Update re Canadian Judging for World Beer Awards, June 26

As I mentioned, here, last week I’m part of the Canadian judging panel for the World Beer Awards 2018. The event takes place one week from tomorrow on June 26 at Bar Hop Brewco on Peter Street downtown. I was just at its sister pub on King Street, in fact, and no place is better qualified to host an event of this nature.

Just a quick update to link to the judges page on the website of World Beer Awards. Numerous of the Canada judges including yours truly are listed with bio details, see under World Beer Awards 2018. (My image will go up in a day or two).

Toronto-based beer writer Steve Beaumont is the Chair of Judges for Canada, whom I’ve known for about 30 years. Scanning the other names, I know most of them as well, no surprise really given the nature and standing of this event.

I’ve been reviewing the product categories on the website. I don’t know who wrote them but they are clearly written with a good understanding not just of recent beer history but certain more distant historical essentials as well.

Of course every classification method has its own approach and internal logic. I’m making sure to absorb this one in readiness for the event.

 

 

 

 

Beer Connoisseurship – a Neglected Grace

Beer gets no respect, many say. With all the changes in recent decades in brewing – the gazillions of craft breweries, the countless exotic beer types, the ceaseless innovation – one suspects in the culture at large not much has changed. Beer is beer, honourable but at bottom a quaffer, for informal occasions – cottage, the cheap and cheerful evening out, barbeque, office party, that sort of thing.

For tony London West End or Upper East Side Manhattan restaurants, no.

For the edgier hot names in Brooklyn or Bermondsey, well, maybe, for lunch.

Beer (so the line goes) is not really part of gastronomy no matter the pretensions of some to elevate it there. The late chef and world food authority Anthony Bourdain, a democrat and populist in food and its customs, did not tarry on craft beer, which upset many of its devotees.

Eloquent voices have spoken up for beer to be sure, writers have laboured especially since the 1970s in its service, many certainly talented. But even devoted beer people harbour the feeling that it gets, if not no respect, then not half to what it deserves. They open the papers and see beer treated as a generic item, after all this time, derided by food columnists who write, “don’t try wine, even Riesling, with [thus and such, often non-western, dish], drink beer”. Well yes but which one? Which type? Don’t you care? Not really.

And the U.K. media still rolls out those lurid, full-page stories about lager louts in the weekend high street. It delights in showing the Roman circus at music festivals where half-dressed party animals with glittering eyes clutch cans of lager or some other beer, maybe even craft beer. It’s anything but the dignified surroundings always associated with wine.

The New York Times doesn’t have a dedicated beer critic, as most big city papers don’t. The job is handled by the wine expert, often. And so on.

In 1934 the Australian editor and author Brian Penton (1904-1951) perceived the injustice in this conventional wisdom, idée recue I might say but oops, I’m writing about beer. Someone sent him a new book called A Book About Beer. Penton wrote:

As the writer points out, the mere mention of beer among Britishers always, for some obscure reason which only psycho-analysts could track down, elicits a snigger. Clearly there is, in British minds, some curious repression about beer, some strange and infantile complex of snobbery, condescension, superiority, and guilt. The word wine never excites amusement. It is a noble word and tomes, learned and ecstatic, are written around it. A man who talked about wine in the way it is our custom to talk about beer— as if all wines were just wine— who did not know that Burgundy must not be warmed, that red wine must not be drunk with fish, or that the mouth of a brandy glass must not be less than two inches in diameter, would be scorned and spat on for a barbarian. But who knows or cares anything for the canons of beer-drinking? Who knows why beer should be drunk out of a metal vessel, what dishes go best with beer, how beer is made, what times are most proper for absorbing it, and what its varieties and potencies are? If you go to a good restaurant you will find all the wines impressively set out and divided and sub-divided — all the Chateau Lafittes, the Chateau Margaux, the Chateau Yquems, the Chambertins, Clos de Vougeots, the Romanee-Contis, the Nuits St. Georges, the Steinbergers, Rauenthalers, Geisenheimers, Heidsiecks, Bollingers, Clicquot-Ponsardins, the Moet and Chandons. And stuck away in a corner you will see, perhaps, “Also Beer” — as in the passenger list of a liner you read “Lady So-and-So, and General Such-and-Such, and Mr. This and Mrs. That; also 250 in the steerage.” As if the 250 in the steerage had the vast, composite, undifferentiated personality of a bee-hive! As if beer, to a connoisseur of beer, was not also divisible into an infinite variety of classes and sub-classes! But connoisseurship of beer is one of the neglected graces of life, and the “Book About Beer” is an indignant protest against this.

