The Inspirational Victoria Brewery, Melbourne

Brewery visits were a stock device of the 19th century journalist in larger cities. A book could be written, and most interesting it would be, collecting these with commentary.

In 1875, heyday of the Australian “colonial ale” era, a Melbourne writer wrote up his visit to Victoria Parade Brewery, later known as Victoria Brewery. The founder Thomas Aitken originated the famed VB brand in the 1850s.

The brewery was a key component of Carlton and United Breweries, the pre-WWI merger of Victoria breweries which later crossed state lines to become a big national. The brands are now owned by AB InBev/SAB Miller. VB still has a large market, and today is brewed in Abbotsford, Melbourne  – you saw the Abbotsford name, vintage later-1800s, on a Yarra hotel the other day.

His account gains interest, not just from the good technical detail conveyed, but some high-flown rhetoric – rather unusual in business or general interest journalism. The author was probably an aspiring novelist or highbrow type working for lucre in the raucous mills that were – are, no doubt – the world’s press rooms.

Consider this elegant, unerring formulation:

The art of making beer is one of the most ancient known to man. From the earliest ages the desire implanted in the human mind to drink deeply of beer has been ministered to, and intoxicating preparations of barley have been brewed at periods far anterior to that to which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. Beer, happily for its cosmopolitan character as a respectable, sober, and every-day liquor, had no mythological god, under whose auspices the drinking of it formed a religious rite. The worshippers of Bacchus thought, no doubt, they were doing their devotions in proper, orthodox style, and probably felt as virtuous as though they were going to meeting in their Sunday clothes, when they drank themselves red in the face and purple in the nose with the juice of the divine wine ; whereas, the lovers of beer drank in the past, as they drink in the present, from no sense, of religious feeling, but simply to gratify a profound instinct of an earthly nature.

Beer has never been considered a romantic liquor. Its praises have not, like wine, been sung by the poet; and the painter does not love to depict scenes of revelry where it is the standing drink. The progress that beer has made in the affections of mankind is due solely to its own intrinsic merit. No factitious help is given to its consumption. It stands, speaking metaphorically, on its own bottom, and flourishes now in spite of the abuse, the enactments, and restrictions against it, as it did in the far past ages of our Saxon ancestors.

The writer goes on finally to taste the beer, and makes the argument that beer tasted at the brewery is “morally” superior to that drunk elsewhere. By this he implies, not just that the beer is literally often better than in the pub or when brought home, but is symbolically better as it were, since consumed in the place where so much attention and skill are deployed to make such a special thing.

Indeed, important technological and scientific history played out at Victoria Brewery, whose brewer for years was Auguste J.F. de Bavay, a long-lived, Belgian-born brewer and scientist. He developed pure yeast cultures, initially for top-fermented beers, after Emil Hansen in Denmark led the way with his groundbreaking work. Bavay also identified a wild yeast strain which was contributing (sometimes) to troubles in stocked ale. He finally turned to bottom fermentation as the most secure route to stable beer.

Bavay should be remembered as part of the VB story, but also had great influence in his adopted country in numerous industries. Here is some background on him, from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Victoria Brewery can be said to have birthed some of the best rhetoric about beer and also key technology pertaining to the eminently earthy matter of yeast. The profane, the sublime, not a bad trick.

From Carlisle to Collingwood…

International Brew Ha Ha

Wild & Vaughan were brewers in Collingwood, an inner suburb of Melbourne. The brewery, known as the Collingwood Brewery, was founded in 1840 just a few years after Melbourne’s settlement. Along with many breweries in Victoria it served the growing economy of the next generation which was powered in part by resource exploitation.

Indeed, the miner was a stock Australian figure in the international imagination until well into the 1900s.

Edward Wild was a kind of marketing genius. One way he showed it was to bring journalists into the brewery – always apt subjects for a beer session –  to help decide on a new beer. The news report in the Leader, from 1864, is full of interest.

The party tasted both running (fresh) and stock (aged) ales and noted the difference in taste.

They didn’t seem to like the old beer while allowing it was better after two or three goes. How many times have you heard that about any unusual food or drink?

In the visitors’ words:

There was very little difference between the several samples, except in the matter of age, which, of course, greatly affected the taste and strength. The sample labelled No. 1, and which was only about a fortnight old, was very much admired because of its lightness and the strong flavor of hops which it possessed. No. 2, which was of the same strength but had less hops, was also highly praised; but, although it was a month old, No. 1 was preferred to it. No. 3 was a matured ale, being about eighteen months old, but still in bulk. It was a little heavier in saccharine qualities than either of the other two samples, and had a rich vinous taste which it has acquired solely from age. This peculiarity of taste seemed, of course, strange at first, but after a second or third trial it was found to be extremely palatable. The body of this ale, though only similar to that of light English ale, was considered as somewhat too heavy for summer use. After due deliberation, tho judges determined in favor of No. 1, which they considered, if another fortnight older, would provide one of the best summer beverages that could be desired. Mr. Wild then announced his intention of abiding by the decision of the gentlemen who had favored him with their opinion, and to supply ale of the same description as had been approved of for summer use, under the designation of Wild’s No. 3 pale ale.

It’s just as a group of friends or colleagues might do at a tasting today, compare and contrast, except 150 years ago.

In contemporary agricultural exhibitions and advertisements for the Victoria colony this brewery touted its “a la Carlisle ale”, “a la Edinburgh ale”, and “a la Dublin stout”.

The unusual formulations meant, ostensibly anyway, that the beers were in the style of beers from those cities but were brewed in Collingwood, Victoria.

Why Cumbrian beer attracted interest in Melbourne is hard to say. It’s probably one of those accidents of international business that can’t be deciphered at this late date. Carlisle beer had no special reputation in the 1800s yet it achieved repute in far-away Victoria. Anyhow, it satisfied Melbourne’s thirsts and Wild clearly wanted to trade off that.

As sometimes happens in such cases, he was sued. And he lost. You can read about it in this informative report (1870). It states that at least in the year mentioned Wild’s take on Cumberland’s best tasted sour. The real Carlisle stuff did not, one of the factors noted by the court.

Wild’s labels had the a la in very small script which hurt his case as well. His argument was that Carlisle ale was a type, as Bath is for the Bath Bun, say, and he had as much a right to use it as the importer who sued him. But the judge didn’t go along.

An amusing satirical “exchange in the Melbourne Punch (1872) shows Wild continued to get publicity out of  the debacle –  perhaps one of his objects.

