Egan. Entering the brewery yard we noticed the row of stables which extends down along one side, and which provides stable-room for over twenty horses. There is also a large amount of stable-room in connection with the retail premises first described. Passing the stables, we entered the brewery, and proceeded through that establishment, following the articles that go to the manufacture of porter and ale through the various stages. On the top is situated the tank which contains the liquor which goes to the manufacture of the beer. This tank is filled with water from the town supply, which comes a distance of about nine miles, from a place called Clonaslee, and which is of the purest kind possible. Close at hand is situated the boiling tank in which is stored the boiling water used in the manufacture of the grist. We next saw the Mash Tun. In this immense tun are mixed the malt (which had previously been ground on the loft below and brought up by a system of Jacob's ladders) and boiling water. Here this mixture is allowed to remain for some time, and then the wort is passed onto the Coppers. Leaving the liquor in the process of manufacture, we entered the office of Mr. Patrick J. Egan, the brewer and our guide. This office commands a full view of the yard beneath, so that everything enters and leaves the brewery under his personal supervision. Emerging from this office, we again took up the thread of our journey and proceeded to the copper room. In this room are situated the various coppers, in which the worts coming from the tun overhead are mixed with the hops and then boiled. These coppers are of a very large capacity, and are used - some for the brewing of ale, and others for the brewing of porter. The liquor, after being boiled in these coppers, is passed off into the hop back; here it is allowed to rest a short time, and is then sent on to the cooler, where it is allowed to stand for some time. It is then passed over refrigerators and into the fermenting tuns. There are five of these fermenting tuns in Egan's brewery, each of them of very large capacity, and all contained liquor in various stages of manufacture on the day of our visit. All of these vessels are furnished with attemperating apparatuses and skimming parachutes. The liquor is allowed to ferment for four or five days. During that time it gives off the yeast. When the process of fermentation is over, the liquor is sent on to the racking squares, and from this filled into casks and made ready for use. Both porter and ale are brewed at this brewery; but we understand that Messrs. P. and H. Egan intend to devote their entire attention henceforth to the brewing of ale. With this end in view, and to place their ales in a proper manner before the public, they are increasing their facilities for the manufacture of ale, and are appointing agents in every district in Ireland. They have already appointed Messrs. Slattery and Waters, 63 Middle Abbey-street, as their Dublin agent, and have also appointed a regular agent in the West of Ireland. We congratulate the firm upon their determination to secure for themselves a share of the ale trade for the city and provinces, and assure them that there is plenty of room for business with such a high-class article as theirs on the market. We saw samples of the several qualities of ale brewed by Messrs. Egan, and all were as sparkling in appearance and as palatable as any ale we have ever seen or tasted. The four qualities of ale, with their prices are strong-bitter ale, 48s. per barrel ; family bitter ale, 36s. per barrel ; strong mild xx ale, 48s.per barrel; single mild ale, 28s. per barrel, less usual trade discount. All these ales are the best of their several kinds, and equal any other make already on the market.

We visited next the Ale Store, where the barrelled porter and ale are stored preparatory to being sent out to the firm's customers. Here was a good supply of each of the several brands, and here completed our survey of the brewery proper. We then saw the Hop Lofts, two extensive stores, well filled with the best Worchester and Kent hops, as the ingredients used by Messrs. Egan in the manufacture of their liquors are the best procurable.
Now there's some handy information. Egan's brewery sounds very similar to one in England. Though it sounds as if they just had a single large mash tun. I remember reading that Guinness had huge mash tuns. Maybe it was an Irish thing.

Refrigerators, attemperators and skimming parachutes: it sounds like they had a full set of modern kit. It's a shame the author isn't more specific about the size of any of the vessels. "Very large capacity" doesn't tell me anything.

I wonder why they were ditching Porter to concentrate on Ale? Could it be the competition from Guinness? With the way Guinness dominated the Irish Porter market, I could imagine it was hard work for a small brewer to get trade.

