Anheuser-Busch Wins A Big Case In ’98

img_20161116_163722Among the early court decisions which established exclusive rights for Anheuser-Busch in the Budweiser name, the case against Fred Miller Brewing of Milwaukee in 1898 is probably most important. In that case, Miller had introduced its own Budweiser brand after a period of acting as distributor for A-B for its Budweiser.

Unlike the 1880 case involving Joseph Uhrig Brewing in St. Louis, Miller’s label did not seek to mimic A-B’s distinctive label.

At least, there was no obvious borrowing of what lawyers call get-up or trade dress. (You can see an example of Miller’s label here). But Miller did use the name Budweiser.

Miller argued it represented a style of beer which originated in Budweis, Bohemia (now České Budějovice), and anyone could sell his version, just as people sold Munchener beer (in the Munich style), or Pilsener beer (à la Pilsen).

Judge Seaman hearing the case didn’t buy it. He decided that by 1898, A-B had built up significant and valuable goodwill in the Budweiser brand, and was responsible for introducing the name to America. Therefore, it amounted to unfair competition for Miller to sell its Budweiser against A-B’s, it would appropriate profits and trade properly belonging to A-B. The judge held this without finding, as the 1880 St. Louis courts refused to find, that defendant had violated A-B’s alleged trade mark in the Budweiser name.

That is, at the time the courts held back from recognizing that A-B had an enforceable trade mark in the Budweiser name as such. That changed later. The two things are not the same, as an unfair competition complaint requires that both products be circulating concurrently for the upstart product to be enjoined from trading.

I am, too, in these notes discussing A-B’s claim to sole use of Budweiser from a domestic U.S. perspective, not an international one. Earlier I referred to the longstanding dispute between A-B and the Czech producer of Budweiser/Czechvar and how the marks may be used internationally at the present time.

In the extract of the case appended, there is a good short history of Budweiser’s origin and composition to 1898. I referred to some of these elements before, but here they can be read neatly in one place. In a nutshell, originally (for a “year or two”) the  “main” ingredients in Budweiser – its malt, hops, yeast, the pitch used to line the casks it was aged in – were imported from Budweis. After, some other ingredients were substituted, especially North American barley to make the malt.

We know from ads into the pre-Prohibition era that Saaz hops from Bohemia continued to be used for Budweiser, then as now a signature of Czech blond lager, although it seems sometimes other imported hops were used, often from Germany.

Net net, the court felt, as did the 1880 St. Louis judges, that the beer in ’98 resembled Budweis beer sufficiently – in other words the goodwill was connected to a distinctive, quality product, e.g., the light color and special flavour. Unlike in the 1880 case, the court refused to pronounce defendant’s beer as “inferior” but by 1898 that factor was not relevant. Enough goodwill had been built in the name to confer on it common law protection against a competitor, in the same market at least.

The word “main” as noted above makes me think this left room for rice to be used in the original recipe. It’s still not 100% clear (at least to me), but I incline that way, unless the court perhaps was referring to water in the mash, which had to be local. Water then was regarded as an important constituent of some beers, so I can’t dismiss that the court might have been thinking of that. But taking all with all, it is more likely I think the court was leaving room to consider that rice adjunct was used in the original recipe.

Rice must have been in use by 1898. A-B introduced Michelob as an all-malt product in 1896 so Budweiser must have been an adjunct brew, else the new product would not have been necessary, at least in the blonde lager category. But as malt constituted the bulk of the mash, and I guess too considering that rice adds little flavour, the quality of the malt and hops in the beer, and also the Budweis-origin yeast and pitch, evidently were considered the main factors to view the beer as Bohemian-type.

Note re images: The image below is from the HathiTrust link given in the text above. All intellectual property to or in the images shown herein belong solely to their lawful owner or authorized users. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



The 1870s St. Louis “Budweisers”


“The Star Beer of Bohemia” and Its Influence

The St. Louis Globe Democrat reported in October, 1878 on the St. Louis Circuit Court proceedings involving Charles Conrad, then owner of Budweiser, and Joseph Uhrig Brewery. The judgement went in favour of Conrad, a result affirmed by the St. Louis Court of Appeals in 1880 as I discussed in my last post.

The St. Louis story was picked up in November in a Raleigh, NC paper called The Farmer and Mechanic, you can read it here. Above is an extract. In the story, the journalist expresses surprise that American brewers, even in centres of American brewing excellence, were using large amounts of corn or rice in their mashes.

Clearly evidence was presented at court on this issue, presumably too on what Budweiser from Conrad/Anheuser used in its mash.

As I said in my post yesterday, it appears that Budweiser did employ some rice in the mash from the outset. Oxford Companion To Beer (2011) states this, and the percentage, 23.5%, see here. Randy Mosher authored the entry and cited Maureen Ogle’s book (2007), which I referred to yesterday, and two books published earlier.

A-B probably always varied the percentage due to variations in the nitrogen and other components of its malt, which can change with the seasons. In a 1923 court case where A-B successfully prevented a malt syrup dealer in New York from using the Budweiser name, the chief chemist of A-B testified that the company used 30-40% rice in its mashes. The mash did not change when the company switched to near beer, so this would have represented the pre-Prohibition picture. The range today is similar based on reading I have done.

There are a number of period references (American) linking Bohemian-style beer to rice adjunct, both in the popular press and scientific journals. It was either assumed that in Bohemia, brewers used rice to make pale lager beer, or that such use was needed in the U.S. to off-set the high nitrogen content of its malting barley (to promote clarity).

The St. Louis journalist writing in 1878 allowed that most brewers in his city used corn or rice, as in Milwaukee, but less, and the beer was possibly superior as a result. He ended the story by saying some Budweiser sold in St. Louis – meaning not just Conrad’s but Uhrig’s and other beers carrying the name then – used rice or corn. Some. Therefore not all, although the language is somewhat ambiguous.

If there was an all-malt group and it did not include Anheuser’s Budweiser, perhaps only one or two traditionalists were using the older, Bavarian way to brew, and indeed the Bohemian way which has always been all-malt for pale lager as far as I know.

