A 19th Century Vienna Beer Is Recreated – In Vienna



In the last couple of years, the venerable Ottakringer in Vienna has released its Wiener Original. It is in our TBS (The Beer Store) at the moment, and about three months from packaging, new enough by international standards. (I don’t like to go longer though).

This is what Ottakringer says about the beer on the website:


Our master brewer’s latest creation makes beer lovers’ hearts leap for joy. This historic beer composition made from Viennese malt and melanoidin malt as well as fine Saaz hops captivates you with its eye-catching amber-coloured reflexes. Smell and taste reveal a fine nutty note turning into an elegant malt aroma. In its finish, Wiener Original leaves a distinct, yet smooth bitterness. This highly drinkable creation goes extremely well with traditional Viennese cuisine and is based on a recipe of the Ottakringer brewery dating back 100 years.

ABV: 5.3 %
Original gravity 12.0°

Like most Austrian, German, and practically all breweries anywhere, the house standard is a pilsener derivation, in this case a helles which is a big seller and hometown favourite. In other words, the preferred beer of Vienna today is not the Vienna style properly speaking, that is more a historical datum today.

I tried the helles on draft in Vienna a few years ago. I regret to say it didn’t appeal, it had a strong boiled veg note but then almost all the helles on that trip did whether Austrian or German. A lot of craft lager has it too. So that is neither here nor there.

When I saw the Wiener Original in the TBS, I was hoping for something better given the origins and fame of the Vienna style.

Viennese Anton Dreher was one of the great lager innovators of the 19th century. He is remembered for what became known as the Vienna style. His malt had a orangey or light reddish tint, and quite possibly was influenced by British pale malt; indeed the colour of the Vienna style and classic English pale ale can be similar. Vienna beer has been described as stressing a caramel richness and craft examples tend to show this.

It isn’t known whether Ottakringer, which started in the city in the 1830s, made the same kind of beer as Dreher. I would have to think it did, as Dreher was a competitor and in most markets, producers make similar styles. Anyway Ottakringer tells us on the packaging and on the website that its Wiener Original is a recreation from its archive, and I have no reason to argue with them.

Indeed the colour is a classic Vienna bronze. The palate too suggests a connection to Dreher’s innovative style. It is sweetish, natural-tasting, almost like a craft beer. Yet, the taste is fairly restrained. If you look at reviews on the rating site Beer Advocate, the average score is 6 or 7 out of 10, and Ratebeer’s results are similar.

Why is this, given the brewery has a long history in the very city associated with the famed Vienna style? Can we assume Dreher’s style was perhaps never that great to begin with? Not at all, and the reason I say that is, we have some evidence of the characteristics of Dreher’s beer. English analysts in 1869, writing in the Journal of the Society of Arts, told us the gravities of Dreher’s beer. It finished at 1019.76 and started at 1062.27. The alcohol content was stated as well, by volume it was 5.65%.

How does Ottakringer’s compare? Converting from the Balling scale, the website states 1048 as the original gravity. The alcohol is 5.3% abv. That means the final gravity must be 1007.

Can you see where I’m going? The alcohol content of both is for all practical purposes the same but the gravities of Ottakringer’s version are much lower. A 1007 finishing produces the restrained taste. It’s not the hops, the hop taste in the beer is quite pronounced and satisfactory, but the beer “should” be much sweeter. In fact, the Journal’s writers stated Dreher’s beer was sweeter than English beer. English beer then, the standard mild ale certainly, was not known for dryness and even pale ale, which was drier than mild ale, would have averaged higher than 1007 FG.

Why didn’t Ottakringer make a beer finishing much closer to what was reported in 1869, not just for Dreher’s beer, but a second Vienna beer whose characteristics were almost the same as Dreher’s?

I don’t know. I’d think Ottakringer must know how Vienna beer was brewed in the 1800s, but perhaps, rather than produce that, it made something people today would find acceptably dry (given the profile of most mainstream beer). The brewery may have felt, that is, that people would reject a beer anywhere near 1020 FG as much too rich. Of course, one can’t rule out Ottakringer’s original Vienna beer really did have a dry palate, but I incline against.

Assuming Ottakringer’s historical Vienna beer finished in the same neighbourhood as Dreher’s, I’d have made a beer finishing at 1014, splitting the difference so to speak.

