1870 “AK” and Time in a Bottle

Sources for the AK Brewing

This is a follow-up to my post on brewing a collaboration AK with Amsterdam Brewing Co. in Toronto earlier this month.

As the basis, we used the brewing directions of “Aroma”, a pseudonymous brewer – evidently he was a brewer – who answered a question in an 1870 issue of the periodical English Mechanic and World of Science.

In an earlier post, I reproduced the account, see here, bottom-right corner. The related discussion may interest some as well.

I found it a few years ago when searching for the answer to why “AK”, a member of the bitter beer family, bears that name. Indeed, Aroma offers his explanation, it means ale for keeping, or keeping ale evidently. This is the only evidence I am aware of that suggests what AK actually means.

Aroma’s directions, which apply both to AK and higher-gravity IPA, were supplemented by recourse to numerous brewing texts, brewing journals, and encyclopedia discussions of the period.

The sources covered part of the late-1800s, when the key elements to bitter beer were more or less constant, e.g. fairly heavy hopping, one (pale) malt only, starting/finishing gravities, typical methods to cleanse and clarify the beer, pitching and maximum fermentation temperature, storage temperature, storage time, timing of hops additions, etc.

Of course even in a single source one might read different approaches. Aroma himself for example states that the boil could occur for one to two and a half hours. We used one hour.

He stated a somewhat higher maximum range for fermentation temperature than we used, but other sources were in accordance with our maximum. It would have varied for some brewers at different times of year anyway.

As in any brewing, a final choice was made that we felt represented reasonable parameters for this type of beer. The idea was to brew a beer that in its essentials would be recognizable to a person from the era, not least Aroma himself.  We shall never know for sure of course, but I believe we got close.

Back in the 1970s an early modern beer historian, Dr. John Harrison, had both the theoretical and practical interest. He served a London porter to an aged person who had worked in London before WW I. She was at the home of someone involved with the recreation.

In an Independent news column reproduced on his still-extant website, beer guru Michael Jackson wrote:


In 1976, Dr. Harrison made a black potion and offered it as “Guinness” to a lady who was 86 years old. “This isn’t “Guinness”, she scolded him. “This is London porter. I used to drink this when I was in service.” The sample had been based on a Whitbread London Porter from 1850. Soon, all such witnesses will be gone.


Similarly, I am hoping my 1870 time trekker would state, “this isn’t your ‘IPA’ made with the new style American hops, this is our English AK” – even as he or she must remain imaginary, a conjuring.

Thanks again to Amsterdam and Iain McOustra’s brewing team for their interest and commitment to this project. Beer (name is not finalized yet) should be ready in another three to four weeks.

The Original, Intentional American “Sour” (Beer)


If you look at pg. 29 in this cocktail manual, The Reminder by Jake Didier, published c.1905 (no date shown) at pg. 29 a recipe for “beer sour” appears.

This is very interesting, it is: add four dashes of lemon juice in a glass and fill with lager beer.

A dash’s quantity will always be controversial, perhaps pedantically so. Take a lemon wedge, then do four, not over-energetic squeezes in a glass, you’ve got it. Pour in your lager.

Given the whole history of 19th century bottom-fermentation and of improving brewing technology to banish acidity, why introduce it in beer? I think the reason was, as lager replaced the often-tart ale, some people missed the tang of slightly-off ale.

So, put lemon juice in good beer. A similar trick was used earlier in Britain to make very new ale taste old, Seville orange, sulphuric acid, or something similar was added.

Didier’s book ran to a 5th edition, the one I linked is I believe the first and rather crudely printed and bound. The last edition I read, 1917’s, omits the “beer sour”.

Yet today sours are a successful category of craft brewing. Many people like the tart taste, and it has come back in this form. Belgian lambic and other sourish ales inspired the trend here. Albeit the taste had just barely survived in Belgium itself.

The lemon wedge with some wheat beer is a stand-by of course, although I think there it is not to balance a sweetness, but more to complement the wheaty taste.

Pre-Prohibition lager was quite malty, as I have documented earlier, and remained so in post-Repeal brewing until World War II. Some ale drinkers who couldn’t get ale easily probably figured out that lemon juice masked the sweetness and provided a tang they recalled in old ale, hence it becoming a bartender’s trick.

I’m not sure the panaché/shandy idea is similar as those are very sweet drinks but the lemony connection may mean something.

