Ace Hill Pilsner Reviewed, And Other Beers

CZmhKs-WIAMrHpZ

Ace Hill Pilsner

This is a new Ontario product, just out from Ace Hill Beer Co. Styled a pilsner, it is a medium-bodied, all-malt winner. It is clean yet with good complexity and a good aftertaste, and leans to Austrian or German helles, IMO.

The beer was tasted at the cool Boxcar Social in the Summerhill area of Yonge St. It comes in a white can of elegant design. Looking forward to the draft, so far it’s in cans only.

Jopen Hoppenbier

At the Wallace Gastropub further north on Yonge St., this saison-style Dutch import (draft) has a slightly fruity note and good bitterness while not going over the top. It apparently represents an old beer style of The Netherlands.

As the beer is excellent, one would wish the glass larger, as the brewery’s etched glass is used, which holds 9-10 oz I’d guess. I couldn’t place a slight vegetal note, then noted from the brewery’s website that oats are used in the mash, plus barley malt and wheat. The oats must explain the “different” quality I noted.

The draft survived the journey from the other side remarkably well.

Muskoka Winter Weiss

Tried this at the Dominion Pub and Kitchen, the venerable bar on Queen Street East which had a makeover recently under new ownership (same group which owns Murphy’s Law and Against The Grain in town). This was good but not at the level of the great German dark wheat beers, IMO. The “dark” element reminded me of something more like you’d find in a porter or stout, a black patent malt taste or that type.

It did have some of the wheat banana notes of the style. Certainly good, but not really what I look for in the style.

Blue Point Brewing Toasted Lager

Draft, tasted also at the Dominion on Queen Street. A good solid lager, not German-leaning, more an American interpretation but all-malt, clearly. Well-made, and I’d guess brought in quickly from Long Island, NY due to the distribution network of the owner, AB InBev.

IMG_20160228_124550

 

 

The Ontario Butter Tart, Considered

Not_So_Gooey_Butter_Tarts_IMG_8938-thumb-960x541-264571

[Note added October 20, 2019: The post below was supplemented by a second one, here, on November 6, 2018 that explores in-depth butter tarts history in Canada and the United States. Below, I deal mainly with British examples of butter tarts and some related history. As noted in the later posting, I have now published an expanded, fully-referenced article entitled Butter Tarts in North America in the U.K.-based food journal Petits Propos Culinaires, #114 June 2019].

The Canadian chef and food writer Anna Olson gives a good recipe for the classic Ontario butter tart in this online posting.

The image in her recipe is similar to what is shown above. The Ontario butter tart usually has an irregular or crenelated edge of firm but flaky pastry but otherwise exhibits numerous variations: Some people add currants, some, dark raisins, some no fruit at all. Some use maple or corn syrup for the filling, or molasses, or a mixture. Plain brown sugar is hard to beat, in our opinion.

We think too the filling should be slightly runny, but there are different views on that. You can add rum or whisky, or (why not?) strong beer, and a variety of spices although a plain Jane butter tart is best of all to our taste.

Chocolate versions are common today, but they don’t work all that well, to our taste again.

Some History

To be sure, butter figures in all butter tarts save perhaps debased commercial versions, but no more than in many pastry and pie dishes. So why “butter” in the name? This has been a contentious question in Canadian culinary history.

The butter tart is more than an Ontario dish, as parts of the Maritimes lay claim to it as well, and elsewhere outside Ontario. But it is less than national-Canadian. Seeking its roots needs to start here, in other words.

_44257439_fechantart203

The butter tart is not documented in Canada before 1900. It was called initially simply “filling for tart”. Only in the first and second decades of the 1900s do recipes appear in Canada for the butter tart proper. See this online discussion for good general background.

But where does the butter tart really come from? Did Ontario invent it? Alas, this is doubtful. One theory holds that the name is a corruption of border tart, a rather similar bakery specialty of Britain’s Borders country, which straddles England and Scotland. That is persuasive but the matter goes further: in Ecclefechan, Scotland they have the butter tart itself – that spelling. An example is shown just above (source: BBC News), and it looks very close to our butter tart.

This U.K. butter tart is similar to their border tart, meaning in either case a smallish pastry with a semi-soft or liquid sweet filling in which ground almond, walnuts, glacé cherry, or dried fruit appear. This suggests the British have the same dish as we, and hence inevitably that Britain is the source of our butter tart.

As to construction, the Canadian version is similar but simpler: no cherry, no almonds, although sometimes walnut chips are used here. But the sweet filing and frequent use of raisin or currants is shared by both.

This U.K. blog entry, London Eats, describes the Ecclefechan butter tart. It is sometimes called simply Ecclefechan tart, or again, border tart. A comment states that the writer’s family used currants in the filling; many Ontario butter tarts are exactly the same.

Given the strong Scottish element in Ontario settlement, the Ontario butter tart possibly derives from the Borders where the confection was even sometimes called butter tart, as in Ecclefechan. That Canada’s is not an original preparation seems undoubted.

Consider further these sources.

An 1857 publication, the Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English, states that “butter tart” was a sweet, spiced mixture of butter, citrus, eggs, and almonds (“macrooms”) spread on a thin “sheet”, or pastry. It was covered with another layer of pastry, baked, and served with sugar and orange flowers. It cites as the source a cookery book, The Queen’s Royal Cookery, first published in 1709. The nature of the dish though shows it is much older than c.1700 – probably Middle Ages if not medieval in origin. This butter tart is not like the modern, compact, semi-deep British/Canadian one, but elements are similar: butter, pastry, fruit, nuts.

I think today’s border and butter tarts, wherever made, must have their ultimate origin in this baked dish of Middle Ages, or yet older, origins. Ultimately, the butter tart may be Norman – have come in in 1066 – as the French frangipane is very similar.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280

Theory Proposed

I will offer an original idea: perhaps The Queen’s Royal Cookery butter tart was originally called “barded tart”. In the 1709 recipe, a statement advises to “bard” a layer of pastry on the filling, itself placed on a first layer of pastry. To bard means to layer a food on another, e.g., bacon or salt pork slices on a roast. The term bard also meant armour in older English, so a protective layer. The French have a similar word for the culinary meaning, the verb barder.

In different local accents and over time, could “barded tart” have been corrupted into both butter and border tart? We think this quite possible. Perhaps the dish simply survived longer in the Borders country because people later thought the term Borders was the origin.

Alternatively, butter in butter tart is a corruption of Borders for the geographic area, point final. This is persuasive, but we think consideration should henceforth be given to the barded tart as the ultimate linguistic and culinary ancestor. It makes sense in our view that a complicated dish was simplified over time, by removal of excess pastry and omitting spices and flavourings viewed as dispensable.