The Wiener Original is still good, indeed it’s more beer-like and natural-tasting than most German and Austrian imports we get, but still I feel an opportunity was missed.

Note re image: The image above is from Ottakringer’s websitehere. All trade marks and other intellectual property therein belong to their owner or authorized licensees. Image is believed available for educational and cultural purposes. All feedback welcomed.


A Fine Night Courtesy Mr. Adams

img_20160922_193617I spent some time last night at Sam Adams’ For The Love Of Beer promo at 99 Sudbury, the event space downtown. I much enjoyed the event, Jim Koch was there and I had never met him so it was a chance to exchange a few words. I also asked him a beer historical question, which he gave a good answer to, explained further below.

There were some unusual draft offerings, my favourite was the Gratzer. It was a letter-perfect version of the smoked malt Polish style, 4.4% abv with a clean, natural smoky quality and light body. Best of the new offerings that night, IMO.

Grumpy Monk was 55 IBUs and 6.5%, excellent and not Belgian-like but more like an India Pale Lager, a bigger brother to Sam Adams Lager. It had a similar hop profile but the background taste seemed slightly different. (Could it be a higher-gravity version of Boston Lager? Not sure).

Sam Adams Boston Lager is always a winner for me, I’ve mentioned it frequently as a benchmark of pre-adjunct, 19th century quality. Apart from being full of taste, it has its own signature, no other lager out there, local or imported, is like it.

The Chai Saison was a little sweet for me with cardamon and big spicy flavours. I had a taste of Rebel IPA but have never warmed to it, BBC might consider a reformulation.

The only thing I’d change is to have included a porter-style, say the fab Dark Depths of BBC, or its ditto Boston Ale, both too little seen internationally. Hark, LCBO…


The food was ample and suited the beers: e.g., wings, cheese thingies, fish tacos, all well-made and not greasy.

Jim Koch made a short but effective address and spoke about being a pioneer in the industry and having visited Toronto in the late 80s when he met Jim Brickman, whom he rightly saluted as a Canadian pioneer. (Brickman is still at it I understand at Brick Brewing in the Kitchener-Waterloo area*).

Jim Koch was very complimentary to Ontario craft brewing. He noted there are almost 300 breweries here now and it represents a high per capita even by American standards. He mentioned how North America has become a world magnet for quality brewing and diversity of taste and style.

Since I have been studying American 19th brewing in-depth, I asked him why his family’s lager recipe (handed down from the 19th century Koch Brewery) is all-malt when so much of German-American brewing went adjunct back then. He said the first Koch to brew in St. Louis started in the 1860s and never even learned English. Albeit an immigrant in St. Louis, he was brewing in a German world and before adjunct became popular. That accords with my knowledge, as lager brewing started about 1840 and had a 30 year run toward national acceptance before scientists stated to promote raw cereals in the mash.


I should say too that the relatively dark colour of Sam Adams Lager fits into the lager norm in America then: the standard lager was more a Vienna colour than the light blonde it later became under “Bohemian” influence.

It was nice to see Greg Clow there as well. Greg very kindly encouraged me years ago to take up the blogger’s pen and gave tips on formatting for online writing. His site is very useful as a repository of beer news, local and international, in a fast-changing scene.


*Note: In fact Jim Brickman is no longer with Brick, see Greg Clow’s comment below. Thanks to Greg for this info.

Flavour Terms, Then And Now

pumpernickel-topSometimes an old taste note jumps out at you, in the sense you can see the same thing in the same kind of drink today. A while ago I wrote about this in the context of rye whiskey.

On the other hand, trades and arts in earlier days often had their own lingo. Sometimes it reflected a certain technology used then. Sometimes it was more how the English language was used in general (longer words, more ornate especially in the English context).

Recently, I was puzzled, in reading about pasteurization of beer c. 1900, by a recurring term, “bready”. Its boon companion, “the steam taste”,  is easier because “steaming” was a trade cant for pasteurizing. (It is remarkable how only 10-15 years after Pasteur’s groundbreaking work on beer stability, his name became a synonym for beer sterilization). The steam term came from the hot water baths in which bottles were immersed.

But why bready? Today, those who feel they can detect the pasteurized taste often say “cooked” or “burned sugar”. In the past beer was often termed liquid bread anyway, so what does “bready” add in a pasteurization context?