Now we get to the best bit: details about the Ales they brewed. Strong Bitter Ale, Family Bitter Ale, Strong Mild Ale and Mild Ale. Going from the prices (and assuming they were roughly similar to those in England), I would guess the gravities as being:

Strong Bitter Ale 1070º
Family Bitter Ale 1055º
Strong Mild Ale 1070º
Mild Ale 1040º

That isn't too dissimilar from what an English brewery would have been producing. And Egan were using the same terms as in England: Bitter Ale and Mild Ale.
"Leaving the brewery and its store-rooms, we crossed the yard and entered the

Bottling Departments,

which are worked in connection with the brewery. We first entered the Bottle-Washing Department. This consists of two rooms, in which the bottles are ranged on shelves, and a third room, in which stand the two machines by which the bottles are washed. These machines are of the best possible kind, and cleanse the bottles both inside and out in a manner that cannot be surpassed. Several men were working at the washing on the day of our visit; one man employed in bringing the bottles on a truck to be washed, and another carrying them away, when washed, on another truck. These rooms are capable of holding an immense quantity of vessels, and this capability is taxed to the utmost, as there is a constant draw on the store for all the departments of this large firm. We next visited the Ale and Porter Bottling Department, filled with hogsheads of bass, Guinness, lager beer, hop bitters, etc., all being filled from. The weekly bottling of porter here, amount to about twenty hogsheads per week, while the other liquors are bottled in proportionally large quantities. The liquors, when bottled, are sent from this place into the bottled ale stores, and there placed in bins (sections into which the store is divided) until ready to be taken to the retailer. Each of these bins are capable of holding a hogshead, so the department always contains on an average about forty hogshead, of bottled beers. Messrs. Egan also bottled their own ale here, and it commands a very large sale in the district and neighbouring counties. Twelve vans are continually kept on the road delivering these bottled stuffs to the trade in the surrounding districts."

Twenty hogsheads a week doesn't strike me as a "large quantity". It's interesting that they were bottling their own Ale as well as Bass, Guinness and Lager. Do any labels still exist?

I officially take back what I said about Mild have passed Ireland by. It clearly didn't. And neither did Bitter.


Thomas Barnes said...

Perhaps there's enough material for a mini-book on Ireland (sans the stuff that the evil people at Diageo don't let you see).

Call it Ireland! and put a big harp and shamrock logo on it and every fifth brewer in North America will want a copy so he can learn to brew like his ancestors did. That is, if they were brewers, and if they didn't eat the malt instead of brewing with it on their way to the emmigrant ships in 1847.

Ron Pattinson said...

Thomas, I've been intrigued enough by Irish Ale to start researching it. Now if I can just persuade the family to visit Cork this summer . . .

The Beer Nut said...

I have little doubt but that Egan's were ale-only because of Guinness's full-spectrum porter dominance. Though Bass and Allsopp were dominant ale producers, they were also Far Away, with all the logistical and commercial implications of that. Though Guinness weren't above putting a bit of muscle behind their position too: Smithwick's went ale-only in 1920 after they were rescued by Guinness's during a strike. The Dublin brewer's condition was that Smithwick's would cease brewing stout and porter forever. They were similarly heavy-handed in England too, weren't they? Egan's may have had a knock on the door as well, at some point.

Lager was first brewed in Ireland in 1891, though the Dartry brewery was up for sale before 1900. It's possible that Egan's lager came in from Germany, I guess.

The mixed trade thing seems to have been quite common, and I think it's a factor that makes researching Irish breweries quite difficult: the brewing operation may have only lasted a short period, leving little more than a dent in the historical record.

Great find, though.

Jeff Renner said...

I wonder if there is any connection to the Mr. Power named here and Power's Irish whiskey.

Andrew Elliott said...

I do have Irish ancestry, but to me (and probably many others) the interest factor is the fact that the material is something Irish other than Stout or Porter. Fantastic information, and quite intriguing!

Andrew Elliott said...

Also of interest is the bottle label you attached to the article. The "Non-Intoxicant" and "Hop-Bitters" text makes me think it must be some type of bottled hop tea?

Flagon of Ale said...

*sigh* not enough companies advertise their products as "non-intoxicant" these days.

Fascinating stuff, though. Irish brewing history is so scarce to the casual observer like me. I would love to read more.

