A History of Beamish & Crawford Ltd - 1

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BEAMISH AND CRAWFORD LTD., CORK by Thomas Halpin

The brewing company of Beamish & Crawford PLC started with the partnership agreement dated 13th January, 1792 between William Beamish, William Crawford, Richard Barrett and Digby O'Brien. The brewery was then being operated by Barrett and O'Brien, described as Ale Brewers. Under the new partnership agreement to be known as The Cork Porter Brewery, the four partners rented the brewery premises at Cramer's Lane, which formed part of the present brewery site, from Edward Allen whose father Aylmer Allen had carried on brewing there since 1715. There is evidence that brewing was probably carried on here for about 100 years previously, but certainly back as far as 1645. Prior to 1792 large quantities of porter, which had initially become popular with the porters of the Billingsgate Fish Market in London, were being imported into Ireland mainly from Bristol and Liverpool. In 1792 it was reported that 60,000 barrels of porter were being imported annually through the Port of Cork. Two years previously the brewing restrictions and duty rates had been reduced as a result of a petition to Parliament by brewers. There were then 30 small breweries in the Cork area. The climate was thus satisfactory for the partners to become porter brewers, and by 1805 the annual production had risen to 100,000 barrels; over two-thirds of the total production of the then existing nine Cork Breweries. Of these Beamish & Crawford is the only one still in existence.

O'Brien died some time before 1798 and Barrett retired in that year. The Beamish and Crawford families carried on the business very successfully, being the largest brewery in Ireland during the first half of the 19th century. Wakefield, writing in 1809, stated that Guinness was the "Second Brewery in Ireland, Beamish & Crawford of Cork, who brewed upwards of 100,000 barrels a year standing first". Gibson, writing in 1861, states that the firm produced about 120,000 barrels annually, and that it employed about 350 tradesmen and labourers.

Evidently, brewing had not suffered as badly as the spirits trade as a result of the Temperance Campaign of Father Theobald Matthew between 1838 and 1848 when Distillers lost 50% of their trade. (Beamish & Crawford continued as the Country's leading brewer until about 1833).

In 1865 the brewery was completely rebuilt and modernised at a cost of over £100,000 following a co-partnership agreement signed two years previously.

In 1895 a private Limited Company was formed with a capital of £186,400, the shares being held exclusively by the Beamish and Crawford families.

In 1901 the present company of Beamish & Crawford Ltd. was formed with a capital of £480,000 having taken over the neighbouring Southgate Brewery of Lane and Company which had been founded in 1758. In 1906 St. Stephen's Brewery at Dungarvan was purchased, and in 1914 the Bandon Brewing Company of Allman, Dowden and Company was acquired and became the Beamish & Crawford Bottling Company.

In 1920 the brewery was closed for six weeks, for the only time in its history, due to an industrial action. The results of that closure were far reaching.

During the years between 1920 and 1960 the products of the brewery were mainly stout and porter, with some ale brewing. The latter however, was phased ollt from 1929 following a decline in the trade as a consequence of the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland.

During these years also the brewery had purchased the South London Brewery of Jenners, and extensive attempts were made to export Beamish Stout to all parts of the world.

The current Mr. Richard Beamish was involved in the management of that brewery until about 1962. Some members of the Jenner family are involved in the management of Harvey's Brewery in Sussex. Mr. Beamish was also a Director of Woodheads Brewery, London, and Vallances Brewery in Devon.

In 1961 the capital of the company was reorganised and reduced to £150,000. In mid 1962, following bids by a London Financier, Guinness and Canadian Breweries of Toronto, the brewery was purchased by Canadian Breweries for £600,000. With only a limited volume of stout being produced by Beamish & Crawford in the early 1960s, Canadian Breweries immediately invested £1,000,000 in modern facilities to brew stout, lager and ale.

All process tanks installed had individual temperature controls so that each could he used for either stout, which requires warm conditions, and lagers which require colder conditions. Because the tanks did not require a temperature controlled room, they were erected in the open. It was the first time a brewery put its fermentation and storage vessels in the open a practice which is fairly standard today. The first six fermenters installed were enclosed flat bottomed cylindrical vessels of 600 barrels capacity, made from mild steel and lined with resin. They replaced the traditional open square fermenters in use up until then.