You can read Penton’s full remarks here, published in his column The Sydney Spy in the city’s The Daily Telegraph. Maintaining the same wry, mock-indignant tone as above, he mounted one of the best defences of beer seen prior to the 1970s, when serious beer critique starts in earnest.

The book in question seems consigned to minor status in the annals of beer appreciation. It was anonymous, credited only to A. Drinker. Snippets have been analyzed by beer writers in recent years, but nothing revelatory seems to have come from the tome. Penton’s review of the book and literate defence of beer may be the best thing.

Rare book dealers still sell it though, see one on offer, here.

Penton was a grammar-school chap, like that well-known U.K. beer writer Michael Jackson (1942-2007). Good writing about beer doesn’t need university credentials but neither are they a particular bar. Beer is a noble, but equal opportunity, subject.

Penton has a luminous entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography by the educator Patrick Buckridge, who also authored a 1994 biography of Penton. Buckridge wrote:

He had been one of Australia’s great newspaper editors, an important novelist, a passionate but critical Australian nationalist, and a courageous liberal campaigner for what he called ‘a civilized mode of social living together’.

Obs. Writing of the calibre of Penton’s – I’m speaking generally now, not of beer as such – seems a neglected grace. Our relentlessly earnest age doesn’t prize the levity of past times, useful as it often is beyond the merely entertaining.

Note re images: The quotation above is from Penton’s news article linked in the text, available via the Trove digitized archive. The cover of A Book About Beer is drawn from the vendor’s site also linked in the text. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to their lawful owners, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

The Scholar and the Pressman

Professor Anthony Rose and a Superstar Beer Writer

Anthony Harry Rose (1930-1993) was an English professor of microbiology, he spent much of his latter career at Bath University after stints in Tyne and indeed in Canada it appears.

He is remembered by a Memorial Lecture Series whose articles are published in the U.K.-based Journal of the Institute of Brewing. 

Rose made numerous contributions to brewing science through his books on yeast morphology and alcoholic beverage technology. He was also co-editor of the scholarly journal, The Yeasts.

Rose has the distinction of being quoted in the very first paragraph of the most important consumer book on beer ever written, The World Guide to Beer (1977) by Michael Jackson. The unusually evocative words of a technical man caught the eye of a romantic like Jackson:

Jackson’s wry line that despite “the worst fears of the drinking man” science has not altered the “basic procedure of brewing” serves as a kind of leitmotif, not just for the World Guide to Beer but for Jackson’s entire career and by extension, modern craft brewing. It is also a theme in Anthony Rose’s article from which the quotation above was drawn.

Jackson obviously had read the full article. This is evident not just via the quotation he published but in many passages of the first 20 pages of the World Guide, the part that precedes the national and sub-national classifications.

Rose was, therefore an important influence on Jackson together with other writers or scholars such as Alfred Barnard, Andrew Campbell, George Saintsbury, Peter Mathias, John Bickerdyke, and (or in my view) Wahl & Henius who wrote an important brewing text in 1902.

Unless I missed it, I have never seen a discussion in beer historical writing of Anthony Rose’s article. I offer it here.

The Scientific American is a venerable science journal directed both to professional audiences and the sophisticated general public. In 1959 when Rose’s article appeared, the journal enjoyed an ascendancy due to its revival after WW II by three promoters, one of whom was the publisher and science editor Gerard Piel.

Piel. Brewing. Lager. New York. Correct. Piel was grandson of one of the two brothers who founded Piel Brothers brewery in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1800s. He did not work in the family brewery but his connection to brewing clearly provided the spur for Rose’s article. The Piel brewery link was yet more tangible via the images Rose included of brewing equipment and processes. These were drawn from Piel Brothers Brewery, as made clear in Alfred McCoy’s history of the Piel family and brewery, see pp 245-246.

Rose’s article, simply entitled “Beer”, is available without subscription to Scientific American via JSTOR, free with many civic library subscriptions. It was published in Vol. 200, No. 6 (June, 1959), pp. 90-104. On the JSTOR page for the article, you can read the first page as preview, here.

The article is well-organized and unusually well-written, running 10 pages. After a brief but illuminating historical discussion he sets out the basic steps of malting, mashing, brewing, fermentation, and aging.

The interesting figures include open fermentation tanks used at Piel. The text makes clear though that some fermentation was achieved in closed tanks, and the CO2 was harvested for injection in the matured brew.

Historical allusions include Thomas Tryon’s (1691) suggestion of various herbs and flavourings as an alternative to hops. They include pennyroyal, balsam, tansy, mint, wormwood, even fresh hay. In a way, this presaged the current trend for a wide use of non-hop flavourings in beer.

