Sunday, 20 May 2012

Trouble at Messrs. Arrol & Sons, Limited, Brewery, Alloa (part 2)

We're finally returning to the rest of the article* outlined the filth and grime at Arrol's brewery in Alloa. It doesn't make pleasant reading. I'm glad I didn't have to drink in one of their pubs. The chances of getting uninfected beer sound slightly less than zero.

You'll see that they all refer either to equipment that wasn't properly cleaned or failings in the cleaning process. The report was prepared in 1916. recent enough for there to be no excuse for the poor hygiene. Though it's possible that the situation might have been exacerbated by skilled workers being away in the armed forces.

"RACKING MACHINE - 'On taking this machine apart at centre large joint, I found it in a most filthy condition and smelling very acid.'

SUGAR PRIMING PLANT - 'The old wooden vessel at present in use is in a decayed porous condition; also two old wooden collecting vessels. Your Brewer is making arrangements with Excise to dissolve his priming sugar in new steam dissolving vessel situated in copper house, and only requires three small copper-lined collecting vessels with connections. These should be got without delay.'

SUGAR PRIMING - 'This should be made fresh - say every two or three days, and 20 ozs. of Bi-Sulphite of Lime added to every 2 cwts. Of Sugar dissolved, especially in hot weather, as sugar solutions are very apt to go bad. It is also desirable to rinse casks with Bi-Sulphite of Lime before filling with sugar solution.'

CASK WASHING SHED - 'This is in a very bad state with broken flag stones beneath, leaking pipes overhead, and too small for the work to be done.

CASK SIGHTING AND PASSING - 'All casks should be sighted at tap hole with ordinary torch, and if dry, should be put to one side for unheading and hand scrubbing, and the wet or fresh casks put forward for steaming. When dry they should be passed by mirror lamp, and if any yeasty rings are observed around the bunghole the casks should be unheaded and scrubbed by hand.'

CASK YARD - 'Too small for present accumulation of empty casks. These casks require washing, otherwise many of them will go bad lying in the sun.

CLEANSING TANK At present there is no tank in which pipes, plates, cocks, etc.. etc., can be boiled, and I have instructed your Engineer to fit up an old lank lying in Brewery and pointed out by him. This should be finished without delay.'

COLOURING OF BEERS - 'There has been difficulty with some of your customers about colours, and I have now given your Brewer a proper and safe system to work upon.'

FLUSHING OF CELLARS - 'There should be a larger cold water pipe taken into cellars with hose connected so that at least twice weekly a thorough flushing down could be given, as the stench and dirt meantime is very bad indeed.'

BAD BEER - 'There is unfortunately a good quantity of this lying in cellars, and there will be more to come in. This beer is both acid and smelling badly. I think the only thing to do is to get a special indulgence from the Excise and pump the beer up into one of the old condemned fermenting vessels, well away from fermenting wort. The beer can then be sampled and measured by Excise and got rid of as quickly as possible, as it is only spoiling the casks meantime.'"
You get the impression that nothing in the brewery was properly clean. Rotting wooden vessels are really just an invitation to infection. Preparing the sugar primings unhygienically would have ruined all the beer as it was racked. Though, having heard of the state of the rest of the brewery, it had probably already been infected several times over by that time. Hang on, the racking machine was filthy, too. Add one to the number of times beer was infected.

On the other hand, it's good to learn that Arrol's primed casks with sugar. I know English brewers usually did. While Irish brewers primed with partially fermented wort. How widespread were sugar primings in Scotland?

It also sounds as if they weren't keeping their casks clean. Another recipe for disaster. There wasn't enough space to store the casks properly, the building where they were cleaned was dirty and the casks weren't properly checked for cleanliness. You couldn't have done much more wrong if you tried.

And to top it all off, the cellars were dirty and smelly and full of off beer. Why were they hanging on to it? Simple. Because they'd already paid the duty. That's why the report suggests getting the Excise men in to sample it: so that they could get the duty refunded.

Scottish brewers loved colouring their beers differently for different markets. How did that practice start, why and when? It's definitely different from English practice. English brewers did sometimes fiddle with the colour (Barclay Perkins with their Milds, for example) but this was nothing like the several different-coloured versions of each beer that the Scots had. I'm beginning to think that the practice was very widespread.

Next we'll see Mr. Heslop's recommendations for sorting the problems out.

* Journal of the Scottish Brewing Archive Vol. 3, 2001, pages 31 - 36.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

I found the comment about sugar solutions going bad interesting. Of the many wonky cask ales I've had in England over the years I wonder if some of them may have turned for this reason. Clearly sanitation in Arrol at this time was particularly but elements of these recur I'm sure and this may be one of them. Priming with wort sounds a more natural way to condition and I wonder if it wasn't also the London porter way, originally. So much of Irish practice seems old London and it was fascinating to read that 1920's Irish pale malt was a kind of light amber. Didn't Tizard say the best porter was 95 per cent amber and 5 of black...?