If IPA Is a “Fiery Drug” What Does That Make Imperial Stout?

In March 1933, in preparation for the anticipated repeal of National Prohibition by the 21st Amendment, the federal government changed the Volstead Act to allow 3.2% beer to be sold, it was 3.2% by weight of the alcohol, which is equal exactly to 4% by volume. Measuring alcohol by volume, or the Gay-Lussac method, is usual today.

4% abv is the strength of the light category today, although the “3.2” of FDR’s era would have had more body, and hops. But beer was back.

In December of ’33, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment and full-strength beer could be sold, but 3.2 hung on in some states and it still exists, vestigially, to this day. This was due to control on alcohol being restored the states, which meant some for many years still prohibited alcohol completely, never mind requiring beer to be “3.2”.

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As we saw yesterday from a news article in 1932, brewing scientist Dr. Max Henius advocated 3% abw beer as the right beer to bring back. He must have been fairly certain beer would return since he accepted in that year his first new brewing class since 1915.

While necessarily out of the alcohol consulting business during the Roaring Twenties, Henius never really left the field. He wrote books advocating a form of Prohibition – you read it right – but defending beer of moderate alcohol.

A year later, in March 1933, the Schenectady Gazette discussed the new beer.

The perfect beer is the 3:2 per cent brew that America is about to consume. The authority for this assertion today is Dr. Max Henius who for 50 years has devoted his study, as a chemist, to the analysis and synthesis of the foam collared beverage. He is head of the Wahl-Henius Institute of Brewing and consulting chemist to many European brewers. Here’s the connoisseur’s stamp of approval on the beer the federal government has legalised and which will wet palates after midnight April 6. 

“Beer of 3.2 alcoholic content is the perfect beer,” said Dr. Henius.

“Americans should demand nothing more. It would satisfy the popular demand for beer without in the least endangering temperance and sobriety. It is very palatable”.

“Anyway, the alcohol in beer is merely an incident in its enjoyment, it adds greatly to its taste and refreshing quality and preserves the delicate flavor”.

“When people want beer they want a refreshing drink, not a fiery drug”.

Up to four pints he explained, it will act as a nourishing food. Drink more and—well, start looking for an easy chair, or better, a bed. Merely a sedative if quaffed indiscreetly, said Dr. Henius. There are right and wrong ways to drink beer, too, Dr. Henius said. Surroundings are important factors. Beer gardens, of course, are the perfect places for stein swinging.

He predicted use once more for the vacant lots that formerly were miniature golf courses. If you must drink your beer indoors, said Dr. Henius, do it at a table, not a bar.

Even knowing what I do about German and American lager in the 1800s, what the Doktor was saying seemed hard to square with reality. It might be one thing if he advised people to drink one glass of 3.2 beer, or maybe two, but he had no trouble approving four pints, or even more. This was 16 oz pints (American not English pint), but still that’s almost five and a half glasses of beer (5 x 12 oz. + 4 oz).

143123332Surely the average person would feel rather drunk after drinking not far short of a sixer of Coors Light or Miller Lite. And some drinking more might start to rave a bit. Dr. Max’s idea that after four pints you peacefully fall to sleep is simplistic.

Where was he going here? A doctor of chemistry surely would understand that strong drinks can be equated to so many standard units. It is all a question of the alcohol taken in (net amount), not the ethanol level of one drink vs. another. A couple of 12 oz bottles of strong Trappist Ale or Imperial Stout are equivalent to his four pints of 3.2 beer.

Could Dr. Henius have been underplaying the significance of 3.2 beer not to throw a spanner in the works of Repeal? Or maybe he really believed what he was saying, it is hard to know.

Perhaps he would retort, as he explained to the Schenectady Gazette, that much depends too where you drink. He was probably thinking of the sylvan beer gardens in Denmark and in Marburg, Hesse where he studied as a doctoral student. In a verdant beer garden, hours are whiled slowly sipping, sometimes with family (Sundays), and usually food is consumed, too. Getting legless is not the idea. (There is some testimony in the 1800s to qualify this rosy-hued view, I may discuss it later).

3063_1Whereas Dr. Henius seems to have bought in completely to the stereotyped image of the saloon as the quintessence of evil.

The hard drinking image of the saloon was linked more to whiskey than beer, yet whiskey was coming back with Repeal, everyone knew that. With whiskey in the picture, did it make sense to inveigh against beers stronger than 3.2% abw?

Possibly there was a class factor at work: Henius was a well-off businessman whose father had owned a distillery, perhaps he felt the segments of society normally given to beer had to be protected by limiting its alcohol. The governing class who drank whiskey at the club or their hotels presumably didn’t need supervision.

Drinking at the polished mahogany of a saloon vs. the honest grainy table of home seems to me six of one half a dozen of another (no pun intended). Perhaps he meant that in home conditions the abuse of drink was less likely than secreted in the saloon with its temptations of music, ruby liquids glowing in cut glass, perhaps dancing girls. Hard to say again.

395a31d18eb9d7eac78c68f773658467In the end, I think the gray-haired doctor was wistful for the drinking style of his youth, of Europa whence he issued. While known for his resolute Americanism, I think the old impulses of home still animated Max Henius.

The soothing beer gartens of memory, the all-malt beers supped in picturesque Marburg (it still is)*, may have seemed benign by comparison with the “next viskey bar” of America, painted in lurid tones in the classic song written for Berthold Brecht. Written, indeed, in the same era the Schenectady Gazette was chatting up the doctor.

At bottom, alcohol is alcohol, and his reasoning here was somewhat suspect. Some people like a St. Bernardus or three (say). And some a few Silver Bullets. Same difference, sure as shootin’.

Yes?

Note re images: The first image above is from this restaurant’s site in Marburg. The second is of students in Marburg drinking beer, a Getty image from here.  The third is from this label collection site, here. The fourth, from Pinterest, is from here. All are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All images or intellectual property therein belong to their lawful owners or authorized users. All feedback welcomed.

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*Only a few German cities escaped heavy Allied bombing during the war. Marburg was one, and it was due to being a hospital city for wounded troops.

 


Max Henius, Star of American Brewing Science

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It’s Chicago, November 16, 1935, a Saturday. Daily Trib on the table. Paging through leisurely – it’s a weekend – the obituaries appear. A compact article, with photo, announces the death of Dr. Max Henius, at 76. He died on a visit to Denmark, his homeland. He had lived in America since his early 20s and had a notable career there. Once past 40 he took an increasing interest in the country of his birth. He did much to foster Danish-American relations. For example, with others he bought land and deeded it to the Danish government. Save during the wars, a celebration is held there each 4th of July.

