Friday, 9 May 2008
The Gwent Branch of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, may be running a real ale bar at the Newport Folk Festival this weekend but the story of beer at the historic house goes back further. Nowadays visitors to the house can enjoy a meal in “The Old Brewhouse” which as its name suggests was the brewery for the house and estate. An unusual two-story building, it is more reminiscent of a maltings than a brewery – the long, wide profile would give a large surface area for kilning barley. But then again most of us are used to seeing 19th Century tower breweries – the brewhouse here is far older – it is clearly marked on a map of 1770, along with the barn opposite and brewing was carried out here at least 100 years earlier. The present facade of Tredegar House dates from the 17th Century but there are parts dating from the medieval period so brewing was likely to have been carried out here from that time.
An inventory of 1688 lists the contents of the cellar underneath the house. There were 30 hogsheads for cider and 16 for ale, table beer and small beer as well as 3 vessels holding 4 barrels of ale, 1 vessel holding 3 barrels of ale and one large vessel containing 6 barrels of cider. In 1704 the brewer was called David and was on a wage of £2 10s a year.
In 1688 the brewing equipment consisited of 2 furnaces, 1 cooler, 3 vats, 2 trinds, 3 tubs, 2 lappers, 1 ladle lapper, 20 pails, 1 kettle and 1 iron shovel.
The beer that was brewed here would have been made for both the house and the estate workers, even a funeral of one of the Morgan family in 1719 stipulated a barrel of ale for the mourners.
There are springs nearby providing water for the brewery and the barley and hops were grown on the estate which was about 1000 acres in 1770. A cider mill was also situated on the estate and there were orchards here as well.
There we have it then, a few hundred years ago, if you were a guest of the Morgan family then you would have been offered locally brewed ales and cider at your visit to the house. At the present day Newport Folk Festival, the Campaign for Real Ale offers you a choice of 15 different ales and 10 different ciders. I think the Morgan Family would approve.
The Old Brewhouse