The justices in the appeal court focused on the high quality of Budweiser. Presumably that was down to the 100% imported hops used, probably too the use of imported Bohemian yeast and pitch for the casks. High quality could have extended in their minds to use of rice, not just by virtue of its price, apparently higher then than for malt (although the high extract or efficiency probably off-set that), but in the sense that its use facilitated in America duplicating a famous European beer style.

The pale colour and clarity of the beer were noted approvingly and in similar later judgements, especially the 1898 case involving Fred. Miller Brewing of Milwaukee which I mentioned earlier.

Some rice was used in brewing in the later 1800s in Germany, but generally in the north. Bavaria was pure beer law country (all-malt), and Bohemian brewing had a close relationship with Bavarian: Josef Groll, the brewer who introduced pale lager in Pilsen, Bohemia, in 1842, was a Bavarian…

If someone can find Judge Wickham’s Circuit Court decision, more clarity may result.

In The St. Louis Court of Appeals, In Equity


Charles Conrad v. Joseph Uhrig Brewing (1880)

The title of this post has a pleasing euphony – I can almost hear Jack Kerouac intone it with soft jazz inflections. Nonetheless the eight words, far from titling a poem, denoted a Missouri tribunal which decided an important case in 1880. (The court is now called Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern Division).

The judges, affirming the decision below, found in favour of the plaintiff, Charles (Carl) Conrad. Conrad was the initial owner of the Budweiser brand and formula. From the beer’s launch in 1876, Anheuser-Busch brewed and bottled it for his wine and liquor agency. In 1883 after financial reverses, Conrad transferred the rights to Budweiser to A-B, which thus benefitted from the court decision.

The case is the first of a large number, certainly over 100, which have since been tried involving rights to the Budweiser name and trademark. Many cases into the 1970s involved contests between A-B and American or Canadian brewers seeking to use the word Budweiser or a colourable imitation. These defendants argued that Budweiser beer was a style of beer, a type of lager, not a name someone could acquire exclusive rights to.

A-B won most of the cases, including a fight with Fred. Miller Brewing of Milwaukee in 1898, but lost a few as well. A small Pennsylvania brewery, Du Bois Brewing, continued to use the name Budweiser to promote its beer until about 1970.

Today, contests still arise in various countries, mainly between A-B and the Budweiser Budvar brewery (Budějovický Budvar), one of two breweries in Budweis, Czech Republic which signed deals with A-B in 1911 and 1939 to split up world rights. Budweis is the older, German name for the city, but I use it here for convenience.

The second brewery is now owned by A-B but Budweiser Budvar is independent and continues to market its Budweiser in many parts of the world. In most European countries, A-B is not permitted to use the name Budweiser. In some places, both brands may appear concurrently, e.g., the U.K. But in Italy for example, Budweiser Budvar sells its Budweiser under that name, while A-B must be satisfied to call its product Bud. In North America, Budweiser Budvar sells its product as Czechvar.

It is a complex business and legal story, and different aspects have been canvassed in various consumer and legal publications.

My interest here is to explain what the first case, in 1880, said, and focus too on the contemporary make-up of Budweiser.

Conrad used an intricate, triple C logo for the brand. He hired a designer who later sold a similar design to Joseph Uhrig Brewery in St. Louis, involving a triple B. The Uhrig brewery was no small upstart, it was well-known in the city and continued to operate after founder Joseph Uhrig’s death in 1874. The Uhrig brewery didn’t follow every element of Conrad’s design but Conrad felt that the triple B logo, in conjunction with the Budweiser name, meant Uhrig was passing off its product as Conrad’s, diverting sales and profits.

The court’s decision is exemplary for its clarity and (in my view) reasonable result. Most of the 19th century cases I’ve read, and I’ve read a few in the course of acquiring three legal degrees, were English and Canadian. These decisions generally were written in a fairly ornate style, with long sentences and numerous clauses and subordinate clauses. It was the style of the day – classic Victorian.

If those English judges were writing now about the Internet, it might sound like this: “I think most of the general populace today,  and certainly the learned brothers who concurred unanimously (and felicitously) with me in the result I will presently adumbrate, would cavil from the notion that the emergence and present commercial standing of what is generally known as the “Internet” is not of the very first importance to commercial, political, civic, and social life. Almost no communications of any sort, save perhaps those of a stricly private and affective nature, can be effected without recourse to the Internet”.

The American court to its credit didn’t write like that. The language is plain but clear, and can be understood by the layman.

The Missouri judges held that Conrad’s business had exclusive rights in its label, which included the Budweiser name, in that the public associated Budweiser beer with that source. The court held that defendant contravened those rights by using a similar design in conjunction with the word Budweiser to sell moreover an inferior product. A relevant factor was the fact that Budweiser cost $2.00 more per barrel to produce than ordinary beer, such as Uhrig’s product, which thus had potential to damage Conrad’s reputation.

Uhrig’s argument that Conrad was misleading the public by claiming a process which, i) did not in fact exist, ii) diverged in some ingredients from what the label claimed, was not accepted by the court.

The court did not hold A-B had an enforceable trade mark in the name Budweiser, but rather that Uhrig’s use of a similar label in conjunction with the name violated common law rights Conrad had developed in his product.

The court seemed to find that the brewing method of Budweis was not unique even in Europe, but that Conrad used enough elements of it to support his product being a high-echelon beer.

In this regard, the court noted that Conrad’s Budweiser used all-imported hops, often (but not always) Saaz, and barley of the first quality, albeit American not imported barley. Despite the fact that Conrad’s label (see above) advertised Saaz hops and Bohemian malt, the court felt the actual practice of the brewery supported its claim to making a superior product and the deviations which did exist were not important. In the court’s words, Conrad was not “imposing” on the public.

The word rice does not appear in the judgment. Today certainly and for a very long time, Budweiser employs about 30% rice in the mash.