Continually through the article Rose balances the need for better science with traditional concerns to preserve beer’s palate and character, something that clearly resonated with Jackson. In discussing the use of cereal adjunct he states it provides mainly just fermentable sugar and “contribute[s] little if anything to the taste and aroma of beer”. (Presumably he thought the same of his native country’s use of sugar in brewing, although he doesn’t say). Jackson’s opinion was similar.

He also implies, in the gentlest possible way, that the need for mass distribution in the U.S. was making its beer ever paler, bubbly, and of low bitterness. Still, he appreciated that Americans had both lager and ale available to them, while in his home country, only top-fermented beer was available (this is 1959).* Rose notes how ale remained a regional favourite in New England, a theme Jackson developed in his writing too.

Rose discusses with admirable clarity the two main forms of enzyme, alpha- and beta-amylase, and how temperature is manipulated to get the best from both for the type of beer needed. In another striking phrase he terms the brewer the “choreographer of an enzymatic ballet”. To my knowledge Jackson never used that one, but he might have.

In terms of science’s vital role in modern brewing Rose cites the Dane Emil Hansen’s landmark work to isolate pure cultures, and of course Pasteur, and other scientists less well-known. For more contemporary applications he explains how science helps to remove haze from beer.

Rose would be shocked at the widespread fashion today for cloudy beer, as he would for use of bacteria and wild yeast in fermentation. For his generation these organisms spelled “spoilage” and nothing more.

But he had the beer drinker’s palate nonetheless, evident in many ways including his observation that the half-pound of hops per barrel for American beer was well-exceeded in Britain. Clearly draught bitter was an example although it is not mentioned as such.

As an example of a further important influence on Jackson, Rose divided lager into Munich, Dortmund, Pilsen, and Bock types – Jackson does the same but added notably Vienna beer (and Doppel Bock, more a gloss).

Adding the Vienna was, I might add, not an intuitive thing to do at the time. Jackson in early writings continually defended his view that Vienna Marzen was a separate branch of lager, and of course he was right.

Rose concludes on a note that chemical engineers are likely to make the greatest contributions to brewing science going forward, in particular he thought for continuous vs. batch fermentation. He also thought yeast genetics would come to play a key role. He was right on the latter but perhaps over-optimistic on the former even for industrial brewing, in other words.

There is no prediction of an American craft brewing revival although reading between the lines he was surely gratified when it came. Similarly for Britain he calls for no revival of small-scale brewing. But British beer didn’t need it, then, really. Despite ongoing industry consolidation there were still many hundreds of traditional breweries to gratify every (non-bottom-fermentation) palate, at least with a little effort made.

What Rose thought of the lager and CAMRA shocks when they came can only be wondered at. Quite possibly he wrote about these developments as he was fully active up to his untimely passing in 1993 at only 63. Indeed, he continued to contribute to Scientific American into the 1980s although not on beer specifically, I believe.

This obituary in The Independent adds much to our knowledge of Anthony Rose, and doesn’t fail to note his striking ability with a “turn of phrase”.

Due in part to that gift, his work was consequential, in a way much to do with beer but not with Academe or yeast science.

Note re images: The first image above was drawn from The World Guide To Beer (1977), by Michael Jackson, Ballantine Books, NYC. The second image is from an amazon.ca listing for the volume shown, here. The third image is from a Massena, NY newspaper in 1964, sourced via New York State Historic newspapers, here. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

…………………………………………

*Tiny quantities were made that had virtually no impact on domestic consumption, most of which was exported. I’ll address this soon in a subsequent post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tank Canadian Budweiser Beer

This story, on the release of “tank” or unpasteurized (North American) Budweiser in Quebec, got virtually no comment in the blogosphere that I saw.

Mass-market products like Budweiser excite no particular attention among the beer commentariat, justly so in view of their lacklustre, high malt-adjunct taste.

Yet this move in Quebec, especially if it heralds a similar launch in other North American centres, is of interest both on historical and, at least potentially, palate grounds.

It’s historically interesting because into the 1970s and 80s most draft beer in North America was not pasteurized.  Many sources confirm this, indeed it was a defining trait of “draft” that it was not pasteurized and had to be kept cold with a relatively short life span. The “new” tank Budweiser in Quebec is allowed only a two-week life span.

1970s draft beer was invariably filtered, sometimes in a prolonged process to reduce the chance of micro-biological instability, but pasteurization of draft beer was not usual, with some exceptions. Beer exported a distance, say Guinness Stout or Watney’s Red Barrel, was pasteurized. Anchor Steam Beer has always been flash-pasteurized since Fritz Maytag overhauled operations from the late 1960s. The flash method is less invasive as it subjects the beer to a higher temperature than traditional tunnel pasteurization but for a much shorter time.