The storage vessels were of similar material to the new fermentation vessels, but were horizontally mounted and stacked. Fifteen of these were initially installed with the fermenters by 1964. Four further fermenters were added in 1965, and another nine storage vessels by 1968.

The final eight storage vessels, which were manufactured from stainless steel, were installed in 1971.

The total tankage, therefore, by 1971 was ten fermenters and thirty two storage tanks, four of which were of 150 barrels capacity and the remainder 300 barrels. By 1964 Carling Black Label Lager was being brewed in addition to Beamish Stout.

In 1967 the management of the brewery was given to Bass Charrington, and Bass was produced at the brewery for the first time the following year. However, when the South African multinational Rothmans took over Canadian Breweries in 1970, the management of Beamish & Crawford reverted to direct control by Canadian Breweries.

In the early 1970s a new fermentation block was added, consisting of twelve 600 barrels stainless steel cylindro- conical fermenters. These were followed by six similar 800 barrels vessels. These vessels were permanently piped to change-over panels which facilitated automatic in-place cleaning.

In 1980 a Wittemann carbon dioxide collection plant was installed, and in 1986 six further 800 barrels fermenters were added.

Up to 1964 the brewery still operated its own floor maltings, which were situated a short distance up river. This operation was phased out with the building of a new modern, drum- germination type maltings at Ballincollig, a few miles west of the City. Also around this time the Bottling Company at Bandon was closed and its staff re-deployed in the Cork Brewery.

Having installed the new fermentation and beer storage facilities in 1963, the brewery still operated with its old mash tuns and copper kettles. As whole hops were in use, a Wittemann hop separator and wort whirlpool tank were installed to replace the old hop-hacks. Also the old Morton type open wort cooler was replaced by an A.P.V. enclosed paraflow heat exchanger. Other items of equipment installed at that time were an Alpha Laval centrifuge for stout, a Swiss Funda beer filter of 25 square meters surface area, together with the ancillary beer chillers (direct expansion ammonia shell and tube type) and beer carbonators.

As regards beer containers, we made a very rapid change to eleven gallons stainless steel kegs. Grundy of Teddington developed for Beamish & Crawford a new extractor tube which is still in use today.

A new Sankey kegging line was installed in 1963. This was extended and modified over the years until 1979 when a new six lane U.E.C. automatic line was installed. This was again extended to eight lanes in 1986.

Also in 1963 a new bottling line was purchased and a full goods warehouse built on the site. The bottling line was designed to handle the then newly introduced plastic crates. Thus in 1963 from the copper kettle onwards, all new plant was installed. It was a very major changeover both for the staff and the products. It required a tremendous amount of commitment and a lot of operator training.

In 1970/'71 another major change was made when a new Steineker brewhouse was installed. It replaced the existing plant of four mash tuns and two copper kettles, together with a very old belt-driven malt-handling, screening, milling and weighing plant.

The introduction of the new brewhouse coincided with an agreement with United Breweries of Denmark to brew Carlsberg Lager in Cork. This was done very successfully from 1972 until 1987 when Carlsberg withdrew the licence following the takeover of Canadian Breweries (and Beamish & Crawford) by Elders IXL of Australia (Foster's).

So in a period from 1963 to 1972 a complete new set of facilities for brewing, bottling and kegging beer had been installed and was a successful operation. From 1972 onwards pellet hops only were used, and the Wittemann hops separator was successfully eliminated.

The 1970s and 80s saw continued growth of the lager brands. In 1974 the Company owned 69 tied houses out of the original 153, and by the mid 1980s the remaining 3 managed houses had been sold off.

Between 1980 and 1987 the Company again embarked on a major capital investment plan, all financed out of generated profits. The following plant and equipment was purchased during that time in addition to that already mentioned above: a new grain dust extraction plant (1980); an enlarged wort cooler and a new 300 barrel whirlpool tank in 1984; a Steineker cereal cooker and steep conditioning mill; an O.M.D. yeast filter press and carbon towers for the treatment of mains water; and four further malt silos in 1985; a new Westfalia centrifuge; Steineker Kieselauhr filter and A.P.V. Carlson sheet filter, together with a pair of Fischer beer chillers in 1986; and also in 1986 six new self-contained yeast storage tanks with individual temperature controls. Finally, in 1987 a new lauter-tun raking and pumping system was installed.

