Chapter IX. Water, Ice, Steam, and Light

Having witnessed the process of brewing, from the grinding of the malt to the racking of the beer, we now turn our attention to the extensive and complicated plant which furnishes this brewery with water, ice, steam, and light. The first inquiry addressed to the brewmaster concerning the water brings on a highly interesting lecture on the importance of this element in brewing, and the difficulty of obtaining it in the state best suited for our purpose. True, the water which gushes from the gneiss rocks of Manhattan Island, as well as that which is conveyed to us from afar through the aqueduct, is very good and wholesome; but it will not bear a comparison with the water that the Munich brewer receives from the river Isar, nor that which, ever since the 13th century, has rendered famous the ales of Burton-on-Trent. The reputation of the Munich beer is quite as old as that of this English ale, and in both instances popular superstition attributed the excellent qualities of these beers to secret recipes, possessed only by the monks who operated the breweries. The real and only secret, however, was the exceptionally favorable quality of the water. Our water is not the worst by any means; quite the contrary, it is, as we have said, good and suitable enough for brewing; but not a single experienced brewer in our land would dare to deny that if we had Isar water, our beers would be better than those of Munich; in fact, even with this difference in the water operating against us, much American beer is pronounced by connoisseurs to be superior to the average Munich beer.

In an establishment of the size of the brewery we are describing, water plays an important part, not only as a component of beer, but also as an essential agent of cleanliness, motive-power and temperature. For all these purposes the ordinary supply of water does not suffice. To cover the deficiency, this brewery has two sources from which copious supplies are drawn. The one is an artesian well, which yields, daily, 50,000 gallons of water; the other, a pumping station on the East River which, during the summer months, or whenever needed, supplies daily 900,000 gallons of salt water, used for the condensers of the refrigerating machine. The artesian well is seven hundred feet deep, drilled through solid rock, and constructed in the best manner; it is worked by a powerful duplex pump. The enormous quantities of water flowing into the brewery, and used for purposes other than brewing proper, supply eight steam boilers, furnishing steam for fourteen engines of twelve hundred horsepower; a refrigerating plant, consisting of three machines, of an aggregate ice melting capacity of 330 tons; the different stables, and the wash houses, where barrels, chips, wagons, etc., are cleaned.

In describing the different floors on which the processes of mashing, boiling, and cooling are carried on, we noticed the presence of many large wooden vats full of water. The water in these vats, used principally for mashing and boiling, receives a preliminary heating by means of exhaust steam, which proceeds from the brewery engines and would be wasted, unless utilized in the manner indicated. An apparatus, specially designed for this purpose, conducts the exhaust steam into coils fixed in the vats; in this manner the temperature of the water is raised and less heat is required to bring it to the boiling point. Ordinarily, these vats are entirely covered with thickly padded canvas, to the end that the heat may be more effectually retained. When we consider that the annual consumption of fuel in this brewery amounts to six thousand tons of coal, we can readily understand that a waste of heat, in whatever form, must, in the long run, result in a very considerable pecuniary loss. In its downward course, from floor to floor, the water used for the purposes before mentioned, flows through pipes which empty into the tubs and boilers, and are supplied, at suitable points, with instruments for gauging quantities and determining temperature. By means of powerful steam pumps, the water is pumped from the Croton main into the vats, where it is heated as described. The vats on the floor next to the ground floor furnish warm water for cleaning the kegs. Thus, the water, too, passes through a series of connected pipes, vats, tubes and tuns, up and down the entire height of the building, serving a different purpose at every stage and forming another circle within a circle.


