Thursday, 3 May 2012

Trouble at Messrs. Arrol & Sons, Limited, Brewery, Alloa

Being used to the glowing and poetic, romantic even, descriptions of breweries by Bernard, it was quite a shock to come across this much more prosaic account. Reading it makes Arrol's brewery sound an insanitary mess.

I found the text in the Journal of the Scottish Brewing Archive Vol. 3, 2001, pages 31 - 36, though the original source is a document held in the archive. It's a report by A. J. Heslop into the state of the brewery along with his recommendations for sorting out the problems. And there are certainly plenty of those.

"WELL - 'I understand from your brewer that until a few years ago, the water was quite clear coming from the well. Surface water has apparently broken through the brick lining since then and helped to cause the dullness  in water.'

PUMP & POWER - 'I understand the old pump stood right above the well, and was driven by a steam engine. This was not an ideal system, as lubricating oil and oily water naturally went back into the well, but this system still holds good in many successful breweries.'

STEEL'S MASHING MACHINE 'The whole was in a very dirty state, and between the malt hopper slide and top of machine, there were large lumps of discoloured wet sour malt adhering. The back part of machine has been cut open, and a large plate with thumb screws fitted so that the machine can be thoroughly cleaned and inspected after every mash. The trunk in front meantime is being taken down every day for cleaning till such time as it is altered and made portable.'

MASHING MACHINE THERMOMETER 'At the end of mashing machine and just in front of the point where the trunk fits on lo the same, there should be a proper mashing thermometer fined to lift out and in, as the present system of judging the mashing heat is very unsatisfactory.'

MASH-TUN RAKES, SINGLE ARM TYPE - 'These I found practically useless, and very dirty around centre and stuffing box, and have had them removed.'

MASH-TUN WASH OFF - 'At present there is no proper wash-off for cleaning out bottom of mash tuns after false bottom plates are taken up, all washings having to be brushed through the 4" wort draw-off cock.' This is very unsatisfactory, and I have recommended the cutting of one 9" hole in each mash-tun and same to be fitted with plug.'

VALENTINE'S WORT REGULATOR - 'No thermometer for registering heat of worts; this should be attended to.'

WORT COPPERS - 'The largest wort copper is, in my opinion, too large for the boiling and proper cooking of delicate pale ales, and when I saw it boiling, the circulation was not good, and a good deal of foaming was taking place. This copper should not be used for wort boiling, but ought to be utilised for boiling the so-called pit water, and if a small tank were fitted up near present wort receivers and at same height, with pump to feed same from copper, you would then have a plentiful supply of safe washing water commanding Refrigerators, Hop-Backs. Fermenting Room, Yeast House and Cellars; boiling water in these departments is badly needed.'

EXPERIMENTAL BOILING FOUNTAIN An experimental boiling fountain made in two halves to my instructions is being got ready in order to see if wort circulation in copper can be improved. Should this be a success the percentage of copper hops may have to be cut down slightly as a little more of the bitter principle of the hop will be extracted.'

SPENT HOP APPARATUS - There is no means at present of getting spent hops out of the hop back at foot of stairs, but an overhead arrangement is being constructed to get over the difficulty, and ought to be pushed on with.'

SPENT HOPS - "Spent sour hops were lying too long in close proximity to hop backs and coppers.'

WOODEN FERMENTING VESSELS There are 7 old wooden vessels which are very acid and the wood soft and dirty, and, in my opinion, quite unfit for use in their present state. Owing to their construction it would be very difficult indeed to copper line them satisfactorily. I understand your Brewer could do without them if new vessel were in use, and the best thing would be to remove them altogether. The new white cedar vessel almost finished should be put into use as soon as possible so as to enable your Brewer to do away with old vessels.'

COPPER LINED VESSELS - 'Most of these vessels are all right, but there is one large vessel made into two by division in centre. At times I understand this division bulges with the pressure, when the copper lining cracks and the one vessel leaks into the other. This is highly dangerous, and the worts and yeast are bound to be infected and some strengthening arrangement ought to be fitted, such as a strong iron bar right through centre of vessels and connected outside by means of plates, and all cracks soldered up.'

WOODEN GANGWAY AND ATTEMPERATING PIPE - 'Below the Fermenting room floor there is an old rotten gangway giving access to attemperating cocks; this is simply a harbour for dirt, and when the attemperating system is completed, doing away with the old form of attemperating discharge water open gutter, with its attendant evils, the whole gangway ought to be cleared away at once and all the iron girders washed, disinfected, painted and enamelled.'

YEAST SKIMMING PARACHUTES AND PIPES - Owing to lack of circular brushes these extension pipes of parachutes had not been brushed for a very long time, and consequently were in a dirty condition and contaminating pitching yeast. These have now been cleaned, and I recommended changes of yeast from another brewery while this was being done.'

YEAST COLLECTING VESSEL - Meantime a most primitive system prevails as regards collecting, and storing pitching yeast, old casks employed for same and unboiled pit water being the only water used for cleaning these casks. Messrs Adams have fitted a rail below fermenting vessels with the idea of running aluminium yeast tanks under parachute tubes to collect yeast from same, but meantime there is only the rail. This system, if properly carried out would be an admirable one, but fairly costly. Meantime I would suggest getting three copper lined yeast waggons on wheels with portable cold water attemperators, such as your Brewer has seen at work in Duddingston Brewery, for storing his pitching yeast.'

