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Beer engine reconditioning, part 1

If you follow this thead you'll know that I recently purchased 2 beer engines off trademe.

Seeing as my brewing inclination is towards British styles - real ale, I've been after a beer engine for ages. Usually they get snapped up quick smart by Greig (who hasn't shared with me the highly secret search/RSS query that tweets him the instant anything remotely resembling "beer engine" comes up for sale on trademe). These looked like too much DIY for him so he passed them over - I hit "buy now" within the first minute.

Over the next 2 days I experienced a fair amount of buyers remorse. I scoured the internet for images/diagrams/information on the kind of unit I saw in the sellers photos, to no avail.

Most information I could find was on the ubiquitous Angram all-in-one clamp on units. Mine were clearly a different beast. Lots of angst before I'd even laid eyes on the things.

I picked them up and noticed some broken bits immediately. I considered my options and in the end paid the full price. On bringing them home I worked out how they must fit together and realised I'd need to rely on my long dormant cabinetmaking skills - all the various bits and pieces are obviously meant to be precisely configured and housed within a free standing cabinet.

But most importantly my excitement had returned. The brass handles and lever mechanism are solidly crafted and well used, everything a bit dusty and grimy but with a good dose of elbow grease should clean up a treat.

Then I stripped down one of the pump units. I chose the one that outwardly looked in the best nick - with the intact "beer in" barb (the others one was snapped off). Inadvertantly this turned out to be the shitty one.

Despite all the metal bits being stainless, several nuts and washers etc had quite a bit of rust damage which had spread through the plastic piston, valves, end caps, o-rings, chamber. Yuck. I tried to undo a stainless nut on the plastic non-return valve that was rusted tight. The whole plastic thread broke off. Broke. Off. ARGH!

Buyers remorse returned.

The next night I cleaned up the other one. Expecting to see rust and shit everywhere, this one was was MINT! I swapped the beer in barb from the rusty unit and got one fully working clean and sparkling pump.

I took some photos in an "exploded" view and annotated them with the bits that needed replacing. I sent an email to a chap at Colin Farrar Brewery Services in West Yorkshire. He replied the same day saying he had some similar units, and would strip some down and hopefully answer my questions. SO EXCITING.

I started polishing various bits of brass and as I expected they came up wonderful and shiny, not perfect but once proudly used in a real British pub.

I'm not under any illusion as to the pedigree of my pumps. There is no proud manufacturers stamp unlike those on the Angrams I've seen. The pump clips are for John Smith's Bitter and Ind Coope's Burton Ale - two breweries that have long since sold out to international mega-breweries. But both with massive regional historical significance. In fact these pumps may well be a similar vintage as myself. Proper honest hard working real ale beer engines.

I decided I would document the restoration here as my extensive internet search was ultimately fruitless, I couldn't find a single image of anything remotely similar, no mention of spares, no diagram or information at all on assembly of the full thing. Hopefully this serves as a resource for anyone else who happens upon such units.

I've a lot more brasso to use, a cabinet to design and build and hopefully some spare parts to order from the UK.
By the end of it all I should have two complete working beer engines and be able to draw a pint of something I've brewed through that which I have lovingly restored.

Wish me luck.

Views: 2868

Comment by jt on March 6, 2010 at 7:58am
You haven't thrown out the picnic taps yet then Barry ?

Looking forward to seeing this unfold
Comment by Greig McGill on March 6, 2010 at 10:11am
Not only wishing you luck, but genuinely excited to follow the progress! Also, these ones weren't found by my ultra secret query technology (codenamed ALEX and rumoured to ceaselessly scour Trademe, while I am playing Bioshock 2 or somesuch), but instead by a friend of mine called Doug who some would have met at the recent WBC - white haired chap, with a great love of all things beer. :)
Comment by studio1 on March 6, 2010 at 12:34pm
Awesome stuff Barry and thanks for sharing. Looking forward to updates. God I want a beer engine!
Comment by martin w on March 6, 2010 at 12:54pm
i've wondered about using these, how do you replace the space in the keg that the beer occupied?do you have to keep the co2 at a very low psi so as not to overcarbonate? you see these on ebay.co.uk quite often.
Comment by Greig McGill on March 6, 2010 at 3:36pm
martin w: I typically have a "session" with the keg vented, then purge it with CO2 at the end. Lasts for weeks without any major issues. Every so often I'll put CO2 on at a really low pressure (almost none) if it's something stronger which needs to keep for a month or two.
Comment by Barry on March 6, 2010 at 4:21pm
Sorry about the moderation guys, default setting. I've opened the gate. In the unlikely event it gets abused/spammed I'll lock things down.
Comment by studio1 on March 6, 2010 at 4:48pm
Greig - do you notice beneficial aging of the beer with the air contact?
Comment by jt on March 6, 2010 at 5:08pm
In the unlikely event it gets abused/spammed - or if we try & talk you into putting a keg of Coopers K&K on tap ?
Comment by Greig McGill on March 6, 2010 at 6:37pm
studio1: Sometimes. There's been the occasional non-beneficial aging too when I've been slack and forgotten to purge! :)
Comment by Tony on March 6, 2010 at 7:11pm
Hi Baz, I don't know if you realise I bought a beer engine off trade me last year. It still has the original plaque on it stating 'the property of Nottingham brewery'. I haven't stripped mine down, as I haven't hooked it up and tested it yet. I wanted to pump some water through it first to see if it actually worked before pulling it apart. Yours look fantastic, with a lot more brass than mine has. Mine came from the Dalex works of Gaskell and chambers, Nottingham in 1952. Do your not have a manufacturers stamp or plaque on them?

I have seen a cool system using one of those 20 l water bags with a line going straight into the pump. Just keep the bag under the pump in a chilli bin at required temp. I am just in the process of formulating that so I can test the system. You should have a look at mine, because it came complete with the mahogany and oak plinth and brackets to fit to a bar. I see yours still have the brackets, but no plinth or stand. I presume they are bar top mounted as opposed to flush mounted. At least that's how mine is and it looks similar to yours.


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