Max Henius was probably America’s greatest brewing scientist, in any era. Yet he is virtually unknown to most beer and brewing fans, even those with some historical knowledge.

He co-authored in 1902 the American Handy-Book of the Brewing, Malting, and Auxiliary Trades. The other writer was Dr. Robert Wahl, an American Max had studied with in Marburg, Germany. The book was a stupendous achievement, a fat tome of 1200 pages with every conceivable aspect of commercial brewing operations covered. Many questions of science and theory were addressed but in a way accessible to practical brewing men.

Henius had studied under Professor Emil Hansen, a legend in world brewing science for his work on pure yeast cultures. Henius extended his work in America.

1593-2Anyone who investigates brewing historical questions runs into the book sooner or later. The modern beer writer, Michael Jackson, who developed the basic schema for craft brewing, almost certainly read the book. Jackson’s basic classification of types seems based on Wahl & Henius, not just the “ur” distinction between bottom-fermentation, top-fermentation, and spontaneous fermentation but the main beer types under those heads.

Even with Wahl’s participation, Henius must have written a good part of the book himself, and the English is always impeccable. English was perhaps Henius’ third language after Danish and German, or maybe his fourth or fifth. European scientists then could easily work in four or five languages. I’d guess he knew French well before English, for example.

But who really was Max Henius?  How did he get to the United States? The obituaries I’ve been able to find are relatively short and don’t hint at his background. The Wikipedia entry on Max Henius has proved more helpful.

He was born in Aalborg, Denmark of a Jewish family originally from Poland. Beeretseq finds this of interest as there were relatively few Jews in the various branches of brewing (despite the German and Czech “brewing star” which looks rather like the Star of David, I may discuss that topic soon). Brewing and its auxiliary areas were a German and Anglo-Saxon business, for the most part. (Distilling is a different story, at least in North America).

There are always exceptions, at least one noted brewery in Alsace was Jewish-owned, there was a prominent one in Vienna (Ottakringer), and one or two in Germany. In the U.S., Rheingold of the Liebmann family was Jewish-owned in Brooklyn, NY.

Henius Sr. had moved to Denmark in the 1830s and established an acquavits business, now owned by Pernod-Ricard. After acquiring a doctorate in chemistry from Germany, Max emigrated to the U.S., I’d assume the family funded the move since his father sold the distillery around this time. Max’s brother stayed in Denmark and later headed up an export trade association.

Max took up residence in Chicago. At first he owned a drugstore, you see him in the image above on the left. The other figure is probably Wahl. They are the picture of the young ambitious entrepreneurs.

Later, Max founded with Wahl a brewing school. It was called by different names in different periods, one was the Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology. With the Siebel Institute of Brewing established earlier in Chicago, and the Brewing Academy in New York, the Wahl-Henius Institute was a premier centre for brewing studies both in the U.S. and internationally.

Henius married a fellow Dane who was related to some notable figures in its history. Some of their distant progeny have distinguished themselves in a rather different endeavour: acting. Perhaps you have heard of Robert and Keith Carradine, their mother was a Henius. (Their late half-brother through the paternal line, David, was not a Henius descendant I believe).*

The Siebel Institute is still going strong but Henius’s venture did not outlast Prohibition. It merged with a school of baking studies, as fermentation of course is vital both to bread and beer. Henius worked patiently in this allied field, but with the glimmer of Repeal in the bibulous skies of 1932, he opened classes again to brewing students. A newspaper account, somewhat arch in tone, describes the effort and shows a picture of the grey-haired Henius at work again with some younger men.

Don’t worry, it told readers, your sons and daughters won’t be frosh in Max’s new classes. The curriculum was reserved for those intent on practical brewing after Repeal, it’s a different demographic, to use our vernacular.

Maybe the classes continued after beer came back but as Henius died in 1935, they likely ended that year unless perhaps the family continued the business. Henius did have a son, Henry, later a brewmaster and executive with Lucky Lager in San Francisco. Perhaps he continued the teaching work for a while.

Picture.aspxSomewhat improbably, Henius was something of a Prohibitionist. He wrote a number of works advocating tight controls on alcohol. Of course, he decried the t-total solution of the Volstead Act but certainly he was firmly anti-saloon. The beer he taught his new students to brew in ’32 was maximum 3% abw, what we would call light beer today (4% abv).

(I once knew a designer of brewing and distilling equipment, now deceased, who claimed a study once showed the perfect alcohol percentage in beer was under 5%, I think 4.6%. It produced the perfect taste and effect on the system, he said. Wish I could find that).

In the 1902 Handy-Book, Henius described non-judgmentally beers which were much stronger than that, especially English types. But he plumped for relatively weak beer in his heart evidently, and argued for restricted distribution. The German and American lager of the 1800s was generally under 5%. Perhaps it struck him as the perfect form of beer. Even in England in this time, the German product had achieved a strange power over brewing technologists although I think in part growing Prohibitionist sentiment was behind it, unconsciously in most cases.

The patrons in the pubs paid no mind to all this, probably a good thing, else we’d have no double stout, or saison, or Burton Ale.

In the 1932 article on restoration of his brewing classes (“dusting off old recipes”), Henius was quoted that beer should be sold in supermarkets and drugstores, no doubt recalling his youth retailing liquor in that controlled environment. He hoped the beer he was training his students to make would not appear in saloons with swinging doors, as he put it.

Well, bars did return, with beer and yet harder stuff, if not quite the saloon in its old glory (?). You can’t have one without the other, really. But Henius’s idealism is understandable. Ever the international academic and man of affairs, he knew alcohol should be treated with caution. Probably he felt ambivalence about devoting his professional life to it.

I think some professionals in the business today might feel the same although few would aver to it publicly.

Note re images: The first image above is from this Danish website. The second, from this BeerBooks.com website. The third, from historicalimages com. All are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All images or intellectual property therein belong to their lawful owners or authorized users. All feedback welcomed.

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*An earlier version misstated the Carradine acting descendants in part and I believe I have it correct now. Also, I said earlier Keith had passed, that is not so, it is David who passed away some years ago. Apologies for the slip.

 

 

 


A Comic Opera and Brown October Beer

“For All My Days I’ll Sing The Praise of Brown October Ale”

A quick follow-up to my earlier post of today, discussing in part Haberle’s Brown October Ale, a production of Haberle Congress Brewery, Syracuse, NY (1933-1962).

Brown October Ale was a well-known song from the comic opera Robin Hood, an American light opera first staged in Chicago in 1890. It was revived there as recently as 2004. The music was by Reginald De Koven, and book and lyrics, Harry Smith, both Americans.  (A third man, of English origin, wrote the lyrics to another song in the opera but not Brown October Ale).