I don’t know about four dashes but acidity is a funny thing, you need a certain amount of it in any beer. I’ve added different acid agents and sometimes you wouldn’t know anything of the like was added, if you don’t add too much that is.

Anyway, purpose-made sours: what’s old is new again. However, it is safe to say the sour taste was even then, and is certainly today, the preference of a decided minority, indeed a minority within a minority where craft beer is concerned.


Beer Cuisine in the 1930s

Malt Grain Bread and Other Specialties With Beer

In some 40 pages, Virginia Elliott, a 20th century journalist and writer based in New York, delineates in some detail an approach to beer cuisine. It’s set out in the seemingly oddly-titled Quiet Drinking, although the date of publication, late 1933, suggests I think the reason: raucous drinking in well-insulated speakeasies, or perhaps in the memories of some who knew the pre-Prohibition saloon, was now of the past.

Probably because legal beer was so new, Elliott does not explain the different styles or traditions. The most she gets into it is “light and dark”.

Her palate advice is restricted to: buy a few brands. Taste successively, eating a bit of white bread between. Decide which you like, and it may end as a local brand and not the most expensive (good advice). Lay in a supply and forget hence about brands.

It’s one way to go about it, and not necessarily the worst.

The book really shines, first, in the area of beer-drinking accessories. The full range of paraphernalia is discussed including glasses, mugs, trays, picnic hampers, and cooling devices – she did not appreciate warm beer, which perhaps suggests the limits of her expertise, but still.

She also spends time on draft service and how to do it properly, probably for a new generation of legal bar owners arising. Yet, it seems too people then regularly got in a quarter-keg for a party, and she insists on the right ways to handle such beer to avoid waste.

She states baldly that draft is superior to bottled because not pasteurized. It’s something often stated in beer or brewing literature of the early 1900s and late-1800s, but not often heard today. In part this is because most craft beer is not pasteurized, but it’s a point always to be retained, as the process does exact, I think, some cost albeit it provides benefits in some scenarios.

The food discussion in the beer chapter is where Virginia Elliott really takes flight. She describes a long list of hot dishes suitable for beer. Everything from kidneys to curry. Most dishes are from bourgeois cuisines, generally from northern Europe where beer is a tradition.

Welsh rabbit and variants feature, a host of different hot sandwiches, German-style frankfurters and knockwurst with kraut of course, smoked and picked fish, cheeses, cold Teutonic sausage plates (called “Dutch lunch” then), hams, and similar.

The foods are described in good detail including, say, four different kinds of imported liverwurst. One German sausage containing donkey is mentioned without the usual verbal frisson – sign of the true gastronome.

The 1940s beer tastings of the New York Wine and Food Society that I’ve referred to earlier featured selections from most of these categories except the supper dishes. One can see the influence Elliott’s book exercised.

I can’t find much on her biographically. She died in 1977, was married, and in the 1920s had collaborated on another drinks book with Iowa-born author Phil Stong (not her husband), famous for writing State Fair. A strange feature of 1920s gastronomy in the U.S. is the considerable number of books issued on drinks and related advice.

Even though it implied encouraging people to seek illegal alcohol, writing such guides was not unlawful as such. One book I saw even contained a recipe to brew beer at home.

Although part of a larger book on wines and cocktails, Elliott’s book is a useful window on how food was viewed from a beer standpoint in the mid-1930s. There is much from pre-1920 that she continues, but her discussion is perhaps the most comprehensive I’ve seen in America to that date.

There is no usage, except in Welsh rabbit, of beer in the supper recipes or theory advanced in that regard: otherwise conventional foods meant to accompany beer were the focus. No unusual combinations are suggested although she does encourage the reader to come up with his or her own ideas.

Beer used in recipes in the way of wine, or as accompaniment to non-traditional dishes, was still decades away. Still, Elliott’s book is a part of the long pathway that led to today’s plethora and beer-and-food books.

Some final advice from Ms. Elliott, on the different breads for beer and its foods:

The peasant or dark breads belong with beer. Pumpernickel of course is a German favorite. If you like the very heavy kind any good German deli­catessen can furnish you with an imported one, done up in many layers of foil, which is thinly sliced, very soggy and quite delicious.

The pumpernickel which is made by your local baker will not be as heavy nor have as decided a flavor, but is good. Jewish deli­catessens have one with a particularly nice twang. 

Imported Khommissbrot, the coarse, heavy bread eaten by the German soldiers, is good with cheese. It comes in pound packages, thinly sliced, and is only fifteen cents a pound. 

