A Brutalist Brewery: Arup and Carlsberg in Northampton, 1974

The March 1974 edition of the Arup Journal is an amazing artefact, offering a blow-by-blow breakdown of the design and construction of Carlsberg’s state of the art Danish brewery in Northampton.

You can read the full mag­a­zine here in PDF form, and it’s a love­ly thing in its own right – all white space and sans serif, as styl­ish as the build­ings it depicts.

Arup Journal, March 1974, cover.

Arup is an archi­tec­ture firm found­ed in 1946 by Ove Arup, born in New­cas­tle  upon Tyne in the UK to Dan­ish par­ents in 1895, and edu­cat­ed in Den­mark. Though he died in 1988 the com­pa­ny lives on, its name a byword for mod­ernism.

In 1970, Arup was com­mis­sioned by Carls­berg Brew­ery Ltd to design a new plant in Northamp­ton in the Eng­lish Mid­lands, just as the lager boom was begin­ning to bite. The cost of the project was £15 mil­lion; Carls­berg sup­plied the brew­ery equip­ment and defined the neces­si­ties of the space accord­ing to pro­duc­tion need; and Arup com­mis­sioned Dan­ish archi­tect Knud Munk to pro­duce a design that would “express the best in mod­ern Dan­ish archi­tec­ture”.

As well as lots of detail in the text the mag­a­zine also includes process charts…

Process chart of lager brewing at Carlsberg.

…inte­ri­or shots…

A control panel at the brewery.

…and lots of dra­mat­ic black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy of the brew­ery build­ing at var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion, set in the flat land­scape against dra­mat­ic skies…

The exterior of the brewery.
CREDIT: Col­in West­wood.

…which are either awe-inspir­ing or grim depend­ing on your point of view.

It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to think of this hulk appear­ing, with atten­dant talk of effi­cien­cy and automa­tion, at just the exact moment the Cam­paign for Real Ale was tak­ing off. This is about as far from all that imagery of wood­en casks, old inns and pewter tankards as you can get.

And the empha­sis through­out on the Dan­ish­ness of the project – Dan­ish brew­ers, Dan­ish archi­tect, offi­cial­ly opened by the Queen of Den­mark – while can­ny in terms of under­lin­ing the authen­tic­i­ty of the prod­uct was also at odds with the grow­ing sense that Local was some­how a sacred virtue.

We’ve been research­ing this build­ing and Carlsberg’s arrival in the UK on and off for years and this showed up in one of our peri­od­ic check-ins. There are times we wor­ry about the state of cor­po­rate archives and oth­ers when we feel like we’re liv­ing in the best pos­si­ble age, with digi­tis­ing get­ting cheap­er and com­pa­nies real­is­ing the val­ue of their own his­to­ry.

Studying Beer History – Hoarding, Stealing, Learning to Let Go

Various books and magazine from the last 40+ years of CAMRA.

Even if you’re the first to share a nugget from the archives on social media doesn’t mean you discovered it, and almost certainly doesn’t mean you own it. And sharing is good for the soul.

We spent a large chunk of Sun­day scan­ning doc­u­ments from the Guin­ness col­lec­tion we’ve been sort­ing through so we could share their con­tents with a schol­ar work­ing on a book about stout.

For us, there’s a thrill in set­ting this infor­ma­tion free, not least because we know that when it comes to tech­ni­cal brew­ing his­to­ry, we’re far from being the best peo­ple to inter­pret sources.

But per­haps if this schol­ar wasn’t some­one we sort of know, and admire, we’d feel dif­fer­ent­ly.

In the course of research­ing two books, only one per­son refused to share source mate­r­i­al with us. Though it frus­trat­ed us in the moment, we do under­stand: seri­ous his­to­ri­ans are too used to hav­ing years, even decades of research repack­aged, and usu­al­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ed, by dilet­tantes, TV pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies and hacks.

