Tuesday 15 April 2014

Random brewery - Strong of Romsey

Here's a nother random brewery. Except this time it was quite big and around until quite recently.

First, a potted history. Founded in 1778, it was run by Thomas Strong after 1858, first under a lease then full ownership. Became Strong & Co. Ltd. in 1894. Bought along with 940 pubs by Whitbread in 1969. Closed 1981*.

I could have drunk their beer, but didn't. Never made it to that bit of the South coast. Another lost opportunity I look back on with regret. I should be more poitive. Think of the odd beers I did get to try. Like Ma Pardoe's Bitter and Yorkshire Clubs Mild.

Here's a newspaper article about them building a brand new brewery:
The New Brewery.— Messrs. Strong and Co. having, during recent years, purchased and amalgamated several breweries, notably, The Horse Fair, Hundred, Bell-street, Weyhill, Redbridge, Chilbolton, Hythe, and several others, now find the demand for their ales and stout increasing beyond the limits of their productive power, consequently they have decided to erect a complete new fifty-quarter brewery adjoining the well-known Horse Fair Brewery. The building will be on the semi- gravitation system, constructed of red brick of local manufacture, with string courses, and cornice of similar materials, the windows and doors being relieved by crowned arches. The roofs being of best Welsh slate, with wrought iron terminals, and the chimney being circular with improved interior arrangements, and of similar materials to the building. The building will be equipped with the most modern well-tried improvements for the production of high-class ales and stout for public and private trade, for which the firm have long enjoyed high repute. The contractor for the building is Mr. George Wheeler, jun., Romsey, the plant will be manufactured and erected by engineers of high repute, but, in the face of the coming winter, the proprietors intend, as far as possible, to employ local labour. The designs have been prepared by Mr. Charles Johnson, maltsters' and brewers consulting engineer, London and Bristol, and the work will be executed under his personal supervision."
Hampshire Advertiser - Saturday 08 November 1890, page 7.
There was plenty of confidence in the brewing industry in the 1890's. Trade was increasing, profits were good and a flood of new capital had washed in through restructuring into limited companies.

A 50-quarter plant is good for about 200 barrels per batch of standard-strength beer. So avout 70,000 barrels per year capacity. Which was a decent sized brewery in the 1890's.

Here are some for their bottled beers, courtesy of, ironically, Whitbread:

Strong bottled beers 1931 - 1955
Year Beer Style Price size Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1931 Treble Brown Brown Ale 6d half 0.05 1014.9 1057.2 5.50 73.95%
1934 Dinner Ale Pale Ale 7d pint 0.05 1011.3 1038 3.46 70.26%
1934 Golden Ale Pale Ale 8d pint 0.05 1014 1044 3.88 68.18%
1938 Dinner Ale Pale Ale 4d half 0.07 1009.2 1039.9 21 3.99 76.94%
1952 Black Bess Stout Stout 9.5d half 0.05 1007.3 1036 1R + 9B 3.73 79.72%
1955 Pale Ale Pale Ale 1/- half 0.05 1011.5 1044.3 19 4.26 74.04%
1959 Strong 'un Strong Ale half 0.02 1010.2 1040.3 100 3.91 74.69%
1959 Black Bess Stout Stout 11d half 1012.2 1034.1 300 2.83 64.22%
1959 Golden Ale Pale Ale 11d half 0.04 1006.3 1032 18 3.34 80.31%
1960 Black Bess Stout Stout 10d half 0.04 1014 1034.2 250 2.53 59.06%
1960 Golden Ale Pale Ale 11d half 0.02 1006.3 1031.8 16 3.19 80.19%
1960 Special Pale Ale Pale Ale half 0.02 1009.7 1041.3 23 3.95 76.51%
1960 Black Bess Stout Stout 11d half 0.04 1015.1 1034.9 300 2.48 56.73%
1961 Romsey Brown Brown Ale 10.5d half 0.04 1010 1032.3 140 2.79 69.04%
1962 Royal Old English Ale Strong Ale 20d half 0.06 1013.9 1058.2 45 5.54 76.12%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Treble Brown. There's one for the style guide writers. Strong 'un, ironically, qualifies as a bona fide sesion beer. A Stout below 1035º. It's enough to make a man cry. And who thought Golden Ale was only invented in the 1980's?

Strong's brewing records are bound to be out there. That's why I love Whitbread. They never threw any brewing records away. It would be interesting to take a look. Especially to see if anything changed after Whitbread took over.

Here are some of their drsught beers:

Strong draught beers 1961 - 1979
Year Beer Style Price size Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1961 Barley Corn Bitter Pale Ale 22d to 24d pint 0.04 1006.3 1037.6 23 3.91 83.24%
1968 Mild Mild 18d pint 0.04 1006.4 1029.4 75 2.88 78.23%
1968 Royal Old English Ale Strong Ale 33d pint 0.07 1014.3 1058 65 5.46 75.34%
1968 Barley Corn Keg Pale Ale 27d pint 0.08 1007.8 1037.4 45 3.70 79.14%
1968 Best Bitter Pale Ale 21d pint 0.06 1003.3 1037 30 4.21 91.08%
1977 Trophy Pale Ale pint 1037.8
1977 Mild Mild pint 1031.5
1979 Trophy Pale Ale pint 1037.8
1979 Mild Mild pint 1031.5
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
Good Beer Guide 1978 and 1980.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that the Trophy and Mild of the 1970's were just the old Strong's beers rebranded.

Just spotted the small print on the label. "Also controlling Thomas Wethered & Sons Limited Marlow." So that's how Whitbread got their hands on Wethered. One of the breweries I miss most. Loved their Trophy.

* "A Century of British Brewers Plus" by Norman Barber, 205, page 49.


Bailey said...

Oh! That Golden Ale is interesting. Not only relatively pale (any idea what scale 'colour' is being measured on?) but actually referred to by the name Golden Ale.

Would really like to see a recipe for that one.

Rod said...

My Mother's side of the family were all solid Eldridge Pope men, as was I, my great-grandfather and grandfather having been EP tenants, but my Father loved Strong's Bitter and would happily have drunk nothing else.
I remember it (dimly) as more bitter and less complex than EP's beers.
All gone now, of course.

Ron Pattinson said...

Bailey, that's Lovibond, 1 inch cell. Divide by two to get EBC, four to get SRM. Most Bitters are 20-28 in this scale.

Bill Armstrong said...

I had. Great-uncle who worked as a drayman for Strongs, Harry Kent. He started on steam wagons, Allchins and finished on diesels but told me that he preferred steam. He told me a few tales of his experiences with the steamers but I can only remember two. He lived in a house in Latimer Street, owned by the brewery and was offered the opportunity to buy it but didn't proceed due to a survey that he had. I think that his rent was 7/6d a week.