Looking at it today one has a certain sympathy for him. A stablemate product was a la Edinburgh ale. Well, “Scotch” ale is sold today around the world, i.e., under that name. The story of pilsner beer is only too well-known. Carlisle wasn’t a major player in brewing, nothing like Britain’s famous Bass or Allsopp from Burton-on-Trent, but still it had a market in Victoria. The court wasn’t going to let even a notable local citizen trade off that.

Which Carlisle brewer sent beer to Australia? I think it was probably the Carlisle Old Brewery, founded in 1756 and long-associated in the 19th century with Sir Richard Hodgson.

The town had about a dozen breweries c. 1870, but Carlisle Old Brewery was listed in a trade and export directory for its East India Pale Ale, amongst other exported brands. It was not the sole brewer listed, but I’d guess the beer sent to Melbourne was Sir Richard’s (the source is not explained in the court report).

Carlisle Old Brewery survived into the First World War, it was one of four breweries remaining in operation in 1914. It was purchased by the government under the Carlisle State Management Scheme to supply beer, at a controlled alcohol level, to pubs also purchased, a unique experiment that was thought to suit wartime conditions. The government had taken the brewery over because Carlisle was a centre of munitions manufacture. The mandarins wanted to control drinking to minimize accidents and perhaps the suborning of workers for sabotage.

Goverment ownership lasted until Theakston in the next county bought the old place under a privatization scheme in the early 1970s.

Theakston ran the place for some years but finally closed it in 1987. A surviving part of the structure was later turned into apartments for Northumberland University students. This use ended last year, and the building will now be converted to private housing.

As it happens Collingwood, unlike many other parts of Australia, has many structures that survive from the 1800s. One appears above, the Yarra Hotel, seen in its mid-1800s pomp. It seems likely beer made in the first image was consumed in establishments shown in the second, or in nearby buildings, maybe alongside Wild’s a la Carlisle ale while it was still on the market.

To ponder that is some good oil, I reckon.

 

 

 

 

The Pre-Industrial Aussie Ales (With Taste Notes)

The Sydney brewery Toohey’s, a landmark since 1869, had gone public in 1901. It had entered a second phase, an expansion both of plant and for advertising and branding. The founding brothers had died and the brewery was now under professional management. The Sydney Evening News of December 23, 1905 carried a short article/advertisement full of details on Toohey’s Mark II.

The company had recently built its own maltings to replace the malt sourced previously from New Zealand, Tasmania, and Victoria. The new malt was mostly from Australian barley and the increasing use of Australian materials was mentioned with pride. This was a sign of the growing maturity and confidence of Australian industry, indeed of the country in general which had federated only four years earlier.

I asked yesterday whether by 1910 Toohey’s flagship sparkling amber ale, a bottled beer, was pasteurized. It was, as the 1905 article makes clear. As I discussed yesterday the beer was also mechanically filtered and so can be viewed as a modern form of packaged ale. Even five years later though (1910) fermentation was still a quick, 30-hour process. Presumably it was still conducted at a high temperature (> 70 F) and in this sense followed 19th century practice for “colonial ale”.

The ales were aged in cellar in hogsheads before filtering and bottling, but whether this occurred at near-freezing, lager temperatures is unclear. I’d think that stage had not been reached yet.

In Food, Power, and Community, ed. by Robert Dare (1999), brewing historian Dr. Brett Stubbs confirms that pasteurization, and force-carbonation, was usual in the country for bottled beer by 1900. Tooth’s of Sydney, the other great brewer in the city, introduced it and Toohey’s and others later followed.

Here, from 1907is an example from Maitland Breweries, in Maitland up the coast from Sydney. The ad was for Maitland Crystal Ale and proudly advertised the beer was pasteurised. The brand was still an ale, so once again an instance of a top-fermented beer, derived from the types originally made in the Colonies, but showing some characteristics of the new lager.

Toohey’s sparkling ale and Maitland’s crystal ale represented an interim phase between “colonial ale” and the later hegemony of industrial bottom-fermentation. The same thing happened in other countries of British influence, and in Britain itself.

In Canada, beers such as Labatt 50, Molson Stock Ale, and Keith’s India Pale Ale survive which represent this tradition. Over the years they have become lighter and more lager-like, but still an ale character can be detected especially when consumed fresh on draft. They show this mainly by an estery quality from warm fermentation. Still, in Canada too industrially-produced lager became almost universal, at least until the craft industry gave some blowback.

But those old, pre-1880s Aussie ales … what were they really like? I’ve mentioned J.C. MacCartie’s 1884 A Handbook for Australian Brewers which set out frankly many faults: inferior local hops, fermentation at excessively high temperatures, poor sanitation, and lack of sufficient aging. MacCartie was both a brewing writer and a professional brewer who had worked at Dunedin Brewery in NZ for six years, so his views must be taken seriously.

Yet, were beers from the specific breweries all bad? We have some remarkable evidence from a detailed press account in the Melbourne Argus in 1875. The story summarized findings of government analysts who had the police fetch samples of local ales. They were tested to determine alcoholic strength, presence of additives, and other characteristics including the “twang” that famously attended colonial ales – indeed we saw an instance of it as late as 1945 when an English observer remarked on it for Brisbane’s beer.

The article is long and there is no substitute for reading it, but some highlights: The average ABV of Melbourne’s ales was 7.5%. Impressively high and showing the influence in this regard of English mild ale brewing. The Fitzroy district showed the same level, and a couple of other areas’ beers were just a point under. When people complained of “soporific” ales by comparison to lager, one can see what they meant. Still, the Aussies clearly liked the beers that way, the pre-AC climate notwithstanding. Australian beer remains relatively strong to this day when compared to the norm in the mother country.

Most of the beers showed fusel traces, which was due to the high fermentation temperatures that MacCartie had noted. One analyst referred to a “fruity” taste resulting from this. Some beers were deemed “rancid”, probably from a putrefactive fermentation or a “fret”. No dangerous additives were detected but some samples showed use of quassia or coriander, deemed harmless but not traditional. One analyst attributed the twang to the local hops and inadequate aging. Another said it was from high fermentation temperature. Probably it was a case of both being right.

Some of the beers were deemed of high quality and one at least was mistaken for Joule’s Stone Ale, a reputed English brand.

One analyst, who would not have approved of Beeretseq’s blending techniques, deprecated mixing local ale with “pricked”, or soured or otherwise spoiled, English ale. He also disapproved when all-local beers were blended to improve one element (even though this was an old English technique). How could he tell there was mixing simply from analyzing samples? I’d guess he had gotten wind of the practice earlier and wanted to issue a pronunciamento.

