Sunday, 29 March 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s – where to put your brewery?

I’m returning to Jeffery’s "Brewing Theory and Practice" to look at a short passage that greatly intrigued me. It’s all about suitable – and unsuitable – locations for a brewery.

It warns something I’d never considered: contamination from neighbouring businesses.

“Contamination by impure air is a great danger, especially to beers of low alcoholic content. A district should be selected which is free from factories emitting noxious fumes, and in which such factories are unlikely to be erected. It is inadvisable to build a brewery in close proximity to farm buildings, as dust from hay and chaff is highly infectious. The authors know more than one instance where considerable trouble has been experienced owing to the introduction of bacteria from such a source. It is an interesting commentary on the weak and non-resisting low gravity beverages of to-day that not very long ago farmers used to brew their own beers on farm premises under conditions which to-day would be definitely impossible. The reason for their success was, of course, that the high alcoholic content acted as an antiseptic and preservative.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 18.

I can think of lots of breweries that were located close to factories. In fact a particular example comes to mind from South London. Not all that far from Barclay Perkins’ Park Street brewery:

As you can see, the Black Eagle Brewery was surrounded by other industries, most of them pretty filthy. There were loads of tanneries is the part of London. And slightly further to the east there’s a vinegar works. The railway lines behind are the approach to London Bridge. The same bit of railway whose arches house the Kernel.

The Black Eagle Brewery was owned by Noakes and Co. It was bought by Courage in 1930, which is why I have photos of some of their brewing records.

But what I find most interesting about this passage is the references to farmhouse brewing. And how modern, low-gravity beers could easily be contaminated. Mmm. Thinking of farmhouses, wasn’t the Batemans brewery originally a farm?

There were other potential contamination hazards:

“Flour mills should also be carefully avoided. It is only necessary to look at the roof of a mill near the outlet from the dust ventilator to obtain some idea of the dangers lurking for breweries in the district. Another dangerous neighbour is a fruit orchard. Not only is decaying fruit a prolific source of infecting organisms, but many varieties of so-called 'wild yeast' abound in the air around orchards. Many of these organisms can develop in wort and beer with undesirable results. Overhead expenses involved in the transport both of raw materials and of finished beers play an important part. Proximity to a railway, canal, or river is of the utmost value. There is no need to remark that, in view of the high cost of transport it is most desirable that a brewery should be situated as near as possible to the bulk of licensed houses which it serves. Where this is not possible, stores and depots should be established as near as possible both to the licensed houses and to the transport centres.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 18 - 20.

I suppose if you’re a Lambic brewery being close to an orchard isn’t such a bad idea.

The transport options listed are also striking: there’s no mention of road transport. I’m sure most beer is shipped by road today. Having your brewery close to your pubs is pretty damn obvious. Though several London brewers had breweries off in Burton, far away from the bulk of their tied estate.

And once again taxation is poking its nose in:

“In these days of heavy taxation it is natural that much thought should be given to assessments and local rates. Unfortunately, local taxation is irregular and liable to unexpected increases. At the same time, it is usually possible to form some idea of the probable future development of a district.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 20.

Those bastard politicians, eh, putting up the rates without warning.

I’ll be plucking some more gems from the book. Coolers next, just because I get so fed up with people calling them “coolships”.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just as enlightening as I had hoped. I am really enjoying these posts Mr Pattinson.