YEAST PRESS - 'This is not being used meantime, and until beers are all right, I have advised its disuse. When things are going well, and probably about the month of November when the cold weather is with us, I think it would then be very advisable to have it started up, as it means a big saving of duty free beer, the beer contained in yeast being equal to 1 to 2% and duty free at that, means a large saving per annum if properly pressed at the right time.'"

There's a lot to digest there. And that's only half of the report. Lots and lots of serious infection problems. The wooden fermenters, in particular, sound certain to have been harbouring all sorts of nasties.

This intrigued me: "The largest wort copper is, in my opinion, too large for the boiling and proper cooking of delicate pale ales". It's not the first time that I've seen mention of special needs when boiling Pale Ales. Open coppers seem to have been usually preferred. Though I've yet to see an explanation as to exactly why. Ah . . . I think the next part about the boiling fountain my do exactly that. If the wort circulated better it would extract more bitterness. Obviously of importance when brewing Bitter.

Yeast waggon  is a piece of equipment I've not come across before. It definitely sounds more hygienic than old barrels that haven't been cleaned properly. It sounds like a good way to infect every single brew, storing your pitching yeast in dirty barrels.

Though as the pipes of the parachutes for skimming were filthy, the yeast was contaminated before it even got to the dirty barrels. No surprise then, that Mr. Heslop suggests getting in yeast until that was sorted out. It sounds as if every batch was being contaminated by the yeast pitched into it.

The stuff about the yeast press and duty free beer is an interesting point. When duty was charged on the gravity of wort before fermentation, brewers were allowed 6% wastage during production. That is, they only paid duty of 94% of the wort that went into the fermenters. If you could manage to waste just 4%, then you weren't paying tax on 2% of a batch. Brewers became obsessed with clawing back any wort they could. That's also why re-using ullage was so popular. That was also effectively tax-free beer.

Big brewers in particular were at an advantage with the 6% wastage figure. Large, modern breweries were able to waste far less than smaller more old-fashioned breweries. The downside of re-using yeast and hop pressings, ullage and the like was that they could be a source of infection. Breweries would ruin all their beer, just for the sake of  squeezing out every last drop of wort.

We'll be returning to Arrol's insanitary brewery soon.


Gary Gillman said...

Ron, with respect to circulation of the wort, I suspect a design that promoted maximum agitation would tend to minimize burn spots and caramelisation. In porter-type beers, this would not be noticed but in pale ales, the faults would be more apparent. The old Stroh's in Detroit used to promote open fire boiling of kettles as it felt a slight caramelisation improved the beer. Decreased hop use for the same IBUs would have been a side benefit, not a prime objective, IMO.

The sanitation problems here sound major and one wonders how any of the beer could have been palatable.


Graham Wheeler said...

"This intrigued me: "The largest wort copper is, in my opinion, too large for the boiling and proper cooking of delicate pale ales". It's not the first time that I've seen mention of special needs when boiling Pale Ales. Open coppers seem to have been usually preferred. Though I've yet to see an explanation as to exactly why."

I would suggest that it is all to do with minimising wort darkening. Dunno about Scotland, but the specialist pale ale brewers of, say, Burton, were paranoid about keeping their ales as pale as they could manage. Open coppers were preferred because fitting a dome will increase the pressure, albeit slightly, which will increase boil temperature by a couple of degrees, which will cause a disproportionate degree of wort darkening when using old-time pale malt.

Furthermore, there was the notion that 100 barrels or thereabouts was the maximum size of a copper for pale ale, and thus coppers for ale were typically about 80 barrels, although exceptions abound. This again is to reduce wort darkening, but on an energy-density basis. When increasing the size of a copper, the wort volume of the copper increases at a greater rate than the surface area, or heating area of the copper. Therefore disproportionately more energy has to be pumped into a relatively small heating area to boil a big copper at the same rate as a smaller one, needing a hotter fire and making the base of the copper much hotter, which will darken the wort.

I have seen it written on several occasions that Burton brewers used to simmer their worts for long periods rather than boil them hard, and this too must have been to avoid wort darkening.

It should be appreciated that old-time pale malt had a higher tendency to darken in the copper than modern-style malt because, unlike modern malts, old-time malts were not gently dried before kilning. The grain was shoved onto the kiln while still damp. This high-temperature "stewing" caused the precursors to the Mailard reaction to be formed in the malt (just like crystal malt), and the reaction was completed in the copper. Although modern malts emerged during the early Victorian era, possibly even earlier, tradition dies hard; probably because they forgot the reason why certain rules of thumb emerged, and such traditions were observed for generations.

Agitation is more important than temperature during the wort boil. The fountain circulator and spreader, which worked like a coffee peculator, enabled brewers to do little more than simmer their worts, but still impart fierce agitation. This enabled bigger coppers to be used, and steam heating probably helped even further.

mentaldental said...

It certainly sounds like they need to look at sanitation and cleaning.

What is "so-called Pit-water"?

Ron Pattinson said...

Mental, pit-water seems to be the stuff used for general cleaning in the brewhouse. At least based on the description in this text.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, I've just been reading about how Irish breweries had huge coppers in which the wort caramelised. So I can see the sense in small coppers for Pale Ale.

Arctic Alchemy said...

Some great points of interest Graham, I have read of a few similar instances of this here in the states, nearer to the late 19th century the desire to create light colored beers was paramount to the brewer's success. No mention of darkening malts due to a Maillard reaction, because I believe that term appeared later in the early 20th century, sure makes sense.