The opera interprets the Robin Hood legend. The gas lamp era was a time when medieval England had some hold on the public imagination. This can be seen for example in the suede tunics, long caps, and soft, pointed shoes of some stage actors of the day. Perhaps too the keynotes of the Art Nouveau movement, natural wood, foliage, etc., reflect the influence.

Brown October Ale, the song, had a long career in the American popular music repertoire, and was performed into the 1940s at least. Here is a 1944 performance by Earl Wrightson.

The lyrics to Brown October Ale can be read in this link. Wikipedia gives good background on the play, here.

At least two other breweries put out an October ale in the 1930s (see Jess Kidden’s pages again). The Robin Hood opera and its star tune may explain the interest of FDR-era breweries to make a beer of that name more than any beer lore guarded tenaciously since the early 1800s.

Nut brown ale as a meme goes far back in English literature, it’s in Oliver Goldsmith and other writers used it too. Americans of the gaslight era picked up on it and one distant result was probably the beer I spoke of earlier.

 

 

 


Beers of Empire Implanted in Newark, NJ

 

Ballantine-India-Pale-Ale-Labels-Falstaff-Brewing-Corporation-Plant-12_47865-1

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[See my following post as well for more thoughts on the brown October ale referred to below].

While lager had made huge inroads in America in the 1800s, ale and porter-brewing continued in parts of the country, especially the northeast where descendants of English settlers predominated. Brewers in that region included John Taylor (Albany, NY), Robert Smith (Philadelphia, PA), Greenway (Syracuse, NY), C.H. Evans (Albany, NY), Arnold & Co. (Ogdensburg, NY), P. Ballantine and Sons (mainly Newark, NJ), Frank Jones (Portsmouth, NH), and many more.

Some brewers made both ale and lager regardless of the tradition they issued from. Christian Feigenspan had German roots (Thuringia) but his Newark ale and lager plants turned out highly reputed beers, especially pale and amber ales under the P.O.N. moniker, or Pride of Newark.

Adam Scheidt in Pennsylvania made the John Bullish Ram’s Head Ale, a stock or IPA-type. Returning the favour so to speak, Henry Bartholomay  in Troy, NY was famous for lager.

P. Ballantine and Sons, founded in Albany, NY in 1840 by a Scots immigrant, was from inception a top-fermentation brewery. It established a separate lager brewery before 1900, when it had long been established in its second home, Newark. Its pre-Pro era Ballantine Export Beer was a lager, likely a Dortmund style.

boston beer companyThere is a pleasing, rather American dissonance in the case of Boston, MA. Norman Miller reports in his Boston Beer:A History of Brewing in The Hub that of some 24 breweries in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain at the end of the 1800s, some made only ale, owned by Germans, some made only lager, owned by Irish. In a Brahmin city, the Yankees appeared outnumbered.

Albeit dealing in lager, the mainstays of P. Ballantine and Sons were various ales, porter, brown stout. The ales included flagship XXX, in the tradition of the cream ales I discussed earlier. An ad below from a 1915 brewers’ journal dealing with brewers’ advertising stresses the American character of this beer.

I believe this a subtle dig at lager, reminding people of its German origins at a time anti-German sentiment was rising during WW I.

The prince of the Ballantine family was Ballantine India Pale Ale. The brand was given carefully-thought out advertising treatment before Prohibition as discussed in the article accompanying the ads below. One may note too the reference to “house organs” as a way to keep in touch with regular customers. The recent blogging controversy whether brewers should curry favour with consumers by personal appearances and “direct” online engagement isn’t anything new.

Many English-inspired breweries often advertised “half and half”. This was ale and porter mixed, or lager and porter (or stout). More rarely one saw an October ale or beer. The old English country specialty which inspired Hodgson’s Pale Ale and modern IPA was still reverberating, to no particular acclaim, in Depression-era America.

HaberleOctoberColorHaberle’s Brown October was introduced not long after Repeal by the Haberle Congress Brewery in Syracuse, NY, whose return in 1933 was discussed in the link just mentioned. Its staff would be agape to see how old styles have come back with elan. “It’s new because it’s old” might well be the mantra of the craft brewing movement. In Haberle’s day (1930s) ales were just hanging on. Lager’s ascendancy was ever-growing and selling something called October Ale must have seemed a quixotic if not semi-lunatic act.

To say Haberle Congress was ahead of its time is an understatement.

Ballantine also offered, after its return in 1933, a very long-aged Burton Ale as a rare customer gift. The Burton was apparently only brewed twice. Small amounts would be removed from the storage vats, blended with some IPA to freshen up, cased, and sent to star customers and friends.

The 1915 ads offered luxury enough but only represented part of Ballantine’s Brittanic specialties over the years. If one didn’t think too hard, it all might seem like “craft redux”, except of course this was 1915, 1933, or 1960. In other words, it’s the other way around.

America and Canada finally lost the essence of the top-fermented tradition, it occurred as the consumer society gathered pace from the late 40s. They also lost, or so I would argue, the best of the lager tradition, certainly by the 1970s. Not coincidentally, craft brewing revived from that period. What existed before finally returned.

And so, Ballantine IPA is again being brewed, by Pabst, current successor to Ballantine which closed in Newark in the early 70s. The new IPA has an updated taste profile, think grapefruit. It’s not that close to what it was, IMO. But it’s good to see the venerable name back. Pabst even brought back the Burton Ale for a time last year, and reviews were most positive. Rumour has it the brown stout may reappear soon, too.

The collection of ads below may look old-fashioned but are a savvy combination of old and new. The writing is informative but nuanced. As the journal writer noted, technical talk is mostly avoided.

Values like reputation and heritage are stressed but also cleanliness (“house cleaning every day”) to show modern science at work. Net net, we make it like gran-dad did but it comes out of a lab-inspected plant too – best of all possible worlds for the consumer.

The ads after 1933 have a more modern tone, but the early genius of Madison Avenue is quite evident below. All the right buttons were pressed. Ballantine understood it had a steak to sell but that people often buy the sizzle. It made sure to offer both. The image and reputation it had for 80 years before Prohibition provided a necessary but not sufficient basis for the restoration of the business. The rest came (on Repeal) courtesy the German Badenhausen brothers and a brewer imported from Scotland, a story unto itself.

You can buy Ballantine XXX today, Ballantine IPA, and the Burton Ale if bottles are still around from last year. It’s good to see them all on the shelves.

(Double-click subjoined ad for good resolution).