I’ll give my answer to this in a moment, but first some remarks on pasteurization. While it has enormous advantages, I am not for it as a general rule, as apart from the cooked taste mentioned (which is not always apparent or in all brands), the process tends in my view to remove the “live” taste of beer. The difference may be subtle but it’s there and most brewers I’ve discussed this with agree there is a difference. Most say though the average drinker can’t detect it and the trade-offs argue in favour of the practice.

I’m not so sure as I believe someone may select another brand because of that something “indefinable” which is different. Just because most cannot articulate the difference doesn’t mean they don’t react to it.

There is a fine science to pasteurization today, both tunnel and the much quicker flash system. They impart a stability whose extent is determined by the maximum temperature and then hold and cooling times. Scientists know the number of yeast cells and other microbiological content in the beer after such treatments, it’s all a carefully calibrated process.

Anchor Brewing in San Francisco has always pasteurized, even the draft. Abita and New Belgium use pasteurization for some beers, I’ve read, Sam Adams too (all the bottled in its case). Many craft brewers – most, I believe – don’t use it, relying on filtration (which takes many forms) or bottle-conditioning for stability. Of course the market and other factors will dictate the best solution for each brewer.

Sierra Nevada uses a cellulose filter, and centrifuging, to clear primary yeast from its famed pale ale, then adds a new dose to the bottle to ensure a slight conditioning. Cellulose filters were common in America in 1900, it’s very traditional but other systems especially in mass-market brewing are perhaps more common today including  diatomaceous earth filters. Membrane systems, for their part, are particuarly adapted to cold-filtering. Coors Light uses the latter I understand – no pasteurization at least in the U.S., I’m not sure about Canada.

I prefer bottle- and can-conditioning of all the systems, it produces the most natural-tasting drink IMO and has good longevity, as much as pasteurized beer if not more. The current fad for “unfiltered” beer (cloudy-looking) often means the beers are bottle-conditioned. Technically some are not as there isn’t enough residual yeast to assist a secondary fermentation, but either way the beers are still “live”.

The filtered-but-unpasteurized way – so the beer looking bright – was the main method used by craft brewers in North America in the first decades, it works fine but the beers, at least of average ABV, can’t be kept that long, even refrigerated.

As light blonde lager became the main American style as WW I approached, pasteurization was routinely used by brewers even those with a local market. It became “the thing”. At the time, given the sanitation in breweries including widespread use of wood in production, and lack of home and distribution chain refrigeration, not to mention where bottled beer was long-shipped in different climates to areas without breweries, it made sense to pasteurize, but the logic today is less persuasive.

Based on my own taste tests, I believe the flash system, where the beer is heated for only a minute vs. 40 minutes or so for the tunnel system, is a superior way to stabilize beer if pasteurization is to be used.

I think bready, a term used both in Europe and here up to 1914, was meant in reference to a dark bread with sweet notes. German brewers would have been familiar with dark, rye-based breads. True enough, bread types differ regionally in Germany, but in general I think they were thinking of a sweetish baked taste which dark rye breads can certainly have.

This 2013 study in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing confirmed that pasteurized beer has a certain quantity of “Maillard” compounds, it’s the same caramelized taste as occurs in baked pumperknickel and many cooked foods from the sugars being heated:

Fresh pasteurized beer contained some Maillard-related volatile compounds and the fresh unpasteurized beer contained slightly more alcohols and volatile ester compounds…

Note too the reference to higher ester content in the unpasteurized beer: it’s something I’ve noticed myself over many years. The study is an interesting read even if the science is daunting: e.g. the beers were kept for about 41 days at 40 C – that’s hot! Most craft beer in Western  Europe and here would never be treated like that, but it shows the extreme conditions larger brewers at any rate feel their beers must survive to be reliable in the market.

And so, most mysterious terms can be parsed by thinking out the larger picture. Why was light Bohemian-style pilsner called wine-like here and in Germany in the late 1800s? These beers had lower extract than dark Munich beer, so their acidity levels, which were rather higher than today’s, were less masked. And the light colour, and greenish hue imparted by hops, would have reminded the brewers of Rhenish wines. (“Wine” as used in a German-American context meant white, period).

Some terms just require a dictionary: empyreumatic, for porter, meant a burned vegetal taste, or smoky. This was due to wood-kilned browned malt being used for porter or stout into the late 1800s. A twang? Hoppy. Mucilagenous? Sweet and sticky. “Sickly”? That one’s harder, I think it meant a degraded yeast taste, primarily.