It makes sense to us that in a new country, as Canada, a stripped-down version emerged for reasons of convenience and economy. As things turned out, it has the best taste of all, since the few ingredients used have a purity of expression. As good cooks know, a recipe too cluttered with ingredients and flavourings ends by being a muddle, as the barded tart of old England arguably was and the modern British border/butter tarts seem still to be.

American and French Influence?

Some people feel the Ontario butter tart is connected to pecan pie from the United States, or the Quebec tarte au sucre, but I don’t think so. The shape and taste of these other delicacies, albeit similar ingredients are used, are rather different. Perhaps though the predecessor of pecan pie was brought by the Scots-Irish, as this group included a component of Borders people (Ulster Irish, Borders, and southern Scots formed an ethnic and cultural unity).

Quebec’s sugar pie comes from France, clearly. There are pies called tarte au sucre in different French provinces to this day that bear a strong resemblance to the Quebec sweet specialty. So whatever the case viz. pecan pie, I don’t think the Quebec sugar pie enters the historical calculus.

Butter Tarts and Beer

What is the connection of all this to beer? Well, we have a Maple Butter Tart Ale in Ontario, you can read the description on the LCBO’s listing. The conjoining of two favourite Ontario things, beer and butter tart, in fact three things if we include the maple, shows the high regard they enjoy among Ontarians even in today’s relentlessly international-flavoured food culture.

We even have a butter tart festival. It’s discussed in this Toronto Star report from not long ago.

Any other ideas out there on the provenance of our butter tart?

Note re images shown: the images were respectively sourced here (CBC website), here (BBC site) and here (LCBO site) and are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to their lawful owner. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

Canadian Beer Until WW I And Albion’s Shadow

6419926811_55eeb22168_bJOHN BULL FORMED CANADA’S BREWING HERITAGE UNTIL THE GREAT WAR

A look through sources in the last decade of the 1800s shows that Canadian brewers, certainly in the east, continued a remarkable adherence to English beer types. A typical list, I give examples below, looks like something you might see on the blackboard of a modern craft beer pub more than anything one thinks of as Canadian beer of the pre-craft era.

Numerous Canadian breweries were represented at the landmark, 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition aka the Chicago World’s Fair. The beers exhibited which won awards can be noted in this Canadian government publication of the period. John Labatt’s beers were:

Bottled extra-stock ale, winter brewed; bottled extra-stock ale, autumn brewed; bottled extra pale ale, summer brewed; bottled India Pale Ale; porter in wood; India Pale Ale in wood; extra-stock ale in wood; XXX bottled stout.

All these types were well-known to English brewing, a good example is extra-stock ale. It was probably a strong ale of 8-9% abv, something Labatt still put a focus on as it offered two vintages in bottles, and if that wasn’t enough, it did a draft (“in wood”) version, too. The listing from Dominion Breweries in Toronto –  the saloon adjacent to the old brewery still functions as a bar – also offered a draft stock ale. Dominion Breweries forebore from marketing a bottled stock ale, but as consolation perhaps, seems to have had available two versions of its India Pale Ale in the bottle.

A glance through the full list shows it replete with these old-fashioned beer types. Only two breweries, Carling in London, ON and a brewery in Winnipeg, offered lager. One or two “export ales” were offered, which was probably the progenitor of the lighter, “sparkling” Canadian ale style which, by WW I, had pushed out the old strong heavy ales. What a difference 20 years made.

IMG_20160211_213351“Amber ale” appears numerous times in the list, and it is well-known to brewing history sleuths that northeastern American breweries also did a turn in amber ale in the mid-to-later 1800s. What was this beer? I would argue it was the amber ale, sometimes called twopenny, brewing author Friedrich Accum described in this 1821 text. Different accounts of amber ale are scattered in British Victorian brewing literature. Accum’s account rings true to me due to its length and anecdotal detail included. Amber ale seems to have been sold mild, or new, and technically was an ale, i.e., hopped less than a beer. Its best use was for purl, a heated, compound drink of amber ale, bitters, gin and sometimes orange flavouring.

When Accum likened amber ale to porter, I think he was referring to their somewhat comparable dark colours, and perhaps a lightly smoky taste, since porter was always a beer (well-hopped), not an ale, technically again.

Accum notes that amber ale was out of date by the time of writing (1821), but the style lived on in the colonies or former colonies to the dawn of Edward’s age. In this 1897 Canadian government listing of beers, assessed by the Inland Revenue Department to determine strength and other attributes, one amber appears, from B&M Co. in Toronto. The “pc” of alcohol shown in this table appears clearly to be by weight, not volume. B&M’s amber was a strong ale, therefore, about 7% abv which accords with the strength of the staple mild ale in England into the mid-1800s – before gravities started to fall, that is.

Frequently, when an article of commerce takes root in an outpost or export market, it lasts much longer there than in the home country. This is why, say, goat’s head soup is still a well-known dish in parts of the Caribbean, when it had largely been excised from the British diet by 1900. Countless examples can be given, possibly Ontario’s famous butter tart qualifies. Despite what you read, the best explanation for its name, or so Beer Et Seq is persuaded, is that it is a corruption of border tart, a similar item of baking or confectionary in the Scottish-English borders.

Amber ale, and strong old stock ale – at least its prevalence in 1890s Canadian brewing – were examples of such distant survivals. They had taken root early in Colonial days. They lived on to about 1900 in reasonable flower despite that Britain’s beer preference had long turned to other styles, well-represented in Canada too until WW I such as porter, stout, pale ale, IPA and mild ale.

By the mid-1920s, temperance rules passed during or in the immediate wake of WW I had been repealed or relaxed. The surviving Canadian brewers, certainly the large ones, modernized their production and fizzy ales of 5% strength or, increasingly, blonde lager beer, became the norm. The strong old English beers were largely a memory.

Craft brewers have brought back these venerable tastes and Molson Coors has just done so from its own archive, to its credit, see the 1908 pale ale pictured above.

Note re first image above: this image is from the Thomas Fisher Library of the University of Toronto, and was sourced here. It is believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

Two Countries Divided by a Common Beer (IPA)

Edouard_Manet,_A_Bar_at_the_Folies-BergèreIndia Pale Ale, or IPA, is a blonde-to-amberish beer that tends to stress hop flavour.