Malskorn* is the very heaviest of the pumpernickels. Black Russian bread is good with beer, but is not very popular because of its very strong flavor. Rye bread, with or without caraway seeds, should be served with salt fish, smoked meats, or the more piquant spreads. It should be thinly sliced. 

German salt-rising bread is delicious with beer, but should be eaten with butter only. It has a peculiar flavor which does not combine well with most foods. Swedish breads make a good carrier for pastes and fish. 

Rye Krisp is primarily a health bread and is less fattening than others. It is made in a large thin round wafer and has the consistency of asbestos. It may be served in the whole piece, and broken off as it is wanted. It costs fifty cents a pound and lasts forever.

Have you run into German salt-raised bread, lately? It sounds perhaps similar to the Jewish bialy roll, for which the term saline only starts to describe Neptune’s tight embrace. The bialy, named for the Polish city Bialystok, likewise suits only butter or at most the blandest cheeses.
*Malt grain bread, satisfyingly connected to beer via malt.




Tilting at Windmills

Are You Experienced?

… he ate some roast beef and drank two pints of ale, stimulated by the flavor of a cow-shed which this fine, pale beer exhaled.

His hunger persisted. He lingered over a piece of blue Stilton cheese, made quick work of a rhubarb tart, and to vary his drinking, quenched his thirst with porter, that dark beer which smells of Spanish licorice but which does not have its sugary taste…

The above words are from this online edition of French novelist J-K Huysman’s 1884 A Rebours, translated as Against the Grain.

This novel was mentioned in beer critic Michael Jackson’s early work, but not in connection with the above quotation. Jackson examined the part where Huysmans (pictured) imagined an all-black meal, one featuring black soups, dark game, sauces the colour of “bootblack”, and ebon drinks such as kvass and porter.

Huysmann was looking to describe extreme experiences of the senses, both taste and perception, to counterpoint the moderation and juste moyen of bourgeois society.

His all-black meal is periodically reproduced in small food circles but has never caught on as a food fad. Today’s careening culinary and beverage worlds seem perfect for it, yet simultaneous appearance in happening restaurants in London, Paris, and New York, – need I add Berlin – is elusive.

(Anthony Bourdain would seem perfect for this gig, but anyway…).

The quotation though is further support that well-aged 1800s pale ale, often denominated IPA, had the barnyard Brettanomyces smack. Modern brewers sometimes seek to impart it in beer, with evident historical justification, were any needed.

Beers of various kinds have always featured “extreme” flavours, probably accidentally initially, that finally grab and retain drinkers’ affections. Bitterness itself, from hops, is the best example. Musk features in perfumes, soaps, and other things: why not eatables? It becomes a whet, a stimulant, and this is what Huysmans was getting at both literally and as metaphor for artistic sovereignty.

I argued in my American musty ale study last year in the journal Brewery History that the signature of late-1800s U.S. “musty” may well have been the brett tang, analogous to the contemporary “Bass [pale ale] stink” identified and documented in the same article.

A good example of the palate today is Belgian Trappist Orval beer. In taste and colour, Orval may well be close to Huysman’s Gothic-tasting English pale ale. A number of ironies abound in that proposition but I’ll let it be.

The accidental irony of the English translation of the book’s title, Against the Grain, is more satisfying to contemplate: the book bruits the flavours of Victorian English beery specialties, it didn’t deride them. The comment on porter underlines this: it had a liquorice note, well-known as an acquired or “grown-up” flavour, while avoiding a sugary taste.

Sugar rightly or wrongly is the sign of the undiscriminating, or inexperienced – its beverage zenith was probably Coca-Cola which probably not ironically was invented around the same time. I’m not knocking Coke, I like it myself, but I’m trying to write some cultural history here.

The term à rebours has also been translated as “against nature”, or “at loggerheads”. It sounds literally as a rebounding, against something. Anyhow, the sybarite protagonist evidently had nothing again floor-malted English classic beers.

My current collaboration with Amsterdam Brewery to produce a c. 1870 AK, a lower-gravity, “domestic” form of India Pale Ale, sought intentionally to avoid brett character. The reason was storage of pale ales for a few weeks, even in the 19th century in uncoated wood, probably didn’t produce brett, or not invariably.

Brett generally needs longer to appear in beer as the yeast type awaits the finish of fermentation by the conventional brewing yeast – unless of course we inoculated with brett for primary or secondary fermentation, but we wouldn’t do that here.