News articles also reported results of local competitions, as this one in 1880 from the Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser (NSW). The article is of particular interest as it reports the judges’ taste notes for numerous beers including from Toohey’s. Joseph Marshall, father of a noted solicitor in town, did particularly well and received first prize for his very pale, strong ale.

Sample terms in the report: full body, fine hop flavour, cloudy, pale, very pale, light amber, dark amber, nice brown colour.

Sounds familiar, eh?

Note re images: the images above were sourced from the website of the Kiama Library, here. All intellectual property in or to the images belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorized user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

Toohey’s, Technology, and Two Austral Ales

A Twain of Australs

Looking for references on Toohey’s Standard Brewery of Sydney, founded 1869, I found this interesting article from 1910, as well as similar pieces that appeared between 1900 and 1910. All are clearly advertorials, and while the enthusiasm of the writers can pall after a while, there is good detail conveyed.

Essentially, they tell a story of unceasing technological improvement and a growing reputation for the once-derided “colonial ale”. Automated bottling machines were the focus in one story, the corks were allowed to protrude to exactly 1/8″. Mechanical filtration was used, and so good it was the bottles would not throw a deposit for 3-4 months. (I didn’t see a reference to pasteurization).

The beers were clearly still top-fermented as fermentation was indicated to be a short 30-40 hours, with skimming done before the beers were cleansed. There is continual reference to storage but the length of time and temperature regime are not mentioned. My sense is the beers were not then stored at lagering temperatures, but I could be wrong.

The plant stood on 15 acres, with facts such as boiling kettles holding 10,000 gallons. The barley came mostly from NSW. Some sugar, also mostly local, was used. Hops were both Australian and international.

The company made “bulk” pale ale (draft), a bottled pale ale, which was slightly lighter in colour, an amber sparkling ale (bottled), and yet other beers including stout. Refrigeration machines allowed brewing in summer.

The articles mention that Toohey’s distributed Dog’s Head Bass Pale Ale and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. This was the well-known bottling by London’s Read Bros., who dominated the Australian market in this period.

This 1905 article published in the Perth press (Western Australia) gives some good detail on how Read operated and how Bass’s ales were treated before bottling. The term “nutty” was suggested for the state Bass reached on perfect maturity. I’ve seen the word before, I think in an Institute of Brewing article from about the same time.

One would think a term referencing brettanomyces would be used – the wild yeast element made active by long aging and imparting earthy, barnyard aromas. In contrast, nutty seems to imply a malt characteristic. Maybe it meant a Madeira quality, an oxidized but attractive taste such as some fortified wines have. Alfred Barnard used the term “Madeira odour” to describe a London-matured stock ale in this period.

The Bass ads also referred to its Austral Ale, bottled specially for Australia, and the article gives a taste note here as well. The Trove newspaper resource shows numerous ads for Bass’ Austral Ale between about 1900 and 1914. Read Bros. clearly made a big push to sell it in Australia and New Zealand.

The article stated that Austral Ale had the aroma of “wallflowers” – an unusual metaphor for beer then. In botany the wallflower, sometimes called the gilly-flower, is a flowering plant of the mustard family – the cabbage is also related. It tends to grow at the base of walls where there is good drainage, hence the name.

The botanical word is not pejorative, unlike the social expression presumably inspired by it. I’d guess the social term takes the idea of “hiding” behind walls but it is not a reflection on the odour, which is favourably commented on. Indeed the scent commonly appears in perfume and bath products.

What does the wallflower smell like? This site gives a good description: it’s like clove and violets. Some hops definitely have a clove-like taste, I just had a beer like that, Tankhouse Ale from Mill St. in Toronto. Some English hops have a garden flowers scent, so one gets an idea what the hop note was like. Also, it was different to the hops in Bass Pale Ale (red triangle), or partly anyway.

The 1905 article states too that the beer is “light”, implying a lower gravity and ABV than for red triangle. The article makes clear the beer was designed for a warm climate.

Martyn Cornell discussed Bass’ Austral Ale in this 2011 article, but addressed an earlier period, when the brand seemed to be a strong beer. Clearly it was lightened late in the 1800s or after 1900, probably to meet the challenge of lager. It was sold in nip bottles that were crown-corked, a very recent innovation, the image above is from this Christchurch-based collectables site which also contains other interesting promotional items for the brand.

The 1905 article also states that Read’s man was looking at trade mark protection in Australia. Why would he want to protect the trade mark in this period, especially as Austral Ale had been around for some 50 years in one form or another?

Let’s turn now to another part of the world, but also the southern hemisphere, and where Britons were influential.

In 1895 German immigrant José Fischer founded a brewery in Patagonia, Chile. It has remained independent ever since and markets, amongst other brands, an Austral Pale Ale. The current range includes three ales and a number of lagers. The brewery is in Punta Arenas on the southernmost end of Chile.

As it happens, Punta Arenas was a British enclave then, a dêpot. Punta Arenas is a port town and was a major transit link for Atlantic-Pacific sea-going trade.

Did Fischer sell his Austral Pale Ale from day 1 and pre-empt Bass’s market for an Austral beer in Patagonia? Bass Pale Ale (red triangle) certainly was known in Chile and elsewhere in South America in the late 1800s, many sources confirm it. Also, the ocean trade meant sailors and others in transit from Australasia would have known an Austral Ale, from Bass’s earlier exports to the Antipodes. Could Fischer have seized an opportunity Bass was slow to exploit for this particular brand?

It’s a tempting theory, but the brewery’s website makes clear the brewery was called “Patagonia” on founding, not Austral. The Austral corporate name only dates from the 1990s. The website shows a number of attractive labels from c. 1900, but most are lagers or pilseners, and none is for a pale ale or any Austral-branded beer. If Fischer did brew an “Austral Pale Ale” in 1900 for his Britannic customers, I have not seen the evidence.

Austral in many Romance languages means “south”, southerly, and this also is the origin of Australia’s name, from Latin.

I’d count the matter therefore a coincidence unless evidence emerges that Fischer did sell an Austral Pale Ale c. 1900.

Current reviews for the beer indicate a malty-fruity taste with good hop notes, and 5% abv. See the website linked above where the company gives its own notes on the beer.