The refrigerating plant rests upon a massive foundation; it has three floors, including the ground floor, and covers twelve thousand five hundred square feet of the brewery premises. The system of cooling rests upon the principles first applied to this purpose, in 1849, by Gorrie, but has been improved upon during the successive stages of its development to an extent far exceeding the progress of any other scientific discovery. As applied in this brewery, the system performs its functions by means of the direct expansion of ammonia in iron pipes, placed under the ceilings and on the walls of the cellars; a far more effective and economical method than the system by which the brine, after being cooled in large tanks, is forced through the cooling pipes by means of steam pumps. The plant consists of four De La Vergne machines, each of an ice melting capacity of 310 tons; these cool about forty cellars, or an aggregate space of 1,750,000 cubic feet, and furnish, in addition to this, all the ice cold water required for the attemperators in the fermenting tuns, and for the coolers over which the wort passes when it leaves the cooling tank, as explained. To described the intricate process of cooling is a difficult task, save on the assumption that the reader fully understands the principles upon which the system is based. We must take it for granted that the reader knows that the rapid expansion of a compressed gas, as well as the volatilization of some liquids, is invariably followed by a lowering of the temperature, and that by a proper utilization of this change of temperature intense cold, to almost any degree below the freezing point, may be produced at will. The machines invented for this purpose vary considerably, both in effectiveness and cost, and in almost every country a different system is in vogue. The best American machines appear to be compounds of all the virtues and advantages of the most approved systems now in use; and it is claimed that the De La Vergne refrigerator yields to none in any respect. The principal parts of this apparatus are the boilers, expansion cocks, refrigerating coils, compressors, separating tank, and ammonia condensers. The boilers are placed on the ground floor, the machines on the next, and the condensers on the top floor. Like every other material or agent we have thus far described, the ammonia, too, passes through a number of variously connected circuits, down into tiers upon tiers of cellars, and up again through the three floors above ground, only to recommence the same journey and repeat it again and again for the selfsame purpose. The ammonia first goes in a liquid state into the cellar, where it is distributed by means of expansion cocks into the refrigerating coils; thence the three machines draw it up in a gaseous state and compress it. From the compressors, it passes into a separating tank, and here the oil is eliminated and sent to the coil cooler, while the ammonia still in a gaseous state, ascends to the ammonia condensers on the top floor of the building. By the use of salt water on the outside of these condensers, the ammonia is reliquified, and in the liquid state again descends to the cellars, as before described. Still another circle within a greater circle! A recapitulation of the functions of this refrigerating plant may not be out of place. It cools 1,750,000 cubic feet of space in cellars; supplies ice cold water for the attemperators in fermenting tuns and reduces the temperature of the wort, as it passes over the cooling pipes, to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. During the summer months the beer to be cooled, in the latter manner, amounts on an average to two thousand barrels, daily---the maximum daily brew being twenty-seven hundred barrels.* [* Multiplied by four, these figures give present output.]

The Steam Plant

The steam required in this brewery for all the operations already described, and others still to be spoken of, is generated by eight colossal boilers, each five and a half feet in diameter, and containing fifty-six four-inch tubes. They are of the horizontal return tubular type, fitted with patent furnaces and water arches, and rated at 130 horsepower, each. This boiler plant is really of double the capacity needed, and hence, only one-half of the number of boilers is alternately in use, the other half being provided as a reserve in case of emergencies. The steam generated in these boilers drives fourteen engines. Of these, one is used in the machine shop; three serve the purposes of the refrigerating plant; two are used for the electric light plant; three, varying from 100 to 165 horsepower, set in motion the mashing apparatus, the malt mill, malt elevators, keg washing machines, rotary pumps in cellar, two Otis belt elevators and four keg elevators. Two of the latter are used for lowering empty kegs into the cellar, and the other two for raising filled kegs. In addition to these, there are four more engines, one each for driving a feed grinder and fodder cutter in the stables, a set of revolving and suspended fans in the office, the cask rollers in the pitch yard and the machine for washing chips.

All these steam motors, as well as the refrigerating machines, are connected with that system of steam condensation to which we referred in describing the partial heating of brew water by means of exhaust steam. Previous to condensation the exhaust steam passes from the engine through an apparatus, called grease extractor, which eliminates the oil; it is then conveyed to a Gannon surface condenser and thence returned to the boilers. In this process of condensation a vacuum of from twenty-five to twenty-six inches is produced by means of an air pump. The immense quantity of salt water used daily for the condensers of ammonia is so profitably utilized in this manner, that condensation is effected without an extra supply of water.


Cooperage is no longer a handicraft in America; the inventive genius of our people, to which we owe the greater part of the progress that has placed us at the head of civilized nations in point of machine building, has virtually wiped out the cooper's handicraft, and given us, in its stead, a half dozen enormous manufacturing establishments, in which nearly all the barrels required by brewers and distillers are made by machine. There was a time when nearly every brewer had at least a smattering of the cooper's art, and when the cellar men, employed in breweries, had to produce satisfactory evidence of having passed through the regular course of training prescribed for apprentices and journeymen by the ancient and honorable guild of coopers. Although this is now all changed, yet in so large an establishment as the one we are describing, the employment of a considerable force of coopers is indispensable. The large casks and vats, ranging in capacity from 50 to 800 barrels, which fill the cellars of the brewery, number about 1,500 and there are about 100,000 packages---i.e., barrels of thirty-one gallons, and half, quarter, and sixth barrels---in constant use; and a considerable reserve stored away for emergencies. The coopers keep an accurate account of these packages and vessels, examine them from time to time, and make such repairs as their condition may required.