I’d think a lactic note was perhaps more frequent, but I didn’t want that either. And anyone with a glass before him can emulate a lactic character by adding a few drops of Seville orange or something similar.

The beer will be ready in about a month, incidentally.

N.B. Huysmans, who was about, um,10 years younger than I when pictured, appears the picture of bourgeois propriety – as expected from someone with a 30-year career in the French Fonction Publique. Maybe he was a secret hippie at heart.

Brewing a Victorian AK With Amsterdam Brewery

Here are some images of my great brewing day yesterday with Amsterdam Brewery brewers, headed by Iain McOustra, at the Brewhouse on Toronto’s Harbourfront. Cody, Jeff, and Mike brewed at different times and I participated throughout.

The brewery is set in a glassed-in room alongside the large vaulted Amsterdam Brewhouse restaurant. It’s a prime location right on the water.

We collaborated to make an AK, of the pale ale family, from the era of 1870. I provided the recipe from my own research some years ago, which also stated that AK meant “ale for keeping”.

OG was 1050 with final abv likely 5-5.3% abv. Only one malt was used, as typical of the day. We elected floor-malted Maris Otter from Crisp, marketed under its Gleneagle name. This was after tasting a number of pale malts, unmilled that is, including Crisps’ non-floor malted Maris Otter.

The floor malt was cracker-like and fresh, tasted from the drained mash it was almost like a toasty oatmeal (porridge): if you added sugar and milk the similarity would seemed marked. The non-floor-malted Maris Otter when tasted unmilled was less cracker-like, more mealy perhaps. If I could choose an analogy, the floor version was like whole-grain bread; the other, like a high-quality bread from white flour.

Both seemed deeper in character than standard North American 2-row malt.

Two hops from Charles Faram were used, Golding and Fuggle, both in leaf form. The hops went in at different times with Fuggles in this case having the say for aroma. Most will be kegged but we hope to do a few casks, and if the casks are dry-hopped we will use one of the two leafs. Any dry-hopping for kegged beer will be with pellets added at tank stage.

The Golding was floral and lemony, the Fuggle like an arbor, leafy and fresh-woodsy.

These hops come in heat-reflecting tight paks flushed with nitrogen, and are stored cold until use. One was harvested 18 months ago but smelled fresh and sweet, its expiration date was still one-and-a-half years away.

We decided on 3 lbs hops per finished barrel of beer (36 Imp. gal.), with 1 lb more/bbl if dry-hopped (will depend on tasting later). The IBU estimate was 45.

This level of hopping – not a shrinking violet – was typical of the period for this class of beer. Yet, for IPA, similar in character to AK but stronger, the hop levels only went up…

We elected two hops on the idea of boosting both complexity and all-English character. Some beers of the pale ale family back then may have used two hops, even if the norm was one. Anyway it seemed right.

We chose an American yeast of relatively neutral character. We wanted to ensure the character of the malt and hops would shine through. Still, we hope to get some estery development from fermentation temperature and a few weeks of relatively warm storage.

The beer should be ready in about 30 days. While Brettanomyces character was  likely part of the long-aged pale ale in the 1800s*, I specifically requested that no brett addition be made. Despite the use of mixed yeast cultures then, I feel the horsey brett character was unlikely with beer aged just a month or two. AK was kept for a relatively short period, where brett character was less likely to form. The idea was to go for a “mild” pale ale palate from this standpoint.

(In other words, some pale ale then was stored for relatively brief periods in comparison especially to export IPA).

Obviously, we used modern fermenters and pure culture yeast. There was no atmospheric exposure once beer ran from heat exchanger to fermenter blended with the yeast drawn from a sealed keg. Vessels are all-metal through the process, no wooden mashing or fermenting vessels. Together with a high degree of sanitation and modern pumping and powering technology, the brewhouse did not resemble in many ways one of the 1800s; few today do.

But still we hope to attain a character that people of that era would recognize as their own, hopefully a very high example of their own.

I should add: the liquor was Burtonized to match the profile of some gypsum-laden waters classically used for Burton pale ale.

The wort from the (relatively short) boil was candy-sweet but very bitter. It carried a striking russet colour the brewers said was unusual in their experience and must have derived from the Crisp malt and the type of malt it was. Indeed, images of pale ale I have seen in colour from the 1800s do resemble it in hue, that orangey-reddish look.


*See some telling narrative evidence, here.