(Note re images: The first image above is copyright Tavern Trove and was obtained from its site, here. The second image was from Flickr Boston via this website, here. Third image was obtained from Jess Kidden’s Google Pages, here. The image below was obtained from HathiTrust, here. All are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property of or reflected in the images shown belong to their respective lawful owners or authorized user. All feedback welcomed).

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Of Madras, Malt and Margins

 

1024px-Fort_St._George,_Chennai

In my post of two days ago, I considered the likely strength of Hodgson Pale Ale, ancestor of modern pale ale and IPA. I mentioned two sources which alluded to its unusual strength, and here is another, from Chambers Encyclopaedia, published in both the United States and Scotland in 1860. It states exported pale ale was 10% in alcohol, let’s assume by volume. It even suggests that low attenuation could push the strength past 10%.

Its reference to the alcohol level of other beers, as well as the detailed description of brewing, give no reason to question the credibility; on the contrary. And we have seen how some IPA did in fact reach this level in the same era. Salt’s pale ale was one, and one from Allsopp, another.

Yet, this encyclopedia source, more or less contemporaneousstates that the range for export IPA topped out at OG 1070. Not much over 7%, that is. Earlier in the century W.H. Roberts said much the same thing in his Scottish ale-brewing book.

How to reconcile it? The only way is to assume they all were right. Some brewers, e.g., Bass, went for an abv which would not exceed 7% abv. Many indeed followed this plan. But some went higher, either by tradition or for another reason, hard to decipher at this date. No source is complete; they must be read together.

Bass may have been the more astute thinker. In that 1849 ad in Bristol, Bass Pale Ale was 4s. for 12 pints. Hodgson & Abbott’s India Ale, almost certainly a stronger beer, was 4s. 6d.

Bring yourself now to British India. Percival, a Lieutenant in the Madras Army, comes back from a day of language instruction at Fort St. George. He’s in family quarters, with Amelia. Young Ben bounds about. Amelia thinks another may be on the way, probably time to palaver with Percy.

It’s hot, and dusty, too.

Percy, you will have a bottle of Hodgson’s, won’t you, it’s just removed from the provisioner.

Yes, dear, snatched the words from my mouth, I’m rather parched.

Cork comes out, beer goes in. Not sweet, quinine-like, almost like tonic with gin, thinks Percy. Something of the stable there, too. Rather heavy for a beer, eh? Just as well to have only one, Amelia gets cross with too much spirit on the breath. Anyway there’s business to attend to later, Ben’s having trouble with geography, can’t fathom where Canada is, I hear. I must tell him cousin Neville is there with the Militia Rifles in Kingston, that will bring it home to him.

The month before, Percival was on exercises to the south. The staff were billeted for a week in a club nearby. The steward said they only stocked Bass. “And it’s as good a drop as you’ll know, Sir, I hail from Staffordshire, I know about good beer. Cures the mardy in yer!”. (Steward thinking, that stronger brown stuff we used to get was better, but never mind).

Amelia was at home but Percival creditably wants to maintain consistency of habits. He gets down a Red Triangle, one should be enough. But somehow the effect isn’t like the Hodgson. Perhaps a second Bass is in order.

Well, Steward, as the Captain is standing this one, I won’t be horrid and say no. [To Captain] Thank you, Sir. And dear Amelia, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her, I always say.

Happy to oblige, Lieutenant, and by the way I hear you’re doing very well in language studies. That’s important to get ahead here, you know.

Bass sells two bottles to Hodgson’s one. Does Bass’s profit offset the higher price of the Hodgson? I’d think it must have, even with more variable cost. True, Percy takes in more alcohol with a duo of Bass, but he would have been satisfied with the Hodgson alone.

Beeretseq’s parlous knowledge of the old English money, and ignorance of retail prices in the Raj, induce caution with respect to conclusions. But I think Bass may have hit the sweet spot in its day to benefit from multiple unit consumption. Brand management isn’t new you know, and the British invented capitalism by the way.

Some IPA sent to India was 5-6%, tiddlers. Some was 7 or 7.5%. Some was 9 or 10%, and that included Hodgson’s, IMO.

One thing most reading will agree on. British pale ale, any sort, goes very well with Indian cuisines. A local restaurant recommended to us is Madras Masala, and a visit soon is planned. Pale ale, wherever made and whatever abv, will accompany the meal, you can lay odds on it.

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Note re image: the first image above, of Fort St. George in the 1700s, is believed in the public domain and was sourced from Wikipedia, here.  As requested therein, attribution is as follows: The painting of Fort St. George is by Jan Van Ryne (1712–60); Publisher: Robert Sayer – Old source New source, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=300161

 


The Lancet Examines IPAs in 1862 – Some Very Strong

626_001Following up on my post of yesterday, The Lancet in 1862 examined the strengths and other attributes of a number of different kinds of beer. See pp 630-631 and the table summarizing the results.

This is roughly the era when the ads of 1849 and 1850 issued I discussed in my post, close enough.

As I said in one of my comments to the post, I probably shouldn’t have presumed what Bass and Allsopp were exporting without checking. This Lancet, which I’ve seen in recent years (and there are other Lancet analyses of beer including pale and bitter ales), is useful because it focuses on stars of the India Pale Ale market. By then, the Bow Brewery was much reduced in influence, it came under different ownership again about the time this Lancet issued (as Smith Garrett), and was absorbed by a large brewer finally and disappeared.

The beers in question were exhibits at a grand exhibition, which made it easy for the Lancet to secure samples perhaps especially as some draft beer was analysed. The Bass numbers do tally with my recollection of Victorian Bass Pale Ale generally as a 7% abv beer. The numbers given which appear to me to be by weight, are for Bass, 5.31-5.59 (different samples) which equates to 6.7-7.03 abv. Today Bass Ale is 5%, at least the one you can buy in Toronto and I believe the American-made version (both are licensed) is the same. Bass was strong then, by that comparison.

It was not strong compared to the next group though, an admittedly small sample, but still.

The single pale ale by Salt was 7.76 abw, or 9.8 abv. The Lancet called it “very strong”. In my view, there is some reason to analogize this language to that of “rather heavy” and “prodigious strength” that I discussed yesterday in relation to Hodgson Pale Ale. But even if you knock a point off to be conservative, a 9% abv Hodgson Pale Ale was pretty strong stuff. That was stronger than double stout was generally in the 1800s although possibly similar to strong stout in the 1700s (except for the “Russian” and Imperial types).

Allsopp’s range came in at 6.15-8.46 abw, or 7.70-10.71 by volume.

