The Beer of the Future

How 1874 Envisioned Beer’s Future

Periodically in the history of brewing one sees a call or recognition, they are sometimes hard to tell apart, of a new kind of beer.

In the history of British beer, this probably starts early 19th century, when brewers and observers are starting to say, people want a new kind of porter, less aged than before, less “hard” than previous generations liked.

This meant, less acidic, in general, but probably too less smoky as the wood-kilned brown malt of porter became a lesser component of the mash in time.

From then on a succession of statements regularly appear in informed circles calling for a new beer. First pale ale gets the treatment, due to its astringent, non-satiating character by comparison to rich mild and strong ales.

Then one reads that English ales of any kind are too strong, too “soporific”. Notice is taken of German and Bohemian lagers, their comparative low alcohol and pleasant taste – despite some concern with “garlic” flavours or the pitch used to line the casks!

This focus on lager, while it did not immediately change the mainstays of British brewing (mild, pale, strong ales, porter), had an effect nonetheless by lightening and clarifying British beer. Less hops were used than formerly, as attested, say, by Parliamentary hearings in the 1890s.

After 1900 a focus on “non-deposit” beer commences, and the long slide (ascent?) begins by a replacement of bottle-conditioned ales with filtered, force-carbonated beer, useable to the last drop as often advertised in Edwardian times.

In the 1920s and 30s, calls are made, e.g., by the Swiss-based inventor of the cylindro-conical fermenter, Leopold Nathan, for abandonment by U.K. brewers of mixed yeast cultures, which in fact happened finally. Earlier, lager brewers achieved this under similar scientific influence, both on the Continent and in North America.

This, and the fact that few beers were long-aged by this time, meant a Brettanomyces signature ceased to characterize most beers of any class. Guinness continued to offer a trace of it via continued use of a small amount of wood-vatted stout, but this is now ended.

This technological progress continued in North America from the 1970s – at the industrial brewing level – through periodic campaigns for light beer, dry beer, ice beer. All these were seen as improving the basic palate of beer, or what might be termed the beer experience, even though in many cases the net effect was arguably to reduce beer’s sensory impact and character.

Then the beer revolt started: The Campaign For Real Ale (early 1970s), the Society for the Preservation of Beers From the Wood (1960s), the American craft brewing phenomenon which is now world-wide (from mid-1970s), the seismic impact of Michael Jackson’s beer writing and journalism (from 1977), not to mention the sizeable impact of home brewing in the U.K. and North America on public tastes and perceptions of what beer could be.

Hence, from the 1970s and despite more than 100 years of ceaseless promotion of the new and improved, a turning back occurred. This was due simply to the fact of recognizing that beer’s palate as handed down for centuries was in danger of disappearing more or less. It was perhaps too a sign of a maturing society, a “greening” of a kind seen in many other areas of society from fashion to music to politics.

Yet, the scientific impetus toward an improved beer or brewing techniques has never stopped. Today one reads of innovations patented by a large international brewer, AB InBev, which may eliminate boiling the wort to make beer, a process designed to save energy and money. Advanced software makes the process of brewing more predictable and reliable. Materials and equipment are ever refined and improved.

Continued research on hops is aimed at developing further cultivated varieties with a high bittering potential resistant to various pests, as industrial-style lager utilizes hops primarily for bittering, not aroma. Research also produces ever-newer and different-tasting aroma hops for the growing craft segment.

The difference between today and earlier times is, both in the U.K. and here until the 1970s, a more or less cohesive, identifiable scientific establishment drove the changes. Their recommendations were regularly published in their brewing journals and at professional conferences.

When the “word” went out, things finally changed, whether with regard to pasteurization, no-deposit beer, or anything else industrial science deemed necessary for the future.

It’s different now because the industry is more international than ever, there are many more types of beer sold than before, and the market has demonstrated in part an intention to return to earlier practices. This is a cultural trait science has to contend with. Indeed it is more than happy to do so, an example is the production of an intentionally-cloudy beer, the Belgian-style Blue Moon, say, that is pasteurized and shelf-stable.