Did Conrad use rice in the recipe from 1876-1883, or for part of that period? His labels did not refer to rice. Indeed it seems rice first appears on the label c. 1908 according to this chronology (2006) of the Conrad era and label history by Bill Lockhart, Pete Schulz, David Whitten, Bill Lindsey, and Carol Serr. 1908 is many years after A-B took over all rights to the brand.

In Maureen Ogle’s Ambitious Brew: The Story Of American Beer (2007), a detailed discussion of the roots of Budweiser, which takes in the Conrad-Uhrig case, seems to suggest rice was always used, at least that’s how I read it. If it was, perhaps neither side thought it useful to raise the issue in the litigation. If Conrad raised it, it would take away from its claim of following a Bohemian process for the beer, as to my knowledge the Czech pilsner or pils-style beers were always all-malt.

From the defendant’s standpoint, perhaps referring to rice risked defendant admitting it made a cheaper product, i.e., on the assumption Uhrig’s did not know, or was not certain, Conrad/A-B used rice. The 1898 case involving Fred. Miller also didn’t refer to rice. It referred to many other attributes of A-B’s Budweiser including that it used a Bohemian yeast and casks coated with Bohemian pitch, but rice was never mentioned.

Once again, Conrad was using domestic malt even though the label claimed imported, and sometimes used non-Saaz (but imported) hops. Perhaps in line with this liberal view of the label’s function, rice was always a component of Budweiser but only appeared on the label when statute law finally required it, c. 1908 presumably.

But it is also possible I think that rice was introduced at a later date, maybe in 1883 after A-B took over the brand.



Environmentalism In An Earlier Age


Many would view the recycling and minimizing of materials used in production – everything from paper, metal, glass, plastics – as a relatively recent phenomenon. Certainly one can see the roots in 1960s philosophies such as the green movement, “small is beautiful”, save the land, etc. The world-wide environmental movement with its current emphasis on climate control is a macro expression of this, its unifying theme.

Irony: environmentalism could not have emerged but for the untrammelled industrial and natural resource development of the past. Only a society which gained a certain degree of material comfort could indulge in the idea of restricting consumption, scaling back. This, however, is a parenthetical observation in the context of this post.

So when you see brown napkins at Starbucks, proudly advertising a high degree of materials recycled, and similar initiatives by burger behemoths and national coffee shop chains, you know it’s gone mainstream.

Companies use good environmental citizenship as a selling point, it’s vital in packaged goods industries today. Websites are a good source of information, of whether producers are state of the art on being green.

In brewing, craft breweries but also large established ones frequently advertise efficiency in use of energy and raw materials, re-cycling but often much more. Sierra Nevada’s website is most informative on the many steps the company took to promote energy efficiency at its new plant in North Carolina, for example.

Ontario’s bottle return system has proved efficient to re-use almost all the glass used to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. In general, bottle deposit and return was an early method around the world to promote conservation. To some degree the impact has been lessened by greater use of cans and plastic bottles (PET especially) but some laws in some areas promote re-use of these materials as well.

If there is one area in brewing studies where you would not expect to see an emphasis in these areas, it is the historical arena. After all, images of factories from the mid-1800s until the 1950s proudly showed factories belching black smoke in the air, or similar emissions from locomotives bringing their refrigerated product (more energy) to market. That was a time when the public was impressed with such sights, it spoke to material and human progress: good things to eat or otherwise enjoy, jobs for residents of factory areas, a healthy municipal tax base for better roads and infrastructure.

It was only in the 1950s, and perhaps too in the wake of atomic energy and its war applications in 1945, that people started to think unhinged industrial expansion needed re-consideration. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) was a landmark in changing peoples’ thinking. There were a number of precursors, however. The idea of conservation, as it was called, has roots in the 1800s.

The U.S. national parks system and a similar system in Canada attested to the concern to preserve the environment from total depredation. Michael McClure’s poem, For The Death of 100 Whales in 1955, had a decided influence as well on initiatives to stop over-fishing and protect endangered species. He recited the poem at the historic Six Gallery reading that year in San Francisco. (Allen Ginsberg read his Howl, there, as well).

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. It’s true.

gloriagrahammichael_mcmclure2004Yet, earlier eras promoted industrial conservation and recycling, sometimes. It’s a natural human impulse to save, economize, indeed it is good economics. A simple example is intelligent use of left-overs in a household. But did we see examples of the Starbucks napkins, say, in the 1940s, or production of glass bottles from re-used glass? Not exactly perhaps, but there was a major recycling effort well before our green era, one notable for re-use of paper, and in a brewing context.

During WW II, many American breweries shipped beer in what appear to have been second-hand cartons originally made for Anheuser-Busch. In other words, a brewery allowed competitors to use its cartons to sell their beer. If you look at pictures, the Budweiser logo and design were usually still evident. A new label was stamped or pasted over with evident haste. This link via DPLA shows some 20 examples of this practice.

This must have resulted from wartime conservation, whether prompted by legislation or a voluntary effort, I can’t say. But it is striking to see, something most producers would not abide even in today’s hyper-environmenal era, understandably. It’s hard to know why there were enough cases from A-B for this purpose, i.e., presumably A-B still had enough to ship its own product. Maybe A-B had a surplus under long-term supply contracts, perhaps resulting from government limits on its own production.

Seeing the trade marks of different companies juxtaposed on a case of beer makes me wonder if a special law was passed to protect the parties’ trademarks from dilution or misuse. E.g. one of the brewers was Peter Doelger: presumably Doelger couldn’t use the Budweiser name after the war, and vice versa, simply because both producers had tolerated a period when their marks were shown together on a case of beer.

The two world wars provided in general an early example of conservation and recycling. Paper, metals, rubber, glass, were collected and re-used, often to produce war materiel. The re-used Budweiser cases example was just one of thousands of wartime conservation measures, but a fascinating one in retrospect and a laudable example of intra-industry cooperation.

