Secrets Of Nature: Brewster’s Magic

Here’s an interesting old video from 1933. It’s from the British Pathe Archives, from the “Secrets of Nature” series entitled Brewster’s Magic. It was a British Instructional Film, photographed by F. Percy Smith, with Editing and Commentary by Mary Field and “Musical setting” by W. Hodgson.


The 8-minute black and white film shows time lapse photography of hops and barley growing plus microscopic images, as well. Here’s how they describe the film:

Hand pump being pulled in a pub. Hop root. The eyes are pointed out with a pencil. Time lapse photography of a hop shoot growing. C/U of the claws on the stem of the plant. Plant grows. The claws help the hop plant to twist its way around a smooth surface. Hop flowers growing on a male hop plant. Female hop plant produces flowers. We see them grow through time lapse. Comment on the voiceover about flowers being disappointed spinsters as they will not be fertilised. The flowers continue to grow. C/U of the sticky substance that grows on the petals. Lupelin (sp?) highly magnified. This is the substance that gives flavour and aroma to beer.

Hop garden. Barley ripening in the fields. C/U of barley submerged in water. Time lapse of the barley absorbing water. Barley puts out shoots in time lapse. The maltster turns them upside down to stop them from growing too quickly. Water supply is cut off and the barley withers. Graphic representation of the barley shoot. Animation. Maltster kills the barley grain when it has produced digestive fluid but not had time to use it. Grains are mashed up in hot water to make malt. Men roll barrels along in courtyard of brewery. C/U of yeast cells under a microscope beside a human hair. Moving yeast cells. Cells separate. Fermentation. Diagram of a molecule of sugar. Animated letters. Solution under the microscope. Bubbles are formed.

A pint of beer is pulled in a pub. Shot of man in flat cap drinking beer from a pewter tankard.


It’s a cool time capsule and definitely worth checking out.


My only quibble is that despite it being almost 80 years old, Pathe still asserts copyright on it. Which is fine, in and of itself, even if I generally disagree with how long copyrights now tend to run. But for some reason, they think it’s reasonable to charge you a whopping £50 ($77) to buy the 8-minute video, and that’s just for a download of it — no DVD or case or artwork, though they graciously will allow you to burn it to your own DVD. How thoughtful. Anyway, as a result, it can’t be embedded and viewed here. Fortunately, you can at least watch it at the Pathe website. Enjoy.

Also, there appear to be a wealth additional historic videos on both beer and hops that look like you could lose an entire day exploring.


  1. says

    Outstanding time lapse and the macro work is spot-on. Made me thirsty. Thanks for the link, Jay!
    You really had to have some chops to pull off some of these shots in 1933. The music was performed by real musicians playing real instruments. You had to actually get up from your chair and go to a theater to see the finished product. Today, you can shoot, score, edit and deliver this kind of work using your smart phone.
    We’ve foregone our willing suspension of disbelief for reality tv and live video in your hand. Thank God (and brewers) for Beer.

  2. beerman49 says

    Tres cool – the opening music appropriately is “There Is a Tavern in the Town” (don’t know if it’s of British or American origin; All Music lists it as “traditional”).

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