Thursday, 24 January 2013

Inside the Dorchester Brewery (part one)

We're going to follow Barnards inside Eldridge Pope's Dorchester Brewery. And a fine. modern affair it sounds.

Starting with that the supplier of the most important ingredient of beer, the well.

"One of the first essentials of a brewery is a supply of the purest water, and this important element is copiously afforded by a wonderful well on the premises of Messrs. Eldridge, Pope & Co., sunk down into the water-bearing strata, from whence it is pumped to a covered reservoir in the roof of the brewhouse, capable of containing 500 barrels. The brewery also has the advantage of an unlimited supply direct from the town main. Accompanied by the head brewer, Mr. Wright, we made a circuit of the premises, following the brewery processes in every stage.

The plant is a seventy-quarter one, and, with the building, has been so arranged that ample room is left for future extension. Judging from the progress made, and the great increase in the trade during the last few years, it cannot be long before these contemplated additions will have to be carried out.

We were first taken to see the noted well, situated beneath the courtyard., which separates the makings from the brewery. It was sunk through the chalk to a depth of 600 feet, and is 8 feet in diameter to a depth of 120 feet; and was then bored some 500 feet. This well contains an inexhaustible supply of water, which is raised to a great tank or cistern over the mashing stage by a set of powerful three-throw pumps. This water, we were told, on account  of its great  purity and  freedom  from  organic matter, is most favourable for brewing those light, delicate, fine-flavoured ales, for which Dorchester is so justly famous. The hot-liquor room is over the mashing stage, and to reach it from the courtyard we passed through the copper-house at the back of the brewery. Here are to be seen two hot-liquor backs, both heated by steam coils; and there is a third, placed on a gangway, also over the mashing stage. They contain from eighty to a hundred and twenty barrels each, and all of them are lagged with a patent composition.
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol III", by Alfred Barnard, 1890, pages 131 - 132.

A 70-quarter brewery would have a maximum capacity of around 85,000 barrels a year. A pretty decent size for a brewery in a relatively small provincial town. And one in a rural county.

600 feet? That's a pretty impressive well.

A liquor back, in case you were wondering, is a water tank. For some reason tanks are called backs within breweries. As in hop back and underback. A wonderful thing, the English language.

"We next made our way to the mill room, over the engine-house, where we were first shown the Archimedean screw which conveys the malt hither from the stores, which has, at its extremity, a set of squirrel cleaning cages for finally screening the malt. This chamber contains two pairs of steel malt-rolls, each pair enclosed in a mahogany case, over which is the feeding hopper. The malt is crushed between these rollers at the rate of thirty quarters per hour, and is conveyed to the twin grist hopper in the brewhouse by a Jacob's ladder.
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol III", by Alfred Barnard, 1890, page 132.
"Squirrel cage". That's a new term to me. It conjures up an image, though I'm not sure it's the correct one. I'm not the only person to be confused by it. I found this article in an 1892 newspaper:

"Dorchester Ales.
The Railway Supplies Journal devotes over page of last week's to a description of the large establishment of Messrs Eldridge Pope and Co., the well-known firm of Dorchester brewers, and the method adopted to ensure the production an exceptionally article. 

. . . . . .

The water used for the purpose of brewing is obtained from a wonderful well nearly 600 feet deep, and is, account of its purity and freedom from organic matter, peculiarly adapted to the brewing of those light, delicate, fine-flavoured ales for which Dorchester is justly famous. The enormous capacity of some of the vessels used is a very striking feature of the business in the eyes of a stranger, There are two hot liquor backs over the mashing stage containing upwards of 120 barrels each, and a third is placed on a gangway also over the mashing stage. These are heated by steam coils, and lagged with a patent composition. The malt used is conveyed from the stores by an Archimedean screw which has at its extremity set of squirrel cleaning caps for finally screwing it to the mill room, where it crushed between two pair of steel rollers, each pair being enclosed in a mahogany case. Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 01 April 1891, page 2.
Railway Supplies Journal - it sounds like a guest publication on Have I Got News for You. I wonder if my newsagent could get it for me?

The aticle is clearly ripped off from Barnard, though some of the details seem to have been lost in translation, so "squirrel cages" have become "squirrel cleaning caps". I'm not so sure that last sentence makes sense at all.

I'm not really intrigued by the Railway Supplies Journal article. I wonder if it is credited to an author? Assuming that isn't Barnard, it seems a clear case of plagiarism.

More from inside the brewery in the instalment.


Stott Noble said...

What is the proper pronunciation of Dorchester?

Jim Coffey said...

Squirrel Cage - a rotating screen with holes of a certain size. Toss stuff in, spin the screen, and centripital force will send stuff to the edges. The small stuff flys out and the bigger stuff stays inside.

You can run it continuously. Often instead of being a rotating cylinder you'll have a rotating cone so you can use gravity to help the seperation as well. Lots of patents in the 1800's for these devices.

Disclaimer: I'm an engineer geek which is why I know junk like this.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jim, thanks very much for the explanation. Makes sense now.

Ron Pattinson said...

Stott, as you would expect: Door Chester. At least that's how I pronounce it.

Anonymous said...

google squirrel cage fan or squirrel cage blower, the term is still in use