Onion- and garlic-like? Easier, it’s dimethyl sulphide and possibly hydrogen sulphide, a taste young blonde lager can (still, very much) have due to precursors in pilsener malts.

Many words have changed but beer, much less so.

Note re image: The image above is from the website of Kasseler Breads, the Toronto-area baker which makes fine German breads. All trade marks and other intellectual property thereto or therein belongs to their owner and licensed users. Image believed available for educational and cultural purposes. All feedback welcomed.



Robert Everett Corradini


“In The New Order of Things … There is No Room For the Old Saloon”.

Reading some of the pro-Temperance literature of the 1920s, one is reminded of the many talented people enlisted in the cause of no-alcohol. They ranged from ministers of the cloth to physicians to educators to politicians – and ordinary people.

Robert Everett Corradini should be remembered, because he wrote and spoke eloquently in this cause. Even if many, perhaps most today, won’t agree with him, the intelligence and hard work behind his commitment are obvious.

The book I mentioned from 1924 in the previous post chronicled the passing of the saloon in New York City. It is relatively short, really a photo-essay, but I now see it was part of a series of books he wrote, at least four, which came out in 1924-1925. One looked just at the changeover of the saloon all along Broadway in New York. It examined how the closing of the bars affected neighbourhoods which were quite different and was preceded by a penetrating historical sketch of New York and its ethnicities.

The Manhattan focus of the books makes sense, not just because his employer, the World League Against Alcoholism, was based there on 5th Avenue, but because as he noted in the above extract, Temperance was primarily an achievement of Main Street America and Broadway was its obverse. He understood that America was founded mainly by rural-based Puritans seeking religious freedom, while New York was founded and developed by people with primarily mercantile goals and settled by a heterogenous population of diverse origins and values. He rightly saw that New York was a premier battleground on which the fight for permanent Temperance would be fought, hence his keen interest in its early results there.

In adverting to the ethnic issue, he was thinking no doubt mainly of the large Italian and Central European populations in the city. He did mention also the Jewish population, and made clear that while sobriety was a value traditionally associated with the Jews, their neighbourhoods were not exempt from the depredations of the saloon and liquor merchants. He viewed retreat of the drink merchants from all these neighbourhoods as salutary, in other words.

His main book, 1924’s Saloon Survey New York City, was a detailed statistical examination of various liquor and sociological issues five years after Prohibition. It looked for example at the number of shops selling distilling equipment or wine for sacramental reasons, at the incidence of illegal public drinking, the new uses the old saloons were put to, comparative rates in hospital admissions for drunkenness, and the effect on real estate values of saloon closures. He often sought to show the new businesses employed more people than the saloons had.

Robert E. Corradini was born in Madison, NJ in 1891 and died in Elmira, NY in 1972. He appears to have had some training in statistics and studied in Switzerland during WW I.

In later life, it seems he was a minister, but certainly for many years he was associated primarily with various anti-addiction causes. In the 1930s he was still writing books on addiction, one dealt with narcotics and youth and had significant influence. With Repeal in 1933 his work broadened to take in the drug issue.

He was frequently quoted in the press in the 1920s on issues such as crime and Prohibition (did Volstead reduce crime, increase it, etc.?) and appeared before Congress. In this period, he was in the research department of the World League Against Alcoholism, an outgrowth of Ernest Cherrington’s Anti-Saloon League. The World League Against Alcoholism withered after alcohol came back in ’33 but Corradini continued his work with groups whose broader remit was to control narcotics. The Anti-Saloon League still exists, incidentally, but under a different name.

My sense is after WW II Corradini mainly focused on his ministry, but I am not certain.

Reading his and other “agit-prop” of the era, one cannot fail to remember the price alcohol does exact from society. It always did and it still does, while providing enjoyment and interest to many. Its important role in the economy and public finance must be recalled as well.

The anti-drink crowd had a good argument, and perhaps in a perfect world there would be no drink. But in a perfect world, no one would ever take sick, die, hurt, or suffer in other ways. The world is not perfect and for better and worse alcohol is part of it.

