Transcribed by Rich Wagner, PA Brewery Historian. Posted 02-17-22

June 15, 1934 Brewers Journal - Western Brewer


Breweries of Yesterday and Today

C.F. Hettinger, Brewery Architect and Engineer, Boston, Mass.


The oldest brewery in operation on this Continent today is without question the Boswell Brewery in the city of Quebec, Canada. This brewery was built in the eighteenth century during the reign of Louis the Fourteenth, King of France. The next oldest brewery still in operation is no doubt the Molson Brewery in Montreal, Canada, which is about one hundred and fifty years old. These two breweries at the present time are producing beers of entirely different types from those produced in the early days of their existence in order to meet the taste of the public which has also completely changed during the last two hundred years. However, there were breweries in Boston, Massachusetts, only a few years ago, which produced beers and ales that were very similar to the beverages our grandfathers drank. These breweries were constructed on quite a different design from the breweries in the western part of the U.S., and I doubt if this type of brewery could be used satisfactorily from a commercial standpoint under the new laws which our Congress will most likely make in the future, in reference to malt beverages.


Many articles have been written about the breweries of yesterday which seem to be entirely unreasonable, as the breweries of yesterday were not designed as a unit, they were simply enlarged and buildings were added to suit the demand, and that is how so many impractical plans were in existence. To remodel an old brewery means redesigning the plant, not to simply make additions, because the boiler house, brew house, storage house and bottling shop may all have to be enlarged or changed to suit the demand.


Very little attention was given to the Power Plant in the old days. If the old boiler or engine was too small, the electric motor was installed, thereby receiving the power from outside sources which in many cases was expensive. The storage for materials such as malt, hops, corn and sugar was too small and all out of proportion. The bottling shops too were as a rule too small and in former days the soakers, labelers, fillers, crowners and pasteurizers, all had to be separately operated.


The refrigerating machine could not cool down the cellars because of poor insulation and in fact many breweries had no cellar insulation at all, and depended on the thickness of the brick walls. About forty years ago, insulation of various kinds began to be used in breweries. The first system of insulation that I installed myself consisted in using two air spaces in a two foot thick brick wall, by leaving out he stretchers in the middle of the brick wall and having headers every sixth course. This was recognized as the standard insulation forty years ago, but this construction did not seal the walls and the air simply circulated through the joins of the brick walls in spite of the fact that special care was taken to fill in all joints with mortar and plastered on the inside of the room with cement plaster.


After we had discovered that this form of insulation was not satisfactory, we used pitch four inches thick for insulation. The pitch sealed the walls and prevented the outside air from passing through, but pitch is a better conductor than brick. When the brick walls were heated up on the outside, the pitch started to melt and broke the four inch brick walls on the inside. We also used terra cotta tiling on the inside of the brick walls for insulation to make use of the air space in the tiles, but it must be remembered that the material of which tiles are made is as good a conductor as the material in the bricks, and therefore they are the same as far as insulation is concerned. Other insulating materials tried such as mineral wool; granulated cork with a binder of Portland cement, or asphalt; flax or hemp; but none of these materials seem to give proper insulation, and the most satisfactory form of insulation used today is pure cork sheets made of granulated cork, compressed to one, two, three or four inches thickness. The gum of the cork supplies the binding. Naturally the success of this insulation depends upon the manner in which it is applied, which I will discuss later.


Very little attention was given to the refrigeration machinery in the old brewery, in fact no question was asked as to whether or not ammonia was the only suitable refrigerating medium. No consideration was given to the fact that ammonia is a detriment to the yeast and to the water. The brewer cooled down the wort to the fermenting temperature, and the cellar had to be kept so that the yeast did not degenerate and sour the beer. Many brewers had yeast troubles and were obliged to obtain other yeast from nearby breweries when their own yeast became contaminated, which no doubt was the fault of improper construction of the fermenting and storage rooms. Also a chemist had to be consulted regularly to analyze samples of the yeast to be certain that it was in a healthy condition at all times.


The old custom of using Kraeusen or young beer was, and still is used in many breweries, but as bottle beer will be mostly used in the future in the U.S., Kraeusen beer will be eliminated and the beer will be carbonated with the gas collected from the fermenting tubs, thereby saving time, as the clarifying process is accomplished with much less work.


Breweries of today are more scientifically operated to reduce the operating expenses, such as coal, water, power and refrigeration, and to accomplish this, the layout of a brewery should be as compact as possible. The location of the plant should be near the center of consumption, thereby reducing delivery cost, and if there are to be no saloons in the future it will be necessary to have larger bottling shops connected with the brewery than in former days. Many brewers take great pains to have the brewery located near a railroad. While this is very desirable it is not exactly a necessity.


