Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow.
© John Fender 2014
The Scottish Region was visited the Tennent Caledonian Brewery at Wellpark in Glasgow on 30 April 2014.
Starting off in the visitor centre, members of the party were able to see various items from Tennent's long history including historical photographs, examples of cans, and other memorabilia.
Our host, Ivor Reid, explained that Tennent's lager has enjoyed success in Scotland since 1885 whereas in England ales were traditionally more popular. Tennent's enjoyed particular success since the 1960's and the brewery had 5 canning lines in operation to keep up with demand.
The beer can was developed by Tennent's jointly with Metal Box co. Tennent's asked what the largest can that could be made was and Metal Box was able to produce a 16 fluid ounce can and in 1953 the can was launched. Originally cans had a screw top, instead of the cans we are more familiar with today. In the 1980's the can size was increased to 500ml, but changed back to the standard size of 440ml. (the metric equivalent of 16fl oz.)
Tennent's for many years produced cans with high quality photographs of attractive girls on them and today many cans are collectors' items. By the early 1990's it was felt that these were no longer appropriate and new designs were introduced. Over the years Tennent's have advertised on television in Scotland and a number of "classic" adverts were being shown on a screen in the visitor centre.
After donning high visibility jackets and protective headgear, the party embarked on a tour of the brewery, one group being guided by Harry McNeill and one by Ivor Reid C&C UK logistics Manager. The tour started at the brewhouse, where malted barley is delivered and stored in silos. Around 150 tonnes of barley is delivered each day. This is then milled and transferred to the mash conversion vessel where water at 63 degrees centigrade is added. Temperature control is important to enable the enzymes to convert starch to sugar. Each batch is approximately 600 barrels equivalent to 250,000 pints. The party was shown round the control room where the process is monitored.
After 3 hours, the liquid, called wort, is filtered and the spent barley is used for animal feed. Hops are added. These arrive in pellet form and add the characteristic flavours to the lager as well as the aroma and additionally help to preserve the lager. The wort is then transferred to the wort kettle and boiled before being passed through a cooler. The cooled wort is moved to a fermenting vessel and yeast, in a slurry form, is added and the mixture allowed to ferment . Fermentation takes approximately 12 days. The Lager is then allowed to settle and clear and then filtered in to "bright" beer tanks to await packaging.
The lager is either packaged into kegs or canned. The party saw kegs being prepared for filling, being cleaned and sterilised prior to filling on an automated line. Kegs are stacked using locator boards rather than pallets as this is more efficient and secure.
The party was then shown round the canning facility and saw cans being filled at a rate of 2000 per minute by an automated rotary filling machine. This machine can fill 165 cans at a time. Cans are pasteurised and weighed. Cans not with the correct weight are rejected automatically. They then move to a machine for packing into multi-packs and shrink wrapped before heading to the warehouse area.
There is also a bottling line that is used for both own products and contract work and the party saw bottles of beer being produced for another company on the line. Moving to the warehouse area, the party was given an outline of the system. The warehouse can accommodate up to 5,000 pallets and additional storage space is required to meet seasonal demands, such as the Festive period. Brewing for this period starts in September so that the lager is ready in time for delivery to customers. When orders are received, details are printed out and stock is picked from the warehouse, checked and loaded onto the vehicles for deliver.
The party then proceeded to the hospitality suite where there was an opportunity to sample some of the products and Ivor Reid gave a short presentation on Tennent's. Brewing has been taking place on the site since 1556 and in the 1860's Tennent's was the largest exporting brewer in the world. In 1883 Hugh Tennent was in Bavaria for treatment of an illness and saw the local beer which was a "stored" beer or "lager".
Returning to Scotland, he arranged for the beer to be brewed in Glasgow and it went on sale in 1885. As it was clearer and more refreshing, it sold well, helped perhaps by the fact that Beardmore's Parkhead Forge, employing some 12,000 men was nearby and the workers liked the refreshing beer.
Today Tennent Caledonian is part of the C&C Group plc, based in Dublin and brands include Tennent's, Magners, Bulmers and Gaymers, the last three being ciders. There are three production sites in the group, being Wellpark in Glasgow, Shepton Mallet and Clonmel in Ireland. Distribution is undertaken from Wellpark and Cambuslang in Scotland, from Calcavy near Belfast in Northern Ireland and from Avonmouth, near Bristol.
Primary distribution is undertaken using 44 tonne vehicles operated by DHL Tradeteam delivering pallets. Secondary distribution, covering Scotland and Northern Ireland and delivering to some 2,300 outlets consists of pallets and dray operation, i.e. kegs etc. Overall, there are some 9,500 outlets for Tennent's lager. There is also a tanker operation and this also serves special events, such as T in the Park.
At he conclusion of the evening, the chairman, Keith Evans presented Ivor and Harry with a pair of the Scottish Region's engraved glasses.
Report and photograph by John Fender.
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