Stone Ale 1892 and Joule’s Brewery Today

A Little Less Conversation … a Little More Beer (Redux)

Here is a further, more extended quote from Lord Macnaghten in the case I discussed yesterday from 1891, Montgomery v. Thompson, heard by the House of Lords in England:

My Lords, the Appellant complains of an injunction awarded against him so far, and so far only, as it prohibits him absolutely “from selling or causing to be sold any ale or beer not of the Plaintiffs’ manufacture under the term ‘Stone Ales’ or ‘Stone Ale.'” The order was made, in the first instance, on an interlocutory application. Then there was an appeal. The Court of Appeal affirmed the order and maintained the injunction as it stood….

Stone, it seems, is a town in Staffordshire, containing some 6,000 inhabitants. It has a supply of water admirably suited for brewing, so the Appellant says, and his opinion is fortified by scientific analysis. Anyhow, Stone is famous for its ales, which are known in that part of England as “Stone Ales,” and one special quality is known as “Stone Ale.” These ales all come from the Plaintiffs’ brewery, which is said to have been established in Stone for a hundred years, and to have flourished there all that time without a rival, and even without any attempt at rivalry worth mentioning. Whatever reputation, therefore, is attached to “Stone Ales” or ” Stone Ale” above other ales known in the district is due to Plaintiffs and their predecessors in business. The value of that reputation, whatever it is, no one knows better than the Appellant. He is the proprietor of several hotels and public-houses in Liverpool, and in his different establishments he has dealt largely in “Stone Ales” procured from the Plaintiffs. In 1887 he determined to set up as a brewer himself. He had to find a site for his business. Where was he to go? After much consideration, influenced as he says by the peculiar virtue of the water, he resolved to go to Stone. One thing leads to another. Having gone to Stone, he could think of no better name for his brewery than “Stone Brewery”; he could find no more fitting designation for his ales than “Stone Ales.” Then came these proceedings. It is not the first time in these cases that water has got an honest man into trouble and then failed him at the pinch. Neither Mr. Justice Chitty nor the learned Lords Justices could be persuaded that the Appellant was attracted to Stone by the peculiar virtue and chemical properties of the water. They thought he went there simply with the object of stealing the Plaintiffs’ trade, and in the hope of reaping where he had not sown. They were satisfied that he meant to make a fraudulent use of the term “Stone Ales” and that he could not possibly use that term honestly.

With the judgment that has been passed upon his character and conduct the Appellant does not quarrel. Protesting that it was somewhat harsh, his counsel use it to point their argument. Granted, they said, that the Appellant is a fraudulent man – as fraudulent as you please – still his demerits cannot enlarge the Plaintiffs’ rights. The injunction being absolute and unqualified in its terms will secure to the Plaintiffs the monopoly of brewing in Stone. With such water Stone might be as Wrexham or Burton. The injunction makes it the private preserve of the Plaintiffs. Then, they argued, the Appellant is not to be deprived of his rights because he has behaved badly. All the Court ought to do is to keep him strictly within his rights. He had a perfect right as everybody has to set up a brewery in Stone. Ale brewed in Stone is Stone ale for all that the Court can say or do. The Appellant is entitled to call his ale what it really is, and to sell it under its true name if he takes care that his customers are not induced to believe that it is of the Plaintiff’s manufacture.

His words show a number of traits characteristic both of law and a wider context.

For the law, it shows how important the facts are to any judicial contest. Montgomery had owned hotels and pubs in Liverpool on the coast. He had dealt in Joule & Co.’s Stone Ales. He knew how good they were.

Intent on setting up a brewery, and scouting around, he ends by setting up his shop in, lo, Stone, Stafford…  That’s a 50 mile trip inland to the southeast. You can see where this is going to go…

The wider context concerns the style of court decisions then, and whether today’s simpler way of writing is better. British and Colonial justices under Queen Victoria tended, as writers in general then, to write without economy of expression, leisurely, sonorously. The style was often ornate, roundabout.

This allowed however some subtlety. You can see how Lord Macnaghten develops his slightly mocking tone, indeed as he says, one thing leads to another, and his finding is not hard to intuit some time before he gets there.

The tone sets the frame for his judgement, in which the other lords concurred.

Only much later did judicial writing tighten-up – I mean in style not reasoning. The post-WW II law lord Denning, influential in my time of law studies, was a major force in this. He would write in short bursts and use more simple language than the Latin-loving Victorians.

