One of the First Industries Established in Quebec
( Originally Published 1907 )
BREWING was one of the first industries established in Quebec under the old French regime. In 1672 the Intendant Talon built a brewery at the Palais. On the site of this ancient establishment the late J. K. Boswell founded the brewing concern that is continued to this day by his sons under the title of Boswell Bros. What quality or kind of brew was made by the first French brewer we know not, as the records are silent on the subject, but no doubt the good citizens and the soldiery found it more or less to their taste in the thirsty days of a Canadian summer, just as later under British dominion the troops and loyal burghers toasted the King in foaming tankards of Boswell's best. When Tommy Atkins was ordered from Quebec in 1869 the brewing interests declined and languished for a period of years. The French-Canadians were given to Jamaica rum and whiskey blanc—hot and rebellious liquors both, but ultimately the virtues of a good and wholesome brew, when thermometers registered 90 in the shade, prevailed, and today our French fellow-citizens are as confirmed beer drinkers as is John Bull. To meet this new and increasing demand, Boswell Bros. have twice enlarged their plant, but it outgrew even their increased output. Other concerns were formed to share the growing demand. Today there are four large brewing plants, and they are all taxed to their utmost capacity td supply the local markets. The French-Canadian is now a beer drinker, and the change is a beneficial one, as there is a most decided decrease in intemperance throughout the Province.
Brewing is not alone an industry, but it is an art requiring a high degree of technical knowledge with that indescribable something we call genius. Rules for brewing there are in plenty, but there is no rule to success other than brains combined with experience and the best possible appliances. The Quebec breweries are well to the fore in all these requisites for the local public to-day demands a brew that will compare favorably with that of any other brewing centre. The fact is that Quebec brewers rather exalt themselves on their light beers and challenge the world to produce a more delightful beverage of its class.
We have had the privilege on several occasions of tours of inspection through some of the leading breweries of the United States, where the most improved appliances and the best possible skill were used, yet we are bound to say that in Quebec the brewers lead their confreres across the border in the quality of the brew produced. It is claimed that as in Burton-on-Trent, the water used has something to do with this result for it is recognized fact that on the quality of water so the success of the brew. The water used by Quebec brewers contains all the elements for the making of good beer—neither too hard nor too soft.
There are several brewing firms in Quebec: Boswell Bros. and the Beauport Brewing Co. Each concern has its own particular special quality of brew and each its own large clientelle. In these establishments a very large number of men are employed in the various occupations connected with malting, brewing, bottling and distributing. The capital invested represents a very large amount. We believe the Quebec brewers produce as pure a brew of its quality as any brewers in the world. As it is entirely for home consumption, no at-tempt is made to give it the lasting properties so essential in export beer where a year or more may elapse before it is drank. Quebec beer is at its best when first bottled or shortly after this. It is then light and sparkling from the carburating process to which it has been subjected and is then a highly refreshing and slightly stimulating beverage and entirely free of any injurious qualities.
The various processes of brewing are interesting and perhaps a casual description may not be uninteresting to our readers. Our visits for information were to both of the principal brewers and the result is somewhat as follows, always making allowances for some inaccuracies of detail.
Barley is the grain almost universally used in malting. It is first thoroughly cleaned and sifted so that nothing but the whole barley grain goes to the germinating or steeping pans. These are shallow copper cisterns of large capacity in superfices into which the grain is run to a depth of several inches, and water is added to a depth sufficient to more than cover the grain. Forty to sixty hours steeping are necessary to germinate the seed sufficiently for the couching frame, which is another shallow receptacle, where for about 24 hours the still germinating grain is frequently turned over with shovels. Great judgment and care must be exercised at this stage to prevent the grain from sprouting, but at the same time it must be brought to the verge of so doing.
Kiln drying now follows—the grain from the couching frames is run into the kilns, under which furnace fires have been started, and the heat conveyed to the grain through the perforations at the bottom of the kiln. From about 90 degrees the heat is gradually raised to 170 to 180 degrees as required. The remaining starch in the malt is now ready for the brewer, although if kept for a period it grows more mellow. The various fore-going processes in malting have been necessary to convert the starch of the grain into the greatest percentage of saccharine matter and thus preparing it for the brewery, where it is changed by fermentation into a mildly alcoholic beverage.
Brewing consists of light processes, grinding, mashing, sparging, boiling, cooling, fermenting cleansing, racking and storing.
Grinding is not grinding at all, but the crushing of the grain between rollers. It now stands a a day or two to cool, and then goes to the mashing tank, which is a huge affair of copper. Here an infusion is made by adding water of such a temperature as shall extract the saccharine matter from the grain and convert any remaining starch into grape sugar. The temperature of the infusion is a matter of the utmost importance and must be carefully watched by an experienced man.
The result of mashing is to produce what is called wort. This wort must be drawn off slowly into the coppers or boiling back for immediate boiling—while the wort is being run into the copper the hops are added. Here again the technical knowledge of the brewer must be brought to bear in order to produce the quality and strength of the beer he requires.
Cooling—after the necessary boiling the wort is turned into the hop back to settle. Then the wort is cooled by being allowed to slowly trickle down over a deep row of artificially cooled pipes into 'troughs. It is now drawn into the fermentation tanks through which run pipes for barm either heating or cooling the wort, yeast or barm is added to ensure quick and regular fermentation. When this has been carried sufficiently far in the opinion of the brewer, the yeast is skimmed off as it rises to the surface, to arrest further action.
It is now racked or run into immensely large casks in a cooling room, a few hops added, a large bung-hole left open to enable the contents to completely clarify itself by mildly working. After this the beer is ready for the bottler or the barreller as called for. Bottled beer is mostly in demand in the Quebec district, and the bottling department in the breweries is an important adjunct. The most ingeniously contrived machinery washes. rewashes and rinses the bottles to the most absolute state of cleanliness, They are then fed to a machine that fills a dozen or more at a time—another machine corks a similar number—the labels are pasted on—the crates filled—the drays loaded and the distribution throughout the city and surrounding country is under way.