It comes from England. In the later 1700s a London brewer called Hodgson sent some pale beer to India, then a British province. It took off and was “the” beer of the Raj until knocked down a peg or two by competition from Burton-on-Trent in the form of Bass Pale Ale and similar beers from the Trent Valley. Pale Ale is the same as India Pale Ale. So is bitter, of “pint o’ bitter” fame. Terminology was never precise and all that can be said is, the exported form of pale ale was often called India Pale Ale, IPA or East India Pale Ale. Ultimately, some domestic pale ale was called that too.

Hodgson’s beer seems to have been inspired by cellared (aged) country pale ale, a drink of the better-off. Hodgson pale ale was not unusually strong although a couple of vague early accounts suggest it was. By the mid-1800s, the strength of IPA in general was about 6% abv. This was not as strong as the staple mild ale of the period but stronger than most porter was in the 1800s. Strong enough, let’s say.

More than its relative strength, what distinguished IPA was its dry character. In a time when most beers were relatively sweet, pale ale was fermented more thoroughly and had dry, clean character on the palate. To be sure it had some malty quality, but not a thick heavy one. The reason for the dryness was that in a time before refrigeration and pasteurization, if the beer had more than traces of fermentable sugar, it might “fret” or spoil on the trip to India or other distant markets. Wild yeasts and bacteria can easily consume available sugars with the risk of making the drink sour. When beer has few or no fermentable sugars, it will remain relatively stable especially as IPA was made very bitter from a massive infusion of hops: hop resins are a natural preservative.

Bottles_of_Bass_beerIPA became famous around the world. It was in Paris in the 1880s when Edouard Manet painted his renowned scene of the bar of the Follies-Bergères. IPA was manufactured in Canada and the U.S. by British incomers who were following the ways of the old country. Even by 1900 some of the North American IPA was around 7% abv, attesting in my view to the character of the earliest British examples (1770-1820). A living time capsule of this 1900-era pale ale, at 6.8% abv, can be tasted in the form of Molson Coors’ recent recreation of a 1908 recipe. I discussed this beer here recently.

Of course, time moved on and by the 1990s, pale ale, initially a bottled specialty, was largely in Britain a draft beer, better known by its pub name, “bitter”. Classic English bitter was sometimes dry but not always – once again pale ale was never a matter for the statute books, its boundaries are naturally elastic. This bitter did remain fairly astringent from the hop resins released in the boil, or flowery/herbal from the hop’s aroma. In the U.S., the last old-established IPA, Ballantine India Pale Ale, was withdrawn from the market in 1996. That beer, although reduced from what it had been, was similar to modern English bitters but stronger, more in line with IPA’s origins. A couple of beers in Canada were still called India Pale Ale and pale ale but these were lager-like in character by then.

The craft brewing movement returned quality pale ale and IPA to the brewing scene. The beers called IPA as such on the label tended to be drier and stronger than pale ale tout court, but again there is no statutory lineThe first commercial IPA to be revived so-called was in the early 1990s and made by Yakima Brewing And Malting, in Washington State. It was owned by the late Bert Grant, who had worked for decades in the Canadian brewing and hop industries. I remember it well and it was a lean beer with a huge hop presence which spoke of American hop fields, understandable given Washington State is a hop heartland. There was lots of grapefruit, citrus pith and pine in the nose and taste.

It is not too much to state that IPA became the star of North American and international craft brewing. The American form – often stronger than contemporary bitter and always redolent of American hop varieties – has become popular in the U.K. It sits next to the older English bitter ales as the brash upstart on the scene. (And yes, for various reasons, modern English bitter isn’t identical to the pale ale and bitter of 1880, say. But it is close enough).

IMG_20160222_130137Recently I tried one of the latest IPAs on the U.S. market, from Tired Hands Brewery in the Philadelphia area.  It’s called, in the jazzy idiom of today’s beer scene, Kick Phone iFlip. It’s got some wheat in it and that, plus the way it’s brewed, and the four American hops used potently for aroma, give it a light and very refreshing quality. In this modern form of IPA, post-modern shall we say, the beer is not really bitter, it’s more the hop flavour you are getting. This is the hyper-cool, contemporary style of IPA, it looked in the glass like cloudy limeade and tasted a bit like it too if you left out most of the sugar. The Ratebeer website, with some 17 reviews in, gives it an astonishing 99 out of 100.

There are lots of IPAs still sold from an earlier time in the craft revival, Stone IPA is an avatar of this type. They tend to have a similar hop taste to Kick Phone but are more bitter and richer in malt taste. But whether new school or older, U.S. IPA always has a different taste to original English bitter. English hops were used for generations to flavour English pale ale and bitter. The English hop taste tends to be much less citric than the American flavour, and often flowery and arbor-like. Also, English pale ale usually has a caramel note lacking in American IPAs. I am excluding here newer English styles such as golden ale and session IPA, both of which have a marked American influence.

Bass Ale, progenitor of the world vogue for IPA which commenced about 1825,  is still available. It is owned by a large group, and nothing wrong with that, Bass was a big boy itself in its classic era. We used to get it in bottles and kegs as an import. I never really enjoyed the taste, which was kind of “old toffee apple”, sometimes with banana or sulphur notes. But I always felt that pasteurization and long transport altered the “brewery-fresh” profile.

In Canada today, or rather Ontario, we get now a draft Bass brewed by Labatt in Toronto. It is very good, you see it in the image above of the amber pint. While somewhat reminiscent of the import formerly available, it is much fresher and has a pleasing, complex aftertaste particularly when left to warm. It is somewhat malty with a fruity quality of some kind and good racy hop edge. It is nothing remotely like the fragrant, citric American IPAs.

I like both types, although the English style of pale ale is hard to beat. I know people always lauded the cask (unfiltered, real ale) version of Bass Ale, which you can still find in England. But this Toronto-made, brewery-conditioned version is plenty good. Any admirer of the brewing arts would have to give it kudos, if he or she is being honest.

Note re images used: The first two images above are believed in the public domain and were sourced via Wikipedia in this entry on Bass Brewery, here. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

Whisky Straight Up

IMG_20160220_164712There has been much press recently about an iteration of Crown Royal being the best whisky in the world. As far as I know, that is a blended whisky. I’m going to be frank and say, in my best whisky pantheon, first and foremost, the candidate has to be a straight whisky. If it is blended, meaning straight whisky combined with one or more  “grain whiskies” –  distilled at a high proof – it doesn’t qualify. It can be very good, but in my experience, blends just don’t have the full complexity and mouth-feel of an all-straight.