Note re images: the first image above was sourced from DPLA at the link given in the text. The second, of Michael McClure, is copyright Gloria Graham and was sourced from his entry in Wikipedia, also linked above. Ms. Graham’s image is used pursuant to this Creative Commons licenseAll intellectual property to or in such images belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorized users. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

The High Quality of A.B.C. St. Louis Bohemian Beer


Unquestionably, A.B.C. St. Louis Bohemian Beer was the main brand of the American Brewing Co. in St. Louis, MO.  A bock must have been issued seasonally, I showed an image in my previous post.

I have not tracked down a complete brand list. It seems the brewery produced more than two brands, at least locally. The Tavern Trove label website, a reliable source, lists a Muenchener and pale export as additional brands ca. 1900.

But for “shipping” purposes newspaper ads in the 1890s to 1920 suggest Bohemian was the only or at least main product available. No doubt it was introduced to compete with Budweiser.

In general, as I discussed earlier, from about 1880 one starts to see a Bohemian-style beer increasingly in the market. It differed from the standard lager it ended by replacing in being paler, less malty, and with more hop bouquet. An even paler, often less hoppy type, sometimes called “extra pale”, also emerged.

These related styles formed the basis for what became American Adjunct Lager, still the biggest selling beer type in the U.S. and probably the world today. It is also known as international-style lager.

A.B.C’s Bohemian was clearly a beer of cachet. The ads made much of various quality factors as discussed below, but another sign was listings by high class restaurants and railroad buffet cars. It appeared for example on Southern Pacific’s menu alongside stars such as Budweiser, Schlitz, Guinness, and Bass Ale. Bohemian was a “name”, in a word.

A.B.C.-branded beers were introduced in St. Louis after Repeal in, seemingly, three attempts to regain the market, under successive ownerships or reorganizations. Some useful details can be gleaned here for the overall chronology. The predecessor breweries before 1890 were those in which Henry Koehler, Sr. had an interest. His two sons, who had banking connections, were behind American Brewing Co. which started in 1890.

In 1906 the Koehlers sold the business to one of the brewing syndicates active in the city. Consolidations were popular then and often foreign-financed. That entity ran the business until 1920 and later went bankrupt. The A.B.C Brewery appearing after Repeal was operated by newer interests. Despite numerous attempts to re-establish the brands, it was to no avail. By 1940 A.B.C. St. Louis beer was off the market completely.

In the 1930s yet further brands appeared under the A.B.C. St. Louis name, even an ale, but whether these were legacy, or pre-1920 brands, is uncertain. One must be careful as well not to mistake A.B.C. beers from other breweries, as the name was not exclusive to the St. Louis brewery, hence its ads that read “A.B.C. St. Louis”.

In the free art offer I discussed yesterday of the 1890s the brewery listed the attributes of a good beer. The same desiderata were stated in many ads, always for Bohemian from what I can tell. Many of the ads appeared in shipping markets such as the American Southwest and Hawaii. To the list of qualities we can add this 1907 ad that stated ABC’s Bohemian was aged six months.*

Anheuser-Busch made similar claims around this time. This is a surprisingly long time for the period. Many lager brewers were aging for less, even in Germany. Brewing scientists were developing fermentation equipment – Leopold Nathan in particular whom I’ve discussed – that could help abbreviate the time significantly. Indeed, that would be the future for lager, but in the 1910s some American breweries still proudly following older European practice.

Among the criteria for good beer stated in Art For The Home clarity and “polish”, absence of a “foreign” flavour, good flavour, and a lasting creamy head are noteworthy.

A foreign flavour may refer to an unwanted wild yeast taste, from Brettanomyces. By the early 1900s a pure yeast culture was common in many breweries and would have encouraged a clean, consistent taste. Or, foreign flavour may have referred to an infected or lactic taste, which some beers at the time must have had due to the primitive sanitation as compared to today.

Once again some of these tastes have returned to brewing –  intentionally – to resurrect historical styles.  The trend that would have puzzled brewers in the period 1890-1920.

The list of qualities in Art For The Home also stated that A.B.C. Bohemian beer had a “pronounced” and distinctive hop flavour, one the company was proud of, evidently. This is not surprising as upwards of 1.5 lbs hops per barrel of beer was common for American lager then. The hops were often imported or a portion of them were, A.B.C. advertised use of choice European hops, as did Budweiser for a long time.

Clarity was another key aspect of Bohemian and extra pale beers then. The current fashion for cloudy or hazy beers would have bemused early-1900s brewers. Clarity was achieved by use of “chips”, or wood chips that promoted yeast removal, prolonged aging, or cellulose filtering (still with us).

Brilliancy was regarded as absolutely necessary for bottled beer in particular. Despite all these precautions, sometimes American lager was turbid. Further scientific work was needed to control the problem effectively. The solution was associated with another New York-based consultancy, Wallerstein Laboratories, which I will discuss in a later post.

There seems little doubt that, as for Budweiser, A.B.C. Bohemian used grain adjunct – corn or rice – in the mash. Still, the beers were clearly rich, very hoppy, and with a creamy head. They probably resembled modern Pilsner Urquell, or Czechvar (Budweiser Budvar). If you blended one with modern Budweiser, that may get close.

Note re image: the menu reproduced is from the New York Public Library’s ( digital menu collection, here.  All intellectual property therein or thereto belong to their owner or authorized users. Image believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*14 years earlier, in an Arizona newspaper, a four month aging period was advertised for Bohemian. Note also the insistence on Bohemian hops (probably Saaz) in the latter ads, or rather mini-series of ads.






The Sophistication of American Business Before WW I


The Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, see here, contains a curio from a long-disappeared brewery. It is interesting not for most of the actual content but the commercial strategy it disclosed, one which puzzled me until an early business history in St. Louis made it all clear.

The booklet has an innocent title, almost anodyne, Art For The Home. It is from The American Brewing Company which was known for beers bearing the “A.B.C.” label. A.B.C. Bohemian was the flagship before Prohibition but A.B.C also produced other brands, including a Bock.

To read Art For The Home, open the 20 or so slides which form the book in the link given, start at 9/29, middle of bottom row.

