Monday, 18 July 2011

What you need to start an early 19th-century Irish brewery

We're back with Samuel Morewood and his impossibly-titled book about booze.

First there's a handy breakdown of the equipment and its cost needed to set up a brewery in Ireland. Very useful for the time-travelling entrepreneur.

"To establish a brewery in Ireland on a moderate scale would require no great capital. For a concern calculated to turn out 30 barrels per week, two coppers only would be requisite, one to boil fifteen and another to boil six barrels. A mash-keive to answer those coppers should be about 78 inches in diameter and 40 in altitude. The under-back need not be of great capacity, one of five barrels' content would be sufficient, as the liquor is immediately pumped from it to the coppers. The cooler, usually made of inch and quarter plank, should be such as not to admit the worts to be, at any time, more than 2.5 inches in depth, the more shallow the better, but much must depend on the size of the cooler and the magnitude of the apartment where it is erected. Two fermenting tuns, of from 15 to 61 barrels' content each, would be adequate for such an establishment ; they are usually made from American pine. The cost of these articles may be estimated at—

£ s. d.
2 Coppers 60 0 0
1 Mash-keive, or tun 8 0 0
1 Underback, 2 0 0
1 Cooler, 12 0 0
2 Fermenting tuns,.. 12 0 0
A Wort and water pump, 5 0 0
A Handmill for bruising or grinding malt 10 0 0
40 Barrels, at 11s. per barrel 22 0 0
70 Half do. at 18s. do 28 0 0
70 Quarter barrels, at 5s 17 10 0
1 Large Dray,.. 7 0 0
1 Small Dray, 3 10 0
Casks, stillings, troughs, instruments, etc... 40 0 0
Total,  £267 0 0

To work a concern of this kind, it would require two men and a boy constantly, with a cooper occasionally to prepare the casks, the expense of which may be reckoned at £40 annually. From these data may be easily calculated, what capital might be necessary for a concern on a larger scale, and which would be proportionably cheaper."
"A philosophical and statistical history of the inventions and customs of Ancient and Modern Nations in the Manufacture and Use of Intoxicating Liquors" by Samuel Morewood, 1838, pages 624 - 625.

Less than 300 quid for a fully functional brewery. I'll have two, please. 30 barrels a week is 1,500 or so barrels in a year. I just happen to know, from some other documents I've been looking at, that in 1832 there were 42 breweries in Ireland of about that size. That's out of a total of 216 breweries. So just about 20% of Irish breweries were this size.

Notice something odd about the prices of the various sizes of barrels? A half barrel is 18 shillings, but a full barrel just 11 shillings. That makes no sense. While we're on the topic of barrels, I was intrigued as to how many were needed to cope with that 30 barrel weekly output. 40 full, 70 half and 70 quarter barrels adds up to a capacity of 92.5 barrels. Or about triple the weekly production. That implies that the beer was no longer than 3 weeks in the barrel. Taking into account the time waiting for the empty to be returned, etc, it probably wasn't more than a fortnight. Presumably a brewery operating on this scale would have only been supplying local outlets.

With just two fermenting tuns, such a brewery couldn't have brewed every day of the week. A couple of brews of 15 barrels each would have tied up the fermenters.

We'll be getting on to a description of the brewing itself next. Exciting, or what?


The Beer Nut said...

If you want something with a bit more output, and don't mind travelling another 30 years further on, I draw your attention to this notice in The Irish Times:

Sat, 2 March 1861
Court of Bankruptcy and Insolvency
In the matter of Thomas Francis Reade and Richard Arthur Reade of Ardee Street in the city of Dublin, brewers, trading as Reade Bros., bankrupts.

To be sold at auction on Tuesday 5th March 1861 all the estate, title and interest of the bankrupts.

The purchaser will be entitled to the following:
1 8-horse-power condensing steam engine and boiler, complete.
1 cast-iron sky cooler, containing 300 barrels.
2 brewing coppers, containing each 60-70 barrels.
1 set of three-throw 6-inch water pumps, with crank rods and pipes.
1 pair metal rollers in frames, and gearing.
1 set of elevators and hopper for grinding, and malt screen.
1 wood mash tun, with machine and false bottom for 60 barrels.
Same for 20 barrels.
(Each mash tun has a revolving copper sparger driven by engine.)
1 under back and pipes, and cocks to each mash tun.
Gearing from engine to drive the above machine.
1 wood hop-back, with metal false bottom containing 60 barrels.
Spring well in brewery yard, 200 feet deep, with metal pump and gearing.
1 large cast-iron wort cooler, and 1 wooden cooler with 2 fans.
1 set of wort cooling copper pipes, pumps and metal cistern.
Reilly's patent refrigerator, with cocks and pipes to tuns.
5 fermenting tuns, with copper tempering pipes.
Copper and lead pipes and cocks, leading to and from tuns through store house.
1 hand pump and lead pipes in tun room.
1 wood settling back, containing 800 barrels and pump.
Number of brass cocks, copper, lead, and metal pipes connected.
9 vats containing from 35 to 65 barrels each.
2 small vats, containing about 8 barrels each.
1 patent cask cleaning machine, and driving gear.
2 wood vessels in back yard, for liquor for scalding casks.
3 timber malt bins and a separator.

The brewery is in perfect working order, capable of doing a large business, and on a very small outlay this concern would nearly do double its present work; the quantity of drink made therein for the last year amounted to 11,000 barrels.

Barm said...

Half barrels must have involved almost as much labour as constructing a full barrel, so it makes perfect sense for them to be proportionally more expensive.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, thanks very much for that. Very useful information.

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, they weren't proportionately more expensive. The half barrels were listed as costing almost double the price of full barrels.

Andrew Elliott said...

Perhaps supply and demand? Whisky makers used Barrel and Quarter Barrels, did they use halves? Or perhaps more obviously it could be a typo?

Martyn Cornell said...

Talking of barrels, I'm guessing these were Irish barrels, ie, IIRC, 32 gallons, not the 36-gallon British barrel.

Gary Gillman said...

Assuming the half-barrels were purpose made (not sawn in half and finished necessitating extra labour), I can't see how they would come cheaper unless the argument about supply and demand and whiskey is valid. Interesting argument.


Tyler said...

The posts your doing on Irish brewing are great. Thanks so much, would it be possible to do some historic Irish recipes for Let's Brew Wednesday?

Ron Pattinson said...

Tyler, unfortunately, I've not had access to any Irish brewing records. I'm considering a trip to Ireland for that very purpose. I just need to organise it.