Note re image: The image above is from Robert Corradini’s book dealing with the effects of Prohibition on Broadway in New York, via HathiTrust, here. All trade marks and other intellectual property therein belong to their owners or authorized licensees. Believed available for educational and cultural purposes. All feedback welcomed.

What Happened To The Old Saloon During Prohibition?

Early 1900s anti-drink literature is a now-obscure area, and one of its more obscure corners was the appearance of books chronicling the passing of the saloon era.

There is an eerie quality to these works, for which the word necrology is not too strong. Authors combed over old saloon sites to see what happened to the locations. In The Passing Of The Saloons In New York City (1924), Robert Everett Corradini, Research Secretary of the World League Against Alcoholism, explained how the hundreds of saloons had transmuted to productive business units. Evocative black and white photos underpinned the text.

Given the choice locations of many former bars, e.g., street corners, some were rented by national chain stores, probably the 5 and 10 Cent and that type. Others became restaurants, grocers, furniture dealers, clothiers, professional offices like dentists – virtually everything under the sun.

The tone of this somewhat grisly study was, well, sunny, upbeat. Landlords were getting better returns than ever, said the author. Society was better served as a result of normal businesses replacing the nefarious old gin mills.

The only dim spot seemed to be ex-saloonkeepers who tried to run a modified bar. In the delightful phrase of the book, they sought an “amphibious existence” based on “near beer and ham sandwiches”. Despite the boosterism given near beer in the pages of a New York paper three years earlier as I discussed recently, it seems people didn’t want to know: the “temperance” saloon had a short existence.

I have seen a few books of this type, some photo-illustrated, they stand as curios of the Volstead era.

One wonders if the anti-drink chroniclers sought out the blind pigs, or illegal drinking places where citizens-turned-lawbreakers pursued a bibulous existence. Maybe hefty bouncers and tommy guns dissuaded them. Not to mention that continued boozing put the lie to the ordered, decorous world the reformers saw as the right and proper future for (all) Americans.

Below, you see a spaghetti house which replaced a saloon in ’24, from the book mentioned. Also below is the same site today. Despite the inevitable changes to the storefront area, the building is recognizably the same. Note the trap door on the sidewalk just behind the Do Not Enter sign, that is where the beer barrels were lowered to the basement for the bar.

I know New York well and now realize that many corner restaurants and groceries in the old sandstone or brick buildings were once saloons.




Note re images: the first image above was sourced from the book referenced in the text (from HathiTrust). The second is from this New York real estate listing. All trade marks and other intellectual property to or in such images belong to their lawful owners or authorized users. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Stroh Then But Also Now

image-20For information on classic American beer composition, Beeretseq generally looks to sources from pre-Prohibition, or latest the 30s when restoration of brewing was still under aegis of old methods.

At that time, almost 100 years ago and more, malt adjuncts such as rice and “corn products” were frequently used in American beer recipes. Still, final gravities and hop usage were high by today’s commercial norm, which lent considerable taste to the beers. In addition, a lot of lager was still a light reddish-brown or light amber which further enhanced the malt qualities and taste.

I have discussed such beers from many viewpoints here over the last few months.

But how about gaining inspiration from something written last month? Yes, last month. A story out of Detroit reports that Pabst has brewed an original – late-1800s – recipe of Stroh beer in Detroit. It’s the first brewing of Stroh in Detroit in over 30 years. Stroh sold its brands to the mighty Pabst in 1999 after a period of growth-by-acquisition when it absorbed the legendary Schaefer and Schlitz. The debt loads proved formidable and the company, a brewing dynasty which had begun in the 19th century, was dissolved after a distinguished long run.

The brand Stroh is still made and widely distributed by Pabst, but to its credit, Pabst, with its own venerable, German-American history, has done what Beeretseq has long argued for, restored a historic recipe from its archive. (It also brought back Ballantine India Pale Ale and Ballantine Burton and has announced other plans of interest to craft fans).

image-18The new/old Stroh is over 30 IBUs and uses Vienna malt in the grist to get some of the old colour and taste. Hopefully gravities follow old methods as well. Early reviews on Ratebeer sound positive, in fact the verbal descriptions belie the middling scores. One compares intensity of flavour to Sam Adams – a win right there as Sam Adams is a flagship for 19th century American lager quality.

I plan to be in the Windsor area again, in November, and will cross the border to find the restored Stroh, it’s a must.

