Thursday, 12 November 2020

Water in WW II

Rousing my naturally extremely lazy arse, I've been getting stuck into the sections of my next book I've been avoiding working on. For, oh, just about a year or so.

I'm clearing out the marker source material and replacing it with something resembling coherent text. Something I should really have hot on with  a very long time ago. And now I've started, It's much less daunting than idle me feared.

The section on ingredients is coming along nicely. And includes this little section on water which I've just written.

One ingredient of which there was an abundant local supply was water. Just as well, as importing would have been enormously impractical.

Once the importance of water chemistry had been twigged in the middle of the 19th century, brewers stated to fiddle with their water if it didn’t fit the profile for the type of beer they wanted to brew.

Initially, treatment was all about mimicking Burton water. There was huge incentive to recreate Burton water. The alternative being to build, or buy, a brewery where that water profile was naturally available.

With the essential elements of what made Burton water so suited for Pale Ales identified, brewers began to “Burtonise”. Which, essentially, entailed dumping a load of gypsum into it.

It didn’t stop there. The more sophisticated breweries began treating the water for all their beers, leaving some with no beer brewed from liquor which hadn’t been tweaked.

A good example is Barclay Perkins. Who treated the brewing water for all of their beers, whatever, the style, except for Lager.

You’ll note that each class of beer had its own, distinctive, treatment. Not all breweries were quite as pernickety, but pretty well everyone, outside Burton, treated the water for their Pale Ales.

Barclay Perkins water treatment in 1941
Mild Ale Company's liquor, treated cold. 2/3 oz. salt and 7/12 oz gypsum per barrel in hot liquor back. Heated to 170º F, allow to drop to mashing heat. Half hour before mashing add 1/8 pint per barrel bi-sulphate of lime. Salt in copper: 3 ozs per barrel.
Burton Ales Company's liquor, treated cold. 3 ozs. salt and 3 ozs. gypsum per barrel in hot liquor back. Boil overnight. Half hour before mashing add 1/8 pint per barrel bi-sulphate of lime. Salt in copper: 1 oz per barrel.
Bitters and DB Company's liquor, treated cold. 1.5 oz3. salt and 4 ozs gypsum per barrel in hot liquor back. Heated to 170º F, allow to drop to mashing heat. Salt in copper: 2 ozs per barrel. DB nil
Porter and Stout Company's liquor boiled for 30 minutes, allow to drop to mashing heat. 2 ozs. Salt and 1 oz gypsum per barrel of liquor used over the goods added to grist. Salt in copper: 3 ozs per barrel.
PA Ex Company's liquor, treated cold. Boiled 5 minutes, allow to drop to mashing heat. 5 ozs CaS04 and 1 oz MgS04 per barrel in liquor backs.
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/624.



Anonymous said...

Do you know if the salt they refer to was regular table salt -- sodium chloride -- or some other chemical salt, like calcium chloride, or even some more complicated mix?

Ron Pattinson said...


just regular sodium chloride.

qq said...

Presumably by that stage they were using municipal water rather than well water?

Which presumably hasn't changed much since then?

Ron Pattinson said...


no, it's well water. As indicated by "company's liquor", i.e. their own water.

qq said...

Or at least some standardised water from a store tank that could be a blend from all sorts of sources?

I thought all the London wells were having problems with saltwater ingress by that stage?

Equally I can imagine breweries being asked/forced to use well water if enemy action restricted the capacity of the municipal system, and using slightly salty well water would be better than nothing.

Ron Pattinson said...


pretty sure company liquor means their own well supply.

Fullers only stopped using their own well after WW II