Note re images: the first two images above were sourced from the Christchuch, NZ collectables website linked in the text. The third is via Wikipedia Commons and its author is Fredlyfish4 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. The last image is from the Chilean retailer Lider, sourced here. All intellectual property in or to the images belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorize user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

The Greening of Cervisia

In a 1914 issue of The Western Brewer, German-born Leopold Nathan, designer of the famous cylindro-conical fermenter, said that American lager typically had green flavours.

The German term for this is Jungbuket, see a discussion on the taste, here, a few years ago from The Brewing Network. Indeed Nathan used the very term in English, “young bouquet”.

Beer Bottle.

Nathan argued that a well-matured lager, as in Europe, did not possess the taste. In the same discussion, he said a “tinge of youngishness” was acceptable when krausen (young fermenting beer) was used to carbonate, but he felt the sulphide taste in American beer was much more pronounced.

The krausen process, he said, should only be used with old, well-matured (lagered) beer. In other words, just a touch of green taste results as the krausen was added to a much larger bulk of beer which had none. Indeed he thought the result beneficial.

Nathan said American beer was green because CO2 collected from the fermentation and re-inserted in the beer still retained aromas of fermentation.

The implication was the beer was not permitted to undergo prolonged lagering and carbonate itself or receive a fillip with a final krausen.

Nathan also said on the same trip to America that in Pilsen, the beer was “pumped” to the lagering vats to rid it of any lingering carbonation. This perhaps explains why Pilsner Urquell to this day has no green taste. The word pump implies an agitation, to allow residual CO2 to lift off.

It was this sulphide taste – old vegetable, burnt match, etc. – that the Clausen brewery in New York proudly advertised (1888) its beer did not have. But evidently it still characterized much American beer 25 years later.

Of course, it is hard to know how much green aroma Nathan was referring to compared to modern lagers. One thing I do know: on a trip to Munich some years ago, I found the taste very strong in most helles, much more than in Heineken, say, or numerous craft lagers.

This means I think an interesting reversal has occurred: what Nathan objected to here has become part of the beer palate on his own turf. The reasons would be, abandonment of open fermentation and short lagering periods – the same circumstances which attended increasingly American brewing after 1900. Possibly too shorter boils in the kettle have an influence, as a longer boil can distill off these tastes, if allowed to vent that is.

Nathan’s fermentation system, now usual around the world, used enclosed fermentation to be sure. This would trap objectionable odours not eliminated in the boil, but he claimed to eliminate them by a “washing” method, also described below.

And so in our day, as in his, some lager has the taste (different intensities), and some does not. For lager which does not, some element of the process must explain it: the yeast strain, the malt, CO2 washing or its modern equivalent, or something else. From a homebrewer’s perspective, see this discussion on how to address the issue, which broad brush appears valid commercially, too.

We should note, finally, Nathan’s comment:

I have come to believe that people become so used to the taste they hardly notice it any more.

This may be the true explanation why the Jungbuket taste endures to our day.

Note re images: the first image above was obtained from O. Berk’s packaging solutions website. The extracts from the Western Brewer are via HathiTrust and the links are provided in the text. All intellectual property in or to the images belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorized user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

Clausen’s of New York Disses the Competition

Imported Lager in Early Australia – a Curate’s Egg?

A short advertisement appeared in an Adelaide newspaper in 1888, for Clausen’s Champagne Lager from New York. Evidently American lager was being imported to South Australia in the 1880s. Either it was taken by steamship from New York to and under Africa, then over on the Indian Ocean. Or, across America by rail and over the Pacific. In either case a voyage of many months. The ad reads:

A COMBINATION.
Of garlic, copperas, and over ripe eggs may be supposed to tickle the palate with a taste like unto that of some of the vaunted brands and cheaper sorts of Lager Beer. There is no immediate harm in it, perhaps, only it is not pleasant, and evil is sure to result from a prolonged devotion to any brand in which the peculiarity is noticeable. The purest Lager Beer in the world is Clausen’s New York Champagne Lager. It was so pronounced by the experts at the Philadelphia Centennial, and from that day to this it has had no equal.

Pasteurization of beer was usual by this period and so the product probably arrived in acceptable condition – at least it would not have soured although one wonders about oxidation damage. Even today drinking beer brought overseas and packaged six months earlier or more is not uncommon, so something similar would have occurred for the Clausen’s lager sent to Adelaide.

Where the short ad differs from almost any I’ve seen is its discussion of how the competition tastes. The ad states that many “vaunted” lager brands taste of garlic, copperas (iron sulphate) and old eggs. The ad calls the taste “cheap” and promises that Clausen’s beer is “pure”, meaning probably that it tastes of malted grain and hops only.

Very early, consumers and brewing experts in the Anglo-Saxon world noticed that lager, being promoted endlessly as the new thing, tasted of garlic. Given the traditional aversion to garlic in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Celtic circles (something now révolue), this perception had a certain weight.

One would think the trait would have consigned lager early on, outside its heartland, to the would-be category of history. Not at all. Pale lager became the world’s dominant style and to this day, many famed brands have that taste to a greater or lesser degree. I notice it Heineken, Grolsch, PBR, Molson Canadian, Creemore, most German lagers, and countless other beers.

It does characterize some ale too, and traditionally something similar exists for Burton pale ale, but the taste is not typical of top-fermentation, IMO.

Yet, not all pale lagers have it. Pilsner Urquell does not. Coney Island Mermaid Lager does not. Budweiser does not, nor Coors Light, Amstel Light or Tsingtao, say.

The taste is not invariable, therefore, but is frequently experienced. The flavour is usually attributed to dimethyl sulphide or another sulphide. It occurs from the reaction of certain lager yeasts with chemical precursors in very pale malt. Since modern lager yeast derives from single cell yeasts isolated in the late 19th century, there are only two or three essential forms of it, and all the world’s lager yeasts are examples, more or less. Hence the frequency of the taste.

Some brewing scientists in the late 1800s and early 1900s spoke about how to reduce the taste. Long aging was felt important to this end as the off-flavours would dissipate or be re-absorbed by the yeast. Later, CO2 was used to “wash” the taste out of young beer; the great fermentation expert and designer, Leopold Nathan, advocated this.

Nonetheless much of the world’s lager still has the taste, one that has been no bar to its great expansion since the 1800s.

Clausen’s was saying, our beer doesn’t have it, and was seeking a leg up in the market. Clausen Brewery c. 1875 was selling 90,000 barrels a year, and ranked in the top 10 of brewers then. But many competitive beers surely had the taste, including from brewers who well-outsold Clausen. People just accepted it, or perhaps felt it went well with food. As garlic is a seasoning, it makes sense a DMS-influenced beer accompanies food well, especially the relatively under-seasoned German and Anglo-American cuisines.