Unlike contemporary narrative or photographic records of other breweries – Pabst, Anheuser-Busch, Schlitz are some – there is no description of company history, no Horatio Alger account of early struggle or unceasing market and technological innovation.

The book is really a simple “promo”: it offers reproductions of allegedly famous paintings if readers will only send in a stated number of A.B.C. bottle labels. There is also a short history of pictorial art included, nicely-written. The book illustrates well early business promotional theory. The idea was similar to a contest, a gambit popular with many food and drink companies through the 1900s. In this case though, there was no element of chance, no opportunity to field skill: the consumer was simply provided an inducement to buy the product in the form of a bonus or premium, one which came at the right price: none.

Beeretseq can range reasonably widely in Western culture, but art studies have eluded him by and large: whether the portraits in Art For The Home are notable examples of Western visual art I can’t say. I didn’t recognize any names, but that’s neither here nor there. My interest is more the commercial purpose in putting out the book. It could not have been inexpensive to print and distribute presumably thousands of copies. Why didn’t A.B.C. simply do a standard business history or photographic record, like its competitors?

Mercantile, Industrial and Professional St. Louis (1903) by E. D. Kargau, a business and professional portrait of St. Louis, suggests the reason: A.B.C had only been in business 12 years! It had no history of a generation or more to hang its hat on, nothing comparable to Anheuser-Busch, Fred. Miller Brewing Co., and other breweries storied even then.


One might think A.B.C. was a small player in 1903. Not the case. Kargau correctly explains that most businesses which gain success do so over a lengthy period, but there are “exceptions” and A.B.C. was one. As he showed, St. Louis actually counted fewer breweries in 1903 than 1860, when no less than 40 dotted the city. The reason was telling: the scale and technological sophistication required of brewing by turn of the century meant the future was for large, well-capitalized concerns. Small players could not survive, they hadn’t the time to grow slowly over decades.

A.B.C.’s impressive growth in a very short time showed it was the product of large initial investment and skilled management. This is not to say a principal of A.B.C. had no brewing background. But a company could not grow so fast from a standing start without some sophisticated financial and industrial planning, a hallmark of American business since the Gilded Age.

The main promoters of the brewery indeed were bankers, sons of a brewer…

As Kargau makes evident too, A.B.C. wasn’t the only brewery of this type in St. Louis. Brewing could now be willed into existence by the right combination of financial and executive resources, it didn’t have to develop from artisan roots, organically.

And so we see the real reason for A.B.C.’s  promo, a route longer-established competitors perhaps felt was beneath their dignity to explore: A.B.C. didn’t have their business history. It had no story comparable to an Anheuser-Busch or Pabst to lavish over 30 + pages of expensive paper and design. As a new kid on the block, it needed an edge: offering freebie art was one.

Who would want the art, for which the British term twee strikes me as apt? In a time when there was no radio, no tv, no internet, when art collection was the preserve of a monied class, lots of people. A.B.C. offered working and middle class people some diverting cultural content, at the right price – none.

I’d guess part of the intended audience too was younger male as some of the pictures depict fetching females. One or two are rather risqué (check out Phoebe). Perhaps part of the target audience was saloon owners. Many saloons festooned their walls with pictures of varying respectability. Not infrequently young women were shown in alluring pose. And of course, the gin mills had a ready source of the bottles needed.

The art offer was for a limited time only: if you missed the window, well, the products would sell themselves, as the savvy ad copy read. This book and the minds behind it are clearly examples of early marketing theory. The gambit may strike as cheesy today, but it was probably new and innovative then. I’d guess the idea emerged from early ad agencies on Madison Avenue or their equivalent in St. Louis. Certainly Kargau’s book shows St. Louis had the full panoply of services needed for a modern economy.

In the same general period, 1900-1919, you start to see articles in the brewery trade press on brand advertising. Merchandizing and advertising were already assuming a modern aspect. Smaller brewers had to get with the parade. The interruption of National Prohibition just delayed the process, it didn’t change it in any way.

Famous names like Anheuser-Busch sold over a 1,000,000 barrels a year when Teddy Roosevelt was President, top of the game then. This can incline to think A-B was the only game in town in its heyday. Not so: despite the reduction in St. Louis breweries by 1903, there were still a good number, and not (again) tiny neighbourhood operations.

Glean the picture by paging through the 32-page breweries chapter in Kargau’s book. There were about 14 breweries, all seemingly making lager.* William Lemp was one of them (later called Falstaff, finally absorbed into Pabst). Lemp Brewery was famed for introducing lager to the area around 1840 (dates differ in the accounts). A.B.C. had to make good beers to compete, and by all evidence it did. I’ll look at the range in a later post.

Finally, St. Louis didn’t start out making lager, it made top-fermented beers in an English way. And there is, as I found out fortuitously, a Jewish connection to very early St. Louis brewing, of interest to Beeretseq due to the writing I’ve done on the c. 1800 Hart brewery in Quebec. More on this soon, too.

Note re image: the first, c. 1900 beer label shown is from the impressive collection at the Tavern Trove website. The second image is from the site of the American Breweriana Association, here. All intellectual property therein or thereto belongs solely to the lawful owner or authorized users. Images believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*A number were affiliated under one roof of ownership, this is confirmed in Amy Mittelman’s 2007 history of American brewing. This was an era of consolidation often under foreign stock flotations, so clearly not all 14 were independent. In any case, there seems in 1903 to have been 14 operating breweries.


Welsh Rabbit in Literary Lights


“Welsh Rabbit … Autocrat of the Lunch Table … It Scorns All Alliance…”

Foods have long been the subject of literary appreciation. Fruits, vegetables, and many prepared dishes have been eulogized, as have many drinks: wine pre-eminently but also beer, cider, and more. Even Coke has been spotlit by the literary pen – poet Frank O’Hara’s.