Both acad­e­mia and pub­lish­ing are com­pet­i­tive worlds, too, so there are all kinds of rea­sons peo­ple might unearth some­thing juicy and want to stake a claim, at least until after the next paper or book is pub­lished.

And the inter­net in par­tic­u­lar swims with par­a­sites, sav­ing and repost­ing and steal­ing and repost­ing until there are no pix­els left in any­thing.

Only this week we saw Liam’s hard work inves­ti­gat­ing the his­to­ry of Irish brew­ing exploit­ed by a copy-and-paster and felt his pain.

We quite often notice things we’ve shared here turn­ing up else­where with not so much as a ‘via’ or a link, some­times with the SOURCE water­marks we painstak­ing­ly added snipped off or blurred out.

We might tut a bit but we can’t real­ly com­plain. After all, even if we spent mon­ey and time acquir­ing the source mate­r­i­al, and even more time scan­ning, tidy­ing up and upload­ing it, we still don’t own those images or words, or the his­to­ry they encap­su­late.

Inter­pre­ta­tion, com­men­tary and nar­ra­tive – those you, or we, can right­ly stake a claim to, but the source mate­r­i­al ought to belong to every­one.

Even then, we’ve learned to let a bit of pil­fer­ing  go, per­haps with a vague belief in the idea of kar­ma: the research we take is equal to the research we make and all that.

So, if you’re sit­ting on orig­i­nal doc­u­ments relat­ing to beer and brew­ing, such as mag­a­zines, busi­ness papers, orig­i­nal pho­tographs or brew­ing logs, we’d urge you to do what you can to share some or all of them.

It might just be a blog post flag­ging their exis­tence, or some­thing more sub­stan­tial. Just get it out there.

And if you draw on some­one else’s research do try to be gen­er­ous with links and shout-outs and thank-yous. It doesn’t take a moment or cost much, it helps peo­ple trace sources back to the root, and, again, that kar­ma thing applies.

Final­ly, if you think we might have some­thing in our col­lec­tion that could help with your research, do drop us a line.

A partial list of what’s in our library
  • What’s Brew­ing, 1972–1977 (par­tial); 1979–1997, com­plete
  • A Month­ly Bul­letin, 1953–1956, 1960–1972
  • The Red Bar­rel, Wat­ney Mann, var­i­ous edi­tions 1950s-1970s
  • The House of Whit­bread, var­i­ous edi­tions 1940s-1960s
  • Guin­ness Time, var­i­ous edi­tions 1960s-70s, plus scans of indi­vid­ual arti­cles 1950s-60s
  • numer­ous odd issues of oth­er brew­ery in-house mag­a­zines 1920s-1970s
  • CAMRA Good Beer Guide, 1976 onward

Draught Guinness 1958: Two Casks, One Tap

Draught Guinness™ is something different to draught Guinness. Exactly how it worked, and how it changed over time, has long puzzled us. Now, we at least have a clear explanation from one point in time – 1958.

The edi­tion of Guin­ness Time for spring that year includes a four-page arti­cle, heav­i­ly illus­trat­ed, on draught Guin­ness. It clears up some of the con­fu­sion we felt when we wrote this piece a cou­ple of years ago based on a sim­i­lar arti­cle from 1971.

Men working with metal casks.
‘T. Byrne and A.E. George cleans­ing casks under the super­vi­sion of Fore­man L. Elliott.’
1. Wood gives way to metal

It begins by set­ting out the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion around met­al and wood­en casks:

Although a few Pub­lic Hous­es still serve Draught Guin­ness ‘from the wood’, is is now nor­mal­ly set out in Stain­less Steel met­al casks. The devel­op­ment of met­al casks suit­able for con­tain­ing Draught Guin­ness was not as easy as it may sound and it involved the intro­duc­tion of new taps and oth­er asso­ci­at­ed fit­tings. The orig­i­nal inven­tor of the equip­ment was Mr J.F.T. Barnes, the founder of Uni­ver­sal Brew­ery Equip­ment Ltd… but many improve­ments in design were effect­ed by the late Mr E.J. Grif­fiths and J.R. Moore. The tran­si­tion from wood­en to met­al casks, which attract­ed a great deal of crit­i­cism dur­ing the ear­ly days just after the last War, has now been vir­tu­al­ly com­plet­ed and is accept­ed every­where.