I have never really accustomed to the taste. I can drink it, but find it at bottom “not pleasant”. Yet I like a moderate taste of garlic and onion in some food. I just don’t associate it with beer. This may be completely learned behaviour, with the obverse occurring in Germany, say. But I do think when lager was much longer-aged than today, it didn’t have the taste, or in much lesser proportion than today. Clausen’s perhaps aged its beer for nine to twelve months, or if not, it achieved a clean palate in some other way. It would be interesting to ask the Urquell people about this, incidentally.

By 1911, one reads of garlic in lager in a benign way, as here for the English-brewed Peter Walker’s lager, then being promoted in Australia. The article correctly notes the taste comes from the fermentation process. It was not, as some speculated, from pitch-lined casks. I should add, by mentioning the garlic taste as “peculiar”, the article did not mean to deprecate it; rather in this period peculiar still could mean “particular” or “specific”.

For whatever reason, the taste became accepted. Whether modern Australian and NZ mass market lagers have it I can’t say, I’d guess some do, in fact I did have a Foster’s not long ago, and recall a whiff of it.

Clausen, which was located at 47th street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, made classic Anglo-American styles too, like IPA and stout. It didn’t seek to sell these in Australia, as far as I know. One doesn’t bring coals to Newcastle, so to speak – and so to speak.

Note re images: The images were sourced from the following websites: the first, from Tavern Trove, here; the second, from an historical playing cards site, here; and the third, from the Library of Congress, hereAll intellectual property in or to these images belongs solely to the lawful owner or authorized user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Justin C. MacCartie, Gentleman Brewer and Novelist of the Antipodes

It Started With Ale

The craft brewing industry has relied extensively on the ale tradition – taking in for convenience stout, porter, saison, Gose, wheat beers, etc. This is in distinction of course to lager brewing.

In the U.S. and Canada where the modern craft industry was birthed the mass market was – still is – dominated by the international style of lager: light-bodied, with grain adjunct, lightly-hopped, served cold. The ales were way to stand out and a link to an older tradition. There were exceptions to the “ale” rul in early North American craft brewing, Sam Adams and Gordon Biersch are examples, or Creemore in Ontario, but the heart of craft brewing was and still is the top-fermented beers. Hence the continuing popularity of “IPA” (India Pale Ale).

Ale was also easier to make in an artisan setting with low capital.

Anglo-Saxons and Ale

In all the Anglo-Saxon countries and even Europe if you go back far enough, top-fermentation brewing was the original method. It was often seasonal due to the inability to make a clean ferment in warm temperatures. Even when an acceptable product was made, it was hard to store it before mechanical refrigeration became available.

In Canada and the northeast U.S., the comparatively cold climate meant for fairly effective ale brewing. I’ve discussed earlier the products of American ale breweries of the 1800s and early 1900s. Many were in business up to 1920 albeit offering by then a niche speciality, within 10% of the market.

Australian Ale

In Australia, therefore, top-fermentation ruled in early settlements until lager became the main type of beer produced. Australian beer historian Dr. Brent Stubbs wrote in his 1999 Food, Power and Community: Essays in the History of Food and Drink, ed. Robert Dare, that even after lager production began (1885) its implantation took time due partly to technical problems.

Lager was bested for a time by the onset of what might be termed lagered ales. These were the brilliant, “diamond”, or “dinner” ales that also appeared in Britain and North America. They were warm-fermented but stored cold for a time and usually artificially carbonated. The ales that the lagered type displaced were considered inferior and he cites a visiting English brewer who rated the taste “sickly”. This might imply the taste of infected yeast.

But after 1910 modern lager-brewing – German-style bottom fermentation benefitting from full temperature control – became almost invariable. The Nathan fermentation system, which I described earlier, played a role certainly in ensuring lager’s dominance in Australia. Indeed the new federation was a pioneer in testing and deploying the method.

Whatever the precise reasons – stability, palate, modern advertising – chilled, refreshing lager, similar to but less sweet than German and Czech models, and less bitter, became the beer type in the Federation, New Zealand too. The older warm fermentation tradition, whether the products were cold-lagered or not, yielded almost completely to the triumph of pale lager.

Outlier Coopers’ Brewery

Coopers Brewery’ in Adelaide is famously a survivor of the earlier ale days. It has continued in business since 1862, an amazing run especially considering how bottom-fermentation is dominant elsewhere in the country.

Still controlled by Coopers’ descendants, it makes a fine range of top-fermented beers, as well as numerous lagers. At 5% of the national market, it holds a position broadly similar to American ale breweries (collectively) on the eve of Prohibition.

That cloudy ale so popular in hipster bars today? Coopers had a brand like that all along, Coopers’ Sparkling Ale – the name was ironic, or so Michael Jackson wrote years ago.

But what were the ales of pre-lager Australia like? Dr. Stubbs writes that almost every town had at least one ale brewery up to about 1885. The cities often counted many more. The Australian and New Zealand thirst existed for the ales no less than the perfected lagers which came later.

“Colonial” Ale

Perusing the Australian press of 1880-1920 one finds many comments in tune with the English brewer’s opinion. Some refer to the “twang” of “Colonial ale”, which might have meant off-flavours resulting from excessively high fermentation temperatures (see below), or possibly the local hops.

In this period Australian hops including large supplies from Tasmania but these were considered lesser in British circles, even as compared to the generally derided American hops. When lager’s use became generalized the hops used were either all-imported (Bavarian or English) to a mix with the regional product.

Some commentary approved the beers though, perhaps from local boosterism, perhaps on genuine merit. There probably was a good degree of variation among the breweries, too, and seasonal or even batch inconsistency.

As an example of a thumbs up approach this article from 1886 contains numerous points of interest. The writer toured Messrs. H. Leggo and Sons’ Barley Sheaf Brewery in Ballarat, Victoria  and liked the ale. He said it was “sharp” but also somewhat sweet, and kept well – he had tasted the beer both new and aged. He liked the porter too, noting that it lacked the “liquorice” taste of most Colonial-made porter. Now this is a taste familiar to us today, not as inferior, but as typical of much stout and porter. It probably came from use of so-called black (roasted) malt, or in some cases probably roasted (unmalted) barley, on a pale malt base.