This optic excludes narratives for cookery instruction, social-historical, and advertising purposes, as these have essentially practical purpose; we are in the realm of the aesthetic, here. Some examples:

A few years ago Stacey Harwood of Saveur magazine gave her 13 favourite pieces of food poetry. Sample names include Virgil, Ben Jonson, Elizabeth Bishop, W.H. Auden.

In 2012, Kevin Young issued The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink. It collects encomia on food and drink in bardic form. Many names are equally well-known, for example Yeats, Beaudelaire, Heaney, Wilbur, H.D., Ginsberg. Young provides many contributions himself, in the form of an ode series. Ode to Chicken is one.

Of course, food and drink have also received aesthetic appraisal in essay and other non-poetry form.

The ineluctable fact of food and drink in human life attracts interest of the visual arts, as well. One need only think of still-lifes of table offerings that range from soup to nuts. Perhaps the difficulty of many artists to provide satisfactory hearth and home inclines them to a keener appreciation of life’s eatables. But also, or in many cases, it’s an example of a heightened sensibility, or a different one anyway.

So, one way or another, artists of all types have not ignored the quotidian of food. Even the general culture knows the signal examples, Charles Lamb’s ode to roast pig, say. In his book, Kevin Young was so taken with artistic expression of the edible porcine, he thought the book should contain a section just on that topic, although space limitations seemed to preclude this.

Yesterday, I asked if people know what Welsh Rabbit is, and gave my thoughts on the venerable dish. I can add more, as follows. In his 1899 Welsh Rabbit at Hildreth’s, the American Charles N. Miller delivered a high panegyric on his cheesy subject.  It’s well written and wryly funny, not a poem but a short essay. Hopefully future collections of arty paeans to food and drink will see fit to include Miller’s work which seems inexplicably overlooked to date.

Few dishes, or ostensibly, seem less apt for such treatment. Welsh Rabbit emerged from the remote vales and stolid crofts of distant Britannia. It moved with Empire to places and climes far removed and was appreciated especially by emigrants (and their descendants) with Anglo-Saxon and Celtic blood. Welsh Rabbit has resonance in other cultures – the French in particular appreciate le Welsh – but otherwise has stayed within anglophone precincts. To say it has remained low-key would be an understatement, and if anything has declined in culinary importance. This has more to do with the vagaries of food fashion than anything else.

The dish is primal food: cheese and bread gussied up only a little, and homely (the word is telling) with its irregular edges and puffy, white look. One can see that before the food industry developed a thousand and one treats needing only a zap in the microwave, Welsh Rabbit had appeal due to simplicity of preparation. And even if made poorly as often it was, by many accounts, still it was nutritious and stuck to the ribs, not the least of its merits in the old days.

Yet, if various pig parts, Quebec’s poutine, Buffalo chicken wings, and earthy kale can rise to world foodie prominence, why not Welsh Rabbit? Particularly as it admits of endless variations, is not expensive, and suits high society (pace Miller) or any other rank you like.

The success of the craft beer movement must only encourage marquee, nay Bourdanian treatment of Welsh Rabbit. Beer was the primary liquid always added to it and drank with it. Virtually any kind of beer can be used, too. But if need be a cider or wine rabbit works well, indeed Britain knew variations of these types, sometimes under names such as Golden Buck, Scotch Woodcock, English Rabbit.

Call the new culinary star Le Welsh if you want. Things always sound better in culinary French, or bastardized French.

Rabbit of Wales, the happening menus of the world await your hopping in.

Le Welsh est, ou sera sous peu, chic. I see it studded with truffle, with kale, with Berkshire bacon, strewn with gold dust in resorts of the super-rich, or served plain Jane. The cheese used will include cloth-wrapped Somerset cheddar, Ontario’s cheddar, New York or the Irish brands, and other of the English hard cheeses.

A hyper-authentic variety will employ Welsh cheddar. I’ve mentioned before that Costco distributes an excellent brand through its vast network.

One only hopes the enthusiasm doesn’t go too far, Emmental or Cantal, should be restricted to fondue and raclette. Food traditions must develop and change but Le Welsh is too old a dish to confound with cheesy specialties of the Swiss cantons. Mais voyons donc.





Do You Know Welsh Rabbit?

A Famous Beer Dish – Or It Was

In the early years of the beer renaissance, when the subject of beer in cooking came up, two dishes were invariably mentioned. First, Welsh Rabbit, sometimes called Welsh Rarebit. Second, the Flemish beef carbonnades, which is beef stewed in beer, mustard, sugar, and vinegar.

Almost all beer fans knew these, or at least one. They were iconic for beer used in the kitchen. Today, I’d wager most people under 40 who follow the beer scene don’t know what they are. At least, my informal polls in recent years suggest this. And after all times change. But it’s something of an irony that as beer has widened its reach in society, knowledge of its iconic dishes recedes.

Of course to the dedicated fan of beer and food, it becomes clear that traditional brewing cultures had other examples to blend food and beer in cooking. Carp was often cooked in beer, and shellfish. Beer was used in batters of various kinds. Chicken was cooked with it in some beer countries, and meats other than beef. Some who looked back far enough saw that ale was a standby in refined kitchens in the Middle Ages.

By about 1900, in Western gastronomy, the two dishes mentioned, Welsh Rabbit and carbonades of beef, were the main dishes associated with beer. Perhaps beer soup could be added, and carp in spiced and sweetened beer. Also, oysters or clams in beer has been an acknowledged combination.

Food writing and popular literature in Anglo-America – Britain, U.S., Canada, Australia, etc. – frequently mentioned Welsh Rabbit. (Oh it’s melted cheese and beer, nothing to do with rabbit, need I say?).

I have no need to explain its origin or the etymological question whether the Welsh Rarebit is the true name. It’s all laid out crisply and accurately in Wikipedia, just look under Welsh Rabbit.

My interest is more to know a good recipe, as I’ve had signal failures in the kitchen trying to make it. The cheese rarely melts correctly, in particular. The rubbery strands flavoured with bitter hops seems an odd treat even if it is handed down through the centuries.