Science ensures that the Goose Island IPA you get in Toronto tastes like the one made at the original Chicago craft brewery, or close enough, and so on.

So, while the advances of technology continue with no less impetus than in the past, they aren’t as easy to glean or keep up with as previously. Much research now is conducted in-house, and is protected by an increasingly flexible patent system. The system is more opaque, it’s not a question of subscribing to a few journals in Britain, America, and Germany to know what is going on.

In the 1870s, Britain was just starting to develop brewing science expertise. Dr. Charles Graham among numerous others was a key figure, as I explained earlier. As a highly-trained scientist, he saw an opportunity to educate “practical brewers”, which was almost all the brewers in the U.K. As he pointed out in the extract below (via HathiTrust) he had never seen a thermometer used in British brewing.

He developed a large consulting practice and through that influenced his generation of brewers to adopt new methods and even envision a new beer or beers.

Below, in his last lecture from the Royal Society of Arts’ Cantor Lectures re-printed in a journal devoted to the practical needs of British industry, he called for new types of beer, and a new type of taxation to accommodate them.

In a word, he wanted the freedom to use non-malted materials including “British gum”, a starch derivative that was used as a thickener in various industrial applications. It is probably similar to today’s dextrin malt and similar products.

In fact, the tax changes he wanted occurred, the Free Mash Tun Act of 10 years later gave the right to use any cereal adjunct in brewing. Graham hoped to see two new forms of beer emerge, not to replace all existing forms, of which he was a proponent in some cases – he said he liked a glass of “Burton” – but to enlarge the range.

One form was a carbonated, dry, strong beer he said would resemble Champagne. This hasn’t really happened though. Lager did emerge for the U.K. market that was similar, but staying within an average gravity range, 5% abv or so.

Modern U.S. malt liquor – one form was marketed as Champale from the late 1930s – may be an echo of his Victorian desire.

The second form he proposed was something similar to contemporary German lager, relatively low in alcohol and rich-tasting, he meant a beer that would resemble Bohemian lager or Vienna lager, say. He stated this form would continue to be top-fermented – ale in English terms – but resemble these lagers otherwise.

Modern Kolsch and some Alt Bier are examples perhaps, or early Molson Export Ale in Canada, developed in the first years of the 1900s.

Broadly speaking the triumph of lager and, to a degree, 1970s keg ales and stout validated his predictions although these forms were a kind of blending of the two he proposed: dry and fizzy like his strong Champagne-type beer, but not much stronger than the typical Bohemian and German lager in his time.











Where There’s Smoke There’s Pale Ale

Henry Stopes wrote an influential book on malts and malting in 1885, reciting some useful history starting with observations on malting and kiln fuels by brewing writer Thomas Tryon just ahead of 1700, when porter starts its efflorescence.

Stopes accurately resumes 200 years of history in the practice of kilns and fuels, and gives this summary (via HathiTrust, as the next extract).

Essentially, he advises and encapsulates best practice as using the best coke or anthracite coal to heat malting kilns. By stating that kilns “of common construction” should not use common coke, bituminous coal, lignite, straw, brushwood, and peat, he is telling you that the flavours these impart to malt dried with their heat are not acceptable.

In contrast, anthracite, sometimes called stone coal, and best coke, imparted much less taste to the malt. The reason is they burn with almost no smoke. The sulphur, think the bad egg smell of coal gas, associated with softer coals are largely by-passed with this cleaner-burning form of carbon.

Anthracite has a very high carbon content, better than 90% depending on the mine location, seam, and geologic factors.

I remember handling such coal, physically with my hands, from a long-disused bin in my grandmother’s home in Montreal. Even in the 1950s electric heating had replaced Nova Scotia’s famed hard coal. Where the coals were cracked or rubbed they looked like a black diamond.

In Britain, anthracite in commercially useable form was found in Wales and almost nowhere else. Most coal used was bituminous, and this lead to serious problems with killer fogs as they were called until the pall literally lifted after the 1950s.