The cellars should be better insulated than the cellars in the breweries of yesterday. Three inch cork sheets should be applied on the inside walls, floor and ceiling of the cold storage house in the most workmanlike manner to prevent any air from passing through from the outside, from the room above, or the room below. The inside of the rooms are generally finished off with tiles, plastered on the inside and painted, but glazed tiles are preferable as they save the expense of plastering and painting. By applying such insulation considerable refrigeration is saved and the rooms are kept at an evben temperature. The refrigerating machinery may be stopped from ten to twelve hours, which was impossible in the old breweries, when a brine system had to be installed to keep the cellars cool during the night. However good insulation will accomplish this.


A major problem of a brewery is the water, because water is used for brewing, feeding the boilers and for the condensers of the refrigerating machine. While any kind of water can be used for the refrigerating machinery as long as the temperature is low, the water for the boilers has to be analyzed to prevent as far as possible any scale forming in the boiler, and the water for brewing has to be analyzed for the proper production of beer.


The power plant is the next question to be considered and it may surprise many brewers when I state here that ordinary tubular boilers can be used satisfactorily for the operation of the refrigerating machinery and the electric light plant in a brewery, because the exhaust steam can be used for heating the wort in the beer kettle and the water in the hot water tank therefore the efficiency is much greater than when operating a gas engine or a Diesel engine. Even electric power purchased from the outside is more expensive than the power produced by ordinary slide-valve engines, because of this use of the exhaust steam. The boilers carry from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty pounds pressure, and it is advisable to raise the pressure of the exhaust steam (which is from three to five pounds), to thirty-five or forty pounds, thereby preventing condensation of steam. I have one plant operating successfully with forty pounds exhaust and considerable money is saved by using exhaust steam at this pressure. There is however a question as to whether coal or oil should be used under the boiler. Lately oil has been sold at a very low price and many brewers have already installed oil systems, which of course saves labor and sometimes money.


There is not much difference between the old and new brewhouses. The vessels such as the mill, the hot water tank, the mash tub, beer kettle and hop jack are placed the same way, one above the other, in order to create a gravity flow. It is a mistaken idea that a brewery has to be seven or eight stories high in order to do this, in fact a brewery need not be higher than four stories, and that height is more convenient for the man who operates the brew house equipment and mill machinery.


This may be the proper place to discuss two refrigeration mediums- ammonia and carbon dioxide. In most breweries of former years, the ammonia system was used. Ammonia is very soluble in water; has a pungent and suffocating odor; contaminates the water used on the condensers; has a bad effect in case of leaks of the refrigerating coils located in the yeast rooms, fermenting rooms, storage rooms and the attemperator tank; and affects the copper vessels used in a brewery such as the beer  kettle. Considering these facts ammonia is hardly the medium which should be used for brewery refrigeration. However, it is the most efficient under ordinary conditions, especially where well water is not available.


Carbon dioxide is a much better medium, for in the first place it can be collected directly from the fermenting tubs of the brewery compressed to about two hundred and fifty pounds pressure and discharged into the lower side of the CO2 system. Certainly, it has to be washed and scrubbed before it can be used for refrigeration. It is safer than ammonia as it does not odor whatsoever, and is a fire extinguisher. Carbonic gas is now used as a food preservative and also in many other chemical industries. It is also used for carbonating and as twenty times more gas is produced than is needed, the gas can be collected, liquefied and sold. I know of a brewery with such a system, out of which it makes an extra profit of from thirty to forty thousand dollars per annum. Every brewery should have a gas collecting system as it is more desirable than compressed air used in chip cask and bottle filler.


Wood should not be used in brewery construction at al,, as it is apt to rot and not only weakens the building but also produces an undesirable odor which may have a bad effect on the beer. Reinforced concrete can be used for construction purposes at practically the same cost as wood. Generally, the brew house and storage house are constructed with steel frames, filled out with either bricks, cement or terra cotta. The floors as a rule are of reinforced concrete, finished off with a layer of asphalt or glazed tiles or glazed bricks.


The bottling shop, wash house and boiler house can be constructed of reinforced concrete throughout. Sanitary design is essential as absolute cleanliness is necessary for the proper operation of a brewery.


The Baudelot cooler room, fermenting room, yeast room and concrete fermenting vats should all be lined with glazed tiles. The mill machinery such as the conveyors, bucket elevators and the mill should be of dust tight construction throughout. The mill should be so constructed that it separates the steely end of the malt which then should be boiled in the cooker with the corn. The malt should be cut and not squashed. The mash machine should be a hydraulic raising and lowering machine of two speeds, one should be very slow, having only two to five revolutions per minute for the draining of the grains. Mash filters are only used in very large breweries. Grains dryers are also desirable if wet grains cannot be sold immediately.


The breweries of today are simply the result of past experience and produce the most palatable beer for the least possible cost, and as each brewery has to be designed separately there can be no standard model.