Anonymous said...

If you do decide to research that book let me know. My people way backwere P&H Egan. I know little about the business myself but my Dad remembers it well as it closed when he was 21. He might be willing to chat with you.

Anonymous said...

my name is david egan and my great grand father was the H Egan. brewing was only one part of of the business . they also owned a maltings and shops and hotels.

Jouni Koskinen said...

I knew I'd find a mention of hop bitters in SUABP!

I was reading Joyce's Dubliners and he mentions people drinking "hop-bitters" and the footnote says it's "a fizzy non-alcoholic drink". After a bunch of googling I've gathered it's a temperance era beer substitute, either non-alcoholic or low-alcohol. For example Wheatley's:

Also Moorsheads Brewery's website tells me they historically used to brew hop-bitters which were low in alcohol. But that's what I've gathered so far.

Any more info on this "compromise between tea and alcohol" and "the finest substitute for bitter beer"? I'm kind of interested in reproducing something like this as a homebrewing experiment.

Ron Pattinson said...


I don't have any more info on hop bitters, I'm afraid. Unless you count the piss-weak Government Ale Whitbread brewed during WW I. That was just over 1% ABV.

Anonymous said...

However, Henry Egan’s brief sojourn in Naas jail did little commercial damage to the business’s of P. & H. Egan. Indeed quite the opposite seems to be the case. By 1883 the King’s County Chronicle was reporting that the “P & H Egan brewery employed 50 men at not less than £1,600 a year.” The following year on the 1st May 1884 an advertisement appeared in the Midland Tribune seeking tenders “for the taking down of the Old Building, and the erection of a NEW BREW HOUSE, the setting of TWO STEAM BOILERS, two BREWING COPPERS and other work. Plan specifications and further details on application to Patrick and Henry Egan, Brewery Office, Tullamore.”

A little over a year later on September 3rd 1885 a further advertisement in the same newspaper declares that the brewery is in full production. The Midland Tribune put the cost at £3,000.

(only one in King’s County)


Have the pleasure to announce that the above BREWERY has been entirely rebuilt and remodeled. It is now Fitted with the Newest and most Improved Machinery.
The water has been pronounced on analysis by an eminent authority as “Wonderfully Pure and most suitable for Brewing Purposes.”
They have lately secured the services of a highly successful and thoroughly competent BREWER and are now in a position to turn out an article in every way equal to that of any other brewery in the country.

They confidently invite the attention of the Public and the Trade to the quality of the


Now manufactured in this Brewery, and feel assured of the support which their excellence should command.
P. & H. E. have also opened

New and Commodious Wholesale Bottling Stores
In connection with above and are prepared to supply their own porters (Double and Single Stout) in bottle, Bass’s Pale Ale, Sherries, Ports, Clarets, Champagnes, Whiskies (in bond and duty paid) Brandies and Foreign Spirits, Cordials, Liquers, &c, Bewley & Drapers, Thwaites and Metropolitan Mineral Waters.
All Carriage Free by Van or Rail.


In 1887 the Midland Tribune states that the brewery “has almost doubled its output in the last year and that the premises had been extensively remodeled”

By 1895 P. & H. Egan had expanded even further as can be seen from their advertising which reads as part-manifesto, and which continues to extol the virtues of their products in trenchantly Nationalistic language.


P. & H. EGAN,
In brilliant condition
Equal to the best Dublin. All brewed from
Why consume English and Scotch Ales and Dublin Porter when you have at you door ALES and STOUTS brewed
Equal to the Best of them
Keep the money at home! Encourage the employers of Native
Labour and help to circulate your Own Money among yourselves
Ask for Egans Ales and Stouts and Drink no other
P. & H. Egan, BREWERY
P. & H. Egan, Wholesale Bottlers
P. & H. Egan, Mineral Water Makers
P. & H. Egan, Tea, Wine and Brandy Importers
P. & H. Egan, Original Bonders of JOHN JAMESON & SON, JOHN POWER & SON
Also Roes, D.W.D. , DUBLIN CITY, DALYS, LOCKES &c. &c.
In Large Variety