A real rabbit, bunny I mean, can be stringy too now that I think of it (fibrous). I wonder if the presumably English wag who named the dish was poking fun, not so much at the Welsh for not having rabbit to cook and being satisfied with cheese, but for having a dish which resembled the average rabbit casserole. Who knows.

Anyway I do like a good grilled cheese sandwich. A grilled cheese well-made is nice, and it seems a derivative of Welsh rabbit, same general idea but without a beer or other liquid addition. Kraft process cheese in fact makes the best one. You can add different things to it, I can abide the tomato, but that’s it. It was a student standby at the cafes near McGill University in the 70s. There’s another dish you never see any more, yes?

As for Le Welsh, as the French call it, I think I’ve never used the right cheese. The French probably always get it right given they have 1000 cheeses there; they will find the right one, certain. The French are long-time partisans of Welsh rabbit despite its Britannic origins.

Probably the stuff I’ve used isn’t aged or dry enough, and perhaps being pasteurized as most cheese is the cooking is affected somehow. I happen to have some reasonably aged Welsh cheddar at the moment, Costco offers an excellent type and well-priced. This would seem ideal to try the dish with. As for the beer to go in it, any kind would seem about right although in the recipe discussed below, the author makes a point of insisting on American lager.

The recipe uses egg yolk, a rich addition I’d have thought unnecessary given that cheese is high in butterfat to begin with. But maybe I’ll use it, for authenticity. As for many recipes in the 19th century and earlier, the egg is barely cooked though. Eating raw egg is never a good idea, at least I think so. Anyway, I’ll persist in the name of authenticity.

Now to the beer, any lager would do I guess. I’ve got some Old Tomorrow lagered ale which sounds about the right compromise anyway between American and English beer, so I think I’ll go with that.

The recipe is from 1900, in John Willy’s Hotel Monthly, look under that raft of drink names (interesting unto themselves: Willy was promoting a book by a cocktails specialist).

The recipe does seem rather generic, yet as Willy reports its proponent proclaimed it as the best ever and the guests subjected to a test fully agreed. I wonder what the secret was … maybe all that salt, one teaspoon, worked some magic. Cheese is pretty salty as it is, though, I think I’ll omit it entirely. Paprika sounds right though. And the mustard, they are classic additions. But corn starch? Who knew.

Welsh Rabbit was often eaten as a late-night snack. It was associated with light meals in general, and often taken after theatre at the cafe. It’s in all the cookbooks, it was “in the air”.  Today the dish is almost forgotten, even in beer circles. Strange are the ways of history and culture but it was always thus.





America – Culinary Desert Before 1920?


At 12th and Vine With a Bottle of … Paulliac Wine

Something taken for granted back in the 50s and 60s was North America was a desert for refined eating. To be sure there was good solid food, everything from steak to roast chicken to salads, potatoes and pie. Some areas offered noted regional specialties, New England, say for its clambakes and chowders. But appreciating food for its own sake was a rarity and often regarded as frivolous.

A few restaurants in any decent-size city carried the flag for good eating – steakhouses, Italian restaurants, a Chinese one or two, maybe a fish house , there wasn’t much more. Of course in New York and some other coastal cities more variety was offered, including the surviving ethnic restaurants like German ones, but again choice was restricted.

Things started to change with the arrival of James Beard, Julia Child, Graham Kerr, Jehane Benoit in Canada, and numerous others. Their tv appearances often caused a sensation. Discussion of wine started around this time. Earlier, such appreciation was restricted to tiny groups, the Wine and Food Society of New York, say (still going strong, it started in ’33 with Repeal).

I’ve written earlier also of The Gourmet Society, another small New York-based group intent on exploring international and regional American foods and interested in wines including American ones. Such inchoate interest barely registered in the larger culture.

Thus, it came as a shock to page through issues John Willy’s Hotel Monthly from 1898 to 1920 and find accounts of the most luxurious banquets imaginable. These were not the preserve of tiny gourmet clubs in cosseted Eastern cities or a wealthy elite wherever found. Many such affairs were held in the midwest and hosted by provincial associations of hoteliers or brewers, say.

7500d16b3a49cb23ab9064a5c0c7ad96In their menus you will find the finest emblems of haute cuisine: caviar, oysters, preparations of fish or beef from the pages of Escoffier or Carême, elegant consommés, expensive or rare morsels such as turtle, wild birds, imported cheeses, and the finest French and German vintages to accompany them.

First- and second-growth Bordeaux make regular appearances at these dinners, as did the finest marques of Champagne (Ruinart, Mumm, Veuve Cliquot), sherry and brandy. (To the Americans’ credit, you often see too “whiskies” added to the liqueurs at meal’s end, or “rye and bourbon”).

Consider the shebang thrown in 1900 by Kansas City lawyers and judges, described in the page above reproduced from Willy’s Hotel Monthly of that year. I need hardly elucidate; the luxury speaks for itself.

The other dinners on the page are hardly derisory. Some don’t mention alcohol but that is usually explained by the group involved, e.g., anyone involved with a quasi-public service like railroads or shipping, or government or a public service group (e.g., YMCA).

I can cite 20 more dinners like the Kansas City one, all held in the American regions. The Kansas City do was distinguished also by its creative displays of flowers and fruits, but the food and drinks served were typical for many groups and associations which, unlike perhaps the Missouri bar, hardly occupied the top rung of society.

How could this be? Clearly the hotels Willy wrote for had chefs and a brigade to create European-level haute eating with wines and liquors to match. Why was Julia Child needed c. 1960?

The answer must be: the reign of King Volstead between 1920-1933. With alcohol removed from the equation for 13 years, fine dining lost a lot of its appeal. Food returned to its utilitarian roots, even that is amongst a class who formerly knew differently. The Depression also quite naturally delayed a return to an older tradition. Then the war did. By the 50s, people forgot what great food and wine were all about; it had to be re-invented.

Another factor IMO is that until about 1920 when America tightened its immigration laws, huge numbers of incomers arrived from Central and Western Europe. Many had worked in fine European restaurants and hotels, indeed in the era when France in particular was developing the very concept of the haute in dining, service and wines.