There are hints of the Soci­ety for the Preser­va­tion of the Wood yet to arrive, in 1963, and this helps us pin down when ‘beer from the wood’ became a com­mon phrase.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Draught Guin­ness 1958: Two Casks, One Tap”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 27 October 2018: Brixton, Babies, Beer Festivals

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention in the past week, from financial stories about big beer to blog posts about Dorchester.

Cana­di­an beer writer Jor­dan St. John came to the UK in August and in typ­i­cal­ly reflec­tive style, ele­gant­ly expressed as ever, has shared some out­sider obser­va­tions:

The next day at the Great British Beer Fes­ti­val, more change is evi­dent. For one thing, the crowd is sig­nif­i­cant­ly younger than when I was there in 2013. It’s a Tues­day and most of  London’s brew­ery staff has the day off and is in atten­dance. I run into peo­ple from Moor and Wind­sor & Eton, but real­ly I’m there to talk to the peo­ple from Four­pure. They have just recent­ly launched their Juice­box IPA in Ontario, but sad­ly the beer didn’t clear cus­toms in time for the launch. Even more recent­ly than that, they’ve announced the sale of the brew­ery to the Kirin owned Lion PTY Ltd. Check it out: Pur­chased by the Aus­tralian sub­sidiary of a Japan­ese Brew­ery to be a cat’s paw in Eng­land to com­pete with Mean­time, which is owned by Asahi, anoth­er Japan­ese Brew­ery.


Bill Coors.

Beer indus­try mag­nate Bill Coors has died at the age of 102. Reject­ing the rev­er­en­tial ten­den­cy Jeff Alworth has writ­ten a clear-eyed reflec­tion on Coors’ life and lega­cy:

Wealth and suc­cess have always been enough to laun­der bad behav­ior into insti­tu­tion­al respect and hon­or, but we shouldn’t let these state­ments become canon­i­cal. In the decades of his chair­man­ship, the idea that he had a “com­mit­ment to bet­ter­ing lives around him” would have been greet­ed with sour laugh­ter by many. Bill Coors had a dark side, and it is at least as impor­tant to note as his tenure as chair­man.


A baby.

Per­haps pick­ing up on a theme estab­lished by Becky last week, Rachael Smith explains how impor­tant The Pub has been to her in ear­ly moth­er­hood:

Kerthudd! That’s the sound that a half-full infant’s beaker makes when it hits a hard tiled floor, thrown from the height of a high­chair with all the gus­to and might a four­teen month old can muster whilst sleepy and full of chips. Well, most­ly full of chips, I’m sure half his por­tion were on the floor by the end of the ses­sion, minus the one half-eat­en fry that was gift­ed to the staff mem­ber who took her time to get to his lev­el and say hel­lo… Whilst I was chat­ting with a friend, my child had been com­mu­ni­cat­ing in his own lit­tle way with anoth­er lit­tle kid on the table next to us. They had their own lit­tle lan­guage going on and were get­ting on like a house on fire. At the end of lunch a slip of paper was popped on to my table, as I looked down a lopped-off giraffe’s head looked straight back up at me (it was, I soon realised, the top of the children’s menu), next to it in cray­on were names, a num­ber, and the words; play-date?


Keg taps.