But let’s go back, not to the 19th century or Taft-era America, but 1960. It was a time of commercial and industrial expansion in America, when technology and efficiency had perhaps their greatest hold on the public imagination. This was before the 60s, Timothy Leary, the counter-culture, and the slow pushback which re-introduced artisan methods in food and drink: think Alice Waters in Berkeley, CA, Elizabeth David’s books in England, Anchor Brewing and homebrewers on the West Coast, etc.

This 1960 booklet, a descendant of the early 1900s corporate hagiographies I discussed earlier, is a fascinating document, providing as it does a detailed account of brewing Stroh in its post-war heyday with those day-glo photos so evocative of the era. In this sense, the Kodachrome-like “nice bright colours” are a bridge to the psychedelic 60s.

From a brewing standpoint, while final gravity and hop levels were probably down from 1800s levels, one may note the beautiful open wood fermenters – nothing in craft brewing today has anything on those. The book makes much of the company’s storied “fire-brewing” system, as well. It was probably a pretty good beer, and now it’s back and probably even better.

image-19The book portrays the brewery at the peak of influence and power in its original market, and must have been a great tour for the beer fan. The Bier Stube looks cozy – it appears there were two of them, one with leaded glass which retained a Germanic look despite the two world wars, and another (pictured in the link given) which was more utilitarian, a probable replication of the 50s “rec room” complete with chips and nuts on the table. (Enter bemusement by British readers).

Chips, nuts, pretzels. That was beer cuisine then, or half of it.

The original Detroit brewery was taken down long ago, but real Stroh is back. Good job.

Note re images: each image above was sourced from the 1960 Stroh booklet referenced in the text (from HathiTrust). All trade marks and other intellectual property in such images belong to their lawful owners or authorized users. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



Where’s The Malt?

image-14In North American industry into the mid-1900s, it was a practice to issue a commemorative volume of smart design, describing in measured prose on good paper, the achievements of the industry. Sometimes a corporate group issued this for its units, sometimes the industry as a whole was profiled.

What was commemorated? Often a specific anniversary, but more generally the power and strength of the industry at a given time, critical mass in a word.

I gave an example earlier where National Breweries Ltd. in Quebec issued such a volume in 1930 which described the history of its principal merged units. Earlier this week I discussed a 1907 paean to Rochester, NY’s beer industry issued in the looming shadow of Prohibition.

Here is another example: an éloge to the American malting industry at turn of the 19th century. It’s called simply American Malting Co. The corporation of that name had 38 plants across the country and also an extensive grain elevator system. The business must have been built through many acquisitions as the individual names of the plants are mentioned to show the original, separate owners.

(Could British capital have been behind a packaging and flotation of these industries or was it a home-grown example of consolidation and “raiding”?).

The 38 maltings were concentrated in or around Chicago, Milwaukee, and Syracuse, NY. Most of the elevators were, quite naturally, in Minnesota. The Chicago locus for malting was no surprise either given it was a railway hub, had access to the Great Lakes, and was within striking distance of the American granary. In addition, as we have seen, the Windy City was not just an American but a world centre for scientific brewing studies, a key member of the Copenhagen-Munich-Burton-Brussels axis.

(The true origins of the moniker Windy City may now be gleaned…).

It is too easy, when considering the subject of beer from different angles, to forget the malt. Malt is the soul of beer, as old German hands had it. The British knew this too. Reading Taft-era American technological literature, which indeed represented scientific consensus, you can be forgiven for thinking corn, rice, and sugar had become indispensable materials and all-malt was old-fashioned.

In a time when some brewers were pushing the upper limit of Wahl & Henius’s 10-50% range for cereal adjuncts in beer, some drinkers may have been forgiven for exclaiming, “Where’s the malt”? Although not phrased in such terms (my take-off on the famous Wendy’s hamburger promotion), that tag-line might serve neatly to describe the impetus behind the reformation of the American beer palate starting about 1975, something which spread to Canada and ultimately around the world.

canada_malting_silosAt least the American malting industry before WW I knew the power and importance of its product, one indeed provided not just to brewers but distillers and bakers amongst others.

American Malting Co. describes a national network of plants, many shown in handsome black and white photographs. I’d think some of the enormous structures still stand given their enormous solidity to hold many tons of wet grain. We have an example right here in Toronto, pictured.

