Film: 5059

Industry + Work | 1950 | Sound | B/W


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Brewing beer at Whitbreads 1950's

Rather austere portrait of Samuel Whitbread starts off this film. Born in Cardington near Deptford, Whitbread trained as a brewer, founding a brewery in Chiswell Street, shown fifty years after its foundation. The brewery became unparalleled in Europe and was described in contemporary guide books as one of the sights of London. Plaque commemorating the visit of King George III and Queen Charlotte. We're given a guided tour. Brief shot of a cellar with an oak cask being rolled down it. Portraits of the great men who worked there, watt, Smeton (Smeaton?), Rennie, Pasteur. Original doorway of the partners dwelling house. Exterior of brewery with St Paul's cathedral in the background, occupying some six acres in the centre of London. The film moves on to describe the beer making process. Malted barley boiled with hops which is then fermented with yeast. Panning shot of barley fields in countryside. After early spring ploughing the barley seed mixed with fertiliser is drilled into the soil, tractor registration number JNG323 continues this process. A farmer walks in a field of ripe barley. He then inspects the crop as the time for harvesting draws near. He does this by rubbing the barley between his hands to release the seed. Combine harvester is used to reap, thresh and bag the ripe barley or is poured into trucks. Panning shot of Old Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds where farmers and dealers from neighbouring counties to Suffolk have gathered for the last 100 years. Whitbreads' own maltings shown on a map, in Norfolk, Dereham, King's Lynn, Whittington and Kent at Canterbury and Wateringbury. A man examines every sack of barley which arrives at the maltings before it is emptied down the chute to be dried, screened and rested. The barley is soaked in liquor, as water is paradoxically called throughout the industry. After being steeped in tanks for two to three days it is dropped to the floor below. Men with barrows spread out the moist grains on the malting floor in regular heaps. It is at this point that germination begins. Temperature is controlled through a series of lubbers (very similar to small windows) to keep it the same in summer and winter, as malting is a year-long activity. Men with rakes turn the barley for a period of five days and it is then moved to another area to keep the temperature down to about 55 degree fahrenheit. After about three days the steep is about ready to move on to the next process the last section before curing. The whole of this process is very labour-intensive. Full germination has now taken place and close up of each ear of barley with half a dozen rootlets are shown. Two men shovel the barley onto a kiln. The process of 'drawing off' prevents further growth. Rootlets are removed by sieving. Hops, like barley, must be dried immediately after picking. Sacks of hops are removed from a van and emptied onto the floor of oast houses through which heat passes to dry them, sometimes as long as 12 hours. A group of men turn out the dried hops on to the cooling floors ready for pressing into long sacks, known as pockets. Exterior of brewery. At every stage of the process careful checking of the malt is made. Samples of malt are taken by a kind of harpoon which can penetrate the sack to any depth, After this the malt is shot into the miller's hole. From here, the malt is carried by elevator to the malt tower. The wide variety of malts serves the production of different kinds of beer. For pale ales, the malts are light dried and delicate, dark and roasted for stout. The duty brewer empties a sack of malt into the hoper and checks that the malts have been weighed and measured accurately and that the correct blend has been charged into the hopper above the mill floor. On the floor there are four mills and in this brewery one side (two mills) is run by Peter , the other by Joe, unusually the only black man to feature in the film. Whitbread commissioned James Watt (statue of watt included) in 1785 to construct a steam engine with his new sun and planet gear to grind the malt and pump the liquor. Close up of this steam engine in operation. This machinery was used for over a century when it was removed and presented to the Museum of Technology in Sydney. This machine is similar to the one which can be seen in the Science Museum in Kensington. Malt is not crushed to powder - it is just cracked and as grist it is conveyed to the mash tunnel on the floor below. Detailed shots of all these sequences. In the copper domed vessels of the mash tun stage, the grist is mixed with hot liquor. Excellent shots of these mash tuns that the nature and quality of the beer are largely determined by the blend of malts used and the temperature of the liquor. The duty brewer inspects the brew at the start of the mash. After about two hours, this infusion, known as the wort, is run off and hot liquor is sprayed or sparged over the grist for four hours. Medium shot of the grist being sprayed by a circular spray mechanism. The weaker wort is drawn off. The wort flows to the underbatch where samples are taken to make certain the strength of the wort is being maintained as brewing proceeds. The wort now flows to coppers where it is boiled with hops and it is