Monday, 19 August 2013

The Brewery of Barclay, Perkins and Co. (part two)

We're getting to the meat of the brewery now - the brewhouse itself:
"The Brewhouse is 225 feet long by 60 in width, and of prodigious height, with an elaborate iron roof, the proportions reminding us of Westminster Hall. Within this compass are complete sets of brewing apparatus, perfectly distinct in themselves, but connected with the great supply of malt from above, of water from below, and of motive force from the steam-engine behind, vast coolers, fermenting vats, &c. Each of the copper boilers cost nearly 5000l., and consists of a furnace, a globular copper holding 320 barrels, and a cylindrical cistern to contain 120 barrels, an arrangement equally beautiful and useful from its compactness and the economy of heat. There is no continuous floor; but looking upwards, whenever the steamy vapour permits, there may be seen at various heights, stages, platforms, and flights of stairs, all subsidiary to the Cyclopean piles of brewing vessels. The coals, many tons per day, are drawn up from below by tackle, and wheeled along a railway.""Curiosities of London" by John Timbs, 1867, pages 60 - 61.
The brewhouse indeed sounds impressive. Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the House of Parliament is 68 by 240 feet and its hammer roof means that there are no columns to obstruct the view.  It's one of the most spectacular medieval buildings in Britain.

It's not very clear from the description, but those are London coppers. It was a very heat efficient design. The cistern mentioned is a sort of holding tank placed above the copper. Wort waiting to be boiled in the copper is placed in it and is pre-heated by the wort already boiling below it. London Porter brewers, who boiled later worts for three or four hours had a big financial incentive to use as little fuel as possible in boiling.

These coppers were closed with good reason: Porter brewers wanted to boil under the pressure that this would create to encourage maillard reactions to darken the wort. Pale Ale brewers preferred open coppers as they wanted to keep their worts as pale as possible.

This next part was a quote in the original:
"The hot water is drawn from one of the copper boilers to the corresponding mash-vat below; and machinery working from a centre on a cog-rail that extends ever the circumference of the vat, stirs the malt. The mash-vat has a false bottom, which in due time lets off the wort through small holes to an under-pan, whence it is pumped back to the emptied copper, from whence it receives the hot water, and there, mixed with hops, it is boiled, and again run off into a vast cistern, where passing through a perforated bottom, it leaves the hops, and is pumped through the cooling tubes or refrigerators into the open cooler, and thence to the fermenting cases; whence, in a few days, it is drawn off into casks, again fermented, and when clearer put unto the large vat."
"Curiosities of London" by John Timbs, 1867, page 61.
He's obviously describing internal rakes in the first sentence. Though, buy this date, I would have expected them to also have an external Steel's masher which would have performed most of the mixing of the water and malt. Internal rakes were still needed for the complicated mashing scheme that Barclay Perkins employed.

Looking at an X Ale brewed in March 1867, there were four stages to the process: an initial mash, an underlet, a sparge and a second mash. The rakes were essential for the underlet phase, when more water was added to the mash from below. The rakes were used to distribute this extra water through the mash.

The bit about receiving hot water in the copper sounds like bollocks. At this period they didn't water down the wort before boiling. That only became necessary after WW I when gravities had dropped considerably. In the 19th century the problem was getting worts strong enough, one of the other reasons later worts were boiled for very long periods.

The fermenting cases I guess are the squares. And the casks it was drawn into most likely pontoes, which were used to cleanse the beer of yeast. By the 1860's not much of the Porter would have still been vatted. The practice fizzled out in the 1860's and 1870's and by the end of the latter decade London brewers had ripped out most of their large vats. Only the stronger Stouts continued to be vatted.

"The surface of one of the fermenting cases nearly filled is a strange sight: the yeast rises in rock-like masses, which yield to the least wind, and the gas hovers in pungent mistiness over the ocean of beer. The largest vat which contains about 3500 barrels of porter, which, at the retail price, would yield 9000l. The "Great Tun of Heidelberg" would hold but half this quantity.

Nearly every portion of the heavy toil is accomplished by the steam-engine. The malt is conveyed from one building to another, even across the street, by machinery and again to the crushing rollers and mash vat. The cold and hot water, the wort and beer, are pumped in various directions, almost to the exclusion of human exertion. With so much machinery and order, few men comparatively are required for the enormous brewing of 3000 bushels of malt a day. The stables are a pattern of order. The mane of each horse is painted upon a board over the rack of each stall. The horses are mostly from Flanders, are about 200 in number, and cost from 70l. to 80l. each."
"Curiosities of London" by John Timbs, 1867, page 61.
3,500 barrels is indeed effing huge.Though I'm not sure the author has got the value of the beer in that vat correct. Porter retailed for 2d a pint, or 48 shillings a barrel. I make that £8,400.

3,000 bushels a day sounds about right. Barclay's big sellers - Porter and X Ale - both took about two bushels of malt to brew a barrel. So that equates to around 1,500 barrels a day, which was around the real output of the brewery.

Horses, especially the big, heavy horses used to pull drays weren't cheap. 70 or 80 quid is the equivalent of a couple of years' wages for a labourer.

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