Early Brewing of Harp Lager. Part II, Alton, UK

The Brewing Trade Review Covers the Alton Brewery

In Part I, I discussed whether the first brewings of Harp Lager at Dundalk, Ireland were all-malt. It seems likely they were, see in the comments brewer Ed’s analysis of a Dundalk brewing formula I quoted from the July, 1962 The Brewing Trade Review.

The apparent all-malt is interesting as Courage Barclay in London subsequently used a malt + flaked maize formula (see Part I again).

The Brewing Trade Review published a second article on Harp in 1962, in its May issue: “Harp Lager at Alton”, pp. 416-421. I now have a copy but it is not online.

The article states as the launch of Harp in Ireland proved successful, the decision was taken to build a brewery at Alton with then co-venturers Courage, Barclay & Simonds and Mitchell & Butler.

The article focuses on site selection, aptness of water, site preparation, design, and construction of the Alton plant, meant to serve Great Britain “south of a line from Merioneth to the Wash”.

The German-made brewhouse is described in detail. It was an all-steel fabrication with stainless cladding. No mention is made of hops, other than how the spent hops were removed from the brewery. Compressed air was used, ditto for spent grains.

As to fermentables, only malt is mentioned.

The raw material, in the form of malt, is received in bulk, and a lorry load will discharge into a hopper below ground level, from which it will be elevated and conveyed to the 10 concrete silos … [and then] transferred to the brewhouse by remote selection in pre-determined quantities, being screened and weighed on the way.

There is no reference to sugar, or raw grains such as maize. The list of equipment and fabricators included at the end makes no reference to handling non-malt fermentables. This does not mean these were not used in the process, but the article, while not containing brewing calculations, is consistent with an all-malt process.

The article states Alton was:

… equipped with the most modern plant to brew by the traditional methods used in the well-known European lager breweries.

It makes sense to me Alton would follow Dundalk’s example, particularly as both plants were purpose-built.

Seemingly (see Part I) Guinness at St. James Gate planned for some Harp to be made with malt + sugar, but where or when that occurred, I am not currently aware. Sugar or maize perhaps were introduced at a later date at Alton, or elsewhere in the consortium, that is possible.

The article adds Alton used two fermentation designs, one closed, one open. We saw an image of an open fermenter at Dundalk. The closed ones were used (said the article) to recover carbon dioxide, probably to carbonate the beer.

Alton maintained two yeast cultures, probably since two fermenter types were used. Perhaps output was blended although this is not stated.

Storage (lagering) time is not addressed although the storage tanks are described in good detail.

After storage and double filtration beer was placed in a holding tank, then racked direct to tankers “under sterile conditions”. These ferried the beer to bottling plants.

No pasteurization was employed at racking, is the inference, probably due to the bulk involved.

Note: Series concludes with this supplement, on latter-day Harp Lager.




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