A good sample of the commercial enterprise of Dover is afforded by Messrs. Alfred Leney and Co’s Phoenix Brewery. It is situated on the margin of the Dour, in Dolphin Lane, a few paces from the Market Place, and in its near vicinity and worked as part on the concern are four large malt houses. It is the boast of this firm, that their Dover Ales, which are widely celebrated, are brewed from malt and hops only, and as it is their custom, seldom departed from, to purchase both hops and barley of East Kent growth, it may be truly said that they do their best keep to trade in the district. The importance of this item of local commerce will be best understood by looking at the vast consumption of material that is continually going on here.
The barley used in the four malting houses during the season from September to May, amounts to several thousands of quarters. Some hundreds of pockets of hops are used during the twelvemonth, and the various furnaces consume between 700 and 800 tons of coal and coke. This will give a general idea of the extent of the business, which I shall now describe in detail, taking malting first and then brewing, both of which processes as described by my guides were full of interest. The four malt houses were shown to me by Mr. A. Leney, jun., who devotes special attention to this branch of the business.
One malt house abuts on Castle Street, a second adjoins the east end of the brewery, a third has recently been fitted up on the site formerly occupied by Poulter’s brewery in Russell Street, and the fourth occupies the area between St. James’ Place and the Gas Works yard. This latter malt house was built some ten or twelve years ago for this firm by the late Mr. Philip Stiff, and as it is so well arranged that the whole process is seen at a glance, of this one I shall give a more particular description. It goes without saying that to make good malt there must be good barley; the grain must contain full germinating power, and there are on these premises a simple but very effective test the percentage of vital grains in any sample. When the barley is brought in by the farmers’ wagons, it is hoisted to the top of the malt house now referred to, and deposited in a bin holding about 800 quarters. Immediately under this bin, on the lower floor, is the steeping cistern, running from side to side, and here the barley is steeped in water for a certain period varying from forty to sixty hours. After that stage of probation the water not absorbed, is drawn off and the grain in thrown in a deep heap on the floor in front of the cistern, and this, the second, stage is called couching. There the mass generates heat and sweating begins, by which germination is induced. The next day it is floored. The floor is of cement, polished and smooth as marble. Over this the grain is spread and here the process of germination is seen in the form of little rootlets. The grain is turned and spread; and, later on, in addition to the rootlets, the practised eye of the maltster detects what is termed the acrospire, really the incipient plumula or stem of the seed growing underneath the husk. When the judgement of the maltster tells him that the right stage has been reached, germination is checked by subjecting the grain to heat , which is called kiln-drying. The kiln is at the further end of the house, which is divided into three parts. In the basement is the pit in which are fires of over burnt coke and Welsh coal. Over this hot region are two kilns, one above the other, the grain in its damp state being puts first on the top kiln, which is of the lowest temperature, and after drying there, is brought to the bottom kiln on the lower level to be finished. The kilns in this one malt house will dry 20 quarters at a time. During the last stage of drying the men, shod with particularly shaped patterns, tread the malt to detach the rootlets called combings, which are, however, left mixed with the malt, as it keeps better in their company. Having now passed through the four processes of steeping, couching, flooring, and drying, the malt is made, and is stored in large bins in the top story, which, in the malt house which I am describing has capacity for more than a thousand quarters. In the other three malt houses the same process is continually going on during the season, which extends from September till May, after which the men employed in this department, are usually engaged in brewery work.