Kilns of common construction meant the fuel was burned in a brazier or open floor arrangement whereby the smoke penetrated the malt. By end of the 1800s other kiln designs had been patented to make the heat indirect. But before 1885 this was the exception not the norm, hence the best maltsters – it could not have been every one in practice – used hard coal or coke to minimize the imparting to malt of secondary odours.

The main exception was the preparation of brown and amber malt for porter, where various forms of hardwood were used: oak and beech, primarily but other woods are recorded or can be inferred e.g., alder as I’ve discussed earlier.

So, assuming pale malt was dried with fine Pembrokeshire coal, the resultant malt would taste clean and sweet, not a hint of smoke. Correct? Well, not exactly. Here are two ways we know this, or rather three.

The first way is, to check online what people actually say about the residual odour of burned anthracite. In this discussion by Americans on use of coal for heating fuel, one noted that burned anthracite leaves a subtle lingering odour akin to an extinguished wood fire:

I will say, there is a certain smell from burning coal. It is not unlike wood, where you get up on a cool morning and can tell from the smell that a neighbor has kindled a fire the night before. It is like that, but it has a distinct smell to it.

Others have referred to a sooty or earthy smell, and I recall it from the bin on Esplanade Street in Montreal. Sometimes too you hear reports of a faint sulphur note, as even good anthracite with its hard blue flame emits these odours.

So was an element of pale ale flavour this note, not the frankly smoky taste of burned hardwood but still something, well, carbonized?

Yes it was. Consider these statements by Dr. Charles Graham in his Cantor Lectures to which I referred in the last post (see the third column, second part):

What better analogy than a London pea souper to know what much English beer tasted like? Nor did Graham limit his observations to porter, then in decline in London. Graham knew very well what malting was, what all forms of beer were: he was a consulting chemist to countless breweries and an acknowledged specialist on beer at the time.

His statement that the fumes preserved the malt means it helped prevent, or delayed, the onset of mould, also adverted to by Stopes. Wishful thinking for the effect on palate? Maybe. To mix metaphors, necessity spawns the wilful suspension of disbelief…

The third way I know what coal scents in malt taste like is, I once had a whisky from the 1930s, Old Parr, a bottle given me decades ago from the cellar of a deceased relation. It had exactly a hint of my grandmother’s coal bin.

And so here is yet another factor, with Baltic Memel wood, mixed yeast cultures and Brettanomyces, and minimal mechanical cooling, to consider when deciding if a given brewing recreation matches historical example.

The saving grace is, probably some recreations will if only because of the great variety of beer types, flavours, and producers then. Some malt did issue from the newer, indirect heat kilns. Some beer perhaps was aged long enough for residual “creosote” odours to dissipate.

Some perhaps used imported malt, and Graham adverts to German practice which he knew well as he lived in the country for some years. Note in the first column of his above account that when tasting Weiss beer in Germany, made from air-dried malted barley and wheat, Graham thought the taste “raw, uncooked”.

Would he think all our craft beer today tastes that way, including all historical recreations except perhaps for some porter…?

This should incline us all, not to cease trying to duplicate the past, but to remember the many factors that make its perfect recapture a daunting effort. But it is still worth trying.

Obs. It is remarkable how often sulphur/barnyard, not the most appealing of odours, come into discussion of beer palate. It can come from the water, famously of Burton, from a precursor in very pale malt, from hops, from Brett, and from some fuel used to dry malt. Modern brewing has sought, successfully, to avoid these effects, yet craft brewing has brought them back in an attempt to create the different and sometimes the historical. It shows how relative palate really is.

Note re first image: This image of anthracite coal is from an Indian exporter, sourced here, with interesting technical data on composition of different qualities offered. These appear of Chinese origin.


From Turtles to Technology

The above creature is a Cantor’s Giant Soft-shelled Turtle. We write about drinks and food here, not zoology.

