Saturday, 17 March 2012

T & J Bernard's Old Edinburgh Brewery (part three)

So exciting. We're off to see the tuns. The wonderful tuns of Bernard.

"Leaving this reservoir behind us, we next bent our steps to the tun room, a we descended to a sub-basement under the offices, where our guide satisfied our curiosity.

The beer is conveyed from the fermenting tuns to the flattening squares on the opposite side of the street, by means of a copper pipe laid under the road, and through which there is a copper wire with suckers attached like those used in pumps, by the use of which the pipe is kept thoroughly sweet and clean.

Before leaving this side of the brewery we were taken to the far end of the quadrangle to see the porter vathouse, which contains a vat holding 200 barrels; and a large store or cellar for cleansing stout, which contains the usual vessels for that purpose. Here also is the engine-house, containing—besides a set of three-throw pumps—an overhead crank engine of fourteen horse-power, and near to it three steam boilers, which are planted at the end of an open space used for storing strong ales and porter."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 3", Alfred Barnard, 1890, pages 111 - 112.
If you remember the map from earlier, it shows how much larger the premises on the south side of the road were. Given the site, it would have been impossible to extend the old part of the brewery as it was hemmed in on all sides.

You have to wonder just how "thoroughly sweet and clean" that pipe under the road was kept. Sounds like just the sort of place an infection could settle in. It sounds like they were using a variation on the dropping system, with the beer being moved into large shallow squares at the end of fermentation to cool it and remove yeast. The practice seems to have been common in Scotland.

I'm surprised at how much specialist Porter equipment they had. Ageing standard Porter in vats went out of fashion (and all but disappeared) in the 1870's. By the time this article was written only strong Stouts would have been vatted.

Now the Pale Ale cellar and racking room:

"Passing under the railway arch which crosses the street at the end of Messrs. Bernard's property, we first entered the pale ale cellar—measuring 228 feet by 118 feet. It contains eight " flatteners," or settling squares, which hold together 600 barrels. They are all fine vessels, and stand on iron columns, a few feet from the floor. In this apartment the ale is racked into casks, which are then lifted by a steam hoist similar to that described in Chapter II., to the two upper floors, and a floor still higher which communicates with the railway. In the centre of this place is the well, 200 feet deep, which supplies all the tanks on both sides of the brewery, the water being pumped thereto by two sets of powerful pumps. Our guide lifted the trap-door and threw a light down far as its rays would reach, to show us the iron ladder by which it is possible to descend to the surface of the water; but we had no wish to explore its mysterious depths."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 3", Alfred Barnard, 1890, page 112.
The railway arch is all that remains of the structure Barnard described. It's one of the things that helped me pinpoint the brewery's location. This is interesting. The beer went from fermenter to the settling square  for cleansing. Which means that they didn't have union sets. That's a slight surprise. brewers that were heavily into Pale Ale mostly copied Burton practice and installed union sets. Like William Younger, for example, who were just down the road from Bernard.

Finally, we drop by the cooperage:

"Ascending to the second floor above, the first thing that attracted our attention was the saw-mill, containing two saw benches - one upright and the other vertical - for cutting and shaping staves, etc. On one side were piles of timber and staves, waiting to be manipulated before being sent to the cooperage in the adjoining yard, and at one comer an office for the manager of this department.

We next visited the cask-washing sheds, which are similarly arranged to those described in previous chapters, the cooperage, and the repairing shops contiguous. Thirty men are employed in this yard, of whom twenty are expert coopers, besides a number of boys ; and about 100 men in other departments. Having completed our inspection, we returned to the brewery by another way, after taking a peep at the stables and cart-sheds in the enclosure at the bottom of the hill."
"Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 3", Alfred Barnard, 1890, pages 112 - 113.

Barrels were  a major expense for breweries in the days when they were handmade from wood. As the proportion of the workforce employed in the cooperage department indicates: 30 out of the total of 130 workers. The skilled coopers - numbering twenty - would have been some of the best paid manual workers in the brewery.

Next we'll be taking a look at Bernard's new brewery. About which I've a few tales of my own.

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