“Keg” beer in the U.K. and Ireland then even for the domestic market increasingly was pasteurized, as the two brands mentioned.

At some point here, flash-pasteurization became the norm for most mass-market draft. All Labatt-brewed draft beer is, I’ve been told, pasteurized, so this Quebec initiative is a departure albeit simply a return to standard practice as viewed historically.

In an earlier post I examined pasteurization in detail and referred to Moosehead’s discussion of the topic on its website, see here. I wrote:

Moosehead Brewery in Canada has a commendably long discussion of pasteurization, here, which is similar in its arguments to Anchor’s. Moosehead states however that flavour can be impacted, particularly hop character, but opines that adjustments can be made at the brewery to compensate.

Yet, the unpasteurized Budweiser now on display in Quebec is being touted as having a special character due to no pasteurization. The freshness is emphasized, but the implication clearly is that sensory characteristics – taste – are boosted.

Having tasted unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell recently in London, I can state it is considerably better than the regular, pasteurized draft, itself no duff performer in the beer stakes. As to North American Budweiser, its fairly lean, starchy palate may resist improvement through deleting the pasteurization step, but I’d like to try it to see. You never know.

Perhaps in time, all mass-market domestic draft will return to unpasteurized form. If so, all to the good as, in the view of the committed beer fans I know, these products rate far below the typical craft palate in quality.

N.B. As far as I am aware, draft Coors and Coors Light, and the bottled and canned forms for that matter, are not pasteurized in the U.S., but are in Canada. Conversely, draft Goose Island IPA, say, a craft-style brand of AB InBev/Labatt, is pasteurized in Canada as is Mill St Tankhouse. A switch to no-pasteurization, if that ever happens, will only increase the merits of the craft-style brands, in other words.

 

Dish a la Chimay

The Birthplace of a Famous Beer Resonates, With a Twist

At the height of the Depression in Canada in 1937 a Canadian Pacific Railway hotel in distant Regina, Saskatchewan offered the following menu:


The hotel, built in 1927 in the boxy, neo-classical style popular in the 1930s and 40s, was a Regina institution for decades. It was a charter member of the Canadian Pacific Railway hotel chain that dotted the trans-continental line to help link Canada’s regions. The railway and hotels did much to assist Canada’s early expansion and growth.

Today the hotel is owned by Temple Hotels, controlled by Ontario-based, publicly-traded Morguard Investments.

The menu (the link is via the NYPL digital menu archive) is a very creditable fusion of diverse influences. These include B.C. planked salmon or pickerel fillets from northern lakes, Britannic standbys such as liver and bacon, beefsteak, and lamb with chutney, and U.S./Canadian foods such as tomato soup, ham steak, potato salad, and shortcake. The sauerkraut juice may owe something to the Central and East European immigration that the federal Liberal Party encouraged from about 1900, especially to develop western farming.

The odd continental dish appears as well, some in the French repertoire. One is “Stuffed French Mushrooms With Noodles, Chimay”, offered as a main course.

Chimay?

Those who study beer and gastronomy will immediately think of the Trappist beer of Chimay, Belgium, or perhaps the cheese made under auspices of Chimay abbey. We have an interest in Chimay’s beer and have written about it here in numerous respects. We uncovered its alcohol content as it was 1877 and revealed that Chimay was all-malt in 1969, for example.

While the beer was commercialized early – we’re speaking relatively here – was it well-enough known in the 1930s to enter into a dish of international catering? Not at all. Apart from the temporal problem the idea that the sparest of monastic diets inspired a plush restaurant dish is out of the question.

Chimay must have meant something else, then, and did. Yet explanations do not come easily. The Hainault region in Belgium is not a gastronomic haven (despite or perhaps because of the famous Spa), not a haunt of luxe hotels that developed dishes soon to become staples on the international food circuit.

Chicken Normandy, peach Melba, veal Marengo (connected to Napoleon), Saratoga chips, all make sense. What could rural Chimay, dominated by an ancient castle inhabited by an old line of European aristocracy, have to do with haute bourgeois eating in hardscrabble 1930s Regina?

I have researched the question and cannot find a crystal-clear answer, but almost certainly the dish is named for Clara Ward, Princesse de Caraman-Chimay (1873-1916). She was born in Detroit, Michigan from an industrialist family and married the Prince of said title at only 16 or 17 (accounts vary). Her background and eventful life are set out in this referenced Wikipedia essay.