This is all about 100 years after Hodgson’s started to go after the market in India. Was Hodgson getting the same yields (extract efficiency) in the 1760s that brewers were getting 100 years later? The assumption of 80 pounds per quarter of malt (see my second comment yesterday), a contemporary rule of thumb, may have been optimistic for the late 1700s. Yet you find brewing writers speaking of such yields, sometimes 78 pounds per quarter, then. Many factors impact on this including how the hops were handled, e.g., they can absorb a lot of wort and there are a lot of hops in IPA.

Roberts’ average of 1068 OG for export IPAs, a group of 10 beers he analyzed, needs to be considered as well. Maybe a way to look at it is to take a mean between 7% abv and 9% abv, giving 8% which I suggested yesterday was a minimum strength for Hodgson Pale Ale.

We can’t know for certain. But using the reasoning in my previous notes, e.g., the comparable pricing to an “October” beer in 1849, and factoring known high abvs of some IPAs in the mid-1800s, I think Hodgson’s Pale Ale had to reach at least that 8%. And maybe it was stronger still, perhaps Salt was its successor, or Allsopp’s top end in the sample above.

The narratives of “very strong” and the special reputation Hodgson enjoyed were almost certainly connected to high strength, whatever else the beer had going for it. Ancestrally, “good” in beer meant strong. The more alcohol, the better beer was, in taste and value. Many factors worked against selling beer strong, everything from brewers’ margins to concerns about alcohol abuse (leading to Temperance campaigns finally), but again if Hodgson’s was prized you can be fairly certain, or I am, it was no washy stuff.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from the Delcampe auction site, here, and is believed available for educational and historical purposes. All trademarks and other intellectual property therein belong to their owners or duly authorized users. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Victorian IPA: A Lighter Shade of Pale

IMG_20160820_155017An 1850 Ad for Abbott’s East India Pale Ale Sheds Light on the Pale Ale Hodgson’s Bow Brewery Sent To India

A number of statements from the 19th century suggest that Hodgson’s Pale Ale, an avatar of modern pale ale and IPA, was a strong beer. One appears in this 1890s economic survey of India, A Dictionary of the Economic Products of India: Linium to Oyster by Sir George Watt et al, stating the beer was “well-hopped and rather heavy”. In this period, heavy generally meant strong.

A second appears in 1840 in the Magazine Of Domestic Economy which contains an impressive and detailed chapter on porter-brewing. In that account, the uncredited author states Hodgson’s pale ale was “brewed of prodigious strength”. He also referred to its “low fermentation” and great attenuation. I think low fermentation cannot mean bottom-fermentation (lager process) but rather the high attenuation again.

It implies the product had a high original gravity and was fermented out to a low final gravity, lower than was usual for mild ale in particular. The dryness produced by the process assisted the keeping of the beer to destination: a rich sweet beer was likely to “fret” or ferment uncontrollably in those days before pasteurization and end-to-end refrigeration.

But how strong in fact was Hodgson’s Pale Ale?

Hodgson’s, founded in Bromley-on-Bow, London, 1752, was exporting to India since the later 1700s. Its pale ale acquired a virtual lock on the India market until being unseated by competition notably from Bass, Allsopp, Salt in the 1830s.

W.H. Roberts, in The Scottish Ale-Brewer and Practical Maltster, 2nd edition, 1846, includes a table of India pale ales, see from p. 170It includes ten leading exports to India. Roberts comes to an average of OG 1068, with domestic pales ales coming in six points under. There is also a group of yet weaker India beers he says, for which less was charged.

Many researchers have concluded from this and other evidence that India beers were not generally >1070 OG.

For Victorian England, Martyn Cornell identified in 2010 a range of gravities for different beers, see his useful table, with 1080-1095 being the range for EIPA, XXXXX, XXXK and KKKK.  EIPA, or East India Pale Ale (maybe sometimes Export India Pale Ale) was stronger than the pale ale/bitter beer/IPA norm of the 1800s, which was more around 1060 OG.

All IPA was originally a stocked beer in keeping with its October beer origins (explicated by Cornell in the early 2000s). Some continued to be long-stored into c. 1900, often a year with the export process resulting in a beer 18 months or older when consumed in Asia or North America. The trip over would have allowed brettanomyces yeast to consume some of the dextrin, making the beer even drier and a touch stronger. Long-aging and shipping could increase a beer by 1% in abv.

Here from Eltham Brewery in 1874, we see a range of pale ales and other beers. The pales for the purpose of this discussion are PA, IPA and KIPA. All are indicated as “October”, meaning brewed in that ideal brewing season and aged for varying periods but usually over the winter at least.

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The KIPA shown reflected the topmost-quality at 60s per 36-gallon barrel, or 30s for 18 gallons (kilderkin), and strength. That price was about the most expensive for pale ale in England in the 1800s. In OG, the KIPA was probably comparable to the range for EIPA seen elsewhere and variants sold at the same price, East India Pale Ale, that is. That meant an alcohol level of 8-9.5% abv. It would have varied depending on the time of storage, too.

If you look at this ad from the Medical Times in January, 1850, Edwin Abbott, by then sole owner of the Bow Brewery founded by the first Hodgson, stated that Hodgson Pale Ale, the beer of India renown, was too expensive for daily use. He said the price, “30s. the 18-gallon cask”,  reflected its “body” (high OG IMO) which was meant to keep it in conditions of high temperature and changes of climate. Therefore, he was introducing a second pale ale, at a price of 18s. the 18-gallon cask, made the way the original Pale Ale was but lighter and offered at a price of ordinary family beer.

Abbott and Son, East India Pale Ale Brewery, Bow. – From a peculiar mode of fermentation instituted at the above brewery, it has been celebrated for nearly a century in supplying India with its choicest beer; but, from the necessity of giving it a greater body to bear the changes of climate and high temperature,  its cost, viz., 30s. the 18-gallon cask, has hitherto prevented private families in England from enjoying it  at their daily tables. The objection is now obviated by Messrs. Abbott having succeeded for use of families, clubs and public institutions, a lighter description of their Pale Ale, brewed upon the same principles as for Indian consumption, at the cost of ordinary family beer, viz., 18s. the 18-gallon cask, which they trust, from its being so highly recommended not only as a wholesome luxury to the healthy, but as a most appropriate beverage to the more delicate, will meet the approbation of the public. It is necessary to order a supply in March as, from the lightness of and delicacy of the ale, removal in warm weather injures its qualities.

At 30s. for 18 gallons, Hodgson Pale Ale was priced the same as Eltham’s KIPA and numerous other EIPAs and similar beers.

