Tuesday 15 November 2016

Gold Label galore

I wasn't joking about this being Gold Label week, as you've probably noticed.

The staff at Tennant seem to have spent much of their time finding ways to surreptitiously drink Gold Label. I don’t blame them. Most of my working days would be far more pleasant with a couple of Barley Wines for breakfast.

This explains the main source of illicit Gold Label within the brewery:

“The first bottling manager that I knew was Geoff Brown - one of life's true gentlemen. His office was up a flight of stairs, overlooking the whole bottling area. Adjoining his office was a small, discrete room which became an unofficial haven for staff who were harassed or thirsty or both. Geoff kept it well stocked with Gold Label 'shorts'. These were bottles that were slightly under filled, usually through overflowing at the 'knocker', in theory, they should have been decanted individually into casks and then blown back into a tank. This was clearly time-consuming and labour intensive. It was obviously less trouble to drink them. The room was known as 'Brown's Bar' and was often patronised by brewers.”
"The Brewer's Tale" by Frank Priestley, 2010, page 27.

“It was obviously less trouble to drink them.” Well, yes. Convenient that, wasn’t it? The attitude to drinking in the brewery varies a lot today. In many new American breweries, they seem to be cracking open bottles and taking samples from tanks the whole time. While in older UK breweries drinking is often strictly limited to the sampling room. It’s become much stricter than it was a few decades back.

Under-filled bottles weren’t the only source of Gold Label:

“The charge hand in the Barm Alley was Jock McKinnon. He was a remarkable man and, not surprisingly, Scottish. I discovered that he used to drink Gold Label pressings. This was basically Gold label with a very harsh, yeasty flavour. From my time working in that department, I learned that it was quite possible to get used to drinking this foul dose. There was clearly no pleasure in the drinking of it, it was more like taking a medicine - you put up with the taste knowing that you were going to feel very much better, very quickly. Jock used to mask the smell of it on his breath by the liberal use of mouthwash from the first aid box in the department. You could always tell how much Jock had had to drink in the Course of the day. He wore a cap at work and first thing in the morning, the peak was centrally aligned above the front of his face, like that of the guardsman he once was. As the day wore on and his sobriety became eroded, the peak would progressively move round his head, like the shadow on a sun dial.”
"The Brewer's Tale" by Frank Priestley, 2010, pages 37 - 38.

Clearly Jock was getting pissed every day on that vile stuff. I’m trying to work out what they were pressings of. Hop pressings are a thing, but that’s pre-fermentation. This is obviously post-fermentation. Could it have been from the filters somehow?

Silly me. I should have read the preceding paragraph properly. It was yeast pressings:

“Because the yeast reproduced so enthusiastically, we always finished up with much more than we needed. The best of the crop was directed into a yeast room which was kept, as near as possible, in a sterile state and this yeast was used for future brews. The remainder, which was considerable, was diverted to an old yeast room in an area of the cellars known as the Barm Alley. When the yeast arrived here, it was in the form of a slurry. It was blown through a filter press which held the yeast back and the beer which had been mixed with the yeast (known as pressings) was returned to the fermenting vessels. The dried yeast was packed into old casks and sold to the food industry.”
"The Brewer's Tale" by Frank Priestley, 2010, page 37.

Jock was drinking stuff which should really have been returned to the fermenting vessel, the naughty boy.


Doug Warren said...

Working conditions in breweries are often crap, and drinking on the job makes things bearable. In my experience, the heaviest tipplers are not to be found in the brewhouse or cellars, but in the warehouse.

A few years ago, I met a man who had worked at the old Labatt's (previously Carling, originally Kuntz's) plant in Waterloo, Ontario. I asked him if he knew my wife's uncle who had been a supervisor in Shipping and Receiving. He roared with laughter. "You mean Sipping and Deceiving!"

Ed said...

Tax would have been paid on the beer in the yeast slurry which made it more worthwhile to recover.

Ron Pattinson said...


I think more to the point is that tax wasn't paid on the pressings. They would be part of the 6% wastage allowed between wort going into the fermenter and racking.