The buildings that are now called the Lee Maltings form one of the most significant surviving industrial complexes in Cork city. They incorporate the sites of a flour mills, a brewery, a maltings, and their storage, residential and other facilities.
On this site were Hayes’ Lee Mills (the Lee Mills, later called the Lee Tide Watermills), founded 1787; the River Lee Porter Brewery, built 1796-97; and the Nile Street Maltings (the Lee Maltings), founded 1813.
The Lee Mills were water-powered flour and corn mills sited at the junction of a small watercourse with the river Lee. These mills were the largest water-powered flour-milling premises on the north channel of the river Lee, and the last such in the city. The eighteenth-century Lee Mills House, the Miller’s house (also known as the Steward’s House), still survives here beside Prospect Row. The 6- and 7-storey mill buildings here were built between 1825 and 1831.
The River Lee Porter Brewery operated from 1797 until 1813. Porter is a dark beer, also called stout, which derives its colour, creamy head and distinctive taste from the use of more heavily roasted (‘malted’) barley in the brewing process. The Brewery was built around a four-sided courtyard, which still exists here.
The Brewery was acquired in 1813 by the brewing firm of Beamish and Crawford, who converted the premises for use as a maltings and storage. They later also acquired and converted the adjoining Lee Mills for the same purposes. The resulting complex is what we now call the Lee Maltings.
The Lee Maltings were used by Beamish and Crawford to provide their brewing business with malted barley. The complex contained all of the spaces and machinery for storage and bulk handling of grain during the process, as well as the kilns, offices, coal and barrel stores and all of the other spaces a working maltings needed, including in 1881 a gatekeeper’s house and dormitories for the maltmen.
Barley was dried and allowed to germinate, then at the critical moment it was roasted in a kiln to stop germination. This preserved the natural sugars in the grain which were used in the brewing process to create alcohol. The malted barley was allowed to mature for a while before being transported to the Beamish and Crawford brewery elsewhere in the city to be turned into porter. Cheers!
The combined Lee Maltings site was sold by Beamish and Crawford to UCC in 1968. Since then it has at different times provided the home for a number of academic departments, an indoor sports centre, the university theatre, and, since 1981, leading researchers in the fields of information and communications technology.