Such skills were eminently transferable to an American context, counter-intuitive as it may seem. This was not just in large city hotels, but regional ones in Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and other states often called today the red states. These regularly held banquets and dinners of a sophistication that is arresting when considering the state of national food and dining in 1955, say. By then, the sons and daughters of those master chefs and wine stewards were doing something else, dentistry, accountancy, or seeking tenure in the expanding college and university system.

I’ll revisit a further pre-1920 Willy banquet or two in the next post, and you will see the almost Lucullan Kansas City dinner was no one-off.

Note re images: the first image above, via HathiTrust, is from a 1900 issue of John Willy’s Hotel Monthly. The second image, of Kansas City c. 1906, is from this Pinterest collection of historic Kansas City photographs. All intellectual property therein or thereto belongs solely to their owners or authorized users. Images believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.





An Early (1898) Beer Dinner


A Pre-Prohibition Beer Dinner – Milwaukee Innovates

John Willy was English-born, from Ilminster, Somerset. Online sources suggest he came to America in the late 1800s at the young age of 20, without family or friends. Due to innate abilities he became a respected editor and author, and prospered. Willy specialized in covering the hotel and restaurant sector.

His contributions to the hospitality industry earned him an honorary doctorate from Michigan State University in 1937 – no mean achievement considering the few prospects he started with.

He began as a reporter for a hotels trade magazine, and later set up his own publication called, finally, The Hotel Monthly. A key stage in his career was writing a book on hotel facilities in Chicago for attendees of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, or Chicago World’s Fair.

It is refreshing to read Hotel Monthly. Willy wrote in a clear style but usually in everyday English. His readers were independent hotel owners, restaurateurs, saloon-keepers, and brewers, and he wrote for that audience. His breezy yet informative style was perfect for a magazine dealing with practical topics: hotel and bar supplies, sample menus, drink formulas, room layouts and furnishings, hotel staffing, meal service: all the minutiae that go into a successful hotel and bar-restaurant.

Occasionally Willy lapsed into argot from his overseas youth, as when he referred to the ample “corporation” of a hotelier who organized a clambake. The word means, here, an ample girth or stomach.

Here is Willy’s account of an outing and gala dinner organized for a group of Chicago hoteliers touring Milwaukee.


The trip was organized by the Chicago Hotel Association. The men travelled to Milwaukee to be received by their professional counterparts there. Unlike the more learned and discreet authors who wrote for the brewers and distillers trade press Willy didn’t try to disguise the jollity. He didn’t pretend alcohol was incidental to the day’s events, in particular.

In a story of some 1500 words I’d guess the word whiskey appears 10 times, let’s put it that way. Willy gave details of two meals enjoyed by the party that day: a breakfast that was really more a lunch or brunch, and a sumptuous, German-themed dinner at White Fish Bay, Wisconsin.

Their boat, the SS Indiana (pictured), brought the party from Chicago overnight to arrive at destination 7:30 a.m. Descending, the “four and twenty” were greeted by colleagues outfitted in “Dutch” costume, meaning large red handkerchiefs and small hats. The hosts spoke Dutch, wrote Willy too, perhaps meaning German here.

Their new friends took them to clothiers to be outfitted in similar party garb. Guests’ hats were “punched” to show they were members of a hosted group. Thus festooned they sallied through town and country travelling in a “tally-ho”, or carriage, drawn in this case by six horses. Amusing incidents are recounted, most revolving around alcoholic refreshments taken in a succession of hotel barrooms.

They must have stopped 10 times before dinner: modern-day pub crawlers have little on them. The drinks described up to the dinner point vary: whiskey, Champagne, sparkling burgundy (a pre-Prohibition favourite of America). But finally the group posed an obvious question: “where’s the beer, we’re in Milwaukee?!”.

A local replied that you don’t find much beer around Milwaukee – an an odd thing to hear, then and still today. Maybe the local was pulling their leg. Nonetheless, when arrived for dinner at the expansive Pabst property in White Fish Bay, beer galore finally greeted them. It was a Pabst brewery event, after all.

Not only that, three types were served: Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bohemian, and Doppelbrau. The dinner menu lists each beer at a different stage of the meal service, in other words, so that a specific beer type would accompany a specific course. Pabst Blue Ribbon, or “PBR”, was served with wieners and sauerkraut. It still exists of course, as a low-cost refresher. (Whether it tastes as in 1898 is an open question).

The higher-grade “Bohemian” brand was reserved for sauerbraten and potato pancakes. A surely rich and strong Doppelbrau was saved for last, served with Swiss cheese and German bread.

“Beer cuisine”, we can see, is not a recent thing. It existed long before the 1980s when beer writers and breweries first started to promote it actively. Still, there aren’t many menus before the craft beer era that pair specific beers with dishes in a set dinner format; this menu from 1898 may be the first, or one of the first.


John Willy took evident pleasure describing the revellers’ fun. Drinking was part of it, but not everything. A running race, speeches, and good eating were essential parts too. It all contributed to a group spirit or camaraderie.

Having had a thoroughly good time in a way that would have blanched the growing Temperance forces the hoteliers returned to their craft on a “trolley”, probably a light train, and sailed back to Chicago. If there wasn’t enough to drink in Milwaukee that day Willy tells us a case of whisky was on board, sent by their never-failing Wisconsin hosts.

Supremely satisfied, the hoteliers alighted at 10:00 p.m. and walked, said Willy, a straight line down the gangplank. Despite the best efforts of the Milwaukee crowd they resisted getting “paralyzed”. In the end Willy wanted to portray his readers and clients as responsible citizens, men who could hold their own liquor. Of course they were his clientele, so he wasn’t going to offend them anyway, but all in all the right notes were struck.

Note re image: the source of the first image above is the Chuckman historical postcards website. The second image is from John Willy’s article linked above, via HathiTrust. The third is from the Wikipedia entry on the SS Indiana, here. All intellectual property therein belong solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images are used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.