Indeed, Eltham’s XXXX Strong Ale was the same 60s. a barrel or 30s. for 18 gallons. That XXXX was IMO an “ale” vs. a “beer” as IPA always was, i.e., hopped much less but probably aged, an old ale, hence its inclusion on the left side of the ad. Its abv had to be the same 8-9% abv range as KIPA.

As Cornell’s chart shows, beers of the gravity range that took in EIPA were OG 1080-1095. That equated to at least 8%-9.5% abv but could go higher with long aging. These are always estimates because the degree of attenuation can affect the final numbers, but in general pale ale was well-fermented out so if anything one should go higher for the article as consumed, not lower but again it’s reasoned estimates.

A beer 24-27s. the 18-gallons was 5.5%-6-5% abv in range, more the typical range for Victorian pale ale. Abbott’s 18-shilling beer and meant for summer use, was probably 4-5% abv.

In April, 1850 Abbott was offering three descriptions of pale beer, as this ad shows.  Here the prices are by the barrel and are 32, 42, and 60s. The 60 is the original pale ale again. The others, if the 18-gallon price was exactly half (it may not have been), were at 16 and 21s., perhaps 4% (for summer) and 5% respectively. It’s three strength ranges which endure to the end of the 1800s for some breweries albeit the strong end, collectively, took in relatively few beers. Still, they are notable as survivals of the pale October tradition, as Hodgson’s original pale ale was.

Perhaps the two lower beers were 4% and 5% but I believe the 30 shilling flagstaff was at least 8%.

Also, consider this ad from Chilcott’s History of Bristol, published 1849. Hodgson & Abbott’s India Ale was listed – Frederick Hodgson hadn’t retired yet. By the case of 12 pints, it fetched the highest price (4s. 6d.) sharing the honour with, lo, Bloxsome’s Strong October beer. 1700s accounts of October Beer brewing suggest an OG of c. 1100, this has been shown by numerous modern analyses. That Bloxsome October beer could not in my opinion have been 7% abv, it had to be more, possibly 9% even if not 10-11% by 1849. It may have been a point higher than Hodgson’s because the quart price is higher, but that is not certain.

1934IPAandStoutNYT2The cask price equivalent of the Bloxsome’s (the Hodgson’s was not given) is hard to tell because two October beers are offered in cask and the names don’t correspond exactly to the bottled beer. (I’m thinking the bottled may have been a blend of the two October casks). Could the 27s. cask have been 7% beer? It’s possible, and also possible the Hodgson’s was. But I don’t think so. Using the October name suggests to me something closer to the 1700s range for October beer was wanted than 7%. And Hodgson & Abbott’s India Ale was the same price for the case of pints.

And so, I think Hodgson’s Pale Ale, the beer which conquered India, was 8%+ abv in England, probably reaching 9%+ with final attenuation after shipment. Some accounts from India likened the beer to wine; you find such language used in relation to IPA into the mid-1900s. Ballantine in New York was using it after the brewery re-started in 1933 (see Jess Kidden’s pages). 7% doesn’t do that IMO, it has to go a couple of points more to suggest an analogy to wine. And if it’s one thing the Raj administrators knew, it was wine, all types.

But now it’s 1850, in England. Apart from the high alcohol and price, without long shipment to India, that original Hodgson’s Pale Ale may have been too rich for ordinary drinking. Without the body thinning out fully on the Indiamen, Abbott may have felt it was time to introduce a new pale ale.

Taking all with all, the 1850 Abbott’s ad suggests IMO that the Hodgson Pale Ale sent to India:

i) was brewed strong to help survive the high temperature and journey, and this from the mouth of the brewery itself, and

ii) was at least 8-9% abv when brewed, probably higher when consumed.

Based on mid-1800s analyses I’ve seen including from The Lancet and analyses of many pale ales from original records by Ron Pattinson, what Bass sent to India, Allsopp too, likely wasn’t as strong, more like 7% maximum on consumption. Perhaps this difference with Hodgson explained or in part their appeal, it is hard to say. There are statements in the 1800s that beer for India was wanted “light” and not too strong. Hodgson’s Pale Ale, issuing from a country English heritage and suiting the habits and appetites of early settlers in India, probably was too heady when something more equable showed up and life was more civilized and settled.

Or maybe the Burton brewers convinced the market their product was better when it really wasn’t. It happens all the time especially in the beer world. I am speaking in relative terms here, I have nothing against Bass and had an excellent one the other day as it happens, brewed in Toronto and very credibly.

Note re images: The second image (of Eltham Brewery’s advertisement) above was obtained from an Internet search I did some years ago with a link provided to me by Ron Pattinson. The third is from Jess Kidden’s pages linked above. All images, where not in public domain, are the property of their lawful owner or duly authorized licensees. They are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 


A Venerable London Brewery Salutes the Duke of Wellington

A Victorian exercise in London pageantry and fine beer was brought to life via a story in the New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator of November 27, 1841, a reprint of an Evening Mail story. The account described how a venerable brewery gave a salute to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and hero of Waterloo. He was barging on the Thames to Deptford to assume the position of Master of Trinity.

The brewery was Hodgson & Abbott, formerly Hodgson`s and famed for sending a renowned bitter pale ale to India.

Trinity House still exists and occupies itself with ocean-pilotage, navigation, and related maritime issues of importance to Britain’s economy and military security.

The account, reproduced below, is a spirited picture of the welcome the firm gave the Duke as the party sailed upriver.

Hodgson`s Bow Brewery was by Bow Bridge on River Lea, a branch of the Thames now canalised but still connecting to the river. I think the sail-past went by another brewery, or depot, on the Thames, which Edwin Abbott owned before becoming a partner in Hodgson`s.

Martyn Cornell`s article, here, explains that Abbott initially owned a brewery called Curtiss just east of London Tower. I`d think the drawing room in the 1841 story must have been in that brewery, or building if it had ceased brewing, as Bow Brewery surely wasn`t near enough the Thames.

The Duke travelled in a shallop, a craft suited for sailing in shallow water and rowed or masted (or both). Below I show the Gloriana, a modern Royal barge. The Duke’s sloop probably looked quite a bit like Gloriana as the latter was based on a 1700s design.

One may note that the pale ale mentioned was described, twice, as strong. A number of early accounts of East India Pale Ale describe it as strong drink, while later statements stress its light or moderate alcohol. As always in beer matters, contradiction abounds.

Analyses of pale ales mid- and later-1800s suggest a relatively moderate drink of c. 6% abv, but I have a suspicion that the first pale ales sent to India were stronger, in keeping with the roots of pale ale, a country ale which must have been 8% abv or more. I`ll have more to say about this soon.

