Beer history real ale

Computer World, 1983

Detail of brewing Process as depicted c.1980,

‘I have always hated the actual brewing process,’ said Martin Griffiths of Penrhos Brewery in an interview with CAMRA’s What’s Brewing in March 1983.

Rather a startling admission, but many ‘lifestyle’ brewers — those who like the idea, but aren’t capable of achieving some kind of Zen enlightenment through endless cleaning — probably come to feel the same.

Griffiths (bow-tied and moustachioed, like a TV antiques expert in the accompanying photo) had a radical solution: he turned control of the brewery over to a computer. Or, rather, to ‘a suitcase-sized microchip brain’ known as BPC — the Brewery Process Controller:

Martin’s apparatus is so accurate that it has a temperature read-out to 0.1°C on any point of the brewing process… Other features include automatic and remote manual control over flows, temperatures and boiler operation, as well as an automatic log of brewing.

Big breweries, like the colossal Bass Charrington plant at Runcorn, had been computer controlled for some time, but the new wave of small British breweries seemed to rather pride themselves on using sticks and bathtubs. Did a computer quite fit the image?

Griffiths had grand plans to sell BPCs to new businesses in the then blossoming American microbrewery scene, but it didn’t come off, and Penrhos ceased trading later in 1983.

The founding of Penrhos Brewery, and its significance in the story of British beer, is covered in Brew Britannia.

2 replies on “Computer World, 1983”

I don’t operate a brewery (if you don’t count my stove top pot and plastic buckets), but give me the option to set the brewing parameters (the important stuff) and let the machinery take the strain (the tedious stuff) and I’d jump at the chance. Consistency wins every time.

I wrote an article about Commodore computer games in 1983, didn’t have a clue what I was writing about, but as long as the quotes from the experts fitted what the editor wanted and I could relate to the real world that was enough. Haven’t written about computers since though…

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