An inter­est­ing obser­va­tion from Alec Lath­am: there is a con­stant three-way push and pull between super­mar­kets, craft beer bot­tle shops and pubs. He writes:

I was put in mind of this over the week­end when I went to vis­it a new bot­tle and tap room in Harp­en­den opened by Mad Squir­rel Brew­ery (Hemel Hemp­st­ed)… I noticed how many chillers there were on the shop floor and enquired whether the cans and bot­tles could be con­sumed on site – a daft ques­tion – of course they could… But then he also men­tioned some­thing I’d not­ed myself sub­con­scious­ly, but with­out join­ing up all the dots: take­away sales of cans from beer shop shelves are reap­ing dimin­ish­ing returns, where­as sales of cans from the fridges to be cracked open in the shop are increas­ing.


Gary Gill­man has been dig­ging into the his­to­ry of beer fes­ti­vals  – what filled the gap between Okto­ber­fest and CAMRA’s 1975 Covent Gar­den Beer Exhi­bi­tion? Part 1 | Part 2.


The Dorchester Brewery c.1889.
SOURCE: Alfred Barnard/Hathi Trust.

Mean­while, Alan McLeod con­tin­ues his research into the provin­cial beer styles of Britain with fur­ther infor­ma­tion on the appar­ent­ly once leg­endary Dorch­ester Ale:

A lady, who had been my fel­low pas­sen­ger, turned to me as we drove up the avenue, and said, “I sup­pose, of course, you mean to try the Dorch­ester ale, which is so cel­e­brat­ed.” “Is it very fine?” I asked.

Dear me, have you nev­er tast­ed Dorch­ester ale?” “No, madam, nor have I ever been in this town before.” She looked at me in some sur­prize, as my speech was not Irish nor Scotch. When I told her I came from the Unit­ed States, she gazed upon me with the great­est curios­i­ty…

(Read the com­ments, too.)


An inter­est­ing bit of finan­cial newsAB InBev has cut its div­i­dend after a tough year in some mar­kets:

We can’t remem­ber a more dis­ap­point­ing set of fig­ures from AB InBev,” said RBC ana­lyst James Edwardes Jones, not­ing that most regions missed ana­lysts’ esti­mates for vol­ume growth.


And final­ly, faith in human nature, and so on and so forth:

Guinness: ‘PR 2/50/12 – Mr Shildrick’s Programme’

Among the big pile of Guinness documentation we’ve been sorting through on behalf of its owner there is one item sexier than all the rest: a head brewer’s process chart, about a metre long, printed on canvas.

Here’s a pho­to:

Guinness brewery wallchart.

On the back in pen­cil is writ­ten:

  • PR 2/50/12
  • Mr Shildrick’s Pro­gramme
  • 10 am mash

From David Hughes’s invalu­able ref­er­ence A Bot­tle of Guin­ness Please we know that Mr Shildrick was Major Lance Shildrick, Guin­ness head brew­er from 1949 to 1953. From that, and the code writ­ten on the back, we’d guess that this chart was pro­duced in 1950, but that is only a guess.

Because this doc­u­ment is such an odd shape, and is fair­ly bat­tered, it proved chal­leng­ing to scan until we bit the bul­let and did it one tiny sec­tion at a time using a small portable device.

We then tried to stitch it togeth­er auto­mat­i­cal­ly using var­i­ous bits of soft­ware but none worked.

In the end, we had to man­u­al­ly fit the pieces togeth­er in Pho­to­shop, lin­ing them up, nudg­ing them this way and that, straight­en­ing and rotat­ing by tiny degrees.

We then con­vert­ed it to black and white and invert­ed the colours it to make it, we think, eas­i­er to read.

The end result isn’t per­fect, but it’s not ter­ri­ble either.

You can view or down­load the full 1mb image file here.

We’ll be try­ing to make some sense of this our­selves but in the mean­time would wel­come insight and com­men­tary from brew­ers, or any­one else who can glean use­ful info from the chart.

* * *

Scan­ning, stitch­ing and tidy­ing up this doc­u­ment took some­thing like five hours so we must once again thank Patre­on sub­scribers like Mason Sin­gle­ton, Sam Schwab and Tom Fur­niss whose ongo­ing sup­port encour­ages to spend our free time on this kind of thing.