Only the second American to become a princess, the union with the twice-her-age Prince did not last. She took up with King Leopold II, a cousin of the Prince, and ended marrying three more times. She had a stage career as well and possibly worked as a courtesan, a femme de scandale.

A chocolate cake is named for one of her husbands, Rigó Jancsi, a Hungarian Gypsy violinist, so it is entirely plausible that the Princess inspired the dishes styled Chimay in standard culinary references. The pair evidently frequented the fashionable restaurants her position and wealth gave access to. See this recipe for the cake from the Food Network, courtesy Wayne Harley Brachman.

There were Princesses of Chimay earlier, but they seem unlikely to have named the dishes as I cannot trace them before the 20th century.

The main dish encountered is “eggs Chimay”, or oeufs à la Chimay. One or two references, including a 1975 New York Times recipe, call it “Eggs in the Style of Princess Chimay”, so Clara Ward’s connection again is plausible and almost certain. You can find many recipes online, it’s a dish of standard Continental cuisine. I didn’t check but it’s probably in Julia Child, for example.

The rich concoction blends minced egg yolk with a duxelle, that is, mushrooms cooked in butter and minced. The mixture is then stuffed in the hollow of the boiled egg white. A Mornay sauce with Parmesan is poured over and glazed under the grill. It is an appetizer, generally.

Another Chimay dish in the French canon is chicken Chimay, which involves the noodles mentioned on the CPR’s 1937 menu.

Here is a recipe for the eggs dish from the Yes Chef, No Chef blog, and this one, from Escoffier, illustrates the chicken-and-noodles dish. He calls it (in English) Pullet Chimay (see p. 496). Needless to say, no beer here, Chimay is used in an entirely different sense, which lends confusion. If you search dishes for chicken or eggs + Chimay more recent recipes appear, quite unconnected to the two above and calling for the beer to be added.

The CPR’s dish appears to adapt the two classic Chimay dishes to come up with something different: mushrooms are stuffed instead of eggs, perhaps with minced chicken, probably glazed with Mornay, and noodles served alongside.

The chicken form must have been named for the princess too, at any rate, no other explanation appears as likely.

Other than the Chimay name, our epicurean, Michigan-born princess and her namesake dishes have nothing we may connect to Chimay’s monks or their beer – to the contrary in every way.  Ironically though, Chimay beer became in time of gastronomic repute, as did Trappist beer in general. And it’s used in cooking too quite frequently today. Especially in Belgium, historically a lively beer culture, the best chefs take pride in using beer in some recipes, not least the ale of Chimay and other brewing monasteries.

If our blue blood vamp was on the Paris stage today, swanning through chic restaurants with current husband in tow or an extra-marital friend, she might well run into a dish cooked with the beer of her locality. Maybe she would even taste the beer alongside with a glint of pride. “Les moines de ma principauté le font ne savez-vous pas”.

Do you hear just a bit of the nasal twang of The Mitten, though? I do. Or maybe it was her years in Toronto…*

 

…………………………………………..

*See this article by Anna Passante who explains Ward spent most of her youth there.

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Judging in Toronto, June 26, 2018

This year I’m part of the Canadian judging panel for the World Beer Awards 2018, the event is June 26 at Bar Hop Brewco on Peter Street downtown.

An e-mail from the U.K. invited me to join the panel sitting in London on August 15 for the final tasting of rounds 2 and 3 of the World Beer Awards. In that stage, the best beers entered are selected by an international panel with participation as well by entrants. As my trip to London in August to attend the Great British Beer Festival just skirts that date it was suggested I join the Toronto judging.

Glad to do it. I’ve got years behind me studying and commenting on beers current and former – former both in memory and via in-depth historical study. I’ve got by now probably a thousand (or two) taste notes on Twitter, this blog, the forum at www.bartowel.com, and other sources. To which the hundreds of essays here looking at beer in every imaginable way can be added.

I feel I can contribute usefully to the judging.

For the upcoming event I will review the product categories and judging criteria carefully to ensure maximum effort and impartiality. Any judge must separate personal preference from an accurate assessment based on intended style or the other criteria relevant. I’ll apply special efforts to ensure I do that.

To learn more about the awards and structure of the competition see the organizer’s web information, here.

The annual World Beer Awards form part of the annual World Drinks Awards which cover numerous beverage categories. For all details see the main web site, here.

 

The Genuine Old-style Malt Whisky

It’s almost impossible to find pure sherry cask-aged whiskey at a moderate price given the greatly increased demand for single malt today.

