Queen's College Brewhouse 1935

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Inside the College Brewhouse in 1935. The photograph was taken by Messrs Gillman and Soame, Oxford

There is record of the appointment of a brewer at the Queen's College, Oxford, in 1340, but very little information of the early history of the brewery in which the Chancellor and College Ale, beloved of those who are priVileged to drink them, were and still are brewed. In 1927 we published an account of the brewery and the method of brewing with a number of photographs, and are now privileged, by the courtesy of the Domestic Bursar of the College, to publish another picture. This shows the manner which the wort is ladled into cleansing casks after a day and a night in the fermenting vessel.

We may recall a few details of the brewing process since, they are of such historical interest and remain almost identical with those used in the Middle Ages. Ten barrels of liquor, heated to about 180 degrees in the copper, is run down into the mash tun where 28 bushels of malt are added and mashed in with an oar and rake. The wort is run off after standing on the mash for two hours, and a second mash with cooler water is made. Running off may take all night, and the worts are cooled separately on shallow wooden coolers. The two lengths are boiled separately for two with 20 pounds of hops for the whole brew. The total length of nine barrels is fermented for about 24 hours in the fermenting vessel shown, and then ladled out into casks and rolled into an adjoining cellar, where the casks are set up over a yeast trough. During the following three days the yeast works over the side of the casks into the trough, from which clean beer is ladled back to keep the casks full. Finally, these are topped up with beer from one of the casks, and after about six days racked into casks, with about two handfuls of dry hops, and rolled into a cellar, which remains constantly at a temperature of about 55 degrees. Here the beer spontaneously brightens and is drawn off for use after about three weeks. Formerly the beer was stored in three barrel upright casks, but these have recently been discarded on account of age.

The beer made this way is the 25 pound College Ale, but a stronger 50 pounds beer is also made in October or March, two and a half barrels being brewed from the first worts. This is bottled for three hours, with 20 pounds of hops, which are subsequently reboiled in College Ale. This beer was stored for a year in the upright casks and is the Chancellor Ale, drunk on special occasions in Hall, from a two handled silver mug handed around among the Fellows and scholars. It would be a thousand pities if this magnificent beverage passed out of knowledge with the quaint storage casks which no longer grace the cellar. Mr J F Hunt, whose photograph appeared in our paper in 1927, had carried on the traditional methods of brewing for 56 years, and his retirement necessarily made a break in their continuity, but the tradition is still there, and it is hoped that the "Chancellor" will be revived. Even the quantity of College Ale brewed recently has not sufficed for the College thirst, but this has been ministered to by a supplemental supply from a well-known Birmingham brewer, which is difficult to distinguish in its excellence from the home-brewed College Ale.

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