Sunday, 4 September 2011

Horninglow Brewery, Burton-on-Trent

Yes, time for another dose of Barnard. This time he's visiting the brewery of Marston and Co. I think you may perhaps have heard of them.

It's not their current brewery. When they merged with John Thompson & Son in 1898, they moved to the Albion brewery. Presumably because that was larger.

"After this, we returned to the brewery yard to commence our inspection of the western side of the premises. In front of the brewhouse, in a conspicuous position over the archway, a handsome clock marks the time, not only for the employes, but serves as a monitor to the inhabitants of the vicinity. At the right of the building, a stone staircase, erected in a lofty circular tower, gives admittance to the various floors of the brewhouse, by which we ascended to reach the malt stores and malt receiving room. It is in the third floor of the left wing, and capable of holding 150 quarters of malt. The mill hopper rises from the centre of the floor and underneath it there is a screen for Gleaning the malt. Passing down a steep stair we came to the mill room containing the usual machinery and a pair of steel rollers capable of grinding twenty quarters per hour. The bruised malt falls therefrom on to an elevator by which it is conveyed to the grist hopper in the next building. As we passed along to the grist room we noticed extincteur and hand grenades on shelves for use in case of fire. Under the mill room there is an engineers' and fitters' shop, and an engine house which we afterwards visited. After inspecting the grist hopper and a metal liquor back, heated by steam copper coils and erected on a gallery, we entered the mashing stage occupying the floor over the archway. Here we were shown a thirty-quarter mash tun solidly constructed of oak, containing sparger, rakes and slotted iron draining plates. This tun is commanded by a Steel's mashing machine, and the grains are emptied from it by means of a valve trap leading to a spout in the yard. On this floor there is a large space reserved for a second mash tun, and under the stage there is a sub-floor, about 5 feet high leading to a balcony in the yard, used for setting the taps of the mash tun, and where is situated the excise office. Crossing this floor, and descending a few steps, we entered the next building, where is situated the copper stage, by far the most important place in the brewery. It is floored throughout with iron plates, is very lofty and open from floor to ceiling. It contains two splendid coppers, each with a capacity of sixty barrels, and over them the underback, which is heated by steam copper coils. Here also is the hop-press, and on the ground, opposite the copper hearth, a forty-barrel copper hop-back. The ale-wort is pumped by a centrifugal pump, from this latter vessel, to the coolers in the opposite wing of the brewhouse, and thither we next bent our steps.

Ascending to the third storey, we inspected the two open coolers and two vertical refrigerators, and then descended to the fermenting room underneath. It contains seven fermenting squares the largest of which holds eighty barrels, and several other vessels. The ground floor is used as a fining house, for the firm brew porter as well as ale, when required for supplying their own public-houses. Again crossing the yard, we entered a detached building nearly 100 feet in length, the upper storey of which is devoted to the union rooms, and contains eighty union casks fitted with attemperators and overhead yeast troughs. The entire ground floor is utilized as racking rooms and ale cellars, and will hold nearly 1,000 casks. In the centre of the floor there is a racking vat holding eighty barrels, and, beyond, a yeast press with small engine attached for working the steam pump and pressing apparatus."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 2", Alfred Barnard, 1889, pages 423 - 424.

This wasn't a huge brewery. The mash tun had a capacity of 30 quarters. That's only ten times the size of the one in the model brewery at Allsopp. Enough to brew about 120 barrels of beer at a time. The union room capacity seems small in relation. Assuming the union casks were the normal 61-gallon size, that's a total of 135 barrels. Or just about a single brew. Which implies that only a small percentage of their beer went through the unions.

Fermenting vessels. I always like to mention them. In this case there were seven squares, the largest holding 80 barrels. Burton brewers were divided in their preference between rounds and squares. One thing there were in agreement about: the small size of fermenters. Most of Allsopp's rounds only held 15 barrels, a ridiculously small size for the quantity of beer they were producing. Bass's squares were a bit bigger at 45 barrels, but still relatively tiny. That makes Marston's largest square quite big for Burton.

This bit confuses me: "The ground floor is used as a fining house, for the firm brew porter as well as ale, when required for supplying their own public-houses." That implies that you didn't need to fine Pale Ale, just Porter. I know that a proper Stock Pale Ale was supposed to drop spontaneously bright, if left to mature long enough. The quote also tells us that Burton brewers, just like London ones, brewed beers outside their area of specialisation to be able to offer their pubs a full range.

In 1905 Marston & Thompson merged with another Burton brewery, Evershed. I'm not telling you this for the benefit of historical precision. But because I've a little information about their beers from 1891 - 1892. I'll be sharing it with you soon.


Ed said...

How do you use a hand grenade when a fire breaks out?

Graham Wheeler said...

The union room that Barnard describes may not have been their only union room. It seems that the amount of space that breweries got in Barnard's books was proportional to the subscription they paid.

Some breweries, like Bass, got a sufficiently long description to be able to make a separate book from it, as Bass did. Other brewers get a page or two.

With some breweries, presumably those that were not that impressive, Barnard struggles to say anything positive and seems to waffle somewhat, often devoting more space to the supposed "eminence" of the family than to the brewery itself.

I don't think it is safe to assume that Barnard's descriptions were complete or even the whole truth. As his books were written by subscription he doubtless thought that he had a duty to please his subscribers.

The fining floor probably contained what we would call the maturation casks or vats for porter. Fining does not necessarily refer to adding isinglass.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, you could be right about a second union room. But it doesn't sound that substantial a brewery. And Barnard seems to be scraping around for things to describe.

Being honest, I was pretty confused by that stuff about the fining floor. I guessed that it meant racking squares. Not sure about it meaning maturation casks. By the 1890's almost no-one was vatting Porter, even in London.

Martyn Cornell said...

Ed, that would be the hand grenade fire extinguisher, a glass "bomb" filled with a liquid designed to choke any blaze of oxygen.

Graham Wheeler said...

"Not sure about it meaning maturation casks. By the 1890's almost no-one was vatting Porter, even in London."

That is a bit sweeping. The best stouts, the doubles and triples and those that had brown and/or amber malt in them, were still being routinely vatted up to at least the second-world war, probably much later by some breweries. Stout and porter had long been almost synonyms by that time. Guinness were still vatting in the 1980s.

Barnard mentions (not illustrated) two porter rooms at the Bass New Brewery, each containing three 500 bbl vats (and many smaller casks) of stout maturing.

However, in A Visit To Bass' Brewery published by Bass in 1902, there is a photograph of the vat room and it contained sixteen 500 bbl vats of stout. From this it could be inferred that Bass were still actively building vats long after Barnard's visit in 1887.

Jeff Renner said...

I saw one of those hand grenades perhaps 40 years ago in the unused apartment (flat) over a tavern and restaurant in northern Michigan (USA). It was owned by a friend's family.

The extinguisher was a hollow glass globe about three inches in diameter that sat in a small wall sconce sort of thing. The label on this holder said to throw the globe at the base of the fire. It also said that it was filled with carbon tetrachloride!

Not only is carbon tet highly toxic, but the heat of a fire converts it to phosgene gas. I've often wondered what became of that extinguisher.