The pitching of barrels, which serves the two-fold purpose of facilitating the process of cleaning and preventing the beer from acquiring a smell of the wood, is performed periodically, with such methodical regularity that not a single package can escape this fiery ordeal. The pitching yard, enclosed by a wall, is the scene of this part of the cooper's task; here too, manual labor forms only an adjunct to steam power. Four large cask rollers, and many smaller ones, all driven by a steam engine of ten horsepower, a pitch oven and a pitch cauldron take the place of the single implements with which, in former days, the cooper used to perform this work. After the liquid pitch has been poured into the casks, the latter are placed upon the moving rollers and continually rotated, by which process the pitch is evenly spread over the inner surface of the barrels and kegs.

The manufacture of brewer's pitch yields a considerable income to an important industry, and is of no small benefit to the producers of the raw material. A number of substitutes for pitch have been offered in the market, and some of them, especially one made of the residuary substances obtained in the process of refining petroleum, possess many qualities lacking in pitch; but there the conservative spirit of the brewers prevails against innovation, for none of the substances have that peculiar, although exceedingly faint, flavor for which the ordinary pitch is so highly prized by both the brewer and the drinker.

All kegs are washed as soon as they return from the retailer, and the importance which the brewer attaches to this part of his business may be inferred from the fact that no less than one hundred barrel washing machines have been invented---a sure sign of pressing demand. The machines used for this purpose are of the very latest pattern, and perform the work of washing and scrubbing with a thoroughness that leaves nothing to be desired. The kegs are washed several times, and always with hot water, supplied, as we have already stated, from one of the vats on the floor above. They are washed both inside and outside. The operation is entirely automatic. Although the cleaning of the outside of the barrels is not essential, great care is, nevertheless, bestowed upon this work, which is performed by scrubbing machines. The latter seem to give much satisfaction, and are, therefore, in general use in all large breweries.

It is one of the characteristics of the American brewers to disregard expense, when the quality of their product is at stake, and can be enhanced by the use of modern appliances; in that case they give no thought to anything else, but when no such considerations prevail, they show a remarkably conservative spirit, and prefer to adhere to old methods, particularly when the use of modern inventions would necessitate a reduction of the number of workmen. Cleanliness being a principal condition of the keeping quality of beer, the brewer devotes to it all the modern appliances he can secure. The wash room, situated on the ground floor of the main building, has a cemented floor and is bordered with open gutters, which empty into the sewers. The men employed in it wear heavy boots, impervious to water, but are otherwise clad in the usual dress of the "Brauburschen." In the matter of dress, by the way, the spirit of our age has wrought many innovations; excepting the blue blouse, every article of dress that used to distinguish the brewer's guild from other handicrafts has disappeared.

Although but indirectly connected with the cooperage, the treatment of chips or shavings may as well be disposed of under this heading. As we have seen, beech shavings are used for the clarification of the beer while in storage casks, where a second fermentation takes place. Before being so used, the chips undergo a thorough process of boiling and washing, which is accomplished by steam-driven machines of very modern origin. Under favorable circumstances the chips serve this purpose more than once; but, when this is the case, they must again be subjected to boiling and cleaning. In this brewery, beech chips are used exclusively. The stock on hand at the time of our visit was in keeping with the enormous quantities of raw material which filled the store rooms.

A Great Industry

In concluding this sketch of a modern brewery, a few words must be said concerning the position which the brewing industry occupies as one of the great wealth-producing factors of our nation, and the extent to which it contributes to the maintenance of other industries. It is impossible, of course, to search out all those branches of business which directly or indirectly depend upon brewing, but even an incomplete statement will serve to dispel many errors which have been fostered by the enemies of our product. We cannot even approximately estimate the amount of money paid annually by the brewers of this country to the masons, machine builders, pump manufacturers, coopers, lumber dealers, and the manufacturers of the many instruments and utensils used in brewing; nor can we fully determine the advantages which agriculture derives from our industry. Much less can we state, with any degree of accuracy, the help which other industries receive from the trade generally. But there are a few times which we can estimate roughly, at least. Thus, from statistical exhibits, officially published, it appears, that the brewers of this country pay, annually, for agricultural products about $180,000,000. The capital invested in breweries, of which 80 percent represents cost of buildings and machineries, is estimated at $800,000,000. These figures alone suffice to demonstrate the economic short-sightedness of those persons who advocate annihilation of the brewing industry.

The extent to which brewers contributed towards the payment of the national debt, caused by the war of the rebellion, is eloquently expressed by the annual reports of the Internal Revenue Department. Since 1863 and up to 1908, no less than one thousand one hundred and seventy-eight million dollars have been paid into the United States Treasury by the brewers of this country.

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