By straight I mean, a whisky which more or less complies with the American rules for a straight whiskey. Those rules are, whiskey from a mash of malted or raw cereals, distilled out at under 160 U.S. proof which is 80% alcohol by volume. For reasons I won’t explore here, whiskies (or brandies, rums, tequilas) distilled at 80% abv or less tend to have full, distinctive flavours which age under wood influence into something complex and very drinkable. Whiskies distilled over 80% abv, and the typical grain whisky comes off the final still at 94% abv or even more, tend to be more neutral in taste and a little sharp on the tongue.

Grain whisky starts, essentially, as vodka. Vodka is not grain whisky because it isn’t aged in wood. The grain whisky component of a Canadian or Scotch whisky blend is barrel-aged though, so in that sense is considered whisky, but to my mind, the flavour is never the same as a traditional straight spirit aged for the same period.

In American whiskey standards, there are other markers of a straight, notably the new spirit must be barrelled at not greater than 125 proof or 62.5% abv – this is to ensure sufficient wood influence on the spirit when diluted for bottling – and aged in new charred barrels.

These last two criteria are not vital though to international straight character. The Scots and Irish don’t use (generally) new barrels to age their single malt and single pot still whiskies. And distillers there and in Canada might be barreling whisky for aging at over 62.5% abv, of that I’m not sure. (But if they are, they aren’t going too high over).

All this to say, my favourite Canadian whisky right now is Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100% Rye. It is distilled, according to information online which sounds reliable, at Alberta Distillers Ltd. in Alberta. It is a straight whisky in that it is distilled under 160 proof and is aged in that case in new charred oak barrels, something like 6-8 years. That distillery is part of the same corporate group to which the Canadian Club label belongs today, Beam Suntory.

The more traditional CC-brand whiskies, all made in Windsor, ON, are, to my knowledge, all blends: they incorporate a small amount of straight whisky with an almost-neutral grain whisky, except in that case, both spirits are married for aging when they come off the still, in other words, aged together. Some Canadian distillers distill the straight and grain whisky elements separately and blend them at maturity. Seagram does this, and indeed Alberta Distillers does for its various blends.

I reiterate: blends are not bad. Grain whisky lightens and, in whisky-industry parlance, “broadens” or “displays” the character of the straight whiskies they are blended with, but again a blend and a straight are just different things.

There may be one or two other all-straight whiskies made in Canada today, I think Lot 40 may qualify, a Corby brand. Excellent product too, but CC Chairman’s Select 100% Rye has a more approachable palate in my eyes, while still offering rich taste.

The CC Chairman’s Select is (or seems) all-straight, essentially like a U.S. straight rye or bourbon except made in Canada. Forget the all-rye moniker even though it is a selling point I know. The important thing is being distilled at a low proof, in the territory for the traditional spirits. If it was all-rye and distilled out to a grain whisky proof, the fact that it came from from rye would be neither here nor there because all the “rye” taste would be stripped out. Compare a vodka distilled from rye, a good Polish brand, say, with vodka distilled from wheat. Can you tell which used either grain? Not likely…

 

 

Anchor Steam Beer – Same as it Always was?

Steam Beer Today and of the Pre-Fritz Maytag era 

Something that always struck me about Anchor Brewery of San Francisco: it never made huge efforts to associate its star brand with the pre-Fritz Maytag brewery, or California steam beer in general. Fritz Maytag, of the famous washing machine family, is a legend in the beer business. He rescued Anchor from the edge of bankruptcy in 1965 and placed it on a solid financial and quality footing. This helped finally to kick-start the craft brewing movement on the West Coast and ultimately everywhere.

Craft breweries usually go to great lengths to stress reliance on tradition. They like to say they make things the historical way and are channeling “the good old days” rather than relying on latest advances in beverage chemistry and science. Of course, the reality is more complicated, but vaunting the old ways is still a mainstay of the business. Even when novelty is offered, for example, an unusual spice is used, people will often say in the old days they used everything under the sun to flavour beer, so…

02-old-brewery

Anchor has an unquestioned status as craft brewing avatar. Still, I feel the company has been somewhat equivocal about steam beer history and the extent to which it continues the tradition. To be sure, Anchor explains its history and heritage proudly on its website. It notes the brewery has functioned under its present name since 1896 and has made steam beer since then, and some information is given on historical steam beer practices.

Further, Anchor’s labeling and advertising have always stressed an against-the-grain, even anti-“corporate” approach: small, hands-on, artisan have been the watchwords for Anchor. At the same time, this extract from an Anchor coaster is instructive, and one can read similar things on bottle labels or in interviews with company personnel:

“The word ‘steam’ may have referred to the pressure of natural carbonation developing in the beers. Today the brewing methods of those days are a mystery, and for many decades Anchor alone has used the quaint name ‘steam’ for its unique beer. Today Anchor is one of the smallest and most traditional breweries in the world. San Francisco’s famous Anchor Steam beer is unique, for our brewing process has evolved over many decades and is like no other in the world”.

As one sees, Anchor considers the brewing methods of steam beer’s classic era, approximately 1850-1919, “mysterious”. An explanation is offered for the name steam but Anchor doesn’t commit to the story. Indeed the website suggests another possible origin, steam rising from wort fermenting on the rooftops of old Bay Area breweries. I find this persuasive, myself.

By saying Anchor Steam is “unique” – twice – and like no other beer in the world, the brewery is marking its beer off from all others, but also to an extent from steam beer history. I offer some suggestions below why Anchor has taken this approach.

But first, what was steam beer in the heyday mentioned? We have a fairly good idea from a number of articles or passages in books written around 1900. This article, from the December, 1903 American Brewers Review, gives a detailed account of California steam beer production. Some highlights are, use of lager yeast to ferment in the temperature range for ale or top-fermentation brewing; an all-malt character but with some brewers opting to include grain adjunct or sugar; a dark amber cast to the beer; fermentation in shallow pans with an initial fermentation in “starting tubs”; hopping at about 3/4 lb per barrel of wort; use of hops from the West Coast; and use of local malting barley.

The account states that for brewers without refrigeration equipment the wort was cooled in cooling equipment which was, as other accounts of steam beer breweries make clear, located on the top floors of the breweries. These often had shutters to control in a primitive way air flow and temperature. The louvers can be seen in the image of Anchor Brewery above, from 1896.

IMG_20160218_182528

Malting barley often used in California then was a particularly prized six-row type called Bay Barley, it was said to have plump kernels and similar to fine, European-raised two-row barley. Hops then, as California still had active hop culture, was a Cluster type.

Cluster apparently derived from a cross-breeding of wild American hops and a variety(ies) brought from Europe by British or Dutch settlers.

In 1903, steam beer was krausened as well, meaning some freshly fermenting beer was added to clarified, fully-fermented beer to make a final, strong carbonation and add a fresh note. This is mentioned in the 1903 article, the Krausening was added to the keg in which full-fermented beer was then racked.