Albeit of some general interest (if not charm) what possible relation can this lugubrious animal, whose beat is the mudflats of Southeast Asia, have to the area of food and drink?

A putative connection to a meal is obvious, at least if one is familiar with Victorian dining predilections.

But don’t worry, I’m not interested in eating turtles.

I’m interested in whom the species is named for. The Cantor named is Dr. Edward Theodore Cantor. Who was this gentleman? He was a surgeon in the Indian Medical Service in Bengal, in charge of a lunatic asylum among other duties. He lived from 1809-1860.

He was an amateur zoologist, and found time to publish numerous books on the subject. His writings were important enough to form the basis for later classification or understanding of some unusual species, including fish, hence his moniker in the name of the turtle shown.

Alright, that’s good to know, what else? This Cantor is the one who founded the Cantor Lectures, an influential series of talks held by the London-based Royal Society of Arts.

The lectures concerned matters of industrial technology and ranged on subjects from gutta percha to electricity to … brewing.

On his death Dr. Cantor made a bequest of £5000 to the Royal Society of Arts, to be applied as seemed appropriate to its president. This figure decided to create a series of lectures on industrial science, memorialized through the name Cantor Lectures.

The money was invested in Indian railway bonds and the interest was used to pay for research and presentation of the lectures. The fund was later broadened by bequests from others.

Dr. Charles Graham was an influential, late-1800s figure in the emerging field of brewery science. His well-remembered chemistry lectures were given in 1873-1874. Parts have been published in various sources and are sometimes quoted by contemporary writers on brewery history, including me.

Soon I will look at further things he stated, ranging from the presence of coal odours in kilned English malt to what the future of beer looked like to him (he got it partly right).

But first, I wanted to know for whom the Cantor Lectures were named. It was surprisingly difficult to find this information. Generally a few keystrokes does it, but not in this case.

Finally, I found the answer, in Henry Trueman Wood’s 1913 A History of the Royal Society of Arts. Read here, from p. 450.

Cantor was of Danish extraction, yet the surname seems to tend to other origins. The little biographical information online, see here, suggests he was of Jewish origin.

Those familiar with the broad outlines of 19th public science may know the name Georg Cantor. He too had Danish roots but was variously described as Russian and German.

This Cantor was an eminent mathematician, famous for originating set theory. He encountered some difficulty from established professional quarters due to the novelty and daring nature of his theories. He was periodically hospitalized in a sanitarium, and his professional work suffered.

He died in Britain at the end of WW I in penury and semi-obscurity, nonetheless even before his death his importance was recognized including by Bertrand Russell. Since then his groundbreaking innovations have been fully recognized.

This lengthy Wikipedia entry offers some good information on him. He has also been the subject of full-length and other biographical treatments.

Now, this Cantor’s family was schooled in the Lutheran church. Some biographers consider though that Georg Cantor was of Jewish, possibly Sephardic, origins.

I mention this here simply because I’m wondering if he was related to the Cantor for whom the RSA’s lectures were named.

Perhaps he was a brother, or a cousin. It seems unlikely, given the Danish connection, that sharing the surname was coincidental.

I don’t know whether the Cantor Lectures continue. They did at least until WW I, but I’m not sure if they were revived after.

The series was inaugurated in 1864. The first subject, as Henry Trueman Wood acknowledges, seemed rather wayward for a series anchored in industrial science: the naval laws of war. But as Wood notes, the American Civil War was ongoing, and the topic impacted an understanding of naval warfare.

After that the lectures stayed within the ambit of industrial technology and science albeit ranging widely therein.

Most of the lectures were published, sometimes in part, and not just in the Society’s Journal. Charles Graham’s brewing lectures were published in full not long after presentation in English Mechanic and World of Science. I’ll return to them soon.

Beer and Consumption

The Swiss Cure

As a follow-up to our last post, we are looking at a sampling of bock beers available in the winter resort of Davos-Platz, Switzerland, in 1882. They were reported by “J.E.M.” Muddock, a well-known travel and fiction writer who specialized in covering parts of Europe for his English audience.

