Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Wrexham Lager Beer Brewery

I've so much of this Lager gumph that I'm struggling to remember what I've published and what I haven't. I almost repeated an article about the St. Annes' Brewery in Exeter. My mind isn't what it was. What's my name again? I'm sure it's something beginning with a "G".

I've split up the article because the original didn't bother with paragraphs. Left unchanged, it's a horrible unreadable lump.

In a recent number of this journal (The National Guardian), we announced that Mr Alexander McGuffie, of 79 West Regent-street, Glasgow, had been appointed agent for the sale of Wrexham Lager Beer for Glasgow and the West of Scotland. The announcement has no doubt turned the attention of many of our readers to the important and growing industry of lager brewing in England. For some time past it has been evident that there has been a demand for a light beer, and a large circle of caterers for public taste, and a still larger circle of consumers have hailed lager as a beverage possessing all the required properties. The Wrexham Lager Brewery Co., Limited, was formed for the purpose of brewing the celebrated drink of the fatherland in this Kingdom, and some seven years ago a fine brewery was built in the rising town of Wrexham, upon a spot possessing excellent natural advantages. The soil was found to contain a constant supply of water of the finest quality, and this, no doubt, is an important factor in the success which has followed the enterprise of the company. The water is pure, unfailing, and possesses virtues which are necessary to the production of beer of all kinds, but especially lager. The brewery was built at great cost from the designs of an eminent German architect, skilled in the construction of breweries, and was erected under his personal superintendence."
Wrexham Advertiser - Saturday 22 September 1888, page 8.
Early Lager brewers sold their beer nationally, as can be observed by the Wrexham Lager Brewery selling beer in Glasgow. I don't for a minute think that the beers of any other Wrexham brewery were available there. The relatively small size of Britain's Lager market forced brewers to look for customers far and wide.

There they are going on about the water being perfect again. Not sure I believe them. It's what such pieces always say. Like in the one about the St. Annes' Brewery.

The point about the demand for lighter beer comes up again, too. I'm starting to think that, while this was true, drinkers were canny enough to buy the far cheaper Light Bitters than splurge on expensive Lager. The number of Light Bitters available rocketed in the years 1870 - 1900.

Let's step inside the brewery now.

"A tour of the building is a very interesting as well as an instructive undertaking. The visitor who is taken to follow the natural course of the grain through its various processes, first visits four large malting rooms, each of which possess a flooring capacity for 600 to 800 measures of grain. The floor is of concrete, and everything necessary to the operation is supplied in what might be almost called lavish abundance. The grain which has been converted into malt is stored in malt silos, huge chambers specially prepared for its reception and where it waits until it is wanted. At proper time the malt is conveyed by mechanical means to the various floors where it is needed, no hand being necessary to touch a grain. After undergoing a number of processes, the brew-house is arrived at, and the mashing of the malt and the boiling of the wort is carried on under the eye of the experienced brewer, or as the Germans call him, the braumeister, Mr Philip Lorentz. During the time of the writer's visit the contents of the mash tun were being drawn off, and after careful examination, and much testing, discharged into the copper, where, by means of dry steam, the necessary heat is obtained for the further processes. The visitor is struck by the scrupulous cleanliness observed, as well as the copper fittings which are all carefully tinned to preserve the liquor from contamination. The writer paid a visit to the cooler, which is of large capacity, and possesses a fan in its centre which is revolved in order to procure a constant current of cold air."
Wrexham Advertiser - Saturday 22 September 1888, page 8.
It's interesting that they malted themselves. Not that it was so unusual in the 19th century for a brewery to have its own maltings. Though in some cases - such as the Burton breweries - it was so they could be sure of getting sfficiently pale malt. I'd be wary ofd assuming that was the case here, as I'm not sure what colour Wrexham's early Lagers were. They were brewing Pilsener by the 1890's, but they may well have started with Vienna or Munich style beers.

I'm not surprised that the brewer was a German. The technical staff in early British Lager breweries were almost always from continental Europe. There just weren't the skills in Britain. And, given how few opportunities there were for being a Lager brewer in Britain, there wasn't much incentive for a young brewer to learn them. Not unless he fancied emigrating to North America.

This is getting too long. I'll save the rest for tomorrow.


bailey said...

Did you see the story yesterday about a local councilor in Wrexham calling for a Lager Museum?

Ron Pattinson said...

Bailey, no, I didn't. Sounds like a good idea.

Someone toldme that the brewery had reopened. Is that true?

jamesbwxm said...

Indeed it is.


Oblivious said...

Ron, do we anything about their malt, was it trying to replicate something from Munich/Vienna or could it have been a variation or pale malt?

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, it's difficult to say. It depends what type of Lager they were brewing then. Later they brewed Pilsener, but at the start, I don't know.