Sunday, 20 June 2021

Midland Brewery Company

The Midland Brewery Company Ltd. 

Midland Brewery Advert from 1889


Over the recent weeks one of the interesting pieces of information I have come across concerns the Midland Brewery Company, which was at one time based on Derby Road, in Loughborough. In his wonderful book of boozers (1), my friend Bill talks a bit about the MBC, and the following article appears in a publication from 1892 (2). It’s so interesting that I have quoted it in full, on the grounds that the original document is now out-of-print, and what I have quoted I less than 10% of the total text.

“The Midland Brewery Co. is one of the oldest limited liability companies in existence (3). For many years it has been practically the only representative of the brewing interest in the Loughborough district, and as the directors are just about to inaugurate important changes with a view to a further extension and development of the business, some slight account of the resources at their disposal may not come amiss.

Fairly typical layout of brewery buildings of the time

The company’s premises adjoin the Derby Road, the offices fronting on the highway and the malt houses, brewhouses and stores are built in two ranges to the rear. Entering the yard, and making our way to the new malthouse, we are shown the various processes involved in the preparation of barley for brewing purposes. Here in the basement are large tanks in which the barley is steeped, and a splendid concrete growing floor, 100 feet in length by some 30 feet in width. Overhead is another growing floor of similar dimensions, as well as two kilns, which are heated by means of furnaces in the basement.

The average malthouse does not afford much scope for description. There is a level waste of soft grain broken up by rows of iron pillars, and lighted by a double row of windows. A quiet, inactive sort of place, in which very little seems to be done, and yet it is here but the quality of the ale to be brewed is in a great measure determined, for if the malting be bad or insufficient, a corresponding deterioration in the liquor produced, follows as a matter of course.

An example of a malting floor


The Midland Brewery Co. manufacture the whole of the malt used in their brewery, and their steeping and growing floors, kilns etc., are arranged on scientific principles. Leaving the maltinghouse, we find a portion of the same block of buildings devoted to the purposes of a malt store or garner, whilst at some little distance away are the stables and dray-houses, coopers’, smiths’ and painters’ shops etc.. The company do their own coopering and painting.

The next object to attract our attention is the brewhouse, containing the capacious mash tub with its interior machinery of revolving forks known in the trade as a ‘porcupine’. The tub has a capacity of over 2,000 gallons, and to get a peep into its depths it is necessary to ascend a wooden stairway which communicates with a sort of gallery built around the brim. From the mash tub the liquor is drained off into the under back (4), it is then forced up into the copper where the hops are added, and passes from the hop-back (5) into the coolers - a series of shallow tanks which occupy a large room over the fermenting room.

Of the variety of hot and cold-water tanks, refrigerators, tubs, coppers, pipes etc., which we saw in the main portion of the brewhouse, we shall not attempt any detailed description. Every nook and corner of the place, which is traversed by galleries and stairways in every direction, seem to be fitted with bulky apparatus of one sort and another, all no doubt useful and necessary, but to the uninitiated, somewhat puzzling.

Passing to the fermenting room, we are shown six large vats - known as ‘rounds’ - in which the actual process of fermentation is taking place, and we afterwards pay a visit to the ‘union’ room, which in the matter of appearance is perhaps the most striking department of the establishment. Here are 72 unions, arranged in long rows and built on frames, which with their polished ‘tits’ and pipes make a very neat show. It is in the ‘unions’ that the fermentation of the liquor is completed, and from them it is sent by means of pipes to the ‘running-in’ room, where the barrels are filled.

Adjoining are the stores; they are wonderfully cool and airy, and at a rough guess we should say they afford a floorage of 4,000 square feet.  From the stores we proceed to the tasting room and the wine and spirit department. The Midland Brewery Co. have long had a reputation for the high quality of their wines and spirits, as well as for the excellence of their ales. They hold a large bonded stock in addition to the stores kept at the brewery. It is in this department more especially that the changes mentioned at the commencement of this article will take place, for the company is about to add the compounding and rectifying of spirits to their already comprehensive business.

They do an extensive public trade, and have built up a big connection amongst farmers and private families. The bottling of ales, stouts, wines, spirits etc. forms an important feature of their business. A vigorous adherence to the best traditions of the brewing industry characterise the whole place. Cleanliness is one of the great points insisted on. The plant is captain capital condition, and the barrel-washing etc. is conducted on a regular system, into which steam enters very largely. The machinery is driven by a horizontal engine, hydraulic power being employed to drive the lifts. The company’s premises occupy an area of nearly four acres.  Besides the buildings we have mentioned, there are offices, a testing-room, and brewer’s office, a house for the manager, and a number of cottages for the workmen.”



References:

(1) Wells, Bill (2014). Billy’s book of Loughborough boozers. Loughborough: Panda Eyes.

(2) Loughborough: its history, manufactures, trade. Brighton; London: Robinson, Son & Pike, 1892

(3) I have found references in my research that suggest the Midland Brewery existed in 1812, and perhaps as early as 1791.

(4) the 'underback' - a 'back' is a vessel, so a vessel usually below the mash tun (vessel in which the mixing together of gist and hot water at precise temperatures to form malt sugars, i.e. mashing takes place), which collects wort (unfermented beer) during sparging (the spraying of hot water over mash in the mash tun through a rotating arm to ensure complete extraction of the malt sugars)

(5) 'hopback' - vessel designed to remove hops from boiled wort  

Posted by lynneaboutloughborough 19 June 2021

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Dyer, Lynne (2021). MIdland Brewery Company. Available fromhttps://lynneaboutloughborough.blogspot.com/2021/06/midland-brewery-company.html  [Accessed 19 June 2021]

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