Saturday, 7 December 2013

Mr. Heppenstall talks about water

I'm starting to get really confused. About water. Specifically the water used for brewing in Newark.

I know that around Newark there's plenty of gypsum. My dad used to work at a gypsum quarry just outside town. And I knew Newark had been famous for brewing Pale Ales and was sometimes - by optimistic locals - called a second Burton. Based on those facts, I'd assumed Newark brewers had taken advantage of gypsum-rich well water. Now I'm not so sure.

These are extracts for a long article about the opening of a waterworks in Newark. Where they extracted water from the Trent and purified it.

"OPENING OF THE NEWARK WATERWORKS.
On Thursday the 29th ult., the directors of this company made a tour of inspection of their works, previous to delivering them into the hands of the shareholders, and were accompanied many of the subscribers and townspeople. They assembled at the Engine-house, near Muskham Bridge, about noon, and, after thoroughly inspecting the buildings, engine-house, filter beds, well, and grounds, they proceeded through the town, along the company's mains, to the reservoir upon the summit of Beaconhill. Everything appeared substantially constructed, and to work most satisfactorily. The eminent engineer, Thomas Hawksley, Esq. (who is a most severe critic), scrutinized most minutely every detail connected with the works, and appeared thoroughly satisfied. We think we may safely congratulate the shareholders and public that they now possess one of the prettiest and most perfect waterworks in the kingdom. From their simplicity, they are not likely to get out of order, and the water they supply is abundant and pure, beautifully pellucid, and, from its softness, suitable for all purposes."
Lincolnshire Chronicle - Friday 06 April 1855, page 6.

There's a big emphasis on the softness of the water and how that makes it great for everything - including brewing.

"Now to the quality of the water, it possesses many advantages, and without entering into detail, he might mention that it marked 81 degrees of hardness the soap test, that is the number of grains of soap which can be decomposed by the earthy salts each gallon of water, whereas the spring water of Newark marks no less than 538 degrees of hardness by the soap test. 1000 gallons of Trent water decomposes 11 lbs. of soap. 1000 gallons of Newark spring- water decomposes 73 lbs., thus creating a saving of soap in our water of 62 lbs. for every 1000 gallons used. In the use of tea also, and brewing purposes its advantages will be greatly felt. He accidentally saw an account of a lecture delivered at the Royal Institute, by Mr. Dickenson, in which he declares the Trent water to be beautifully peliucid, and of very superior quality: everybody has heard of the far famed Nottinghamshire and Burton ale brewed on the banks of the silvery Trent."
Lincolnshire Chronicle - Friday 06 April 1855, page 6.

This last section really has me scratching my head. If there's one thing I do know for certain, it's that Burton brewers didn't brew with water from the Trent. They got their brewing water from deep wells.

Mr. Heppenstall, if you're wondering, was a Newark brewer. And his brewery was one of the larger ones in Newark in the middle of the 19th century. So you'd think he'd know what he was talking about when it came to water:

"The Mayor then proposed the health of the Secretary, Mr. W. Newton, and amongst other remarks said the company were greatly indebted to him, for the satisfactory manner in which he had managed and conducted the concerns of the company. In the course of Mr. Newton's reply, he stated that he had that day received a letter from a gentleman, — Mr. Heppenstall, practical brewer, residing in the town, who had used the company's water for the purposes his trade, and giving the result of his experience. The following is an extract:-  "I have been manager of some large breweries in different parts of the country for more than 20 years, and, therefore, have had the opportunity of seeing the good and bad effects of various waters in brewing. Water, next to malt, is of the greatest importance in brewing, it being the vehicle by which the nutritious and pleasant particles of malt and hops are conveyed into the human body. Brewers consider the more simple and free any water is from mineral particles, the better it will answer the purpose, and that river waters are less liable to be loaded with those mineral particles of the earth which makes some well and spring water so objectionable in brewing. There are three sorts of water which brewers choose when they have a choice, viz., Ist river water at considerable distance from a town and from the spring (the water becoming soft by the heat of the sun), 2nd water from chalk, 3rd water from stony rocks. The water at Newark varies very much, I have two wells, the deepest is far the hardest water, and is so loaded with some mineral that it shews on the saccharometer 1 lb. per barrel more than the river or other soft water, and is of that sharp nature which is very prejudicial to a good fermentation, and, in consequence, the beer soon goes sharp and hard. I have brewed three times from the company's water and am highly pleased with the result, as I have obtained an increase of saccharine to the amount of 3s. per quarter in value more than I ever did before. The beer is better fermented, is much paler, better flavoured, and have no doubt will keep better. My opinion of the quality of the company's water that it most excellent for brewing." From such a testimonial, and from the fact that even now the old women in several parts of the town, would rush to the Hydrants as soon as they were opened in the morning for the purpose of cleansing them, and take their buckets to catch the waste water to use for their domestic and household purposes, he argued the success of the company might be fairly anticipated. "
Lincolnshire Chronicle - Friday 06 April 1855, page 6.
It's weird. The well water he says was rubbish for brewing sounds exactly what you'd want for a Pale Ale. Paler, better flavoured and with better keeping qualities - that's what you'd expect from Burton-like hard water, not soft water.

4 comments:

Jeremy Drew said...


Ron,

You would indeed think that he knew what he was talking about.

Did he have shares in the new water company? Was he trying to mislead his competitors?

Or perhaps he was talking shite. As I have got older, I have become accustomed to the level of ignorance of the basics of their business shown by people in charge.

marquis said...

Ron-we both know the Trent pretty well and you wouldn't want to brew anything from its water!It's been cleaned up a lot in recent years but in the past was treated like an open sewer.
I would have thought that well water-which had trickled down through the gypsum layers-would have been ideal for brewing ales.

Ron Pattinson said...

Marquis,

well they were cleaning the water up. It sounds like they were processing Trent water to make it safe for consumption.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeremy,

some brewers had funny ideas and this is before really scientific brewing.