through this boiling process that the characteristic smell of a brewery occurs. Sacks of hops are opened and blended carefully in the correct amounts, depending on which beer is to be brewed. After about an hour's boiling, the hot wort is strained and pumped to coolers where its temperature is reduced to about 60 degrees fahrenheit. Good shots of these tanks. Tanks are cleaned and washed between each brew. Oil yeast is weighed out. A vital agent in fermentation, it is removed before it reaches the furnished product, but is crucially responsible for transmuting the flat wort into a sparkling drink. The wort flows into the fermenting vessels. Some is drawn off in pails/buckets to mix with the yeast so as to make it fluid for pitching. This process is shown. The wort is poured into the squares or the fermenting vessels and is thoroughly roused and mixed with the yeast. The squares fill and samples are taken by the wort runners at frequent intervals. As the head on the wort rises, the transformation starts. Comparison between the head of a pale ale and Mild or best ale which is compared with the head of a stout. The head of a yeast may rise to the height of three to four feet. From these squares, the wort is dropped to others below them where fermentation continues for another four to seven days, before the yeast is skimmed off. Brewing completed, the pale Ale flows through pipes and gravity through the vast system of beer mains directly into tanks in the underground cellars. The best Ales and Stouts flow first into a bulk priming plant and receive an addition of sugar in the form of a syrup, before they too pass tot the storage tanks. These tanks are the modern counterpart of the six great storage systems designed by John Smeaton for Samuel Whitbread. Smeaton's chief claim to fame was the construction of the Eddystone lighthouse, a brief shot of which is included. Medium shot of the largest of Smeaton's tanks holding 3600 barrels. Draught pale ale or Bitter has a small quantity of the finest hops put into the casks at racking. Men with slim wooden plungers force hops into barrels. This treatment of hops in the cold enables the flavour to develop naturally as the beer matures in the casks and the full value of the essential oil of the hop can be obtained. A barrel of beer from each guile or brew is placed on the tillage in the Head Brewer's control room for daily testing and examination. Brewers dressed in white coats looking very much like scientists examine and test the brew taking samples from large test tubes. The brewer checks the gravity of the beer and decides when it can go out. 100,000 casks are required to help facilitate the supply of beer. Medium shot of the cooperage where damaged casks are repaired and new ones made. Apprentices assemble new casks. An apprentice is initiated or initiation ceremony is conducted. Close-up of Whitbreads beer label used on their bottled beer which they introduced in 1868 in Finsbury. Panning shot of their premises in Grays Inn Road, once the home of Madame Tussaud's waxworks. Whitbread tankers used to deliver bulk beer to their own bottling stores. It is pumped to receiving tanks chilled and carbonated. It is then polished by being passed through a series of filters which remove every speck of sediment. Crates of empty bottles conveyed to washing machines. Good shot of automatic bottling machine, juxtaposed with image of man corking bottles by hand. Map of depots throughout England. Full crates leave the depot. Eighty and forty barrel tankers supplying beer to the bottling centres. A tanker passes Stonehenge, one on the road to Exeter, Princes Street Edinburgh. Another passes by the banks of Loch Lomond to Aberfoyle where it stops at the Bailie Nicol Jarvie Hotel. A coastal steamer can be seen leaving a quay as empty crates are loaded onto a Whitbread truck. Glasgow docks. "Royal Ulsterman" ship with Belfast as originating port. Brief shot of the shipyards on the Clyde. Glasgow is written on a lifeboat, suggesting this ship or boat is called Glasgow. Crates are delivered to pubs, off licences and grocers. Duke of Wellington pub, Chester Row. Ships taking holidaymakers down to Margate and Southend. A waiter serves a beer to two male customers in the outdoor restaurant of London Airport. Rural scene with farmers taking a rest from haymaking. Various shots of Agricultural Shows. Horses and grandstand at Royal Ascot. Henley. Concert Hall of the Bronston Working Men's Club at Leicester. Cellar of Whitbread public Houses in London, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and Bedfordshire. Hythe, Birthplace of Mackeson Stout. Exterior of brewery. Worldwide map showing the destinations of Whitbread products over every continent. Beer for Belgium being conveyed in casks to the Port of London and past the Tower of London. At this time Belgium was Whitbread's most important overseas market. Kegs are transported in small ships to Antwerp and through the canals right into the heart of Brussels. Whitbreads Belgian depot sign. Pronounced head of the Belgian beer is distinctive. City centre streets of Brussels, Belgium. Operatives working at bottle/bottling plant. Restaurant and provision shops in Brussels, Belgium and towns and villages throughout Belgium. Crates with various foreign destinations are made ready for export.

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