I think the observer was thinking of the more complex taste that results from using amber or brown malt in the mash, which the London breweries and Guinness would have done. If Leggo’s brewery had achieved that this spoke in its favour to make even what we consider good porter today was not still a creditable effort.

Some words from this connoisseur:

The beer on draught in the cellar—which is the same as that ordinarily supplied to customers—is a most palatable beverage, clear, with a good body, and neither too sharp nor too sweet. The excellence of the liquor is no doubt due to the fact that the firm provide their own malt, and are, therefore, not compelled to use so much sugar as those who have to buy the former ingredient. Messrs Leggo and Sons are now making a specialty of bottled beer and porter. Concerning the former, we may remark, that even what had just been bottled was an excellent sample of ale; That which had had the advantage of standing for a little while was still better. Clear as amber, lively and sharp, it makes as pleasant a drink as a non-teetotaller could desire; in fact it is as near an approach to the best British brands as could be desired. It is a light ale, and evidently free from any deleterious ingredient. The manufacturers claim for it that “there is not a headache in a hogshead of it.” The porter is also of an excellent quality, free from the liquorice flavor that characterises so many colonial productions of a similar nature.

Justin Charles MacCartie

Justin Charles MacCartie (1861-1928) was the son of an Irish barrister who had emigrated to Australia. At the young age of 23 the son wrote (1884) a Handbook for Australian Brewers. The book is a well-written, practical guide to brewing in Australia and also New Zealand, where the author had worked for six years in a brewery. This obituary doesn’t mention that he had worked in a brewery or had any connection to brewing at all. It states he was a “technical and commercial writer” whose writing included farm subjects and a novelist who had attracted some attention. Another obituary referred to him as scholarly and a gentleman.

Yet, he is the same MacCartie who also had a brewing background. Proof is found in in this entry in the Bibliography of Australian Literature, Vol. 3, which mentions the brewing volume together with the greater number of creative works he wrote.

Clearly after his brewing career he took up writing as an occupation. In fact there was some continuity from the brewing, as the introduction to the Handbook states he had contributed significantly to the Australian Brewers Review.

Why the lack of a reference to his brewing past in the 1928 obituary? It’s hard to know, but it refers to his “broken health” in later years. Could this be a veiled reference to alcoholism, in which case reference to his brewing history might have been felt inapt? There are obituaries in the Australian press for two sons of MacCartie who died from the after-effects of multiple gassings in the First World War. The losses must have worsened the father’s health even if sound when the sons went to war, but I am speculating again.

In any case, we have the case of a professional brewer who became a literary writer of some note; that is unusual, at a minimum.

In this literary review (New Zealand Tablet, 1891) of MacCartie’s novel Making His Pile the reviewer delivered a vicious verdict. His reference to the knife as metaphor was entirely apposite in the sense it was he who put the knife in. Maybe this kind of rejection started MacCartie’s health decline, who knows.

I haven’t read the novel, which is a story of society and the underside of commercial life in Dunedin, but would note two things. First, the book elicited a number of even-handed and even complimentary notices in the press. Here is one, from the Daily Telegraph of Hawke’s Bay. Second, the Tablet’s assassination which passes for a book review makes me think the world of letters, of writing, can be every bit as competitive and mean-spirited as the world of business.

No doubt the hard years of competing in the brewing business – the 1884 manual refers to the difficulties in asides – made MacCartie knowledgeable of the hard commercial knocks. The first-mentioned reviewer claimed ignorance of those ways but this rings hollow when his own article shows all too well how to skewer a fellow writer.

MacCartie On Australian Ale

I’ve digressed a bit but would like Justin MacCartie to be remembered for his renaissance quality. And the brewing book is a good one, it shows in every line that he knew what good beer was, not all brewing writers do. This comes out in many ways. He supported use of native hops over the “trash” from England, not because English hops were inferior but because the long voyage rendered them inferior to what the English market knew. He was prepared to say so when many Colonials were less confident, clearly.

Another example is when he noted that bi-sulphite of lime, added then to beer as a preservative, can react with the Pacific region’s soft water to produce ill-smelling hydrogen sulphide. He says, people praise the taste in imported English ale – this is known in beer studies as the Burton “snatch” – yet it is viewed as a fault in the local product.

In the passage which follows (at p. 73) he frankly attests to the general inadequacy of Australian and New Zealand ale, but explains the reason. A glint of the literary ability he later demonstrated appears.

English brewers would stare aghast at the idea of pitching their wort at 70 or 72 F. and letting it rise before fermentation was finished to 90 or 92 F., yet these heats are common in Australian breweries.

Beers fermented at these high temperatures and racked, fined, sent out and drunk in a week or ten days, cannot possibly possess much “character” and could never satisfy the palates of those accustomed to drink more matured beers. Hence the large importations of English ales.

These fast fermentations do well enough for light-running ales which are rapidly consumed, but for high-class ales slower fermentation is necessary, therefore it is well to brew the latter in winter and store them away till summer, when even if they do “fret” in the consumer’s cellar, no harm will result, winter-brewed ales always having sufficient stability to withstand a “fret” without going sour.

The taste of beer fermented at a very high temperature can be found in some modern Belgian ale, it’s a kind of root beer or bubble gum taste. Today, such artisan tastes are fussed over but in his day they were considered second-best. Australian brewing finally conquered the problem and MacCartie lived long enough to see it, but perhaps was pained that it took a drink from a different tradition, lager, to do it.

Envoi

I’d like to have tasted MacCartie’s Dunedin beer. Modern brewers should remember him, and create a liquid tribute. There is plenty of direction in the Handbook how to that. Ideally he (or she) should be a brewer in Dunedin, NZ. No yarn.

Note re images. The first was sourced from Coopers’ Brewery’s website, here. The second, from this New Zealand historical amenities conservation site which shows the city’s Octagon, c. 1890. All intellectual property in or to the images belongs solely to the lawful owners or authorized users. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brewing Over Time, and Tyne

The Arc of Brewing in North East England, or The Class of ’72

The 1972 price list below is illustrative of a number of points of British brewing and beer c. 1970. The beers are classic Scottish & Newcastle of 45 years ago, some made in Newcastle at Tyne Brewery, some from the two Scottish components, William Younger’s and McEwan’s.

S&N was fully-merged by 1972 but the three breweries in many ways retained individuality, as shown by the branding for each. So really this can be seen as a reasonable regional beer selection of that era.

Gateshead, over the river from Newcastle, had its own brewery in Dunston, Federation Brewery. Founded by workingmens clubs to get a better handle on pricing, it departed its handsome brick pile on Hanover Square, Newcastle in the early 1980s to occupy an anonymous industrial cube, but the beers carried on.

