Beer Buzz Hits the Road: Samuel Smith's Brewery
It's been a fun year of travel for the Beer Buzz. Our latest beer education adventure led us to England where we visited Samuel Smith's Brewery - Yorkshire's oldest brewery. Being one of the most traditional breweries whose products we can get, it was a fascinating journey walking through these places.
Samuel Smith's Old Brewery in Tadcaster was founded in 1758, and not much has changed since then. The brewery is powered by coal on an amalgamation of direct fired brewing coppers, some older than others as equipment was gradually added through the years. From there the beer travels to Samuel Smith's signature fermenters, the "Yorkshire Squares."
These marvelous pieces of brewing history are large, square, open fermenters made of slate. The house yeast is so flocculent and produces such a vigorous krausen that it keeps any unwanted yeasts from infecting the fermenting wort. Once fermented, some of the ales will be put into in-house coopered wooden casks that are used around the village of Tadcaster and are still delivered by horse drawn wagon. Not just any horses either, Grey Shire horses. Some of which have been as large as 22 hands high.
Samuel Smith's eventually acquired the Melbourne Brothers brewery in Stamford and restored it in the 1990's. This brewery is as old school as it gets. One boilers power runs a steam engine that powers the entire brewery. The engine turns belts that operate the grain handling, the grist mill, the mash rakes, even the pumps. Wort is pumped from the mash tun up to a coolship on the roof, and then heads back down to the wooden fermenters. All of Samuel Smith's organic fruit beers are currently brewed here.
These two breweries and their stubborn traditions are a refreshing break from the stainless steel factories we've become so accustomed to in the States. Not that one is superior to the other, but a good beer education is rooted in the appreciation of the classics that balance the technology and tradition in beer.
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