Lord Denning, perhaps contrary to first impression, was not from a modest background. He issued from a well-known clan, his brother, this from 40-year old memory and no I didn’t check Wikipedia, was an Admiralty Sea Lord.

The law Denning might have started his judgment this way:

Stone is a quiet town in Staffordshire. At least, normally it’s quiet. Its citizens like their beer. Many Britons do. Their favour has always been granted to a local brewer, Joule’s. “Stone Ale” is its prized specialty. It’s been in the area forever. But a new man set up in brewing there recently. Montgomery. His firm’s name is Montgomery’s Stone Brewery. Montgomery has made it clear he wants to sell his “Stone Ale” in Stone. Joule quite naturally objects. This simple trading dispute must now be ruled on by the House.

Today, the judges of the Canadian courts, following often American example, write in a simpler style than an earlier time. I’d guess Lord Denning and the plain language movement he helped inspire mean most common law justices do the same in 2018.

It’s two ways to get to the same result, I’m not sure one is really better than the other. Yes, a spare style seems to favour the layperson, but then every field has its lexicon, eh? If you simplify too much a gibberish of a different kind results.

Anyway, in our western systems and those inspired by them, you can count on the judges to get the law right, or the appellate judges.

But the facts are all-important too, and all good judges take care to understand them well.

But back to beer: Joule’s has arisen again, with original recipes to boot. See all details here. The original firm stopped trading in 1974, the phoenix arose in 2010. The beer flows in and about Stafford and Shropshire again. More than that, the description on the brewery website of the pale ale (none today are denominated “Stone Ale”) sounds enticingly authentic.

For one thing, the brewer last employed by the original Joule’s worked on the recreation. I love recreations, as you can tell.

The new brewery is located about 18 miles westerly from Stone, in Market Drayton. Close enough lads of Stone, Shropshire lads (and lasses) too, of age mind.

Note re images: the first image above was sourced from Alamy here, and the second at the Joule’s Brewery website linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Retro Beer & Gourmet Sausage Dinner at Maple Leaf Restaurant 21/02/18: Update!

Here is an update to the fab historical beer and food tasting event taking place February 21, 2018 at Maple Leaf Tavern in Toronto. We have the drinks list finalized, see updated menu below.

To recap:

The Maple Leaf Tavern Restaurant, one of Toronto’s top dining destinations east of Yonge Street, is giving a six-course Retro Beer and Gourmet Sausage Dinner on Wednesday, February 21. The food menu and drinks list are appended below.

The dinner is intended as homage to a 1973 beer and food event held by the Wine and Food Society of New York at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. I’m co-hosting with Canadian Beer News.

Beers served are drawn from or similar to those at the original, 1973 event. Earlier, I described that event in this post. You can see the original menu and how we’ve sought to re-imagine it.

The evening will be a window on beer and food as it was not long before the artisan beer and culinary scenes gathered pace from the 1970s. Actually, they had it pretty good!

I have previously written or presented on numerous aspects of early tastings by the International Wine and Food Society. Their events are not just pioneering and of great historical interest but offer some fine eating and drinking.

Guests will be able to appreciate how beer and food were creatively selected and paired by a noted culinary society – by those interested in good food and drink – before the world was such a global village.

Greg Clow of Canadian Beer News, Canada’s premier resource for beer and brewing industry news and events, will make initial remarks. I will follow to explain the concept of the evening and some fascinating gastronomic and drinks history.

Following the original concept, the meal is sausage-focused, an opportunity to taste rare European specialties. All are custom-prepared onsite by expert chef Jesse Vallins.

Seating begins at 6:30 p.m., with dinner service starting at 7:00 p.m. The dinner and pairing is priced at $105.00 per guest, pre-taxes and gratuity.

Seats are limited. Tickets can be purchased at Maple Leaf Tavern or by calling 416-465-0955.

Greg will bring a dynamic music playlist from the era to ramp up the atmosphere of ’73! Don’t miss it if you can attend.

Whose Stone is it Anyway?

A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Beer

Legal disputations over the use of the word Stone in brewing are not new. The current imbroglio, well-publicized on social media, involves California-based craft icon Stone Brewing going after giant Miller Coors for allegedly passing off its Keystone Light for a Stone product.

We watched carefully the video in which Greg Koch of Stone laid out the case for his company. On the face it, it sounds like a reasonable argument.

We hadn’t seen Koch speak before and noted his unique style. He starts the video with a quizzical look, as if not sure he should be doing this, but then does a lengthy, well-argued presentation for Stone.