Footnote: Abbott evidently was an M.P. and so was Frederick Hodgson of the brewery. Hodgson was known for his swarthy complexion and nicknamed “brown stout“ despite running a pale ale brewery*. The English were never entirely serious about beer, were they, pace CAMRA, yours truly, and my dear fellow-bloggers who obsess on historical questions. Probably a good thing.

 

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Note re images: The first image, the news story discussed, is believed out of copyright and the original source is linked in the first line. The second image, of the Royal rowbarge Gloriana, was obtained from its website, here. The third image, of the Duke of Wellington, was obtained from his entry in Wikipedia, here. All are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*As porter scholar Alan Pryor notes in this 2013 collection of essays, George Hodgson had brewed porter in the mid-1700s. Perhaps Hodgson`s still brewed some porter in its early 1800s heyday, but my jape is in reference to its pre-eminence for pale ale in India.

 

 

 

 

 

 


How Long Should We Age Lager, Brewers?

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Time in A Bottle

This is a follow-up to my post of yesterday discussing Horlacher Brewery’s Perfection Nine Month Old Lager, introduced in the immediate pre-craft brewing era (1976-1978).

Wahl & Henius’s American Handy Book Of The Brewing [etc.] Trades (1902), at pp 758-759, reviews ageing of beer. The authors set no fixed period but refer to the benefits as increased clarity due to settling of yeast and proteins and increased stability especially where beer is to be pasteurized. This last reference means, IMO, that beer is less likely to cloud and spoil after pasteurization if it was permitted to age long enough first.

Early articles in brewing literature attest to pasteurization sometimes making beer cloudy and liable to oxidize (oh irony): I have experienced this myself with at least one well-known American beer although recent bottlings are better and the problem presumably licked.

Wahl & Henius also state that “chips”, e.g., the beechwood chip aging method Budweiser has always used, permit shorter lagering. Other writers have said it too and it is because the chips afford a greater surface area for yeast contact with the beer. This emulates to a degree the effect of the yeast over a longer period, permitting the beer to ferment out and become “cleaner”.

Wahl & Henius also confirm what lager brewers had noticed many years earlier, that long aging reduces hop bitterness. This was also noticed by brewers in England for ales and porter long-stored.

Now let’s go to 2016. In this link, a brewer from AB InBev takes questions from readers. He referred to advances in yeast understanding and materials which 1800s brewers hadn’t known. He states:

When I homebrew a lager, I generally ferment at 52-54F to target gravity, diacetyl rest at 60F (3-5 days typically), and lager at 34F. I’ve been able to make very good lagers in 3.5 weeks with this method.

This absolutely requires that you have good temp. control if you’re homebrewing – repurposing an old fridge to serve as a fermentation and lagering cellar is a good way to do this.

Trying to parse his method, if he fermented in 7 days we allow three for the diacetyl rest, he was lagering only 10-12 days.

One of the posters linked another homebrewers discussion from earlier this year where a detailed description was given of similarly short method. The comments there are very interesting, too.  Basically it was suggested excellent results were obtained although one reader who tried the method said the beer wasn’t as clean as it could be.

Some points which stood out for me: In the early days, to attain “CO2 saturation”, long lagering was necessary. Today this can be achieved through force-carbonation as I said yesterday, and also krausening or bottle-conditioning (not usual for lager but sometimes done).

There is also the importance of yeast strain. Some bottom yeasts will produce clean beer – no off-tastes – at higher temperatures than others. It’s always a question of producing to the limit of a yeast’s ability in this sense. The higher the temperature, the faster the fermentation and more quickly the beer can go from grain to glass.

Higher temperatures are more efficient, but it is important not to pass the point where off-tastes result from stressed yeast. In this regard, starting gravity is important too, too high and a faster fermentation may create off-flavours.

There are trade-offs, but if you can increase temperature and save on storage time and overall energy while preserving good taste, why keep the beer for longer?

The point also came out that lagering for “too long” can produce off-flavours, which Wahl & Henius suggest as well by reference to the danger of bacterial contamination.

The list of bacteria is formidable, lactic and enteric types are just the start of it, and that doesn’t account for wild yeasts. One can see that in a former time with wooden vessels and non-sterile plants, the risk was probably greater than today.

I wrote earlier that Schaefer Brewery in New York tried to re-introduce beer aged 7 months in the 1870s. Drinkers rejected it because it was too sour. This probably is an example of what the brewers of 1902 and today were concerned about.

I took it from the discussions that today, typical lagering time for American adjunct lager is about three weeks, probably less in some cases, with grain to glass in approximately one month. Homebrewers traditionally have gone higher, five-six weeks lagering, but as mentioned above some get good results in a commercial time frame.

Some craft breweries add extra weeks for lagering. An example is Anchor Brewing’s California Lager, aged 28 days in secondary fermentation (see its website). Adding primary fermentation and the racking and packaging phase, total production time is probably about six weeks. Anchor’s Steam Beer, a lager fermented relatively warm, is stored in secondary in 10 days.

Yet even a full month’s aging is much less than for Horlacher Perfection in 1976 and what American and German brewers typically did c. 1850.

I would love to have tasted the Horlacher beer. Produced in the period it was, one can be certain it wasn’t lactic or otherwise off-tasting. How did it compare to a similar beer packaged at four weeks, or two months?  Were the extra 10-11 months a waste of time? Were they actually counter-productive? Only a taste test could tell. Written opinions are great but the final proof is one’s own palate.

Craft brewers: put away a batch of pale lager at 5% abv, perhaps hopped a little more than you normally do, keep it near freezing for 9 months and let’s see. Sam Adams Boston Lager would be a good beer to try this with given its mid-1800s heritage and firm hopping.

Finally, you can lager beer yourself, I once tried this with the Keller version of Creemore Lager given the residual yeast content. I wasn’t sure if the yeast count was high enough, but tried it anyway. Isn’t a small can just like a closed fermenting tank?  I didn’t wait nine months but rather five or six.

The beer was very good I thought, cleaner than regular Creemore. I need to try it again and more methodically, e.g., taste it against a fresh can.

Note re draft: The image shown is from the former Gerke Brewery in Cincinnati, OH, part of the impressive vaulted lagering cellars (later-1800s era). It was obtained from the website of the Master Brewers Association of Americahere.  Image is property of its lawful owner or duly authorized licensees. Believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 


A Real Lager, Aged 9 Months, Appears In The Disco Era

hor5In 1976, on the eve of the craft brewing renaissance, a beer called Perfection 9 Month Old Lager was released by a small regional, Horlacher Brewing, based in Allentown, PA and founded in 1882. It was a revival of a Horlacher brand from before WW I.

