Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Trouble at Messrs. Arrol & Sons, Limited, Brewery, Alloa (part 3)

Remember the start of this series? No, I can't either. Sometime way back in the past. We've finally got to Mr. Heslop's suggestions for cleaning up Arrol's brewery and making the beers drinkable.

Having read the long list of dirty equipment, sloppy methods and inadequate machinery, you can't help but assume that all Arrol's beer had been vinegar or worse. How could a brewery which, like other Scots brewers, depended mostly on free trade, have kept any customers with their beer in such a sorry state? Well, the fact that they brought in Mr. Heslop suggests that the poor beer quality was affecting sales.

Let's see what Mr. Heslop suggested:

"Mr Heslop's Solution

Having been asked by you to make a full report on the trouble at your brewery at Alloa, I have now pleasure in forwarding same. I have concentrated this as much as possible without in any way detracting from its value, and trust it will meet with your approval, and that better results may be obtained in the near future.

The cause of the trouble with your beers in my opinion arises from a combination of circumstances. The first, dirty plant, walls and cellars, also a certain percentage of casks which had been passed as clean, there having been no proper inspection lamp used. The second, too large a percentage of heavy malts in grists for hot weather. The third, badly cooked wort being boiled in too large bulk and by steam. The finings are being made at Brewery, but although higher in cost to buy it would be advisable to do so until such time as cellars where this produce is made are in a cleaner, sweeter smelling state.

Californian hops are being used for dry hopping meantime, but a blend of Mild English hops might improve the flavour of beer in cask.

Your stock of Indian and Californian malts is getting too small. I have told your brewer to start malting operations immediately as his stock of usable malts will be finished in about a month, and new malt must not be used till it is at least 5 to 6 weeks old. Your Indian barley is late in arriving and you will be compelled to buy this class of malt also Californian for a time to keep your Brewery going, as by blending American and Scotch malts, with above and Californian, except in very small percentages, can only lead to further trouble and fining difficulties. If possible to procure, a quantity of Tunisian light malt to be blended in pale ale grists would still give much better results.

Since seeing American barley to-day and ascertaining from your Maltster the difficulty he had in keeping it sound on the malting floor, I strongly advise you to sell both barley (400 qrs.) and malt (700 qrs.) even at a slight loss, as it will only give you further trouble with your beers if used, and I have told your Mr Church and Mr Hay this to-day. I also examined barley and malt cleaning machinery, and meantime you have merely roughing-out machines and an addition should be made to this plant later.

The mash and sparge heats are correct for type of malts used, and all other particulars and details of system I have gone into with your Brewer.

The Brewer should have full power in the management of Brewing and Malting Departments with no interference whatever from the Commercial Department, and the ordering and order books should be in his hands. When barley, malt and hops have to be bought and contracts have to be made, then one of your Directors should be consulted.

If my advice is carefully followed out without unnecessary delay, plant etc. kept thoroughly clean and sweet and with proper supervision of men, I see no reason why you should not turn out Ales of fairly good quality.

I asked Mr Robert Henderson to examine and report on well, as this was absolutely necessary.

I am. Gentlemen,

Yours faithfully

A. J. Heslop."
Journal of the Scottish Brewing Archive Vol. 3, 2001, pages 35 - 36.

His recommendations in a nutshell: clean the brewery and make sure all the casks are clean; change the malt used; buy in finings rather than making them in a filthy cellar.

This being 1916, getting hold of the foreign barley to malt wouldn't necessarily have been that simple. And the quality of barley available wasn't likely to be the best. Brewers had to learn to make use of what they could get hold of during the war. I've seen it mentioned elsewhere that malt shouldn't be used immediately. Not sure why that is exactly, but I'm not going to argue.

I'm shocked that they used American hops for dry-hopping. Normally only good English or Continental hops were used in the cask and American hops were reserved for early copper additions. Mostly because no-one much cared for the flavour of American hops and used them where this would be the least noticeable.

There's one recommendation that should be nailed up in every brewery: let the brewer run brewing operations and keep the money men out of it. It's a sad and depressing truth that once the brewer loses control of brewing, the beers turn to shit. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. It's happened everywhere from Bass to Guinness to Pilsner Urquell.


Gary Gillman said...

This shows that there may be a mini-tradition of Scots ales using American hops in quantity or to feature the flavour. I first noticed an American flavour in British beers about 20 years ago, in some of Caledonian's beers. It seems it may be something, like an appreciation of lager, that is much older in Scotland than people realise.


Jeff Renner said...

I wonder what "too large a percentage of heavy malts in grists for hot weather" means.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, I wondered about that, too.

Barm said...

I took it to mean heavier malts in the sense of those with more unfermentable sugars, which could provide nourishment for spoilage organisms. Back to the idea of highly attenuated beer keeping better in summer.

Gary Gillman said...

The exact experience is recounted here:

I.e., the best quality malts, richest in extracts, cause more problems in summer, or some summers, than inferior malts. The author here presumes it from experience but doesn't state why. I would think it had something to do with sugar-rich worts or new beers being more likely to spoil than beers of lighter gravity. Same idea as brewing highly attenuated beer to stand the trip out to a high climate.

True, all this can be adjusted via brewers' lengths and fermenting times. Tthe author above hints at that solution because he states heavy malts can be "manipulated" to produce good results, but clearly many brewers didn't change much how they brewed in the summer and in general operated by guess and by go.

The Arrol experience a generation or more after this was written showed that operating in a pre-scientific way likely caused disaster more often than good results (despite the fondness today for Rousseau-like primitive artisan methods).

It's a reminder too why brewers around the world largely abandoned traditional top-fermentation in favour of methodical, refrigerated lagering...


Gary Gillman said...

I think I gave the wrong link above, here is the one I meant, from the January, 1876 issue of The Brewer's Journal:

Dave said...

I would understand the delay in using malts to indicate they were delivered before the resting period (I believe allowing the grains to even out in moisture content, perhaps among other purposes). I don't know why malts would be stored on the referenced malting floor otherwise. I'm not a maltster nor expert, and perhaps it was standard practice or naming