From Sydney to Singapore
I have maybe two dozen posts on Australian brewing and beer culture in different periods. A subset dealt with beer and the Forces including the Brisbane Beer Riot.
In regard to Toohey’s of Sydney, now owned by Lion Group (a Kirin affiliate), I discussed its ale brewing just ahead of WW I and the looming lager revolution.
I uncovered a series of early (1880) taste notes on Australian ales, three Toohey’s beers figuring among the group. Read the assessments, which are mostly complimentary, here.
Let’s go back to an earlier period, 1874. This is when the Toohey brothers were working from their first, Darling Harbour brewery, before it relocated to larger premises.
Their process was described in a Sydney Morning Herald piece on March 4, 1874, part of a series on Sydney breweries.
The account is very detailed in some respects, particularly for steam powering, other technology, and capacities. The malt was, in this early period, all English, imported in bulk in large metal containers.
I suspect metal was used, as against jute sacks or other storage that allowed ingress of air, to minimize the impact of humidity on the malt.
There is no reference to hops in the article, which seems odd; perhaps the writer felt the subject was covered in his treatment of Tooth’s or other breweries in the city. I will try to find these.
Note the Burton Unions fermentation system, receiving the beer from 80-barrel fermentation vats (two for ale, one porter). Beer was then racked into different size barrels for trade or bottled, with cases resting in cellar until conditioned to result in a “creamy” state.
(Darling Harbour. c. 1900. Source: Wikipedia).
Something that caught my eye was a constant feature of many breweries, in Europe as well, until the mid-1900s. And that is, cooling the wort by using the traditional, open-pan cooler as well as the newer heat exchange apparatus.
Ultimately most breweries around the world dispensed with the open cooling stage, due to the risk of infection. Nonetheless use of open coolers, or coolships to many in craft brewing, has returned. This is partly due to their survival in a corner of Belgian artisanal brewing.
Whether or not the worts are left to culture spontaneously, it is thought exposure to air in cooling gives some indefinable quality to the beer, which may well be right.
Is this the reason Toohey’s used a combination of old and newer systems? Or would it have used all heat exchanging had it been able to technically?
The article suggests the latter in my view, when it mentions the refrigerators could not be made larger due to lagging pressure in the tubes.
It was probably a mid-1800s Baudelot system, see a filmed illustration in this Instagram clip. Later, heat exchangers were made more efficient, with shell and tube and other variations that minimized, as well, undue exposure to air.
Still, as late as the 1930s, we find open cooling combined with heat exchanging being installed in new breweries.
I mentioned one example on Twitter in the late 1930s after reading a period description of Brussels brewing posted by the Brussels-based beer writer Eoghan Walsh. It concerned the Marine (or Navy) Brewery.
Another example, also 1930s, was Malayan Breweries Ltd.’s new brewery in Singapore, built in 1932. I discuss the brewery at length in my new article, “An Outline on Beer and Brewing in British Malaya: 1827-1957. Part I“, in Brewery History just published.
Although every modern convenience was available to the planners – Heineken played a large role – they elected this combination of cooling the wort. We can doubt the retention of an open cooling stage was due to technical limitations.
I quote a news report that it was felt “air cooling had a subtle effect on the quality of the beer”. The Brussels brewery, also designed in the latest fashion, must have come to the same conclusion.
Whether it was that extra bit of aeration, or some other factor, must be left to brewing technologists to ponder. But from 1874 Sydney to late colonial Singapore, a straight line can be drawn.
There is good reason to think the beer benefited as a result. In the case of Toohey’s, it was perhaps a chance effect more than anything else. In the case of Malayan Breweries, it looks to have been a conscious choice.
Part II follows.
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