Every brewhouse needs a hero, for the Southwick Brewhouse his name was Dick Olding, or as he was fondly known, Old Dick, the brewmaster, a gentlemen and a legend among the villagers, providing a stiff drink for the troops and working like a power horse until he passed away aged 81. So how did he do it? Well it wasn’t always straightforward , using sight smell and taste, Old Dick was a master of the brew, but legend has it that some batches were so strong that one pint would knock you for six!
This is an outline of the process used at the Southwick Brewhouse.
The brewing process began in the malt store where the Grist Mill cracked the malt. Malt and water (known as ‘liquor’ in a brewery) were run into the Mash Tun and left to infuse for about two hours. A mechanical rake turned the mixture to ensure an even consistency. It was here that the chemical change from starch to soluble sugar took place. This solution, known as ‘wort’ , was passed to the Copper via the Underback. The copper was coal fired from below, and it was at this stage that the hops and sugar were added. From here the wort passed to the Hop Back where the spent hops fell to the bottom before the wort passed to the cooler.
After cooling the product passed into the fermenting vessels – here the yeast was added. The strength of the beer was indicated by the specific gravity, which along with the quantity would be entered in the charge book kept in the brewer’s desk at the top of the staircase. This was checked frequently by the Excise Officer.
Fermentation took three to four days. After about twelve hours a head began to form and this was removed at intervals. During the fermenting process a rise in temperature occurred and this was controlled by cooling. The beer would then be drawn off into casks on the ground floor, to mature until it was taken off to the public house,where it would stand for a further twenty-four hours before being ready for consumption.