Monday 22 October 2018

Floating brewery

I was very pleased to trip over an item about the Royal Navy's floating brewery. Especially as it led me to find more details about it. And who came up with the idea.

"So the brewery went to sea
Who showed the wartime Navy how to brew its own beer aboard ship? Cheerful, 51-year-old Mr. Stephen Towers Clarke claims the honour.

On July 28, Mr. Clarke, of Windmill-road, Alton, Hants, is appearing before the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors.

He will argue his claim that he thought-up and designed the beermaking machinery for the Navy's "floating brewery," the converted 7,494-ton liner Menestheus, which went out to the Far East just before the end of the war.

Distilled sea water and hop and malt extracts were used to brew 9,000 gallons of bitter and mild ale a day.

This overcame the difficulty of carrying and keeping casks of beer in hot climates. Instead of "tired" brew, the Navy got fresh beer.

Mr. Clarke, married, with two children, is head brewer of an Alton firm. He first went into the beer business when he was 14, and still likes his glass of light ale.

He would say nothing about his claim yesterday. "Let's wait until after the hearing," he said.
Daily Herald - Saturday 17 July 1954, page 2.
9,000 gallons is 250 barrels. Which is a fair old amount. Assuming 6 brew days a week, that comes to 75,000 barrels a week. A decent-sized brewery, I'd call that.

The ship must have had a pretty decent duistillation plant to provide enough water to brew that quantity of beer. But they didn't brew with staright distilled water. As this next article makes clear, it was treated to make it more suitable for brewing.

A MAN claimed in London yesterday that his wartime invention gave the British sailor his pint of beer at sea.

He is Mr. Stephen Clarke, head brewer of an Alton (Hants) brewery, and he claimed an award for inventing the "floating brewery."

He told the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors how the beer was made.

The "brewery" was built into a bold of the 7,404-ton converted merchant-ship Menestheus, he said.

Malt extract and hop concentrates were used to make the beer - with distilled and treated sea water.

The "brewery," said Mr. Clarke. was capable of producing 350 barrels of beer a week.

The Admiralty described the snip as an "amenity ship," containing theatre, cinema, reading and writing rooms."

But, said Mr. Clarke. this description was "unromantic." In fact, the ship was a brewery plant.

Mr. Clarke said that in 1944 he was told that the Admiralty had asked the Institute of Brewing whether it was passible to brew beer at sea. "The answer was 'No'," said Mr. Clarke. "but I decided it could be done."

Treat and the Liffey The president. Lord Justice Cohen questioned Mr. Clarke on the reason for treating distilled water for brewing.

"The salts are nevessary." Mr. Clarke said. "They are the reason why Burton-on-Trent has become famous."

Lord Justice Cohen: Ah. yes, and the Liffey in Dublin.

Mr. P. Stuart Bevan. for the Admiralty, said the first brewing took place in the Menestheus in December, 1945.

"There was no wartime use of this invention." he said. "Therefore it does not qualify for an award in any event."

And he added: "It is with distress that I have to recommend a nil award in so meritorious a subject matter."

The Commission's findings will be announced."
Daily Mirror - Thursday 29 July 1954, page 4.

I wonder which article got the brewery's capacity right? There's a big difference between 250 barrels a day and 350 barrels a week.

It's amazing how people always assume that Guinness used water from the River Liffey to brew. I don't think I can recall a single case where a brewery used river water. Other than London breweries using New River water. But, then again, that wasn't a real river but a man-made supplier of drinking water.

Sad that Menestheus never brewed any beer during the war. So Mr. Clarke couldmn't get an award for his useful invention.

Next we'll find out more about the brewery and the fate of the Menestheus


The Beer Nut said...

If, as is likely, St James's Gate is supplied from Poulaphouca Reservoir (est. 1940), then Guinness is currently brewed from Liffey river water.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how the beer was distributed and if that was a limiting factor.