So that was then, for steam beer generally.

How is Anchor Steam brewed today? The company uses 2-row pale malt as the base, and some caramel (darkish brown) malt to ensure a medium amber and a little sweetness. The hops used are (the hybrid) Northern Brewer, at about one pound per barrel of beer, which would offer a combination of old and new world hop tastes, as Cluster did.

A classic, shallow fermenter and a deeper, square tank are used in a two-step process to ferment Anchor Steam Beer. Open coolers to cool the wort are no longer used as they have a potential to infect the beer – one of the quality issues Fritz Maytag addressed early on, so wort is mechanically cooled similar to what other breweries do. Anchor krausens its beer, too.*

Today all Anchor Steam Beer is pasteurized, however a flash process is used that is felt less impactful on the beer than the more intensive tunnel process.

Cooling the wort the modern way and even flash pasteurizing are simply ways to better ensure a beer’s stability. They don’t alter the character of the beer in any meaningful way.

My view is that in every important respect, Anchor Steam Beer reflects classic steam beer tradition. The beer has the expected, slight aleish quality (fruity note) from a warm ferment but the roundness and clean quality of a lager beer. It is all-malt and uses a hybrid hop, as much steam beer around 1900 did, etc.

Therefore, Anchor Steam is probably quite similar to much of the steam beer available before WW I. Since most breweries then used wood vessels, which are hard to clean, some steam beer had unusual tastes.  One surviving report, reprinted on Jess Kidden’s historical beer pages, called the taste “wild and gamy”. This may have meant some steam beer had a Brettanomyces, or “animal”, note or possibly a sourish edge from lactic acid bacteria.

The 1903 article linked above likens the taste of steam beer to “weissbier”, of which some styles are sharp and lactic in taste. Anchor Steam Beer does not have those tastes, but I’d think the best of the original steam beers were similar to today’s Anchor Steam.

IMG_20160218_192804

Why then would Anchor distance itself from early steam beer history? One answer is clear and understandable, something Fritz Maytag has discussed in interviews many times. When he bought the brewery the beer was inconsistent. Often it would go sour and bar owners were hesitant to stock a beer which was not reliably stable when sold. Also, due to the straightened finances of the previous owner (from c. 1960 Lawrence Steese, and Joe Allen before him), sometimes sugar was used in the mash to reduce cost.

Whether by 1965 hop content had fallen from historical levels, see the 1903 article mentioned, is unknown to me. In any case today Anchor Steam uses the aforementioned one pound hops per barrel. This is well within the historical range, in fact 3/4 lb per barrel of wort (unfermented beer) might equate pretty closely to 1 lb hops/bbl after evaporation and process losses.

Also, the brewery back in 1965 was so small and faltering it had almost no fan base, certainly no cachet. Quality had be addressed to make the brand saleable and Maytag did so, not just in the changes noted but by buying new equipment, improving sanitation, and finally moving the brewery to a new, purpose-built location. He therefore focused on these factors as explaining the brand’s appeal rather than the romantic but variable, earlier history.

So far so good, but after a few years of success I’d think many breweries would link their product more directly to their early history or at least, to the beer style in question.

Anchor didn’t, though, as brewery spokesmen have always been non-committal when asked what steam beer was. Typically they have stated no one really knows today, and as we are the only ones who sell a steam beer, a beer that evolved in our particular way, steam beer is what we make. This ties steam beer, the style, to Anchor Brewery.

The name Anchor Steam Beer was registered in 1981 as a trademark as no other brewery had used the name steam beer since the 1930s. So indeed Anchor’s steam beer is the only one in the world in that sense.

One can ponder whether product uniqueness based only in part on a vague historical character made the legal argument to gain a registered trademark more acceptable. “Steam beer”, once a descriptive term for a style made by many breweries in California had become distinctive in Anchor’s hands as it was the last company standing to use it when the trade mark was granted.

It’s a good argument, if that was the strategy from a trade mark viewpoint, as no other company has been able to market a steam beer since. At the same time I consider Anchor’s beer firmly within the frame of early steam brewing.

In other words, I think Maytag did want to restore his beer to the best of early steam beer tradition but, understandably from a business viewpoint, made a (hitherto) successful argument that only his company can use the term steam beer.

Final note: how does Anchor Steam Beer taste today? It tastes great particularly on draft in California or from a fresh bottle. Current bottles at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario are vibrant with sweet malt, a light estery (fruity) quality, and flowery hop taste. I’ve been drinking it off and on since the 1970s and it has never been better.

Truth to tell, it does seem to change somewhat from time to time. The current version seems more or better-hopped than I recall. This may simply reflect improved handling before purchase.**

Note re first image above: The image shown of the Anchor Brewery, from 1896, was sourced from this website (www.thehoppyhour.com) and is believed available for educational and historical purposes.

_____________________________________________________________________________

*Further reading confirms that Anchor pitches its yeast at 60 F, similar to what c. 1900 sources specify for steam beer. This is important as much of the steam beer character derives from lager yeast being used, atypically, at warm temperatures.

**Note added May 2, 2018. Text was lightly edited to sharpen the focus and reasoning, but nothing essential was changed from the original posting. Also, Anchor Steam Beer on draft is now available in Ontario, I had it last night at beerbistro, a bar-restaurant on King Street just east of Yonge Street. Anchor Brewery was sold to family-owned but sizeable Sapporo Brewery of Japan a few years ago. Sapporo also owns Sleeman Brewery in Guelph, ON. As far as I know, the Anchor Steam draft in Ontario is from San Francisco, but if it is or will be made at Sleeman, I’d have no objection. Beer can be replicated anywhere now with today’s technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welsh Country Eating

A BIG FEED FROM THE MISTY WELSH VALLEYS

Flag_of_Wales_2.svg

In Jehane Benoit’s Cooking With Dow, a beer cookery book I discussed a few days ago, she has a Welsh recipe called Sausage Bake.

You split some pork sausages in the length, spread them with mustard and place in a pan with slices of cooked beet. Add cup of beer, sprinkle with pepper and nutmeg. Bake 30 minutes at 400 F. Nothing could be easier.

Mme Benoit advises toasted French bread on the side with buttered green beans. As usual with this most experienced of chefs, this simple but toothsome country meal proves that a region’s typical products often go well together. Terroir, some people call it.

Is Mme Benoit’s attribution of the recipe as Welsh correct? I have no doubt because first, beets are well-appreciated in Wales as we see e.g., from the website of Bodnant Welsh Food. That red is famously emblematic of Wales can only have encouraged this association, to be sure. Wales has always raised a variety of livestock including pigs, and beer is an old drink there.

