Monday, 28 March 2016

Guinness’s Park Royal Brewery in 1949 – the vat house

You may remember the layout of Park Royal. The brew house, fermenting house and vat house really were separate buildings, connected by walkways.

It interesting that they called it a vat house. Hang on. They really did have wooden vats in the vat house. Well blow me. I knew they had in Dublin up until at least WW II. But they brewed Foreign Extra Stout there, a beer which was vatted for a long period. I don’t believe they ever brewed that at Park Royal so it’s interesting that they still had vats there.

“The Vat House.—From the beer refrigerators in the fermenting house the beer is run down by gravity to the storage vats in the storage vat house, which is virtually a storage cellar, and to prevent any undue rise in temperature the building is lined with special insulation bricks of standard brick size. The flat concrete roof is asphalted and covered with white spar chippings in bitumen to reflect the heat of the sun. There are no windows and results have generally been most satisfactory, the temperature of the liquor in vat being practically unaffected in mid summer. The vats are constructed of oak and hooped with copper bearing mild steel, there being 24 large vats, each with a capacity of 1,150 barrels, and eight smaller ones having a capacity of 870 barrels each.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 55, Issue 5, 1949, page 285.

I make that a total vatting capacity of 34,560 barrels. Remember that daily output was 3,000 barrels. Meaning the vats had enough room for 11 days’ worth of brews. Which implies that beer didn’t stay in the vats for a great length of time. Why didn’t they just use metal tanks? Surely they would have been much cheaper?

It’s an odd idea, basically building a storage cellar above ground. Though it sounds as if they’d insulated it well enough.

It seems the storage vats weren’t the only ones:

“The pipe lines, as in the fermenting house, are of tinned copper and there is nothing of particular interest in this building excepting the large positive displacement pumps which are used for transferring the beer from the storage vat house to the elevated racking vats. The choice of positive displacement pumps was determined by the variation in pumping head arising from the storage vats being 20 ft. deep and the racking vats some 18 ft. deep arranged above them, the transference from full to empty vats involving a difference in head beyond the characteristic curve of the standard centrifugal pump when maintaining the necessary output.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 55, Issue 5, 1949, page 285.

Note that the first lot of vats are called storage vats rather than maturation or conditioning vats. Clearly their function wasn’t to condition or age the beer but merely to store it until racking time. It sounds as if the racking vats were also wooden. It doesn’t half sound old-fashioned.

Cask cleansing and racking next.


Lady Luck Brewing said...

Some bretanomyces in those vats?

Ross Slaughter said...

Another fascinating look at Guinness Ron, thank you very much.
Now if only it were possible to have a bottle of 1949 Extra Stout.

Ross Slaughter said...

Maybe if I mixed Extra Stout with Foreign Extra Stout?

J-W Maessen said...

Base on the last few posts it sounds like they really, really cared about the insulating properties of the wood. Nowadays you'd just jacket the stainless and be done wi' it – but that requires an active cooling loop, sounds like the whole house was passively cooled. All terribly low-carbon.

Interesting to see mention of head difference. I get the impression no one builds breweries tall anymore, and when they do it's just to put in taller conicals. Contrast that with all the gravity assist in the various stages here – relatively short, flat tanks on multiple stories.