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Introduction From Brewing Science, Technology and Print, 1700-1880

Introduction From Brewing Science, Technology and Print, 1700-1880

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Introduction From Brewing Science, Technology and Print, 1700-1880, number 19 in our series Science and Culture in the Nineteenth Century, published by Pickering & Chatto
Introduction From Brewing Science, Technology and Print, 1700-1880, number 19 in our series Science and Culture in the Nineteenth Century, published by Pickering & Chatto

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Published by: Pickering and Chatto on Jun 20, 2013
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– 1 –
Tough the art o brewing is undoubtedly a part o chemistry, and certainly dependsupon fxed and invariable principles as well as every other branch o that science,these principles have never yet been thoroughly investigated. For want o a settledtheory, thereore, the practice o this art is ound to be precarious; and to succeedunaccountably with some, and misgive as unaccountably with others.
Tis is a book about credibility. Its characters are the many researchers who, acrossthe eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, tried to address beer-brewing in waysthey called ‘theoretical’, ‘philosophical’ or ‘scientifc’. It is easy to imagine why suchapproaches were not always taken seriously. We are used to thinking o scientifcinvestigators perorming systematic experiments, searching or universal expla-nations in nature and communicating their fndings on paper, usually by open publication. Te cra and trade o beer-brewing conjures up an opposing set o ideas: down-to-earth artisans, mistrustul o theorists and tinkering; local customso production, fercely guarded rom outsiders; skills passed down to a chosen ew apprentices by hands-on experience. Nevertheless, a credible and coherent enter- prise o brewing science existed by around 1880, the work both o theorists romoutside the brewery, and o established brewers with theories o their own.Credibility, or all investigators, meant showing that their claims were notmerely valid, but actively 
to some relevant audience. Tere were many pos-sible audiences: private brewers, commercial brewers, members o related tradessuch as malting, engineers, instrument-makers, scientifc amateurs and proes-sionals, and administrators o State. Various possible benefts could be claimeddepending on the audience: production e ciency, uncontroversial regulation,general insights into the nature o matter or lie. o make any such argument,however, required gaining a sympathetic hearing in the frst place. Investigatorsusually relied on displays o past achievements or current proessional context which suited their target audiences’ pre-existing expectations: they thus neededto achieve a careul rhetorical balance o conservatism and innovation. By exam-ining the techniques involved, we can better understand not only the specifcs o the brewery case, but more generally how the knowledge and practices o scien-tifc investigation and o industrial manuacture come to terms with each other– or, in some cases, don’t.
 Brewing Science, echnology and Print, 1700–1880 
 Why Study Brewing?
Since the mid-twentieth century, the common view o beer in a uent alcohol-consuming societies has been the one supposedly ormulated by Brendan Behanaer a mammoth empirical study: it ‘makes you drunk’.
Tus considered, it isnot the most obvious topic or sober analysis. Indeed, some authors have cleverly  put beer into historical context by showing just how seriously it was once taken.
 Eighteenth-century beer did not necessarily make you drunk, but might be astaple oodstu, a ocus or community organization, a tool or governments tomanage taxation and a source o private ortunes which launched political dynas-ties. In the nineteenth century, as anti-spirits campaigns gave way to ull-blownteetotalism, all these associations ed into ferce debates over the moral charactero beer. Brewing, then, was part o a web o economic and social connectionsbroad enough and deep enough to matter to everyone. Much the same is true o other trades such as distilling, metalworking, textiles or ceramics; beer-brewing,however, oers a particularly productive case or exploring philosophy–tradeinteractions, or several reasons.Unusually, brewing was both a manuacturing industry and a domestic art.In the eighteenth century, as the greatest commercial brewhouses became con-spicuous public marvels o concentrated mechanized production, traditional‘house-brewing’ on the estates o the landed gentry remained an embedded ea-ture o economic and social lie.
Brewing thus resembled agriculture in being constantly visible, and materially important, to the people most likely to be philosophically engaged. Allan Chapman, writing o an earlier period, oers auseul analogy:
every clergyman, academic, and country gentleman would have received his incomerom land rentals, and such gentlemen would have watched the proftability o theirarms, brew-houses, and dairies with the same assiduity as their modern-day col-leagues might monitor the instincts o their stockbrokers.
 Joseph Banks, or instance who did his best to intrude into almost every dimension o British natural science around the turn o the nineteenth century – kept a brewhouse at Spring Grove which issued around 80 hogsheads (over4,000 gallons) o beer annually in the 1780s. In 1800, as London’s largest brew-ers were scrambling to commission Boulton and Watt’s steam engines, Matthew Boulton himsel was computing how much he might save by brewing or hisown household.
 Equally important was beer’s role in the growth o the State. Seventeenth-century governments had identifed beer and its raw materials as a convenienttarget or indirect taxation, levied at the point o production, and duties roseheavily rom the beginning o the eighteenth century.
Eorts to minimize raud
and disputes created a legion o highly literate Excise o cials who patrolled thebreweries on oot and horseback, applying standardized measurement tech-niques, mathematical approximations and rigorous record-keeping.
For theirown protection, thereore, brewers got used to quantiying the value o their product, and were easily persuaded o the useulness o precision instruments.It was also signifcant that the major steps o the brewing process – malting,mashing, hop-boiling and ermentation – all involved the subtle internal rear-rangement o material substances: fnding a common ramework to explain suchtransormations had been a popular preoccupation or philosophers rom the sev-enteenth century onwards. Particularly ascinating was the ermentation process which transmuted sugary materials into intoxicating spirit and large volumes o a gas (interpreted successively as fxed air, carbonic acid gas and carbon dioxide) which was also ound in mineral waters, and associated with various eects on thehealth o the human body. Alchemical, chemical, pneumatic, medical and die-tetic studies intertwined in the early consideration o beer in print, as we shall see.
rade Knowledge and the Teory/Practice Division
Notwithstanding all these commonalities, the vast majority o brewery authorsand innovators took it or granted that a frm dividing line existed between ‘the-ory’ and ‘practice’. Te line, o course, was rarely drawn in the same way twice,and those who drew it generally did so or particular strategic reasons o theirown. My interpretation here draws on the picture presented in the edited collec-tion
Te Mindful Hand 
, which shows how the bureaucratic elites o early modernEurope based their authority on a series o oppositions: scholar/artisan, science/technology, pure/applied and theory/practice’.
Status gaps across these divid-ing lines made it legitimate or physicians to regulate apothecaries, engineers tocontrol shipwrights, and ‘proessionals’ and ‘gentlemen’ in general to overrulethe most skilled and organized ‘tradesmen. In making a show o building bridgesacross a status gap, such men were careul to a rm that the gap remained, none-theless, and that the ground remained higher on their side. Tis was certainly thestrategy adopted across the whole o my period o study by public men o science who sought to instruct legislators, householders and even brewers on brewery questions, without having brewed a drop o beer or themselves.Yet
 Mindful Hand 
’s maniesto implies a reexivity which it does notquite bear out. In ocusing on the iniquities o the sel-appointed elites who privileged the authority o the mind, it says less about artisans’ and tradesmen’sability to oer alternatives. In the literature o brewing, we fnd robust contri-butions rom such fgures as John uck, a bookbinder turned brewer active inthe 1810s and 1820s. uck inverted the conventional hierarchy o the theory/ practice divide, savaging chemical theorists who ormulated rules through ‘sci-

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