Sunday 28 July 2019

Brewing at William Younger in the 1880’s (part one)

Alfred Barnard. What a great bloke. I’d like to shake his hand. For the service he did to history grubbers like me by recording so many classic breweries of the late 19th century. He might have been vague on the beers. I can fill that information in from brewing records. Barnard noted the nuts and bolts of breweries. The mash tuns, coolers, coppers, fermenters and cleansers.

Luckily for us, Barnard dropped by William Younger on his travels. After a couple of chapters on Younger’s extensive maltings, he gets onto the useful stuff, the Abbey Brewery. Kicking off with the mashing stage.

"At one corner of the place a pair of mill rollers were actively at work crushing the malt as it fell from a receptacle above, and we saw the grist "Jacobed " as they call it here—i.e., lifted by an elevator to an immense hopper fixed in the centre of the house, to be ready for the first process. From the apex of this hopper protrudes a large-size Steel's mashing machine, which serves two mash tuns, each of which holds forty quarters. They are both constructed of wood, lined with copper, and possess gun-metal draining plates."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland vol. II", by Alfred Barnard 1889, pages 18 - 19.

A Steel’s masher is a large screw in which water and malt are mixed on their way into the mash tun. Invented by a Mr. Steel in the 1850’s, it proved immensely useful and popular. Older British breweries like Fullers and Harveys still use them. It’s a very simple and effective way of getting a mash with a good consistency from the minute it enters the tun.

A tun of forty quarters could mash enough wort for around 160 barrels of 1056º beer. However, looking at Younger’s records for 1888, they weren’t mashing at full capacity every time. Or even any time. Mostly it was just 20-odd quarters per brew. The largest I can find was just 35 quarters.

The wort would have flown from the mash tun to the underback.

"The next object that attracted our attention was the underback, also a copper vessel of some ten barrels capacity, which is placed in the basement of the building, and from which the wort is pumped direct into the coppers."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland vol. II", by Alfred Barnard 1889, page 19.

A ten barrel underback seems very small to contain wort from a 40-quarter mash tun. That’s enough to produce around 160 barrels of beer at 1055º and 80 barrels even at a gravity of 1100º.

“Returning to the mashing floor we were shown the two coppers, wherein the wort is boiled with the hops. These are of cylindrical form, and rise from the floor of the house to a great height. They are also constructed of copper, and their tops are reached by means of a gangway protruding from the second stage. We noticed in close proximity another vessel called the heating tank, which supplies the hot water to the mash tuns, etc. The hot wort is conveyed from the coppers in pipes, stretching across the western corner of the building to the hop-back, which is placed on a long gallery overhead. From this vessel the strained liquor runs by gravitation to the coolers placed on the floor of the next building."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland vol. II", by Alfred Barnard 1889, page 19.

Cooling was performed the classic late 19th-century way, with a combination of large, open, shallow coolers and heat-exchanging refrigerators:

"Pursuing our investigations, we next ascended a stair to the first stage, and by a doorway entered the cooling or cooler room. It is a large apartment, with latticed sides, measuring 90 feet by 40 feet, and contains two open coolers of large dimensions, and two of Morton's refrigerators."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland vol. II", by Alfred Barnard 1889, page 19.

The initial stage in the coolers wasn’t just for cooling purposes. These shallow vessels were also perfect for dropping out a lot of the gunk in the wort.

A Morton’s refrigerator is like a washboard of copper pipes through which brine is circulated. The wort runs over these pipes, cooling quickly. And presumably oxidising nicely at the same time.

This is an excerpt from my excellent book on Scottish brewing, Scotland! vol. 2:


Jeff Renner said...

Hopefully the refrigerator is oxygenating the wort, not oxidizing it!

Anonymous said...

Who would have been the audience for a work like that (besides 21st Century bloggers)?

Sean O'Reilly said...

Thanks for your description of the Morton's refrigerator. I now have a name for piece of kit that I saw at Brouwerij Huyghe in February.