The book explains that most of the barley used in American brewing was “Scotch 6 row” (Scotch? That’s a new one to me). There was some Chevalier 2 row as well, as we know from other sources, but it wasn’t significant in the big picture. There was also “Bay barley”, a term which encompassed a number of varieties and whose history is a subject unto itself. In brief, it seems the Spanish brought it to Mexico and California. Before Spain, it may have been native to Morocco.

It was a 6 row type but behaved like 2 row due to its thin hull and extract content. The British used it as an adjunct in their barley blends for malting in the U.K.

A last chapter explains contemporary malting methods. There were five types, all still recognizable today, with three main categories: traditional floor malting; Saladin box or compartment; and pneumatic drum. This modern explanation from Don Valley Engineering (the British Don Valley, not ours) gives a good overview of these methods as modernized today.

Malting has achieved some attention in modern consumer writing on beer and brewing. A modest micro-malting industry has been noticed, a natural complement to craft brewing as local hop fields are. In general though, a workhorse of the brewing world doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Let’s fix that.

Note re images: the first image was sourced from the volume referenced in the text at HathiTrust and the second, from the Wikipedia entry on the historic Canada Malting silos in Toronto, here. Attribution of the latter image is as follows: By SimonP (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons. All trade marks and other intellectual property in such images belong to their lawful owners or authorized users. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



A Dish Of The French North Country


With cooler weather, rustic dishes based on meat and potato appeal more. A French-Flemish dish from the pictured volume, Sausages With Apples and Potatoes, is one of the simplest things you can make yet has great taste if your ingredients are good.

The book, published in 1984, is part of a regional French culinary series from publisher Delta 2000 in Colmar.

Some butter, potatoes (I suggest the floury type), apples of almost any kind, and sausages are the ingredients. Oh, and a glass of beer. That’s it.

I suggest the meat be sourced from an artisan producer or even that you make the links yourself. They should be not too small but can be made from any kind of meat, a vegetarian type should work well too.

Melt some butter in a casserole or pan of any kind you can put in the oven. Peel, core, and slice apples. Peel and slice potatoes. Lay the two pommes in pan. Place sausages over. Pour beer. Bake uncovered at medium heat for about 40-60 minutes. C’est tout.

Add any seasonings liked, salt, pepper, herbs, etc. The recipe suggests sprinkling parsley on the dish before serving.

I used a mix of Budweiser Prohibition and pumpkin ale for the beer, you can use almost any type of beer, or beer and stock, or indeed wine or cider, nay water. Variants of the recipe can be found all over northern Europe, from England through French and Belgian Flanders over to Germany. Beer gives it a Franco-Belgian stamp, but I’ve found similar dishes in the English country repertoire too.

Much depends on the quality and freshness of the ingredients (even the butter), as in all cooking…

The authors include in the book a number of dishes based on beer. Whatever the true origins of a regional cuisine featuring dishes cooked with beer – as I wrote some time ago, there is reason to think “beer cuisine” is a relatively recent development – the results are succulent for the most part. The authors were teachers at the well-known professional training school, Michel-Servet in Lille. The recipes are straightforward, easy to follow, and were obviously tested many times before publishing. The evocative photos add charm too, sans doute.

The beer dishes include baby vegetables stewed in ale, braise of rabbit, large crepes, and an unusual eggs poached in beer with aromatic vegetables. The object of the book is to present characteristic dishes of French Flanders (taking in Artois), thus many recipes eschew the malt and rely on wine, stock, or plain water as the liquid base for dishes requiring one. Some dishes use the local Dutch-style gin, or genièvre, as a flavouring agent.

The book was written some 10 years before the Internet started to have an impact world-wide. It gives every appearance of presenting in integral form an intramural cuisine, one reliant for the most part on local products, especially in this case grains, fish, northern vegetables (beets, cabbage, endive), butcher’s and hutched meat, sugar. Well-worth buying at the very small prices mentioned in the site below.

Note re image: the image was sourced from a French site offering second-hand items, here. All trade marks and other intellectual property therein belong to their lawful owner or authorized users. Image believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


Rochester’s Vibrant Brewing Past And Present

_57-1In the last week I discussed Bartholomay Brewing Co. of Rochester, NY in a couple of contexts. One was an 1884 “adulterants” brouhaha where the company led a robust industry response.

The other was the company’s continued pre-eminence in 1907, a time when nine operating breweries were still left in the city but the looming spectre of national Prohibition lent a memorial note to area brewing.