The pub whence this list was saved would have been a S&N account though, unless it was a free-house or perhaps a hotel.

None of the breweries mentioned, the actual brewing facilities, exists today.

The first listing is of traditional draught beers (real ale), however each was also available in “tank” form, which was chilled, brewery-conditioned beer stored in large tanks in the pub cellars. Perhaps it was not pasteurized, or not always. See Martyn Cornell here on some cellar tank history.

The keg beers and lagers offered almost surely were pasteurized and chilled and probably had less hop impact, possibly less malt too, than the traditional draught. Note the prices: all higher than draught (real ale) except for Starbrite which was the weakest, I’d guess.

A point of contention in this era for real ale fans was that (often) well-advertised keg beer fetched a higher price than draught despite being weaker in taste, alcohol, or both. Yet it was the “new thing” and attracted a large following.

Guinness draft was available too, probably brewed in Dublin, not Park Royal, London which supplied only the south and some central parts of the country. But there was also the sweet Jubilee Stout from Bass Charrington, and sweeter Mackeson.

Bass Blue Label pale ale (filtered, pasteurized) was also distributed in the area by S&N, ditto the filtered and pasteurized Worthington Green Shield, and Ind Coope’s Double Diamond. Still, a trio of primo pales, or duo: Brian Glover states that Bass Blue Triangle and Worthington Green Shield were the same beer. They do sell for the same price here.

And IPA! Two of them, both cask beers. Even though the IPA nomenclature had largely died out in most of Britain, it makes a brave showing here. Younger’s Special likely was the stronger of the two. The Americans have re-invented IPA but the beers of those names in draught form in NE England and Scotland would have been excellent beers, descendants of the London, Scottish, and Burton IPAs of the 1800s.

And Scotch ales, note the variations of strength and probably colour. And of course Newcastle Brown Ale (denominated strong) but also its stablemate the amber ale, the one blended with an aged beer to form Newkie Brown.

Finally, two lagers, Guinness’s Harp and Ind Coope’s Long Life.

When this list was used, the NE region had, I believe, five surviving breweries, the two mentioned in Newcastle, Cameron’s in Hartlepool, Vaux in Sunderland, and Nimmo’s/Whitbread (Castle Eden) in Durham. Only Cameron’s remains today of that group.

Despite that, one conglomerate alone offered an enviable luxury of choice, its own and a few sourced beers tacked on. There was no wheat beer, no Gose, no saison, no Black IPA (although you could mix your own at the bar and some did). They did have session though – they invented it. Anyhow, there was a deal of good beer there, no one could complain about it. Perhaps the average alcohol level was too low, but I’m not even sure of that.

Today, the NE counts over 50 breweries, the aptly named Big Lamp is the well-known pioneer (1982). This is less than what existed in 1869 (152), but more than in 1970 (5) and even 1939 (15), see p. 334 and the appendices in Brian Bennison’s superb 1992 doctoral study of NE brewing history, 1869-1939, here.

Gateshead once had six breweries just on its own. But given the mobility of people today and the distribution capabilities of breweries, wholesalers, and the supermarkets, the average Geordie probably has much more choice available than in his/her parental line going back four generations or more.

The North East is emblematic of the recovery in the beer culture of England, but even in 1972, and even as listed by one brewery company, you had an excellent range of beers. It’s more diverse today, but in sheer quality terms, whether the S&N ’72 list is inferior is questionable. Of course it depends how you define quality. I have a feeling if I ran through 25 representative beers of NE craft brewing and put them against the class of ’72, I’d choose the latter.

Or maybe I just like the auld days, bonny lads.

Note re images: The first two images are from this historical Newcastle pub images gallery in ChronicleLive, here. The third is from this pub history discussion forum, here. The last three are from Big Lamp`s website linked above. All intellectual property in or to the images shown belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorized user. Images are believed available for educational or historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

Back to the Future of Beer

Two stories in the last four months pinpoint the turnaround in British brewing since the mid-1970s. The first, from The Telegraph, explains that about 1700 breweries currently operate, an 80-year high. The second, from The Guardian, states that lager sales have fallen below 50% and cask-conditioned ale has regained part of its historical dominance. The second story notes the continuation of the pub-closing phenomenon, but with 4,500 pubs still operating, the country won’t be denuded of pubs any time soon.

New pub openings, even if fewer than the closures and often offering quality rather than quantity, are a fair price to pay for a lower overall number.

In 1976 when beer writer Michael Jackson started his landmark work, lager had just over 15% of the market and, in his words, was a separate drink from beer in the Englishman’s mind. The remainder was top-fermented beers, mostly ale and sub-dividing to cask beer and various forms of keg and bottled beer. Lager grew from there to over 80% of the market but has scaled back under the resurgence of ale-drinking, which includes a small amount of stout and porter and now other styles such as wheat beers, sours, saison.

How does this compare to 1973 when Peter Rusbridge was defending traditional beer to a sunny Canberra audience? While the trend toward lager was well underway and keg beer was a force to be reckoned with, there was still an English beer culture.  Consider his explanation:

He sidles up to me in the bar. “How d’you like Australian beer?” he asks. “Very much indeed”. I reply, “It is a very refreshing drink”. He looks at me, speculatively. “Not like your Pom rubbish eh? — all flat and warm, with ‘stuff floating around in it!” I pause for a moment, and he sniffs the air distrustfully. “No”, I eventually reply, “It certainly isn’t like that”. He relaxes visibly; the point has been made. My friend has just made one of those facile statements, so bland in their utterance that they win immediate acceptance, but which are wrong, and which would take an hour of carefully reasoned argument to refute properly. He should be in television. The truth is that English beer is very different from Australian beer; that it is sometimes warm, sometimes flat, and sometimes cloudy; but that it is also sometimes very cold, sometimes frothy (not fizzy), and usually crystal clear. The chief interest in English beer is that it is always different. Somerset beer is different from Lincolnshire beer, and both are very different from Northern beers. There are pale beers, dark beers, hoppy beers, malty beers, beers that taste like soap, bitter beers with the tang of vinegar, sweet beers, heavy with the taste of yeast still working, mild beers and stouts. You must search for the beer that suits you best, and then you must find the landlord that knows how to store and serve it.