The malt being made, the next process is brewing. I was shown through this , from the malt crushing to the final barrelling, by Mr. Hall, the brewer of the establishment, whose position must be a critical and important one, as the quality of the article produced, depends in a great measure on the watchfulness bestowed on the various stages of production. The first thing is crushing the malt. This was being done in a large room facing the Market Place, where there is a hoisting apparatus to take up the malt. Just under the room where the malt is deposited is the mill to which the material descends by a shoot, into which a fan sends a strong draught to clear away the malt dust called combings, which are brought into a heap behind the mill, and are eventually disposed of for cattle feeding. The malt, thus separated from the lighter parts, travels down towards the crushers, but en route it passes over a surface where there are some powerful magnets which immediately attract any bits of metal, such as nails, &c., which, if they went any further, would make havoc with the rollers, and by striking sparks would be a source of danger. This magnetic device, which is the invention of Schaeffer, a German engineer, is most effective, as was illustrated by an omnum gatherum of all sorts of metal scraps in a box, which the magnets had successfully kept out of mischief. The malt passes on through the steel rollers, which are constructed to crush, not grind, and thus the material is brought into a state called grist, and is collected in a malt-case over the mashing tuns which are on the floor immediately below. The case being filled with fifty quarters, enough for a brewing, it is let down by hoppers into the tuns, and through a perforated bottom is let in hot water, which had been heated in large cast iron tanks by steam. In this department a large additional talk of this kind has recently been erected, holding 180 barrels. The water and malt having been brought together, the mixing or mashing is done by machinery. In the olden times this was done by hand with rakes and paddles; the rakes are still retained, but they are fixed on revolving arms which move round the tun while the rakes have a second motion on their own axis. The necessary agitation is thus produced and the virtue of the malt is infused into the liquor, which subsequently is allowed to run off into a large vessel below called the under-back. It may be as well to explain that in the phraseology of the brewer, a cistern or reservoir for liquor is a “back.” After the liquor is run off from the tuns the grain left there is termed “goods,” and by infusion of water of a higher temperature, it yields further strength, and after being sufficiently exhausted it is cleared away and disposed of for feeding purposes. Following the liquor which is now called “wort,” we find it being pumped from the under-back to the coppers of which there is a series on a higher level. There the hops are put into the “wort,” the rousing agitation necessary to bring out the full flavour of the hops is kept up by a boiling fountain inserted in the centre of the vessel, through which the wort from the bottom is continually rushing up and being diffused on the surface of the liquid by a brimmed cap on the top fountain. The heat here is obtained from the furnace fires immediately under the coppers, steam heating not producing a sufficiently high temperature to concentrate the wort and bring out the hop extracts which impart so agreeable a flavour.
The quantity of the hops put in depends on their quality, and the kind of liquor that is being brewed. After boiling, the “wort” is run off from the coppers to the hop-back, situated in a large airy room, having ventilating shutters and a northern aspect, it being important that the next process, cooling, should be expeditiously done. The old plan was to run the liquor into a number of shallow vessels, but recent inventions have greatly improved this process. In this brewery the principal cooling agents are two patent refrigerators by different makers, varying in detail, but both working on the principal of running hot wort over a series of pipes filled with cold water. Each of the refrigerators have the appearance of a screen, some six feet square, standing on two legs. The first examined, which is Lawrence’s patent, consists of two copper corrugated plates fastened together, a little distance apart, with a stream of cold water running through the interior, and the hop wort running down the outside, and owing to its adhering to the surface, travelling in and out of the corrugated indentations, passing as it descends over a wide cooling area. The other refrigerator, very much the same in appearance, is a French patent by Baudelot. In this case the cooling surface is a series of tubes, through which cold water is driven by a force pump, while the hot wort runs down the outside. In passing over this refrigerator the wort is in a few seconds cooled from 180 down to 60. These refrigerators will cool 40 barrels of wort each in an hour.