David-Cameron-visits-Welsh-SA-Brain-Co-LtdIn former times, beer vied with mead (honey wine) as favoured drink of Wales. Indeed, a fusion of these from the Celtic mists, braggot, has been brewed for hundreds of years in Wales and some craft brewers have revived it. The Toronto-area brewery Trafalgar makes a potent version. This was par excellence a spiced drink, and when nutmeg therefore is added under Mme Benoit’s recipe, it fits perfectly into the historical picture.

Any sausage could be used for the dish, lamb or beef or why not vegetarian? For vegans who eat dairy, the perfect choice is sausage made the old Glamorganshire County way: with cheese. In this historic county of Wales, the Glamorgan breed of cattle produced a unique cheese which was blended with leek – another symbol of Wales – and bread crumbs to make a meatless sausage. One sees a picture of it in this link from The Guardian in England, with a recipe. Today, any dryish, British hard cheese works well in the dish.

Let’s sing out for Wales and its rustic cuisine, one you can recreate wherever you live.

wales-1000437_960_720

Note re images above: the first image, a representation of the national flag of Wales, is in the public domain, and was sourced here. The second image, of Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife visiting Brains Brewery in Cardiff, Wales, is from CLH (Caterer, Licensee, Hotelier) News, sourced here. The last image, of the Welsh countryside, believed in public domain, was obtained here.  Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Early Brewery in Quebec Leaves a Recipe, c. 1800

EzekielHart

The Harts of Trois-Rivières, QC, or Three Rivers as it was often called, were a founding family of Quebec under the new British Regime. Three Rivers is a small city on the St. Lawrence River half-way between Montreal and Quebec City.

The Harts are notable in Canadian history for another reason: their Jewish faith. They were the first Jews to settle in Quebec. Under the French regime, Jews were not permitted entry as the territory was barred to non-Catholics. It’s not part of the story here, but their Judaism continually impacted the Harts in various areas of public affairs. In the wake of British rule and the Quebec Act (1774), many British incomers, or others speaking English associated with them, established businesses in Quebec. The first Hart, Aaron Hart, came to Quebec c. 1760 with Jeffery Amherst’s forces and was a commissary officer, or possibly a civilian sutler (purveyor of goods to the Army on expedition).

Aaron’s business affairs were very successful, he was a retail goods merchant (hardware and other staples) who also imported and exported goods. He ended by acquiring extensive landholdings, including some lands formerly belonging to the French colonial aristocracy.

One of his sons was Ezekiel Hart who was born in Three Rivers in 1770. The Harts were Ashkenazi Jews, not Sephardic ones. Typically in this period, Jewish merchants coming to the New World under British auspices were Sephards because most Jews residing in England were. Aaron Hart was born either in Germany, or England to a father from Bavaria, accounts vary. But being Ashkenazi, he came to Quebec as a minority within a minority within a minority, one might say.

In December, 1796, Ezekiel and two brothers set up a maltings and a brewery in Three Rivers called M & E Hart Company. There is a reasonably detailed account of the brewery in this biographical entry on Ezekiel Hart. (My account is indebted to that entry, and others in the same Dictionary of Canadian Biography, for some of the information here). Ezekiel left the partnership some years later to focus on other businesses and it seems the brewery went out of business by the mid-1800s: information on its fate is sparse.*

Rather improbably, a recipe for their beer survives. You can read it here, preserved in the archives of the Quebec government. (Click where it states “voir les image(s)“). Various sources attribute a c.1800 to it, although the exact year is not known. In the historiography of early Quebec breweries, very little is said of this brewery, leading me to think it did not last more than ten or 20 years.* That, and the way manuscript is written – it appears scribbled on the reverse side of an invoice or ledger document – suggests to me it was written very soon after the brewery was established.

While more a series of simple directions, the document may constitute the oldest surviving North American commercial recipe for beer. One recipe known to be older is George Washington’s for “small beer” from the 1770s, however, that recipe is a domestic one I believe. John Molson in Montreal had been brewing for 10 years or so, so perhaps recipes exist in the Molson family archive, but I am not aware of any that have been published.

Returning to the Harts’ beer, we can draw at least the following from the recipe:

– it was all-barley malt, no sugar was used or other grains

– the malt was steeped for 2-3 days and turned regularly before being dried

– malt was kilned like this: “for pale malt, slow fire, for porter, a high fire”

– the malt was mashed with water at 176-180 F for 30 minutes

– it was allowed to stand for two and a half hours

– it was boiled for 50 minutes

– 1/2-1 lb hops were added per minot. (A pre-metric French measure, a minot was about 39 liters. I calculate this as about two to four lbs hops per English barrel of finished beer, certainly in the range for common ale and porter of the day).

I’d infer the ale was “mild” – probably not long-stored and got the lesser amount of hops, while the porter was kept longer and got the larger amount, but this is speculative, and possibly the different additions depended on quality of the hops, or other factors.

There are directions for placing the beer in the “working tub” when cooled to 52 F, and then further directions for the cleansing which mention temperatures again.

The Hart Bros grew their own hops – quite successfully, it seems. Another source (see my recent entries) from later in the 1800s confirms that hops were grown in the Three Rivers area mid-century.

Auberge-du-Bourg-2013-01

What has happened to the Harts, I mean the descendants? I don’t know other than that some moved to New York City at some point. The family had long had connections in New York State and Ezekiel was partly educated there. A Henry Hart, brother of Aaron, was established at Albany, NY, for example. One source suggests some Harts who stayed in Quebec intermarried and became assimilated into French Canadian society. Yet, another says that most of the descendants retained their Jewish faith to this day.

Ezekiel helped found a historic Sephardic synagogue in Montreal, so I’d guess some people there might know what happened to the clan. (Sephardic is not a typo, most Jews in town were Sephards then, so he went with the flow, to use our vernacular).

The descendants didn’t continue the brewing side for very long – perhaps other businesses were more profitable, or the English tour de main with beer trumped the Harts’. Another Hart had notable success though with rum. Lehman Hart, another brother of Aaron, founded a rum business in Penzance, Cornwall which later moved to London. It is famous to this day under the more familiar name Lemon Hart. (No, I didn’t make it up, it’s true).

But points to Ezekiel and his brothers for trying their hand at the more temperate beer. Their recipe, rude and hastily written as it surely was, shows they made something of value, it was real beer, not some factitious knock-off.