In fact, Bartholomay had amalgamated with Genesee Brewing and Rochester Brewing Company in 1889. The package was sold to British capitalists under a public offering. This was a period when some 80 American breweries were bought by British investors, hungry for rich profits in pre-income tax times.

The takeover winnowed beer competition in the city despite that nine production units still existed in 1907. At some point, Rochester Brewing’s facility separated from the merged Bartholomay as Rochester Brewing was one of five breweries which opened independently in 1933 after Repeal.

Louis Wehle, whose family had been brewers at Bartholomay, was a successful baker during Prohibition. He reinvested money from that business to buy the Genesee plant and part of nearby Bartholomay, and that became the post-Pro Genesee Brewery. It was family-owned for many decades. In the last generation it was sold to a management group and continued as High Falls Brewing, as many readers will recall.

A few years ago, a Costa Rican brewing and refrigeration company bought High Falls via its North American Breweries, a holdco which owns various craft operations around the country including Magic Hat in Vermont and Pyramid/Portland Brewers in the northwest.

High Falls resumed its old name, Genesee Brewery, after the last purchase.


Genesee still makes cream ale,  a genre discussed earlier on these pages and a tangible connection to 19th century brewing in New York State albeit the formula is a modern one. It’s still a good drink, on the sharp side, famously creamy at least on draft. Somehow it suits the local foods and provides a good foil to the sweet local (non-vinifera) wines in the region.

Genny also has an active craft line, continuing some of the High Falls innovations and introducing others. Its Genesee Brew House, a visitor centre and pilot brewery, is a noted attraction on the historic Genesee river and High Falls.

Genny is the sole survivor of that group of five to start up again in ’33. Cataract Brewing closed in 1940, American Brewing in 1950, and a merged Standard Brewing and Rochester Brewing in 1970. Further details are available in this crisp report by Alan Morrell from the Democrat & Chronicle, itself a survivor of the 19th century (and one in whose columns played out part of the additives commotion of 1884).

Today, there are many craft breweries and brewpubs in the region, indeed the state as a whole (almost 300). Brewing has revived to emulate if not exceed anything seen in the 19th century. An attractive feature is that old-established companies such as A-B in Baldwinsville (near Syracuse), Genesee in ROC, and F.X. Matt in Utica continue along with many more newbies. They are all in it together.

Note re images: the image of three bottles from Bartholomay Brewing Co. was sourced from this eBay listing, here. The second image was also sourced from an eBay listing, here. All trade marks and other intellectual property therein belong to their lawful owner or authorized users. The images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


A Comparison of Budweiser Prohibition and Budweiser

A Brace Of Buds

I bought the Budweiser Prohibition, a six pack of bottles, and a couple of tall cans of regular Bud. To me, the Prohibition is rather distant from Anne Pierce’s impressions of its 1920 counterpart I referred to the other day. She spoke of a high-extract beer, 1026 FG by my count, with a quality comparable to the regular beer which pre-WW I was likely 1015 FG (it was in 1884)*. She placed it in the top rank of the near beers newly on the market in 1920.

The current one seems rather dry with a citric, almost lactic aftertaste – I am still not sure if perhaps it went off in the bottle as a number of taste reports refer to a sweet drink.

We had a very hot summer in Toronto and if the packs were from the first deliveries last May or June, they may have suffered. They were kept room temperature where I bought them, too.

There seemed a slight saline or “mineral” hit and I see that the label states 2% sodium, which seems a lot to me. I don’t off-hand see why this is included.

I didn’t expect it to taste quite like regular beer but was put in mind of Will Rogers’ classic line: whoever dubbed near beer was a poor judge of distance.

Now to regular Bud. It was, a) much better, and b) while the flavours were barely beyond recognition threshold, what there was was good and natural. It seemed better than some years ago when I recall a starchy dry aftertaste, sweeter and more beer-like. It won’t be a personal go-to but I can see why millions drink it who don’t want a stronger taste.

I encourage A-B InBev to recreate the 1884 Budweiser as a special offering. I suspect it would be very well received by the craft world and would reinforce the existing franchise IMO.

For that matter, if “Prohibition” is launched big time, I’d use the original (1920) recipe for that one too.


*Pilsner Urquell today (and then) is 1015 FG…