In the meantime the heat is transmitted to the cold water in the pipes, which becomes quite hot by the time it has travelled through, and as a happy thought the water thus heated is utilised by being carried away by a pipe over Dolphin Lane to scald the casks in the cask yard. It may be mentioned that the rapid cooling of the wort has much to do with producing a palatable ale, as slow cooling would induce a chemical change causing acidity and known in the trade as “foxing.” The manipulation of the wort at this critical stage in this brewery means to be brought, by the use of the most modern appliances, to a high state of perfection. From the cooling room the wort is conducted by a large pipe down to the fermenting room, where there are large square vessels of various sizes; in one row there are three, each holding 60 barrels; there are others of different capacities to suit the quantity of wort in the brew. The wort being brought into these square vats here the yeast is added, and fermenting sets in. The wort which had been cooled down to between fifty and sixty degrees, would, by the heat generated in fermentation, again rise in temperatutre, but to check this a coil of copper tubing containing cold water is immersed in the wort and the temperature thus regulated. The important process of fermentation depends in a great measure on the quality of the yeast, and to ensure its being good, the brewer has a powerful microscope by which he examines the cells, and is able to judge of its fitness for inducing healthy fermentation. In fact it seems, unless he works by the rule of thumb, to be a brewer a man must be a tolerable expert chemist. When the process of fermenting has reached the proper stage it is checked, the wort being conveyed to other vessels in the cleansing room, where the yeast on the top works up through a hatch from which it is taken away for further use. Some of it is employed in future brewing, but as they do not require anything like the quantity which they produce, yeast forms an important bye-product of the brewery, and is sold, some to bakers in the vicinity, whilst the residue is put through one of Johnstone’s patent yeast presses by which all the liquid is removed, and the yeast like a stiff curd is fit for exportation to the continent, which is the destination of a considerable portion of it. When the cleansing process has been finished the brewing is practically done, and subsequently the manufactured article finds its way into innumerable casks, filling an almost interminable underground area of which outsiders could hardly form any idea. “Here in cool grot” is kept the stock-in-trade, and by the aid of artificial light may be seen the long rows of casks, barrels and hogsheads filling the space underneath the brewery. Following on, we go down a passage intersected with short headings running in both directions, also full of barrels, and farther away still under the malt house we come to a vast area stored in the same way. Turning in another direction we come to another. In the passages there are smooth iron rails laid, down which the barrels are slid to their destination. While I was wondering how many barrels could be stored away in these recesses we came upon the clerk of the cellars at his desk, and in a few seconds he was able to tell us that the quantity in store at that time was 3,000 barrels. Leaving the cellar we crossed the yard to the hop loft, in which are stowed piles of hop pockets emitting a most fragrant perfume, and all of them bearing the Kent brand.
We have now been through the whole process but I have so far omitted to mention two points which must not be passed over. The first is the water supply. No doubt the original idea of fixing the brewery on the margin of the river was to take the supply from that source, but owing to the increase of pollution up stream that would be out of the question now, and another source which eminent analysts pronounce to be equal to Burton water is obtained from deep artesian wells driven a few yards from the mash tuns in the brewery floor down through a hundred feet of chalk where a most copious and perfectly pure supply is obtained from a flint bed. The supply is practically inexhaustible, and although it could not be purer than our town supply, chemically it is better, having a less admixture of chalk. This water is pumped up in to a large reservoir on the top of the brewery. The mention of pumping brings in the other omitted point, the steam power. In the engine room there is a first-class modern horizontal engine of 12-horse power, and a somewhat smaller auxiliary engine for use in busy times, and to the latter there is fixed an attachment for screwing on a fire hose that can be used in case of fire in the brewery or adjoining premises it having been used very effectively at the recent fire at Messrs. Hills carriage manufactory. Then alongside these modern engines there is also, now disused, but in working order, an old beam engine, erected in the year 1808 by Mr. Walker, the former proprietor, and this is believed to have been the first steam engine erected in Dover.
We now pass out of the brewery through the counting house, where a number of clerks toil at bulky ledgers, and proceed across Dolphin Lane to the cask yard, where are congregated all the empties as they arrive from customers. The pipe before mentioned, conveying hot water from the cooling room is here brought into use as scour and scald each cask, in which special care is taken, cleanliness being a point strictly insisted upon at this brewery. On the Castle Street side of the yard is the cooperage, where there were men employed in repairing the casks. Across the lane we come to the stables recently burnt down, but now restored. Here are kept twelve horses employed in the vans in use at Dover, and there are also four at Folkestone and four in London. Thus it will be seen that the establishment of Messrs. Leney and Co. is a very important local industry, finding work for a large number of employers of various grades, and, seeing that in addition to its purely local trade a considerable outside business is done, the Phoenix Brewery may be set down at another of those thriving businesses which helps to increase the commercial prosperity of Dover.
read more of the history of Brewing in Dover, right here