Friday 23 February 2024

Bass Charrington's £20m. brewery project

More about the wonderful Runcorn brewery. This time it's a puff piece in the Brewers' Guardian.

It's rather typical of the technocrat tone of the publication at the time. As sort of Hooray for Everything approach

"Bass Charrington's £20m. brewery project
As can be seen from the above scale model, a feature of Bass Charrington's proposed £20m. brewery on a 100-acre site at Runcorn New Town, Cheshire, is that much of the production plant will be in the open air. At this stage, the company are not disclosing any technical details of the project, but it is thought likely that there will be a system of batch wort production and a degree continuous fermentation.

The practice of placing some of the plant outside the brewery walls follows similar recent moves at the Beamish & Crawford brewery in Cork and the Cornbrook Brewery, Manchester, where they have outside fermenters. Last year a completely exposed brewhouse at the Tennent Caledonian Brewery in Glasgow also went into production.

Bass Charrington's announcement follows the completion of a survey into the, brewing, packaging and distribution requirements the company are likely to be facing in the l970's and 1980’s."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 33.

This open-air shit seems to have been an obsession of Bass Charrington.I can understand why you'd put conical fermenters outside, especially the huge ones. But why the hell would you put the brewhouse outside? This is the UK. Where rain isn't totally unknown. Wouldn't it just be a right pain in the arse for the brewing staff?

"The new brewery, along with packaging and kegging facilities should come into production in 1972-73. It will have an annual capacity of 2.5 million barrels and will employ approximately 1,250 people. When completed it will be Europe’s largest single unit and it will be capable of expansion if this should prove necessary at some later date.

Stone & Webster in London are producing the engineering design, carrying out the purchasing and supervising construction of the development which will use processes specified bv Bass Charrington. Stone & Webster have been working as consultants with Bass Charrington during the planning stages and engineering design work has already been started by them."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 33. 

It actually opened in 1974. And initially employed 500. Which turned out to be far too many. Eventually it was staffed by just 150.

This next bit is rather disingenuous. Because the medium-term plan was to close all their breweries in England and Wales, other than Runcorn and Cape Hill. It looks like bottling and canning was already being concentrated at Runcorn in anticipation of this.

"Once the new brewery comes into operation a number of existing plants in the Group will be closed during 1972-73. The breweries affected are Barrow, Blackpool, Burnley, Liverpool, Manchester, Aberbeeg, Fernvale and Mile End. The Cannon brewery at Sheffield may also be closed.

Bottling will cease at Tadcaster and Wolverhampton; bottling and canning will cease at Cape Hill: and bottling and kegging will cease at Cardiff, but all these units will continue to brew. The bottling, kegging and canning plant at Tottenham will also close as will the bottling plant at Yeovil.

As a result of this reorganisation Bass Charrington breweries in England and Wales will, after the new brewers has come into production, be sited at: Runcorn; Tadcaster; Sheffield; Burton; Birmingham; Cardiff; Wolverhampton. The reorganisation will not affect Bass Charrington's operations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 33.

They seem to have forgotten about one English brewery: Highgate in Walsall. Or was it jsut too small to be worth mentioning? Never heard of Fernvale? Neither had I. It was in South Wales, apparently. Aberbeeg was the home of Webbs, another brewery from South Wales that I've never come across before. Probably because it was so small.


Richard said...

I'm struggling to understand the outdoor bit - were the mash tuns etc literally outside with out any protection?

Anonymous said...

Richard so big was the market for Smithwick’s post Guinness buyout they built large tanks outside the back of the brewery. The current Guinness brewery is another example.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, the brewing kit was partially exposed. Milling and mashing was under a roof, with the kettles and hot wort side exposed to the elements. Although everything was a closed system, operated from a central control room. After it became clear that continuous fermentation was a disaster, Bass eventually enclosed the tanks to keep them from being visible to the public. The pinnacle of 70's brewing aesthetic was to make your brewery look as similar as possible to an oil refinery - a mass of exposed and coiling stainless steel.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a lot of coal still being burned then? In a business where you need cleanliness, I'd think you would want as much inside just to minimize soot getting on your equipment. Sort of like a laundry in theory could operate outside, but why?

Richard said...


Bribie G said...

The Cardiff brewery produced Hancock's PA as a cask beer and the popular Allbright which was the same thing but pasteurised and kegged.
Seems weird policy in the case of Allbright that they would presumably brew, filter, pasteurise the beer in Cardiff then truck the beer up to Runcorn or somewhere and then send it back to Cardiff in kegs.

Anonymous said...

Does not make logistical sense.