With the coming of Foster's in 1987, other changes in brewing methods took place. High gravity brewing was undertaken for the first time. Four stainless steel sugar tank's for holding wheat syrup were installed, as well as a Scandi-Brew yeast propagation plant and a Fullpack water deaeration plant (for adjusting high gravity brews down to sales gravity). Also installed in 1988 was a mains water demineralisation plant, for the purpose of standardising water quality.

The Steineker Brewhouse now produces 225 barrel batches of high gravity wort, compared to 150 barrel batches of normal sales gravity wort a few years ago.

The twelve 600 barrel fermenters can ferment 150, 300 or 450 barrels, while the twelve 800 barrel vessels can ferment 300, 450 or 675 barrels. The ten older fermenting vessels have now been reduced to five. Three have been disposed of: One in order to extend the Laboratory in 1989, and the other two to construct an export tanker bay (currently in progress). Since the entry of the Company into the U.K. stout market in 1985, with shipments of bulk tanks of stout to Youngs Brewery in London, the business has blossomed. Now, through Youngs, Courage and Bass, about 30% of the Company's output is exported and distributed in the U.K. as mainly kegged stout.

A mutual agreement was made quite recently between Bass (Ireland) and Beamish & Crawford to distribute each other's products in newly defined distribution areas in Ireland. This followed a decision to terminate the brewing of Bass Ale by Beamish & Crawford which had been initiated back in 1968, due to falling sales volumes. However, there is still a small market for bottled Bass, and Beamish & Crawford continues to bottle this in pint bottles throughout Ireland.

As the brewery occupies a site of just 4.1 acres in the centre of Cork City, and congestion has long been a problem, a decision was made in recent months to move the commercial sector off site. The new Warehouse and Customer Service sectors, such as Sales, Technical Service and Transport have now been located a few miles down river in part of the old Ford Motor Company buildings. The Company has distribution depots also at Dublin, Limerick, Bantry, Kerry and Kilkenny.

By far the greatest technological change to affect the brewery over the years was that which occurred in the early 1960s. It involved the departure from the traditional naturally conditioned products in timber barrels to bright pasteurised products in metal kegs dispensed by top pressures applied from separate cylinders containing a gas mixture.

As the trade in Ireland at the time was almost totally stout, a significant change occurred in this product in appearance, flavour and consistency due to the equipment used and the brewing methods which were employed to support the new image. Keg Ale followed and enjoyed great popularity in the '70s, and of course the new system was essential for the relative newcomer to these islands - Lager.

Lager was the vehicle by which the Company recovered from the bad old times of the late 1950s, and it is now gratifying that with a resurgence of consumer interest in dark beers and stouts, the Company has again regained its former position as a major brewer of quality stout.

Brewers of an older generation will probably remember Beamish & Crawford in conjunction with Dr. J.L.Shimwell and his co-worker W.F.Kirkpatrick, who made considerable contributions to modern brewing bacteriology. Shimwell was Head Brewer and ultimately a Director of Beamish & Crawford from about 1932 until 1939. The former Production Director Mr. Sean O'Leary, now retired, remembers assisting Shimwell in his search when he joined the brewery as a Laboratory Assistant in 1935. Mr. Kirkpatrick, now in his 80s, regularly corresponds with Sean from his home in Northern Ireland.

It is interesting to note that prior to Shimwell, the Head Brewer at Beamish & Crawford was Mr. J. Parry M.C. whose son John (born in Cork) became a Director of Dalgety Malting Company.

The Head Brewer to follow Shimwell was Phil Baylis who had two sons in the Brewing Industry - John, now retired from Courage Western Ltd., and who represented South Wales and the West of England on the Brewers Guild Council; and Harry who was Group Production Manager (Draught) for Irish Ale Breweries, now also retired and living in Kilkenny.

Mr. Richard Beamish, the Great Great Grandson of the man who put up some of the money for the original Company in 1792, and who was until recently Non-Executive President of the Company, still visits the brewery.