At least in our view, much of the speech has an ironic, twinkle-in-the-eye undertone, which I find hard to read. This style, plus the deft production values of the video, probably led some to think he was seeking publicity more than anything else.

Yet, the facts as he detailed them seem to constitute a decent case. No doubt Molson Coors has its arguments, and it remains to be seen how it will play out.

It may interest observers there was litigation long ago involving a Stone Ale, in the U.K. in 1891. In the county of Stafford, brewer Joule & Co., based in a town called Stone, sold its ale with a virtual monopoly. Locals asked for Stone Ale and got Joule’s, pretty much the only game in town by the evidence.

Then, a gent called Montgomery established his Montgomery’s Stone Brewery in Stone. He stated he was just using a geographic name and Joule could not monopolize it. He argued he should be able to explain to the public where his beer was brewed without being taken to trade on the goodwill of Joule.

Joule argued that Montgomery intended that his beer be sold as Stone Ale and meant to appropriate their goodwill and reputation.

So, over 100 years ago, another brewers’ fight occurred over the Stone name, in a different context.

The case went, as they say, all the way up to the House of Lords, as the senior appellate tribunal in Britain was then termed. Joule & Co. won.

The court held that Montgomery could state in an appropriate way that his brewery was in Stone but the brewery’s name implied a trading on Joule’s rights, rights which long usage had reserved at common law to them. The court upheld the wide terms of an injunction granted by the trial court and rejected Montgomery’s attempt to narrow it.

In the town of Stone, United Kingdom, in effect the word Stone was Joule’s, just as Koch argued in the video that in beer, the word Stone belongs (in the U.S., at any rate) to Stone Brewing of Escondido, CA.

You can read a contemporary summary of the judgement, see pg. 86, here.

I’ll let Lord (Baron) Macnaghten have the final word, final of course for the matter before him. The Baron had been a distinguished Anglo-Irish barrister, you can read his full career in Wikipedia, here. 

As Wikipedia notes (whence the illustration of Macnaghten above), he was noted for developing the law of charitable trusts and for his elegant, concise description of the floating charge.

To the law of charities and secured transactions, we must add, or in my estimation, his contribution to the law of passing-off and the limits of relying on a geographic name to describe one’s business:

Thirsty folk want beer, not explanations. If they get the thing they want or something like it, and get it under the old name – the name with which they are familiar – they are likely to be supremely indifferent to the character and conduct of the brewer and the equitable rights of rival traders.

Perhaps he liked an ale or porter, of occasion, the Baron.

Note re image: the image above was drawn from the Wikipedia article on Baron Macnaghten linked in the text. All intellectual property in the image belongs solely to its lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



Joseph Wechsberg, a Brief Appreciation

Pilsner Urquell? Fah!

That Mittel-European par excellence, Joseph Wechsberg, oddly depreciates the renowned Pilsner Urquell in this passage from one of his food essay collections.  See from pg. 91.

By claiming many Czechs disliked its intense bitter taste, he seems really to express his own opinion; but that it was shared by many Bohemians can’t be doubted, given Wechsberg’s fame as a reporter and writer. (See Chicagoan Bruce Hatton Boyer’s fine tribute, here, I posted it on Twitter today as well).

I suppose it’s always like that. Not every English male adored bitter ale in its heyday, only 90%, probably. Not every Frenchman loves wine (92%?).  Etc.

Urquell made a great export because those hops helped preserve it, but Wechsberg makes clear it wasn’t the only game in die Stadt. And Wechsberg says Czech connoisseurs deprecated all bottled beer in the old days. Probably because it was, i) more expensive, ii) pasteurized, often.

He names a passel of alternate brands many liked better: one wonders if they still exist. A pint for your thoughts.

Too bad Weschberg isn’t with us today. Everything you want we got it right here in the U.S.A. (or Canada), and Joe helped make it so with his literate, kindly, sunny meditations on wine, food, and life – a disposition at odds seemingly with the fact that part of his family was extinguished in German concentration camps.

Yet, as Bruce Boyer noted, Wechsberg chose to accentuate the positive, to look at better things, at the future not the past.

Joe Wechsberg is up there in the heavens smiling indulgently at the modern culinary scene he helped fashion in his New Yorker essays of the 1950s. The fashion for super-bitter beer might amaze him, yet he was the kind of person for whom life probably held few surprises, when you think of it.

