Thursday, 20 October 2011

A visit to Tennent’s (1859 version)

A visit to a gigantic Brewery, especially when the palate requires moisture, will please most of our readers, and we have no hesitation in recommending them to see The Well Park Brewery of Messrs. J. and R. Tennent & Co., Duke-street. These consist of five splendid cellars, their ramifications extending in five directions, and containing an enormous quantity of beer, the greatest stock in Scotland. (We have under notice a similar establishment at Burton, in the companion volume.) In the vat-room are 30 vats, each 37,000 gallons. We have seen no room like this in any similar establishment we have visited. Our readers, especially our friends from Australia, must not quit Glasgow without seeing this extensive establishment. In another part of the premises, are hundreds of thousands of barrels. Several bores for water exist on the premises, one 381 feet deep; we also noticed several cisterns and filters, one 10 feet deep, 50 feet by 50 feet.
In the large bottling and corking-room, we see as many as 420 hands, all bottling for export only; the quantity of sheet-lead and copper wire used for this purpose is enormous; the bottles are packed in casks, and are then ready for removing to vessels lying in the Clyde; from 400 to 500 casks are used in a day for packing. Now we pass into a large vault, where we see hundreds of bins, containing from 11,000 to 16,000 hogsheads in each bin; the store vaults appear to be endless. The casks are seasoned by steam; an engine of 40 horse power, capable of working up to 55, being employed for this purpose. From the mashhouse ascend to the mill, and on the same floor is the fermenting-room. We next reach the hop-room, and ascend to the boiling-room or copperhouse, enter cooling-room, descend to another tun-room, where we see 21 tuns each containing 100 barrels. Entering the “square” room, we pass from thence into the yard and ascend to the Cooperage, where scores of men are continually employed in manufacturing casks and barrels; there is nothing like this department elsewhere: we counted Seven Rooms All Full Of Busy Workers. We are stunned with the noise of the ceaseless hammer. As the several parts are formed and the barrels completed, they are branded. We now enter the sawmills, where steam-power is in action to move circular saws; here too we notice a very extraordinary machine invented by one of the employés of the firm for opening the “flags,” thus saving a great deal of labour. Descending to another room, we see the planing-machine in full action, and pass over the new cooperage now being built, a sure evidence on the part of the public of their appreciation of the productions of the firm; thence to the store-shed for wood, which contains an enormous stock. New stables have been built for 32 horses. These erections are supposed to be the finest in Scotland, having magnificent slate fittings. Should further information be required, Mr. Nelson, “the brewer,” will be happy to forward it.

We forgot to mention that the new church, which we perceive on entering the works, was built at the cost of Mr. Tennent. We annex the following extract from “Chemistry, Theoretical, Practical, and Analytical, as applied and relating to the Arts and Manufactures,” by Dr. Sheridan Muspratt, F. R. S. E., &c., founder of the College of Chemistry in Liverpool. “The peculiar excellence of the ales of the Messrs. Tennent, like those of Burton, is their remarkable keeping quality, and their retention of that delicate flavour of the hops, so often lost by the pale ale brewer, notwithstanding his utmost effects to secure it.”

From the “Times,” of 12th October, 1854. “From our own Correspondent.”
“California, San Francisco, August 31, 1854. For malt liquors the demand is not so active as it was a month ago, although it is at all times considerable, and on the increase. Large sales of J. & R. Tennent’s bottled ale have been, during the last fortnight, at 3 dols. 62 cents to 3 dols. 75 cents per dozen, and a sale of about 300 hhds. of the same brand in wood, to arrive, at 60 dols. per hhd. This brand has a larger sale, and is more sought after than any other in the market, from its being peculiarly adapted to the warm climate of the interior, and is much used in San Francisco also.”

From the “Glasgow Herald,” of 6th August, 1858.
Glasgow Porter. — The following extract from the Calcutta Exchange Gazette, of 18th June, has caught our eye, and as it relates to an important branch of the manufactures of this city, we think it right to insert it:—‘The Messrs. Tennent’s Porter has been equally successful. It has been declared to be second to none for hospital purposes—a proof of which is its increasing reputation among commissariat officers. It is a pity that our soldiers should not be supplied with such strengthening and nourishing liquor, instead of the acidulated trash which is too frequently contracted for.’” 

As some of our readers may probably wish to be informed of the prices at which the best beer brewed in Scotland may be obtained, we have added a list of the charges :—

Terms—Net Cash on Delivery.Short Prices—No Discount.

Seven Guinea Ale120s.60s.
Six Guinea Ale10452
Five Guinea Ale8040
Four Guinea Ale6733 6d.
India Pale Ale7035
XXX Porter or Double Brown Stout7839
XX Porter or Brown Stout6030
X Porter3015
Table Beer Superior4824
Ditto Ordinary3015
Beer157 6d

The high reputation of the liquor for its keeping quality has now been long established, and in this respect it cannot be surpassed, as will be seen from the annexed certificates.

Casks should be spiled and bunged whenever they are empty, and immediately returned. Purchasers must be liable for the risk of fermentation, and for all other risks in the transit. Returns of liquor alleged to be defective are not admissible unless received at the Brewery within fourteen days after the date of the invoice.

Purchasers will be charged for the value of all casks not received at the Brewery, free of expense, within, one month from the date of invoice, according to the prices undermentioned:—

Standard Measure of Capacity.
Hogsheadsof54 Imperial Gallons17s.
Barrelsof36 Do.14
Half-hogsheadsof27 Do.12
Half-barrelsof18 Do.10
Firkinsof9 Do.6 6d.

The transmission of casks and the conveyance ought to be carefully advised by post.

(George Measom, The Official Illustrated Guide to the Lancaster and Carlisle, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Caledonian Railways, London 1859)

Readers unfamiliar with Glasgow should note that Tennent’s is next to the city’s Necropolis, which should explain the Hammer Horror-style gravestones in the foreground of the illustration.

It’s a pity they just walked through the actual brewing areas. The vast scale of the bottling and storage operations were more impressive. Nonetheless there are a few snippets worth commenting on.
  • Bottled beer was packed into casks. Why casks not crates? You could roll them, I guess, important in the days of manual labour on the docks.
  • They had a huge demand for casks, and were expanding their cooperage.
  • Tennent’s porter was popular in India and their ale popular in San Francisco. 
  • Their pale ale retained “the delicate flavour of the hop” and was equal to those from Burton.


  1. I suggest to brewery tour of Wells and Youngs. It is located in Bedfordshire and it costs £14 per person which include a hot supper of Bangers and Mash or a vegetarian option, free tastings of our award winning range of beers and a goody bag at the end of the evening.

  2. You haven’t been doing this blogger outreach stuff long, have you?