Such data might seem unusual for a Baedeker-type tome – it’s as if a page from a brewing journal ended by some digital error in a Frommer’s guide – but, as always, there was a reason.

Davos-Platz was billed then as an English wintering destination, one adapted especially to the needs of consumptives. With a resident population of British doctors and nurses in town, analytical data on drink and food was felt useful to them.

Davos of course is famous for winter sports but it was the dryness of the climate that attracted those afflicted with then-incurable tuberculosis.The source was a chemist whose name and affiliation in Manchester, long a node for science research, are set out in the introduction.

Erlanger and Ulmer bocks were, I calculate, 1062 OG, just under the modern start point for bock (German law) of 1064. The beer in the centre column had a OG of 1075, ahead of the modern gravity baseline of 1072 for the Doppel iteration, despite the fairly low abv one may note.

The modern Creemore ur-Bock in Canada is lighter: perhaps 1060 OG, 1014 FG, and (anyway) 6% abv.

Two “Ulmer” bocks are still made, by Bauhöfer, quite possibly the source of the Ulmer bock in the table. The brewery started in 1852 in Baden-Württemberg.

If you check this link for Muddock’s book, some interesting additional data is given including for a Manchester draught bitter and other beers. This helped doctors when considering what their patients might drink, it provided context, or did in the framework of Victorian medicine.

A bottled pils beer is interesting at 1007 FG and only 3% abv, sounds like a current light beer I’ve seen here but the name escapes me for a moment. Muddock’s tables certainly provided a nice Anglo-Continental sampling, focused yet diverse.

The Ulmer and Erlanger bocks might have been similar to the Creemore but more malty and heavier given their FGs, especially Erlanger. I’d think possibly too more bitter, but hard to say.

The anonymous bock, with a FG of 1031, would have been a very rich beer indeed. Like they used to say, liquid bread.

Muddock is a window on a different time, but not a completely different time. Is Ulmer Winterbock of today available in Davos? I wonder…



It’s the Time of the Season

Above is the Creemore urBock. As many will know, Creemore Springs is a pioneering craft brewery in Ontario that was purchased by Molson Coors a dozen years ago or so.

Bock is one of the brown lager class of beers,* of course so is Munich Dunkel. Some bock is blondish, Maibock, say, but at least in North America bock connotes the dark type to most. Schwarzbier, the black lager of eastern Germany, is yet another dark lager.

So far pilsener seems resolutely blonde, but having just read in Great Lakes Brewing News of an India Pale Kölsch, I don’t rule out a “line extension” in that area too.

Extending traditional styles seems the watchword of the day.

Sharp eyes will note the rather compressed and not entirely accurate story of bock beer on the back label. I’d prefer they get the story right, but the beer is the thing, so on to that.

Creemore ur-Bock hasn’t changed much over its history, which pretty much goes back to the brewery’s origins. It’s lightly malty, in a mocha coffee-like way, with a moderate bitterness. It is lighter than good German examples but all-malt and a credible interpretation.

I find it improves by being kept cold for a few months. When new, as for the other Creemore lagers, there seems a slightly raw fermentation note, perhaps DMS, or something else, I’m not sure. But kept cold for eight weeks or more the beer improves noticeably, imo.

It’s filtered but not too tightly as a light haze is evident if you pour it in one motion and leave an ounce in the can. The ounce is quite turbid with small particles of yeast or other flock.

This permits, I think, a further very slight fermentation, or “aging”. Assuming the residual yeast count is not high enough for that, still the beer gets better with cold-storage, I’m not sure why.

There aren’t that many of these original bocks in Ontario. Some are flavoured, or add a non-barley grain, or don’t have quite have the right taste. Beau in eastern Ontario has one in the stores now that is very credible, it makes an interesting A/B with Creemore ur-Bock.

Creemore’s could be a little more assertive in taste. It would nice to see a Doppel version, too, Molson Coors should do that. It should also make the ur-Bock available year round.