In L.A. where he landed from Nazi fury in ’39 American culinary style was in its infancy but the ingredients were there: luxuriant fruit and veg markets, resurgent wine districts, the seafood from the west coast, and the Spanish element that soon would add élan and meld California eating to something new.

Even in glitzy loony late 30s L.A. he probably saw all the potential, even while cultivating contacts to sell film scripts and magazine essays. Soon he succeeded very well: as Boyer noted, he became a proficient stylist in his adopted country using his fourth language.

He died in his 70s but, oddly to my thinking, not in America, but in Vienna, home of the old Hapsburg world he evoked in his writing in myriad ways. The tug was too strong I guess, he had to go home.



Imperial Stout – Great Divide’s Classic Version

Having written recently of a Trappist ale and a mass-market adjunct lager, I thought I’d flip to what craft was all about: Yeti Imperial Stout, from Great Divide in Denver, one of the gestational areas for craft beer.

The brewery was founded in 1994, when the competition was much lesser than today. It still shines, due to the quality of the beers. It is still independent and operated by the founder Brian Dunn.

This is the original Yeti Imperial Stout – no barrel aging or chip treatment, and superior for it, IMO. I’ve had a barrel-aged version of Yeti, also one that used toasted oak chips to impart a barrel character. If I recall correctly there was also a Belgian yeast version, I had that too.

The “plain vanilla” (sorry!) is superior to these others IMO in that the malt character is at its purest: no bourbony, quasi-oxidized background notes. In 1995, Courage Imperial Russian Stout was still available if you looked in the U.K.

I’d guess Dunn had tasted it because his original Impy stout is rather similar, down to the estery note, often obscured in barrel-aged beers.

This is what real beer is all about, and the bruited 75 IBU blends seamlessly with the luxurious, pillowy dark malts. Early taste notes online stress an American, piney accent. This current bottling, from only Nov. 2, 2017, employs to my taste a more neutral hopping, closer again to the Courage IRS model as it was “back then” anyway.

This type of Imperial stout, or rather stout as Imperial stout is simply a very strong porter, expresses the true flavour of 19th century porter and stout.

How do I know that? Because it reminds me of the pre-craft Sinebrychoff stout of Finland, and Carnegie stout of Sweden, both classics distantly related to 1700s London porter. Ditto for a number of historical recreations of stout including the amazing Fuller Double Stout of some years ago.

Even Sinha (Lion) stout from Sri Lanka, descended from a Victorian-era stout made for British planters and traders in Ceylon, shows this richness of character. The roast is there in all these but well-integrated in the palate, it doesn’t stand on top so to speak as if disconnected from the beer. It also doesn’t come across as an Italian expresso-type taste.

And needless to say, there is no flavouring of chocolate or coffee added. Yeti’s is probably all-malt but possibly small amounts of roast grains (unmalted) are used, mashing details are not disclosed by the brewery.

The only drawback is the strength, almost 10% abv.  Well, not a drawback, but in other words it would be good to have the same taste in 5% abv say. In fact, Dunn thought of that too, he has a 5% abv nitro version in Denver, see details here.

The acrid, very dry, often Irish-style porters and stouts frequently encountered in craft brewing are IMO rather distant from 1800s porter flavour. In that time, to be sure some porter was well-aged, sometimes as part of a blend, and therefore dryish in taste; also, wood-smoked brown malt played a role in much porter then, so one can presume some porter had a pronounced burnt edge.

But I doubt the typical Irish-style stout of today, even where all-malt, resembled those: to me it descends more from the modern Guinness recipe including its use of unmalted barley. A good example from Ireland itself is O’Hara stout which you can get on draft here in some pubs. Superior to Guinness, perhaps, but I doubt it really gets at 19th porter.

Now you may say, the 1800s brewers used wood in their process including for casks, so their beer must have had a somewhat oxidized note. Yes and no, as British barrelage and vats then did not use American oak which imparts a distinctive, coconut, vanillin character.

The wood used at least in England and Scotland – the case for Ireland is not 100% clear based on the historical record – was mostly East European oak, a variety prized for its neutral effect on the beer. It could never be 100% neutral, but was quite different by all reports from the effect of American oak on the beer.

Of course some people like modern barrel-aged stout, some people like medium-strength stout of the dry acerbic style, quite a lot, it seems.

As I always say, if people like any taste in beer, that’s good, for them and the beer business. Here, I simply explain my own tastes.