Friday, 21 September 2012

English Lager Beer Company

Ah, early British Lager breweries. Who could ever tire of them? Well, I suppose you lot could. I never will.

This is another one (along with the St. Anne's Well Brewery in Exeter) in the West Country. Odd that. I've never associated the region with Lager particularly

Opening of the Brewery.
The large brewery which bas been erected at Batheaston on the road leading to the toll bridge by the English Lager Beer Company, Limited, is now complete and fitted with all the best appliances for producing German Lager Beer in England. On Tuesday the machinery was formally set in motion by Mrs. Crawshay, wife cf Mr. F. E. Crawshay, of Sketty Court, Swansea, chairman of the Company, and brewing operations were started. The difference between the ordinary English beer and ales and the Lager lies in the process of fermentation ; in the preparation of tbe latter intense cold is necessary and the refrigerating appliances form an important and a large portion of the apparatus in tbe brewery at Batheaston. Messrs, Charles Johnson and Sons, of Upper Kastville, Bristol, are the engineers and architects to the Company, and under their supervision the brewery has been brought into work. Some delay has occurred in fitting up the building, chiefly owing to difficulties in procuring the peculiar machinery, for Mr. Johnson bas had all of it with a few exceptions from English makers and everything appears to be of the best description Messrs. Torrance and Son, of Bitton, were the engineering contractors, Mr. C. A. Heyes, of Bristol, was the builder, and Mr. C. Wigmore, of Bristol, constructed the vats, while Messrs. Morton and Co., Burton-on-Trent, and Messrs. Buxton and Thornley have supplied the principal machinery. The cooling room is one of the largest apartments in the brewery, and here two spacious iron tanks. capable of holding 120 barrels, are in position ; the cold cellars, in which the beer will be stored a considerable period before being deemed ripe for consumption, are also spacious vaults, where, by artificial means, the temperature is brought down and kept to 36 degrees, or only 4 decrees above zero. After the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Mr. Crawshay entertained the Company to a luncheon, served by Messrs. Fortt and Son. in one of the many departments of the establishment. The Chairman presided, and amongst those present were Colonel A. Thrale Perkins, Mr. S. A. Brain (Cardiff), Mr. J. Payne (Roath, Cardiff), Mr. J. Humby and Mr. J. P. Hall, directors ; Mr. Crawshay, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson, jun., Herr Fritz Schultz (head brewer), Mr. C. Harper, Mr. J. Nesbitt, Mr. Theophilus West, Mr. Hayes, Mr. Torrance, Mr. Wigmore, and several ladies.— After luncheon, the Chairman proposed "Success to the English Lager Beer Company." He expressed the belief that the undertaking would be most successful if people were patient and waited for the new trade in English lager beer instead of German. The shareholders must be prepared to wait at least 18 months before they could show them the high percentage they hoped for. It was better to be a little before the time in supplying this beer than a little behind. —Mr. Johnson, who responded, said the days of old heavy beers had passed away, the taste of the public had changed, and the light, delicate, highly-hopped bitter beers, introduced by Michael Bass, had found favour. The lager beer was a liquor which could be drunk without soddening and making drunk; tbe system on which it was brewed was purely scientific, but that did not mean that chemicals were used. Of course, there was a prejudice against it among old-fashioned people, some of whom declared it contained onions or resin (laughter). There was no such thing in it. but lager beer did obtain in its manufacture a peculiar "tack," and a taste for it had to be acquired, but when acquired it was established. Perhaps the Directors thought he (Mr. Johnson) had spent too much money on the brewery, but he could not help it ; he had carried out the Continental system and he did not see why as good beer could not be brewed here. Nothing had been omitted to make it a success. The shareholders must not expect anything in the way of dividends for at least a couple of years. In three or four cases the mistake had been made of sending out the beer before it was ripe. - The healths of Herr Schultz the Chairman, Mr. Humby, the Contractors, and the Ladies were given and acknowledged. — Miss Johnson (daughter at V. Johnson) during the proceedings presented to Mrs. Crawshay a pair of Masonoid silver tankards, suitably inscribed, as a souvenir of the occasion, and the Chairman, in returning thanks for the gift, said he would make every effort to promote the success of the undertaking."
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 01 October 1891, page 2.

