Saturday, 15 December 2012

Cupar Brewery

I seem to have got back into my Scotland groove. Not sure why, it just seems to have happened.

It's the turn of a smaller, provincial brewery. The sort of brewery that just about died out in Scotland towards the end of the 19th century. It's Mitchell Brothers of the Cupar Brewery. They spent a fair bit of money modernising the premises in the 1860's, which is the subject of the article below.

My immediate thought was: "I bet they weren't around much longer." It turns out I was wrong. They continued for at least another 50 years, at least according to "A Century of British Brewers Plus". They shut sometime around 1909. Looking at various maps, it seems all the brewery buildings have been demolished.

"CUPAR Brewery" is an old name which now falls to he fixed to premises in every respect more worthy of it than the old brewing establishment. In saying this, we have no intention of despising that establishment, for it no doubt did good service in its day; but in our day there has been a march of improvement in brewing as well as in everything else. The Messrs Mitchell wisely resolving not to be left behind in this march, some two or three months ago set about the extension and improvement of their brewing premises, and the result is that these may now be considered as entirely new and greatly enlarged. In fact, everything is new except the walls, which have also been heightened considerably, and the Cupar Brewery has attained such dimensions as must fairly win for it a place among the leading public works of Cupar and neighbourhood. Its importance will thus excuse our speaking of it a little in detail.

To strangers and those not immediately interested in looking narrowly at the premises, the only noticeable alteration is to the erection of a brick chimney stalk which has risen up, adding to the appearance of Cupar as a town where manufactures are carried on to a small extent. But we are privileged to step in and see the works. The first objects which attract our attention are the steam engine and boiler, which have been put in by Mr Mackie of Alloa. The boiler is large and of tubular construction, by which steam can be got up in much less time than if it were of the ordinary kind of stationary boiler, with a common flue. It is placed in a neatly arched brick structure specially erected for its reception, and is fitted up with steam and water guages on the newest and most approved principles and has a multiplicity of pipes, small and large, running away from it in every direction, which would baffle an engineer not acquainted with the requirements of a brewery to discover their uses. The pipes not connected with the working of the engine and boiler, are carried to various parts of the premisises to serve certain purposes in the operations carried on. Close on one side of the boiler is a roomy coal-house, conveniently situated for "firing;" while on the other side is the engine-house, a neat, well-planned place, in which a substantial and well-finished engine is smoothly at work. The engine, which is of the horizontal kind, is nominally of eight horse power, but may he worked up to ten or eleven with safety. In one corner is a force pump, worked by a lever from the fly-wheel shaft, which is capable of raising a plentifull supply of water to the highest parts of the premises.

We now leave the engine-room and proceed to the brewing premises proper. Ushered in at a large door, our olfactory organs at once apprise us that we are approaching the scene of active operations. We are conducted up a stair and still up along a series of winding and complicated flights of steps, rendered necessary by the internal arrangements of the building, till we reach the third storey. Cranks and eccentrics, and pulleys and belts, in motion, meet us at every other step : and at length we get a peep over the edge of the malt hopper in the top of the third storey. The details of the work are all arranged to save as much manual labour as possible, and at the door of this apartment we find a tackle, worked by the machinery, for bringing up the bags of malt to the malt-mill. The malt, when ground, is raised by the machinery, and passes into a tube or small cylinder, through which it is forced forward by a large screw, to be in readiness for the mash-tun. But we cannot go into details as to the operations, we must be content to take a cursory glance at the various apparatus.

In the third storey, along with the malt mill, are the wort copper, a vessel of some 1500 gallons capacity, and alongside of it an iron vessel of nearly the same size, used for heating water. The next thing that attracts notice is the hop-drainer, which is situated in an adjoining apartment, and separates the hops which have been added in the wort copper as the worts pass on to the coolers, which are still further on in the building, and cover a space of some 30 by 20 feet. Here, too, the aid of machinery is sought to expedite the cooling process. Two large fans hung on vertical shafts, and driven at a high speed horizontally over the liquor produce an artificial wind which soon brings about the desired effect. Immediately beneath the coolers are the fermenting tuns (technically called gyle tuns) into which the liquor next passes. These are four in number, each with a capacity of 1500 gallons, and from these the ales finally pass to undergo the necessary fermentation and clarification in cask, before being sent into the market. This takes place on the ground floor which we have now reached, and there is here one application of the steam from the engine boiler that is worthy of notice. It is turned on through an India-rubber tube with a metallic nozzle for the purpose of cleansing the casks, which saves a great deal of scrubbing and rolling about of the casks, which used to be performed by manual labour. The temperature, too, of the brewing premises may be raised at will by means of hot air, which is carried round all the apartments in cast-iron pipes.

These extensive improvements, which will cost somewhere between £2000 and £3000, are not yet wholly completed. The artisans are still busy finishing up, and it will be a few days before the brewery is in full working order. When that is the case, we believe the Messrs Mitchell, from the power of machinery at their command, will be able to do more work than any brewery in Fife. The establishment is to be under the superintendence of Mr John Mitchell, jun., who has had experience in first-rate places of the kind, and will conduct it on the same principles as the Edinburgh brewers, sending into the market ales of all sorts - India pale ale, export ales, English mild ales, Scotch ales, porter, and table beer, &c.

But a business establishment of this kind is incomplete without ample stores and cellarage ; and we believe it is the design of the Messrs Mitchell to supply this want as soon as the work can possibly be overtaken. They intend to add to the length of the present buildings, and to erect new and commodious cellars and stores on the site of the old houses which run parallel to the front of the brewing premises, and have been only partially used for brewing purposes. By these new buildings, the double advantage of ample accommodation and of something like uniformity with the extensive malt barns and granaries at the opposite end of the property will be gained. Upon the whole, the Messrs Mitchell give a laudable example of enterprise in these undertakings, which, we trust, will prove not only remunerative to themselves, but of benefit to the town and trade of Cupar."
Fife Herald - Thursday 16 April 1863, page 2.

It's time for brewhouse maths again. Those four gyle tuns held 15000 gallons each, or about 42 barrels. From the description, it sounds as if some of the fermentation was in trade casks. Which is important, as it means the fermenting wort would be in the gyle tuns for a shorter length of time. Usually I'd say about a week in the fermenter, but in this case two days might be closer to the mark. Which would give a weekly maximum capacity of around 500 barrels (3 x 42 x 4), or 25,000 barrels a year. I suspect the actual amount brewed was much less.

I'd have preferred it if the author hadn't spent quite so much of the article describing the engine and boiler. More details of the brewing equipment would have been useful. Though he does mention the types of beer they made. The mention of English Mild Ales intrigues me. It sounds as if a distinction is being made between Scottish-style Ales, or Scotch Ales, and their English equivalents.. It's no surprise to see IPA get a mention, but I would have expected to see Stout rather than Porter. Perhaps Porter is being used as a generic term for both Porter and Stout. Porter had just about disappeared by this point in Scotland. What's meant by Export Ale? Is that a Strong Ale or an Export Pale Ale?

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