Monday, 4 April 2016

Guinness’s Park Royal Brewery in 1949 – Cask Cleansing and Racking Shed

Back in the days of wooden casks, cleaning them was a big deal. A very big deal. For the obvious reason that all sorts of nastiness could be hiding in the wood.

As in the rest of the brewery, gravity was harnessed to ease moving heavy things around:

“Cask Cleansing and Racking Shed.—The cask cleansing and racking shed is laid out and planned to take advantage of the natural fall of the ground from south to north with the result that casks will roll of their own volition from one machine to another throughout the length of the cleansing and racking bank.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 55, Issue 5, 1949, page 285.

Here’s the kit Guinness used for cleaning:

“There are five cleansing lines, each capable of handling 100 hogsheads per hour consisting of:—
(a) An external washer with clamping brushes, the casks being mechanically revolved.

(b) Internal washer of the revolving nozzle type supplied with high-pressure water at 200 p.s.i.g. at 200° F.

(c) A bank of 10 steaming nozzles fed with steam at 5 p.s.i.g. for three minutes per cask.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 55, Issue 5, 1949, pages 285 - 286.

So cleaning with both high-pressure water and steam. You had to be very careful.

Five lines each cleaning 100 hogsheads an hour adds up to 4,000 in an eight-hour day. The equivalent of 6,000 barrels, or roughly enough for two days’ worth of brewings. Seems reasonable enough.

Thinking about it, 100 hogsheads an hour is quite a pace. That’s just 36 seconds for each cask. We were way slower than that at Holes. Each keg washer took six kegs at a time, but took 10 minutes to run through the cleaning cycle. About as long as it took to fill 6 kegs, which was how it worked. By the time you’d finished filling the kegs the next lot would be finished washing.

Now on to where the casks finally get filled with the magic stuff:

“Common to the cleansing lines is a cooling floor where the steamed casks stand to "cool off" for 12 hours before passing forward to the rackers. There are four racking machines of standard gravity type, each capable of dealing with 140 hogshead per hour. For checking the capacity of casks coming from the hoop drivers there are two cask-measuring machines which check the net holding capacity by weight of water and which have a dial on which is indicated the variation from the standard weight. The daily routine is that the empty casks are received on the "high" end of the bank where defective hoops are dealt with on the hoop drivers and all casks pass through the line of washing machines in sequence.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 55, Issue 5, 1949, page 286.
Over an eight-hour shift, I make that a racking capacity of 4,480 barrels, the equivalent of 6,720 barrels. Which is more than two days’ production.

It’s odd, isn’t it, that beer that was all going to end up bottled was packaged into wooden hogsheads? It’s quite an old-fashioned system, reminiscent of the 19th century, when brewers sent hogsheads out to bottlers. By this point brewers had already started moving bulk beer by tanker, which would seem a much more economical method. I wonder if they primed the casks at all when racking?

Though in areas such as energy conservation, Guinness seems quite modern:

“The necessary hot water for internal cask cleaning nozzles is provided by two steam-heated water heaters, the hot water discharged from the internal-nozzle cleaning machines being collected and re-used on the outside cask washers, thus affecting a useful economy in heat.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 55, Issue 5, 1949, page 286.

It was probably the war that prompted that sort of economy with heat and therefore fuel.

The cooperage shop next.

1 comment:

Andreas Krennmair said...

As far as I can tell, sending casks to pubs and resellers who would then bottle and condition the beer was widespread even in Ireland. The Harbour Bar in Portrush has the label of the last locally bottled Guinness on display. IIRC, they bottled as late as the 1970's. In Limavady, Owen's Bar still has their old bottling equipment and bottles including labels on display:

Also, the grandfather of a friend of mine helped bottle Guinness when he was young. They bottled the beer and stored it lying on its side, turning the bottles every few days. That same grandfather also said that the bottled beer wouldn't condition properly when there was a thunderstorm. I don't know whether there's more to it other than superstition. I should probably ask him whether he knows more about the priming.