The Macallan, long the standard-bearer for sherry-cask quality, diversified its line years ago to include whisky aged in bourbon and other forms of American oak. The Amber expression today seems the closest to the old 10-year expression, and is almost $200 in Ontario. I believe it is all-sherry wood whisky. The Sienna is another, about one-third more costly, that offers the old character, or the closest to it I remember.

Aberlour is the other malt well-known for the sherry signature, and still reasonably priced. I’m sure there are others, in some cases luxury extensions of well-known malts. Many brands mingle sherry and bourbon wood (or other American oak) whiskies, but you don’t get the full sherry effect that way.

On the Irish side, Redbreast, a single or pure pot still whiskey, used to have a sherry signature. I find recent bottlings do not, due no doubt to the rarity of sherry casks for the requisite aging. Some single pot still may get a finishing in sherry wood, or again some is probably vatted from both bourbon and sherry barrels.

I like the modern profile of single malt, based as it is largely on the American oak barrel, but there is no substitute for the old sherry cask taste. While the effect differed based on the type of sherry used (fino, Oloroso, etc.) there was an mistakable perfumey taste that set such whisky apart from bourbon-wood whisky.

I became familiar with it, not just from Macallan and Aberlour but from various merchants’ bottlings, offered for a song in the old days. I remember one sold in Florida, 25-year-old vatted stuff with a big sherry component that didn’t fetch more than $30. Sometimes the sherry in the barrel frames oxidized, especially with repeated use, which lent a certain rubbery tang.

Setting side arcana such as trade (shipping) barrels having been being made from Spanish oak while the aging soleras typically used American wood for generations, the sherry they housed that ended in the whisky imparted a unique character.

Well recently, I found an Irish single malt, The Sexton, for under $50 in Ontario and approaching half that in the U.S., that is aged in European oak barrels (provenance not known) that held genuine sherry. The wine was P-X or Pedro Ximenez, for the grape, a rich sherry with scents of sweet raisin, orange rind, dates, and other good things.

This is a superb whisky, said to be sourced from Bushmills Distillery in Antrim, Ulster, and only four years old. It must be the young age that explains the low price since sherry-aged whisky usually does not come cheap.

What I like, apart from the genuine sherry smack in the taste, is the smell and taste of the oils in the whisky. Even though triple-distilled in the Lowland style there is nothing light about Bushmills make. It is a medium-bodied and assertive whisky even at 10 years and higher ages. So, the sherry mingles and interweaves with the fusels to produce a classic whisky taste. Not classic-Irish since it isn’t pure pot still – no unmalted barley in the mash – but close enough.

Some online reviews are very complimentary and a few are not. I wonder if the negative ones are being influenced somehow by the low price. My first taste reminded me of the old Macallan 10 and 12 year expressions, all-sherry whisky from 20 years ago. That’s a pretty good impression to have.

If anything The Sexton is better as old-style Macallan could be a little bland due probably to an over-dedicated attempt to select the middle cut in distillation. Slice away too much of the distillery character and no matter how long you age it or what you age or finish it in, it won’t taste as real whisky should, in my opinion.

The image shown has a bottle of Robertson Scotch Seville orange marmalade peeking in the back. It was on the counter and I included it for two reasons: First, its rich, bitter-sweet orange taste is an analogue to that of The Sexton. Second, being Scottish, it parallels what in many ways is a Scottish character in the whisky. This is due (I should add) not to being sourced in Ulster but because Bushmills has always used all-malt in the Highlands and Islay fashion.

In the 1800s a four-year-old malt whisky was a high-class product, not too much whisky in the market exceeded that age then. And sherry cask aging, if not invariable, was legion due to the heavy use of sherry imported in barrels or butts. Sherry butt, you know the term.

 

Edward VII Rocks the Disco Era

Judging by the 100 or so menus of the New York Wine and Food Society placed in the digital archive of the New York Public Library, few address English/U.K. cuisine.

French menus abound, as well as many other European cuisines and not a few Asian or other foreign, and American, but very few in the British tradition.

The reason, probably, is British food lacked cachet in gastronomy. Some of its regional dishes, from smoked salmon to Stilton with nuts, have always been appreciated, but offering a set British meal in an international setting was less common than for other cuisines.*

Hence, Julia Child wrote Mastering the art of French Cooking, not The Glories of United Kingdom Cookery.

I’m not sure the situation is so different today but with the blurring of national and regional food traditions – with the menus of hip restaurants tending ever to resemble each other from Toronto to Turin – perhaps it’s a moot issue.