Note re images used: The image of Ezekiel Hart is available from Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec, and was sourced here. The second image, of a handsome Victorian manse in Trois Rivières, QC, was sourced from this Quebec tourist site. Both are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

                                                                                                                                                    

*Subsequent to writing the above, I noted that a 2012 book by Denis Vaugeois on the early history of the Hart family states that Dow Brewery of Montreal purchased the Hart Brewery from Moses Hart in the “1830s”. Moses was one of the brothers who had founded the business in 1796. The brewery lasted, therefore, at least a generation. It is possible hop culture was continued in the area after the sale, at least for a time. See this link for further details (in French) on the book mentioned and its author.

 

Gambrinus in the Cookpot

“The Use of Beer in Cooking is a Very Ancient Custom…”

[From Cooking With Dow by Jehane Benoit, 1958]

Beer cuisine can mean two things: beer as an ingredient in recipes, and beers selected to match well with food at table.

Both are legitimate sections of gastronomy. Before the craft beer era beer was thought suitable to pair with a limited group of foods. These included salty meats like ham, cured or smoked fish, potato chips, oysters, cheese, and sandwiches.

Today, nuanced advice is offered to pair specific types or brands of beer with food. Sometimes it makes sense but my view is, if you like the beer a lot and the food a lot, there is no reason not to pair them. Trappist Ale alongside mint ice cream, sure. Imperial stout with chicken Tetrazzini, why not. It’s all good if one likes the taste of each.

The “what with what” of wine comes to mind, its strictures increasingly relaxed in recent decades.

Cooking with beer is the more interesting area in my view, and has an old history. It’s easy to find 14th century recipes using ale, for example, see The Forme of Cury. The malty or herbal taste of beer adds flavour just as wine adds a quality although the result differs in each case.

Cooking with beer breaks down into two aspects: recipes handed down by tradition, and a contemporary, creative cookery where new combinations and ideas are evolved. Both are valid and can interrelate. A Belgian carbonnades de boeuf (beef and beer stew) can be made with the newer, American-type IPA, or substituting another meat for the beef.

And someone somewhere in the last 30 years stuck a can of beer up a chicken once, probably as a joke, and roasted it. Novelty it may be, but the fad endures.

My own interest is recipes handed down in a national or regional cuisine. These at least have some permanence, which I find appealing. When I read recently that the great Canadian food author Jehane Benoit wrote on beer cookery, I obtained the book without delay.

Mme or Mrs. Benoit, as she was called in her heyday, was a superb chef and cookery teacher. She was that rare example of deft cook and trained food scientist. She wrote Cooking With Dow in 1958, when Dow Ale was a major brand in Quebec Province.

The book resulted from her spokesman role with the brewery. (Dow later had a crashing fall from grace due to an additives scandal, which perhaps consigned the book to minor status).

The book offers recipes from many different countries, not all associated with a beer heritage. Mme Benoit states in the introduction that the recipes are, “for the most part traditional and belong to the everyday cooking of many lands: Germany, Spain, China, England, France, Belgium, Italy and even America”.

Some may doubt this assertion; did people really add beer to the Spanish/Latin American punchero, for example? The dish is a soup, usually spelled, puchero.

I sought examples online of such usage, and actually found a number similar to Mrs. Benoit’s description; she did not gild the lily. Beer has been known for at least a millennium in parts of southern Europe albeit commercial production is more recent. Mrs. Benoit wrote that wherever grain was raised a form of beer likely was made. It makes sense, and there is some historical basis for the statement.

Some Ancient Greek writers mention beer, and after all beer was in common use thousands of years ago in warm Egypt.

Her introduction does make clear though that some recipes are hers. These likely included the vegetarian group, as she operated a vegetarian restaurant in Montreal in the 1930s, typically ahead of her time.

IMG_20160212_200023

She gives a recipe for Quebec partridge with beer. This probably descends from France as there are similar dishes in Picardy and the Ardenne. Beer features in her Normandy pork chops, Austrian backhendl, Danish kidneys, Hungarian red cabbage, and ginger snaps. The book has over 100 recipes, from the proverbial soup to nuts.

As to which beer in the food, Mme Benoit had only one suggestion: Dow Ale!

Dow was probably as good a choice as any for her dishes. Somewhat as with wine brand is secondary, although specific recipes may qualify this.

Years ago a restaurant on Mount Pleasant Avenue in Toronto was run by a chef from Roubaix, in France. Roubaix, on the northern fringe of France, is a classic beer region, it shares this with Belgium nearby. Beer finds its way into numerous dishes of the frontier.

He made for us coq à la bière, a well-known dish in the northern tip of France.* It was covered with cream and tarragon in a white porcelain tureen, as described in my French books. Piping hot french fries came alongside, also a specialty of the North.

I had made the dish in my kitchen using boutique beers, but his easily bettered mine. Asked what beer he used, he replied, Labatt Blue, a standard mass market lager. Voilà.

……………………..

*A similar preparation with rabbit is known.

 

 

 

 

Beer in Victorian French Canada

800px-Quebec_City_Wall-1

Image Attribution: By Smudge 9000 (originally posted to Flickr as The City Wall) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Quebec’s John Bull Character in the 1800s

Saying “Victoria” and “Quebec City” in the same breath may seem contradictory. Quebec City, or Ville de Québec, is the historic capital of Quebec Province, French Canada’s heartland. It was founded in 1608 and has always been predominantly French (although the population was for a time nearing 50-50 French and English in the mid-1800s).

Yet, from many points of view, the city was indeed British Victorian, at one time. Quebec province was ceded to Britain by the 1763 Treaty of Paris. This followed the fateful defeat of General Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham by General Wolfe of the British Army. Certainly the Quebec Act of 1774 enabled the survival of French civil and religious society by recognizing the French language, the Catholic faith, and French civil law. But British rule in Quebec was consequential, to say the least.

One result was major areas of the economy became the preserve of incomers from Britain or the United States. A good example is the brewer John Molson who came to Montreal in the 1780s and established what is the oldest surviving brewery in North America, now called Molson-Coors. Fortunes like Molson’s were created in many sectors including sugar refining, mining, furs, forestry, shipbuilding, insurance, and banking.

English-speakers seeking business opportunities settled in Quebec City from the 1770s, not just the larger centre of Montreal. Quebec City is about 150 miles downriver of Montreal, east along the St. Lawrence River. Quebec City was and is the spiritual centre of the St. Lawrence Valley, the historic destination of French settlement in Quebec. Indeed a 1940s projects for Quebec independence envisaged the new country as “Laurentia”.