Despite the release of Perfection and another new brand, Brew II, Horlacher struggled to stay in business. It was the era of macro beer dominance. Sadly, Horlacher closed in 1978.

I never had the chance to taste Perfection, so to speak. It was mentioned in the beer books which started to proliferate at the end of the 1970s, but as a curio lost to time. One writer did taste it, Jim Robertson. He said the beer was very good and his two or three year old bottle had survived remarkably well, but his notes are not detailed.

The significance of that release would be so different today, when many beer fans understand the history of lager and what it means for a beer to be lagered almost a year, especially one of regular strength.

Today I will salute Perfection beer and the vision of Horlacher, bootless as it proved to be, but first some background.

I’ve discussed a number of times how both in America and finally Europe lager beer changed from a long-aged (six-nine months) “summer” brew to essentially a “winter” beer.

As handed down in Bavaria, there was, i) schenk or winter beer, and ii) summer beer, which was lager properly speaking. Schenk was brewed in cold weather when wild organisms in the atmosphere wouldn’t sour the beer. It was given little aging and consumed as released. Summer beer was the same brew laid down in cold caves or cellars and consumed many months later, in spring or summer when brewing was suspended due to the warm weather.

When I say “same brew”, that was not always technically true, sometimes the summer lager was hopped more or made a little stronger to assist the long keeping. But basically the two forms of beer, and whether light or dark, differed little but for the aging aspect.

PerfectionThe true lager of old Germany was the summer form. What was initially a strategy to ensure beer was available in the non-brewing season became the prized form. People liked the long-aged beer due to its good carbonation, clarity, and matured taste.

Both schenk and summer lager are bottom-fermented, whereas before their emergence, top-fermented ale, porter, and some old European styles (weisse beers, Gose Bier, Broyan) were the norm.

Bottom-fermented beers tended to be more stable and clean-tasting due in part to the nature of bottom yeast but also their long cold sojourn which inhibited souring and other infection.

Also, and this is an insight I gleaned from numerous 19th century American accounts, the long aging would have knocked down the bitterness. And people liked that.*

How bottom-fermenting yeast evolved is a controversial subject. For a long time, many felt it was a derivative of a top-fermenting yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae) and developed empirically under unique conditions of cold fermentation and aging.

Recent studies suggest lager yeast is a hybrid of a Cerevisiae yeast and a non-Cerevisiae yeast whose origins have been traced, strangely, to Argentina, Mongolia, and Tibet.

However the new beer yeast emerged, its use over centuries in Bavaria convinced people of its superiority over top-fermented beer especially as I have said in the classic aged form. This style took over finally in the north and east of Germany as well, and in adjoining Bohemia. Finally, lager came to North America (1840s) and in time became the dominant beer style everywhere in the world.

And yet. The lager which became a world-beater was not the long-aged brew cracked open only in the summer. It was really schenk beer which earlier was just one form of lager and not the most reputed. There is no question that in the 1840s and 50s, the true, long-aged summer beer was in the market and captured the public imagination. Schenk was drunk in winter, but that was not what put lager up in lights.

By the 1870s, harvested natural ice and finally refrigeration equipment became routine aids in the brewery. With their help, brewing could occur year round. The old long-aged lager became a memory. The schenk continued to be slow-fermented (8-10 days) vs. half that for top-fermented beer, so that part stayed true to tradition. And it received some storage in the cellar, but nothing near to what it originally received.

Some German and American breweries were still aging lager a couple of months, or more in some cases, in the late 1800s. From that point through to post-WW II the aging got ever shorter, and this accelerated once cylindrical fermenters emerged: they made it easy to collect and dispose of yeast from the base of the tank.

Is lager beer aged two months vs. six or nine as in old times, just as good? What about beer given two weeks storage if that? I’ve asked that question of brewers many times. Most seem convinced long-aging isn’t needed and on the theory (which I’ve bruited myself) that fresh beer is best, aging time can be shortened.

For example, with developments in filtration and carbonation, you could get clear, carbonated beer in a few weeks rather than waiting six to nine months.

A claimed advantage for long age is that “green flavours” including dimethyl sulphide (overcooked vegetable) will dissipate. But brewers say they know how to expel such flavours without long storage.

Indeed, there is some suggestion (I’ve discussed this earlier as well) that not all long-aged lager was exempt from sourness. Can the schenk have been preferred to a lactic tang of age…?

All in all, people liked the young new beer, or at any rate that’s what brewers gave them and they liked it well enough.

This was the environment in which little Horlacher, looking for an angle in a tough market, released a pale beer aged nine months in 1976. This was unheard of then and perhaps more to the point, is unheard of today. I am not aware of any craft lager aged that long. Some strong dark lagers, e.g., Doppelbock, or Eisbock, can receive a few months aging, but no regular strength lager does as far as I know.

Horlacher did this without knowing how the beer landscape would change within a decade, without knowing how New Albion Brewery, which had started up the same year in Sonoma in California, would help work a revolution. Perfection no doubt sold well but nothing to ride a wave on, and the same happened with Brew II, so the brewery continued its downward path.

If you would like more information on Perfection and Horlacher, you need only read Jess Kidden’s pages on the brand, hereKidden has collected a fine range of print artifacts and labels. They point indeed to a high-quality product with a high percentage of malt and hopped for good flavour.

Sadly, Perfection was ahead of its time: being about the best beer in America in 1976 couldn’t save it.

A craft brewer should brew a nine month pale lager today to remember Horlacher’s brave sally in the market. If we can have beer flavoured with tea and oranges – and that’s only the half of it – we can have one flavoured just with malt and hops stored like the old lagers of Bavaria. Advertise it this way: “Beer made in the true Alpine way which made the renown of lager in the 1850s in America. And its yeast is in part all the way from China”.

Note re images: the images above were sourced from Jess Kidden’s web page linked in the text above. They are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All trademarks and other intellectual property shown belong to their lawful owners or authorized licensee(s). All feedback welcomed.

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*Earlier, I discussed the c. 1960 ad copy of F.X. Matt for Utica Club, that it was “50 years behind the times”. I said I thought the claim of low bitterness was something tucked into the ad for modern appeal, an incongruity few would notice. Now I think Matt’s knew exactly what it was talking about – it’s often a mistake to second-guess brewers with long experience and, even more important, long memory. The long sojourn in the cellars would tend to take down some of the bitterness, it rounded out the beer in this and other respects as well. A brewer with the heritage of F.X. Matt likely understood that.