Nonetheless the NYPL’s archive of New York Wine and Food Society menus discloses exceptions. One area you find them is re-creating old English dinners. Presented that way, the food acquires new allure, helped by antiquated spelling of dishes from the The Forme of Cury or other venerable source drawn on, hallowed by tradition. Old is gold you know, or it was.

Sometimes the history fetched up is more recent, and this was the case with an Edwardian meal offered by the New York Wine and Food Society in 1974. Punk rock is blazing and disco gearing up to entrance the masses. Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley is starting to make waves.

A new restaurant in not-so-distant Ithaca, NY, the vegetarian-oriented Moosewood, will soon win awards for its innovation. On December 11, 1974 the Wine and Food Society was looking to pre-1914 culinary London for gastronomic inspiration.

English classics like oysters, turbot, baron of beef, partridge (paired at least on paper with its inevitable pear tree), salad, old Cheddar, Stilton, and plum pudding were plated in this menu to emulate a dinner from King Edward VII’s day. That era, just ahead of WW I, was noted for extravagance in eating and menu choice.

As another page of the 1974 dinner shows, for dinner parties of around 30 people literally hundreds of pieces of tableware and glasses were needed. These were handled by the many servants which grand houses, the upper middle classes, and the fashionable hotels could then afford.

Parts of the above menu might feature at the great London hotels and restaurants such as Claridge’s, Savoy, Grosvenor, Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, Rules, and so forth.

The wines no doubt also drew inspiration from the period evoked, with fine marques of Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Port appearing. Staid perhaps, classics of the Bacchic tribe, and nothing to suggest regional alliance. But that’s how they did it then, and it was probably true to tradition.

Actually, the Jamaican rum flourish for the pudding shows some native creativity. I’d guess one of the planners had run into the dish in the Islands and brought it to the salon of the Pierre Hotel which served the meal in New York. Brandy would have been more elegant, or at least, a mixture of brandy and rum.

The use of kitchen French to describe some of the dishes was no doubt authentic as well, and reminded readers that the British menu presented was well, extraluxe.

We harp on beer here, so we are sorry we did not have the chance to consult to the 1974 committee for this dinner. Courage Imperial Russian Stout, then available in the U.S., would have been ideal to pair with the cheese. Or George Gale’s Prize Old Ale or a similar beer.

Nothing like that was being made in America then. Anchor’s Old Foghorn barleywine came a year later, but beers might have been found to lend a dash of bibulous authenticity.

This kind of meal looks super-old-fashioned today. Meat or fish-heavy, with just a salad for anything resembling a vegan “main”, it looks kind of dull. So the vanguard of food writers and restaurateurs found it when looking to contrast their bruited market and regional cuisines with the old school.

Yet, neither form of eating was really better, or right. It’s how you look at it. Meanwhile, pass the Laurent-Perrier.

Note re images: The first three images above are drawn from the digitized NYPL menu linked in the text. The last image was sourced from the website of the Quebec Liquor Board, also linked in the text. All intellectual property in such images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

………………………………………………..

*I considered the validity of this position in this earlier post. But right or wrong, the proposition holds.

 

 

The Boss Brewers in Stuttgart

In my previous post I mentioned a couple of negative reactions to the local beer by visitors in Stuttgart in the later 1800s. Curious about how breweries operated there, a little investigation produced an interesting account of a brewery called Denninger.

The period is somewhat earlier, 1848 specifically.

The source is a French book that studied agriculture and education in Germany, in part to suggest markets for French agriculture exports: the book was published by the French Ministry of Agriculture. French wine’s potential as an export to Germany is raised more than once.

A multi-page portrait of Denninger brewery in Stuttgart reveals many points, down to the quantities of malt and hops used and types of beer made. Denninger was the largest brewer in Stuttgart, one of 22 serving 48,000 people, but representing one-third of production.

It is noted Denninger was an Alsatian implant – a French eye would have noticed that at a time Alsace was under French dominion.

Although the author of the book doesn’t say, Denninger, whose full name was I believe Jacob Denninger, was Jewish, one of the few Jews to own a brewery in Germany.

His Jewish background was mentioned in one of the German historian Heinrich von Treitschke’s books, here (not a great source considering his well-known anti-Semitic posturing, but sources must be taken where found). Treitschke also noted Denninger was from Strasbourg.

There is no suggestion in the French study that Denninger’s beer was lacking in any way, to the contrary. Still, and broadly speaking, if Denninger made beer as brewed in 1800s Alsace perhaps it was lesser to the best productions of Bavaria. Numerous period accounts attest to the general superiority of German beer to Alsace beer, in other words.

Be that as it may, Denninger brewed two types of beer – a brown winter beer and a summer white beer. I believe the brown beer was a Munich-type as its brewing in the cold months of January and February is stressed. There is mention too of some use of chilling equipment, this was probably for fermentation.