While modern Quebec is a huge territory and has been settled well beyond this heartland, its Laurentian core always expressed its French character most completely. Still, the arrival of English commerce changed Quebec City, and Quebec province, considerably. At one point later in the 1800s Quebec City’s population was 40% anglophone. The “English” side was in fact a mix of citizens of Scots, English, Irish, and American background.

The large, influential anglophone group declined precipitously in the 1900s, and today is hardly perceptible although not quite forgotten. The Scottish-derived Simons have been in Quebec City for hundreds of years and still run what must be Canada’s oldest department store controlled by the same family.

Brewing fit in well with the new régime because under French rule beer had been brewed continuously since the earliest arrivals. The first commercial manifestation was 1668 when the Intendant Jean Talon set up a brewery on the site of what was later the Intendant’s palace. Finally (in 1852) the site became a brewery again, the Anchor Brewery of Joseph K. Boswell, a Dublin-born settler. The brewery had been operated earlier by different English speakers.

In Quebec City in the 1800s the larger breweries were owned by Paul Lepper, James McCallum, and not least Joseph Boswell. Boswell’s sons continued to run the business until (and even after) the brewery became part of National Breweries in 1909.

M930.51.1.206

The breweries of the Anglo-Saxon incomers reflected an organisation and technology similar to developments elsewhere in the English-speaking world. This extended quite naturally to beer styles. The sorts of beer made by early Quebec brewers were similar to those made in Britain at the time, hence porter, mild ale, pale ale, Burton ale, and Scotch ale.

Simply put, they were the beers the people knew who set up these breweries, by dint of homeland memory or via ongoing cultural connections. And these traditions were handed down to their Canadianised progeny.

Although it is another story the domination of the Quebec economy by English-speakers always rankled in Quebec. French-speakers after WW II were about 80% of the Quebec population, yet did not control the levers of  economic power (vs. political). This triggered a series of changes to Quebec society, some ultimately enforced by language or expropriation laws, the result of which was to transfer a good part of the economy to French hands. I am speaking here of the era up the current globalized economy, at least.

But this post addresses an earlier time, when those of English mother-tongue tended to dominate the business scene. It was a time for example when a brewery in Quebec could use English in advertising and signage without feeling obliged to include a French version. Today, that would be an anomaly, to say the least, in fact impossible under Quebec’s French language laws.

Our interest here can further be defined to know how residents of Quebec City who took more than an average interest in beer, viewed its palate and quality. Two sources, one in English and the other in French, shed light.

Willis Russell

Willis Russell was American-born, from New England. He came to Quebec at about 30 and soon was the best-known hotelier in the city. His career is summarized in this early Canadian biographical entry. Russell was active in numerous other businesses and investments, and also in civic government.

He wrote a history of Quebec City in 1857, no doubt to promote his hotel interests, and took notice of the brewing trade in town. Numerous pages laud the plant and products of Boswell brewery, in particular. Whether Boswell paid him money for this lavish attention, we shall never know.

Some of Russell’s comments reflect an imperfect knowledge of beer and brewing, but it is clear from the discussion that Boswell’s made India Pale Ale, porter, probably mild ale, and a strong, Burton-style ale.

Russell notes that the beers were never sour and were made without addition of – permit me the Victorianism – factitious ingredients. He stated that some hops were imported from Kent in England but some were obtained in Canada and that the barley malt was locally sourced as well. He considered local ingredients of excellent quality. While approving the beers made by other breweries in Quebec City, only Boswell’s came in for extended praise.

In his connoisseur’s estimation: “Indeed Quebec can produce the fine India Pale Ales of Edinburgh; the rich sparkling amber ale of Burton; the stingo of Dorchester; the entire or half and half of Barclay Perkins, London; and famous dark porters of Dublin”.

Hubert LaRue

Hubert LaRue was a French Canadian physician, a protean 19th century figure interested in literature, agriculture, politics and history. He mixed in the elite Victorian set of Quebec City, and had connections with the University of Laval of which he was the first medical graduate. Today, we would call him a public intellectual. This impressive figure – quite appropriately – took an interest in the topic of beer. In his 1881 Mélanges historiques: littéraires et d’économie politique, Volume II, he made observations of interest on the beer of his native city and “Canadian” beer in general.

These included that hop cultivation in Quebec generally did not succeed due to early frosts or other problems; hops were available from New York and Wisconsin but were variable in quality; none of these hops could equal the best from England and Bavaria; and imported hops were used for the finest beers. LaRue wrote that domestic hops reminded him of the nauseous quality of aloes. Aloe, or aloes, is a botanical often described as bitter, acidic, and just bad-tasting: one source states baby vomit! The poor opinion of North American hops accorded with professional brewing opinion in Britain, then.

Brewing was performed, he added, all year round, vs. the malting of barley, due to the availability of ice. Beeretseq remembers wood shed ice available in summer in the 1950s, sheathed in sawdust. An analysis of Canadian beers by LaRue showed they contained 7-8% alcohol, he specifically states “Gay Lussac”, which means alcohol by volume. This alcohol level accords with much historical data on the bottled beers of the day; stout and various ales all easily inhabited this range.

4ec8fd7a52e8c3e6f09843b7347f23ea-2

LaRue credits Montreal’s William Dow with bringing major improvements to Quebec brewing, inspired by English practice, and states that all Quebec-brewed beer improved considerably as a result.

Next, LaRue makes an interesting statement, that Canadian beers remind him a lot of beer in Bavaria on trip he took there in 1856. This statement can be parsed in different ways, but I believe he was referring to stability – Quebec beer wasn’t sour or infected. In good part, this was probably the result of the liberal use, even prior to mechanical refrigeration, of ice in brewing and  for storage. Ice of course was easily at hand, and storable, in Quebec. And in general, the Quebec climate is pretty cold much of the year.

Britain in this period, France as well, simply were not able to ensure long-keeping of beer without some acidification or wild yeast development. This was despite the use of heavy hopping for some styles and blending beers to obtain a drinkable product.

Bavarian beer was, by the 1850s, lager beer. It benefitted from good stability due to being being stored cold in deep cellars or Alpine caves and being kept chilled until dispense. The common climatic factor plus availability of ice as mentioned probably made Quebec ales and stouts seem similar to Bavarian beer in a way British beers were not, despite that is the difference in fermentation style.

N.B. (Added December 23, 2019). For a continuation of this post, see our post “Canadian IPA in 1867 – a Heady Brew” posted Dec. 23, 2019.

Note re second and third images: the McCallum Pale Ale label is from the collection of the McCord Museum in Montreal. Details on its full name and ownership can be found here. The third image was sourced from the Thomas Fisher Library of the University of Toronto, similar details in its regard are available here. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.