This variety of tastes was offered via “The Big Six”, the large brewers mostly formed by unceasing industry consolidation since the early 1900s, and a few score surviving old regional brewers. There were just four brewpubs in the country, remnants of the 1800s “beer house”. Given some of the Big Six had numerous plants, each of which might issue numerous brands, this permitted in total a few hundred ales, many still in cask form, with bottled and canned ales in addition.

This was nothing compared to 1900, when Hampshire county, say, had 80 breweries alone as Lynn Pearson wrote in 2010, but still represented a decent beer culture.

It was this variety which allowed Rusbridge to make the case he did, albeit he saw the risks from keg beer and closure of traditional pubs or their conversion to pub-restaurants attracting a flashy clientele.

In fact, everything he, CAMRA, Michael Jackson, Roger Protz, and other beer-aware factions wanted finally came. Despite the occasional flare-up of sensitivities, e.g., when an exemplar of the craft scene, Cloudwater Brewing in Manchester, recently announced cessation of cask sales, the current beer scene is a complete reversal of 1973’s trends. With no or a little trouble, even in more remote parts of the country anyone can have good beer.

Even if Cloudwater’s decision heralds a trend, and I think it won’t, the new keg beer can’t in any way be compared to the old. It is real beer – although I remain a supporter of CAMRA’s real ale remit – in any meaningful sense of the word. It is often all-malt and full of hops, including a pungent hop accent not available in 1973: the New World taste introduced by American brewers. 1973’s keg beer was full of adjunct, pasteurized, served cold and fizzy, and not very hoppy – much of it didn’t even taste like beer. I remember it from its “classic” era. A good description is Ovaltine-meets-cold-tea.

Lager has retreated despite the best efforts of the best marketing and ad minds in the world. Good lager has made inroads via availability of Budweiser Budvar, Pilsner Urquell, and many other fine imports. (International brewery consolidation has proved a beneficial factor here). There is also increasing craft production of good lager.

The purchase of some small breweries by large ones should not be a concern. First, it’s the beer that counts. No one in the 1970s cared that Directors Bitter, say, came from a large brewery. While some will always want to patronize small shops, which is certainly their right, most of the market will buy what tastes good at the right price.

Second, new breweries continue to open and will keep faux-craft “honest”.  We are in for a long period of extensive beer choice, in most Western countries now. This resulted from the campaigning efforts of very small numbers of people in the 1970s, people who loved beer and stood up for it when it wasn’t fashionable.

Of those names and I’ve mentioned a few in the last couple of posts, one has Olympian standing. Michael Jackson. When you re-read his early works, as I have recently, apart from the sheer quality of the writing, what comes across is his deep knowledge and love of beer. It can’t be over-estimated what influence he had on the rise of craft brewing here. The latter’s shake-up of the British brewing scene is therefore indirectly due in large part to his handiwork.

Many people shared that avidity, but he had the gift to explain it, in particular the traditional beer cultures of Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Czech lands, the United States, in a way no one has since.

Note re image: the image shown was taken by Trevor Ermel and is part of a series of evocative, 1970s photos in Gateshead included in a ChronicleLive page, here. All intellectual property in or to the image belongs solely to its lawful owner or authorized users. Image believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

Peter Rusbridge Calls for a Glass of the Best

Convincing Canberra Beer Could Be Special

This article describes the U.K. beer scene at a time of transition, 1973. Written that year by an English journalist, it explained his nation’s beer to (Australian) readers of The Canberra Times. The article is both a description of the best that exists and a plea to preserve it from encroaching change.

The piece is entitled The Pleasures of Warm Beer – now that’s edgy for the Australia of the mid-70s.

CAMRA, the influential cask beer lobby, had only existed for a couple of years. The writer seems influenced by CAMRA and lauded especially beer from the wood. He may have been a member of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, a proto-CAMRA which still exists. He was a good example of the “real ale” fan, someone who gained consciousness that, as Michael Jackson put it in The English Pub (1976), “a detail of English life [was being] obliterated”.

The article expresses the new awareness that so-called keg beer – chilled, pressurized, pasteurized draft – was edging out the traditional, unfiltered and unpasteurized ales. It makes the case for a regional identity to beer, something still possible then as there were enough surviving regional breweries, and to preserve that legacy.

Michael Jackson most famously, but also Richard Boston, Roger Protz, and others later took the message to a national and (finally) international audience. Their message resonated and was amplified in the United States and Canada, whence the craft beer phenomenon which has rebounded to the U.K.

It is gratifying to note that the brewery Rusbridge mentioned as a charter member of the old school, Badger Brewery, is still going strong. Rusbridge, hopefully also still with us, must be very pleased and with how good beer has resurged in general. Of course there was the victory of mass market lager, which filled the role keg beer was designed for, but the proliferation of new small breweries and beer diversity including for cask ale is now assured.

Badger is called today Hall & Woodhouse, and run by the 7th generation of Woodhouses – it doesn’t get much more traditional. Indeed, a feature of our world 40 years on is that the local and old-established can also be international: the Fursty Ferret flagship of H&W is available in bottled form down the road from me at LCBO. I wish it had a more pronounced taste, but then bottled and draft beer are often two different things, and on its local turf I’m sure it is very nice.

The cask ale Rusbridge lyricised was probably Badger Original, no longer made. But there are plenty of newer Badger cask beers to entice the fan, as this page from the website shows.

Were the Aussie readers convinced? I doubt it, except for recent immigrants perhaps. In that period, Antipodeans had a deprecating view of the “Poms'” beer, which Rusbridge notes in the unaggressive way then typical of English journalism. (His last paragraph though digs the knife in, in the genteel old world way).

Today Australian and similar parochialism in beer is mostly a thing of the past. Even those who like beer but aren’t “beer literate” are hesitant to be chauvinistic. The Aussies were famously different a generation ago, even for beer outside their own state – the other stuff was all muck, generally.

Today too there is air conditioning everywhere, which allows full-bodied beers to be served at less than glacial temperatures and enjoyed even in hot countries. And, so, there is plenty of good beer in Australia including Canberra.

Finally, the traditional pub described by Rusbridge did not disappear. Many pubs keep the tradition going of unpretentious decor and service. True, the hipster side of the beer scene can change that, but overall there is more choice in beer and good places to drink it than 40 years ago. (And hipsters have a right to their establishments too, it’s a free country – still).

Raise a glass to Peter Rusbridge’s prescience and advocacy. It took backbone to stand up for real English beer to an audience inured to iced lager. But as often happens, those in the wilderness can be seen later as prophets.

We even have beer in the wood again, in particular the newer-style American oak-aged beers.