240 barrels of lagering capacity seems awfully little. And only two tanks. That seems woefully inadequate for a serious business. I thought the brewery was supposed to have an annual capacity of 30,000 barrels.

There are some interesting names amongst the list of attendees. Colonel A. Thrale Perkins - he has to be from that Perkins family, surely. And Mr. S. A. Brain of Cardiff, was he from the brewery of the same name? With initials like S.A., I'd be really disappointed if he weren't. I like the way the women aren't even named, but lumped together as "several ladies". Not like they were considered unimportant or something.

Unsurprisingly, the head brewer was a German. I am surprised that the equipment was mostly British-made. That wasn't the case with most early LAger breweries.

See? Again they're saying that heavy, old-fashiones Ales are on the way out. It must be true. Onions or resin? I think that's the flavour from the pitch lining. Sounds lovely. At least they were brewing it scientifically, but without chemicals. Surely everything, including malt and hops, is made up of chemicals?

Were the shareholders patient? They'd have had to be extremely patient for there share of the profits. In fact they'd still be waiting today. But more of that story later.


Martyn Cornell said...

The Crawshays were South Wales industrialists on a considerable scale: can't remember if they were related to the Crawshays of the Norwich brewery Youngs Crawshay & Youngs or not.

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, you don't know anything about Colonel A. Thrale Perkins do you? I assume he must be from the Perkins brewing family given the Thrale in hs name.

Bryan the BeerViking said...

As I read it, the 120 barrel tanks (although it could be 2x60 rather than 2x120) are for cooling rather than lagering.

There must have been more lagering tanks or barrels in the (separate) cold cellars. Presumably they had a 120 barrel production capacity, and planned to brew up to 250 times a year.

Gary Gillman said...

Yet another reference to an onion flavour in lager beer; this makes three or four I've seen now, sometimes garlic is mentioned, but both can be similar. And once again the pitch taste is mentioned.

Thomas Perry, in his book on how to make lager by English top-fermented methods, expressed the view the onion taste was caused by oxidation of hop constituents. He identified "valerianic acid" as the cause. It seems doubtful to me he was right, since German hops today, with all the advantages of modern storage and agriculture, still often taste of onion or garlic to me. Not always, I think it depends on hop type or perhaps varying climatic factors, but I wouldn't think prolonged age of the hops is the reason.


Martyn Cornell said...

I think that might be a dangerous assumption, Ron: this says Col Alfred Thrale Perkins was born in St Albans, where the Thrales were from, originally, other research suggests his father was a lawyer and the fact that he was a colonel in the army and a mason (apparently) would also militate against him being a member of the Quaker brewing Perkinses. So it looks to me to be mere coincidence ...

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, were the Perkins Quakers? I thought it was the Barclays who were Quakers.

Martyn Cornell said...

Yes, John Perkins must have been a Quaker, since his second wife, who he married in 1774, was Amelia Bevan, the widow of Timothy Bevan, who was the younger brother of the Silvanus Bevan who was one of the partners in Barclay's bank (Silvanus's and Timothy's mother was a Barclay, sister to David Barclay and aunt to Robert Barclay). Silvanus was, of course, a sleeping partner in Barclay Perkins. If Perkins HADN'T been a Quaker, the Bevans and Barclays would have cut off contact with Amelia for marrying out, and certainly wouldn't have gone into partnership with her new husband.

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, that makes sense. I should have remembered all that. It's not long since I read Peter Mathias's piece on Barc lay Perkins.

gordsellar said...

This is only tangentially related--nothing to do with brewing, really, but since the people commenting here seem to be interested in the Perkins family, the story of John Perkins' son turns out to be more interesting than I realized, as I discovered through a descendant of Perkins who's into genealogy. I wasn't even sure it was the same Perkins till an account of the man's last days, and his death, in a travelogue turned up, specifying that it was indeed John Perkins, son of the brewer in Southwark.

Which sounds like it could be boring and stodgy, but it's actually elopements with the family governess! (Maybe...) Adventures in the New World! (Well, more like misery and being ripped off by Simón Bolívar.) A Flemish lover named Eugenia who joined him for his wartime adventures! (Apparently?) Also, alas, an untimely end in Old Guyana, and a missing diary, to boot. I swear, it's like a TV miniseries plot, sans happy ending unfortunately.

Here's the bulk of what I've turned up so far.