March was mentioned as too warm to brew safely.

Also, the author insists on the modernity of the plant and installations and that the beer brewed in winter was long preserved in Denninger’s cold cellars even if not particularly strong.

All this suggests lager brewing at least for the winter beer, imo.

German-language sources such as this one give more information on Denninger’s brewing but I was unable to follow it clearly enough to comment.

Denninger died in about 1870, and the brewery’s fate after is a question mark for me although as noted above it seemed still in business c.1890.

The French book describes Denninger as serious in personality but known for philanthropy and generosity in the community.

Due to the importance of beer and malt levies to the Wurttemberg treasury the book expressed doubt that French wine would be given much chance to penetrate. That is, the regional government would do nothing to help French exports if tax revenue was reduced due to a lowered consumption of beer.

Presumably any duties and charges on wine imports would not have made up for the anticipated loss from beer sales.

My guess is that after 1850, as the Munich breweries in particular ramped up in size and efficiency, shipments to Wurttemberg, which lies west and to the north of Bavaria, increasingly took market share from local brewers including in Stuttgart, the main city.

As to subsequent lore that imports from Bavaria and Pilsen were superior, it’s an old story that the very fact of importation confers cachet. Perhaps Denninger’s best was as good as Munich’s but without the aura of import, it was viewed as second class. But still good enough for the burgher’s faucet!

Today, Stuttgart brews some respectable beer, Dinkelacker is based there. It was a noted import to the U.S. in the 1970s. Drink the Dink, was the slogan.

By the end of the 1800s, Wikipedia tells us Dinkelacker was the largest brewer in Stuttgart. No doubt it was one of the duopoly that piped beer direct to consumers’ homes. Carl Dinkelacker started the buisness in 1888. As it seems Denninger was still operating in 1889 perhaps it and Dinkelacker were the two promoters of the beer-piping scheme.

Note re image: Above image is from a German e-bay listing, here. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

A German (Beer) Paradise

Every Man His Own Bartender

In 1894 Stuttgart afforded ratepayers the chance to have beer piped to their home as for water or other utilities. According to this issue of the Evening Bulletin in Maysville, KY in that year:

The Wine and Spirit Gazette says the city of Stuttgart, in Germany, is supplied with beer on a very novel plan. The beer is carried through the city like
water by a system of pipes. The customer pays his beer rate, as he would his gas or water rate. The pipes are of lead, lined with a thin layer of wood pulp to
prevent the contact of the beer with the lead pipes. The pipes are air tight, and the beer when drawn at the home of a customer, is as fresh and sparkling as
when taken from a bottle. Two large breweries have secured a monopoly in this pipe line over the whole city. Stuttgart must be a German paradise.

Talk about eliminating the middleman.

Did it really happen? A story in another source, the Mining and Scientific Press, is to the same effect, adding just a detail or two.

No mentions were made of brand preference. Perhaps there was a Pils tap next to a Dunkel tap?

I don’t think so. Various sources suggest Stuttgart’s beer didn’t, um, rate that highly, e.g., here in 1874 from Charles Fulton (“not inviting”), or here in Donahue’s magazine from 1882 (“inferior”). To get the good stuff massive amounts were imported from Bavaria, Pilsen, and elsewhere.

It wouldn’t be a boon to local industry to pour beer from imported casks into a cistern and piping system even if it was possible technically, i.e., without losing CO2 or freshness.

No, the two breweries that had the monopoly for the beer piping system clearly sent their own beer into the conduits straight from the tanks. It may not have been the best beer, but it was convenient like heck.

This beer piping idea of course could only have arisen in the kingdom of beer, Germany, although we see at the same time not every German region made great beer. But great thirst there was – the mother of invention.

Bruges did something a few years ago that sounds similar but isn’t quite the same, as reported in the Guardian by Jennifer Rankin. This involved piping beer underground from the brewery to a bottling plant outside the city, not the citizen’s gullet direct.

What happened the municipally rated, if not reputed, bier of Stuttgart? Maybe it didn’t survive WW I.

Clearly there were many advantages: turn the tap and you have beer. No casks or bottles to fuss with. Pay once at the end of the month. And lower cost since no retail distribution system is needed.

One would have to make sure junior, or oft-visiting uncles in reduced circumstances, didn’t get near the taps, but presumably the good burghers had that sorted, or they did after the first bill from the municipality, anyway.

In terms of application today, could Stuttgart’s plan recommend itself anywhere in the world? Sounds like just another pipe dream…

N.B. See Part II to this post, here.