Burton Bridge Brewery takes its name from the Burton Bridge over the River
Trent at Burton-on-Trent. It is situated twenty yards from the end of the
present bridge. Built in the late 17th Century as the Fox and Goose Inn,
the old bridge finished just outside the front door. Remains of the first
two arches are still there but buried under the road.
An even earlier bridge probably existed in Roman times, the connection being carried through to the present time by XL Bitter.
pump clip shows a Roman senator holding up a glass of beer and gazing longingly
The beer has an OG of 1040 (XL in Roman Numerals). The bridge itself saw much military action in
Edward Il’s reign but the brewers arrived in the early eighteenth century.
Benjamin Printon became the town’s first common brewer in 1708 with his brewery being built in Bridge Street. Indeed he was not alone for at sometime or other, John Thompson’s Brewery, Boddingtons Brewery, the Burton Brewery, Salt’s Brewery and Joseph Nunnelly’s all existed within a radius of 150 yards of the old Fox and Goose Inn. Some brewery buildings still exist of this golden period including a small floor maltings dated 1823 at the bottom of which is now the brewery yard.
In the early 19th Century the free-hold of the Fox and Goose was purchased
by Mr Bass from the Marquis of Anglesey and it remained a Bass licensed house
until it was closed and sold off by them in 1981. Again people came across
the bridge from the south when Geoff Mumford and Bruce Wilkinson bought the
old pub with a view to opening yet another commercial brewery. This was the
start of the 201st. brewery company to have operated from Burton since Benjamin
In 1981 the brewers in Burton Upon Trent were Bass , Allied, Marstons and Everards.
What odds would have been offered then that the brewery sites of Bass and Allied would have combined and been sold to a then regional USA brewer Coors, the family brewery of Marstons would have been sold to W&D , the Everards brewery site would be a housing estate, and the Fox and Goose pub on Bridge would be brewing the second largest volume of cask beer in town ? (It is interesting to think of what might be in another 25 years time)
Whilst separating the ale and lager liquor streams at Ind Coopes Romford brewery in 1979 Engineering Manager Geoff Mumford and Technical Manager Bruce Wilkinson discovered a mutual interest in starting their own brewery. Information was shared and many small brewers visited and worked at. It soon become apparent that it would be better to have a small brewery joined on to a pub and own the freehold rather than rent an industrial site to brew on. (One commercial decision I doubt history can /will change)
The Fox and Goose was advertised in the Morning Advertiser and a visit was made during the May bank holiday in 1981. The pub had been closed for some two years and had been sold (de licensed) to a solicitor. These were the days when licensed properties had a 25 % price premium. The solicitor managed to get the licence back and reputed never did any more business with Bass . The building needed much maintenance; there were no services gas, electricity or water. Despite the condition of the building it was decided to make an offer for the building subject to planning permission being granted to be able to brew on site. Funds were also required and we were given very good advise from our accountant to form a partnership rather than a limited company as this would result in claiming all tax paid the previous three years back with interest. Bank managers were visited one wanted a list of all our future customers with a letter from them agreeing to buy our beer, another insisted we formed a limited company fortunately he was replaced by John who so happened to have relatives just North of Burton so when he wanted to visit his relatives he could claim mileage as far as Burton!! So he did not mind us being a Partnership and lent us the money. Geoff and Bruce some years ago stopped calling themselves partners to avoid strange looks.
In October 1981 notice was given to leave Ind Coope at Romford and items of equipment were found from a variety of sources and brought . With the help of two Youth opportunity lads and six months hard work Brewing started on 25 th May 1982.
The first brew was Bridge Bitter with an OG of 1042 (4.2% ABV ) the strength determined by the fact that all the other Burton brewers main bitters were around that strength but none with a OG of 1042. We wanted an all malt brew and Maris Otter was selected, as it was the malt being used by the brewers producing beers that had a good reputation. Target and Challenger whole hops were chosen as it was considered they produced a good balance and they were hop varieties that would last for some time. Styrian dry hopping was decided on, as when Romford brewery launched there regional cask ales the one dry hopped was the most popular on the taste panel. To get more consistent Styrian hop aroma in the guest beer market when volumes of sales and hence age of dispense are not consistent the Bridge Bitter is now late Copper hopped with Styrian.
Having worked in larger breweries with multi yeast cultures it was decided that it was very important to have an independent yeast supply. The yeast was selected from the National yeast collection catalogue, now based in Norwich. Five strains were selected for being
A) Topped cropping, for ease of skimming
B) Comparatively slow fermentation for better fermentation control and being able to stop the fermentation in time so Priming sugars would not be required
C) Quick fining for commercial advantages in the free trade
D) A chain former for ease of identity under the microscope
These five yeasts were propagated and then brewed in 5 gallon buckets to evaluate flavour. By chance the final selection also has a wild yeast killer factor.
New cultures were propagated every month and now only when considered necessary the last one being some eight years ago. The propagation is started from a stored slope into two 25 ml bottles from there into litre flasks, then into a 5 gallon home brew fermenter before being pitched into the brewery fermenting vessel. Malt extract is used to grow the yeast in.
The brew length of 15 barrels is still the same as in 1982 but the number of different brews required for the present market is larger Some landlords when you ask what beer they want as a guest beer will only take something that they have never had before, as do some ticker beer festival organisers A beer ticker ticks all the different beers they have tried from lists that appear on the internet and can be seen at pubs pouring beer from a half pint glass into a bottle so it can be swapped with another tickers samples . Not very encouraging for brewers who put a lot of time and effort into improving quality.
Marris Otter is crushed on a two-roller Bentall mill and augured into the grist case. The liquor is supplied by South Staffs and is treated to produce analytically similar liquor to that used to produce classic Burton ales.
The brewing liquor is heated overnight in the copper to 77 C by a gas fired tubular burner Burton Bridge brewery were the first brewery to use the Lanemark system . By the time the liquor has preheated the plant the temperature has dropped to the strike heat of 71 C. Mashing in 400 kgs of malt then takes place . The mash tun consists of a false bottom made from a stainless steel top to one of the fermenting vessels with its edge ground down to exactly fit the mash vessel and 9000 3/16 th holes drilled with a Black and Decker drill . A boring job !!! The sparge arm was converted from an Ansells horizontal tank CIP unit
After mashing in the remaining liquor in the copper is boiled and then dropped into the hot liquor tank for use in sparging.
A 90 minute conversion time is observed followed by recirulation until the worts are bright before being transferred to copper . A 90 minute boil is achieved with whole cone hops while the spent grains are dug out into a one tonne builders bag supported by the fork truck.
The mash tun now becomes the hop filter and the wort is recirulated through the paraflow until the outlet temperature is 90 C, with any late hop additions with yeast nutrient and copper clear are added at the start of recirculation
The yeast is removed from the most active fermentor and acid washed
Fermentation takes 4 days with a maxium temperature of 23 C this is followed by a 24 hour diacatyl stand at 18 C is maintained prior to skimming and cooling to 10 C
On transfer to the racking tank auxiliary finnings are added and then before any settling the beer is racked into steamed barrels, kilderkins ,firkins and pins
It is aimed to store the beer for a week prior to fining and delivery
Deliveries are made to within 40 miles of Burton each week (Nottingham , Birmingham, Stoke and Leicester). Each week a two day trip is made to a different part of the country on an eight week cycle. Beer swaps are made with other brewers and deliveries are made to freehouses.
Bottled beer is also exported to USA and Canada
Looking back over the last 30+ years and observing what has happen to other brewers and to the trade. What has been learned?