A seasonal release is a nice thing historically and sort of nostalgic, but today beer styles have lost the seasonal connections most once had. Spread the wealth.

I’ll stock up this week to put a few in the fridge, as before long none will be found at the LCBO or Beer Store outlets.

See a follow-up to this post, here.


*Weizenbock is brewed with wheat and a top-fermenting exception to the lager norm for bock.




Beer Bubbles up in the Spanish Psyche

About Puchero, Iberia’s Beer, and Memory

I was in Barcelona a few years ago. Reports since then indicate the beer scene has flourished, but even at the time there were two or three craft breweries. The problem was, I never could visit them: during the day when walking they were never open, and after dinner we didn’t seek further entertainment.

I bought some craft bottles in a local shop and thought they were good.

For the most part Estrella Damm, the home town beer, did the job when Gambrinal inspiration was wanted. The brewery was founded by a peripatetic Alsatian, August Damm, in 1876, and continues to this day. Moritz, an old lapsed brand restored to the market about 10 years ago, was an option although not nearly as good as Estrella, in my view.

It seems (per Damm’s website) Estrella has a rice addition, but it’s a Helles style, maybe a bit lighter. I bought it in Toronto once or twice, and need to give it a further try.

I read somewhere that Damm has issued or will a IPA, called Complot IPA, but can’t find much on it. Maybe it will be available at the Estrella Damm Gastronomic Congress being held May 15 in Toronto, see this post for details. A famous Spanish chef will be cooking dishes with or to accompany Damm’s beers: all the makings of a good evening.

Some may think the gastronomy of a society that is thousands of years old can’t really incorporate beer when beer’s writ only runs from the mid-1800s.

This is like saying Ontario chefs shouldn’t try to pair food and Ontario wine since Ontario wine, especially the quality end of it, is hardly 30 years old.

Once beer implants it takes its place in the culinary scene, and let the chips fall where they may – and not just potato chips. Beer is as Chinese a drink today as anything else in China and performs wonderfully with most Chinese cuisines, at least in my experience. Its implantation dates from the turn of the 19th century.

At the same time it is undeniable beer has a long taproot in Iberia, one that withered for many centuries but is lately renewed. Early Celtic settlements brewed beer. When the Romans came and implanted a vinous culture, the older cereal-based beverages declined and practically disappeared. I say practically because, I don’t rule out that isolated settlements continued to brew, perhaps at home or on a farm.

An academic in Colorado, U.S.A., John Carlyon, has performed valuable research investigating this much older beverage history, you can read about it here. But even before this work the history was broadly understood in learned circles.

The Oxford man and Victorian travel writer Richard Ford lived in Spain for three years and studied the land deeply. He noted in one of his collections, see p 144, that beer had become “small” in Spain, exemplified by a mixture of lemonade and beer drunk iced.

But he noted that in a much earlier period both beer and ale – he cites different Latinate terms for each – were commonly consumed. The trouble started, he said, when the Romans poked fun at local beer drinkers, as they had in Gaul.

Can it be that the success of beer’s reintroduction, and recent craft efflorescence, are due at least in part to an ancient folk memory, even subconscious? Did a genomic pleasure-centre in Spanish brains, formed millennia earlier when beer was mother’s milk, re-awake when fresh cereal beverage coursed through the system?

A romantic will say yes – maybe even a psychologist. It is satisfying to think so, anyway.

In 1958 the Canadian chef and cookery writer Jehane Benoit wrote a book for Dow Brewery on dishes cooked with beer. She gives a recipe for the old Spanish puchero, a kind of soup-stew, that uses beer.

This dish was remarked on by travel writers in Spain in the 1800s although I could find no statement that beer was an ingredient. So how did Mme Benoit know the beer version was traditional?

In the introduction, she states a cereal drink was made in most areas where grain was cultivated. She adds:

The earliest written record of this ancient and honorable beverage appears on a Mesopotamian clay tablet of several thousand years before the Christian era and shows it was used in cooking as well as a beverage. The recipes you will find in this book have been tested by me and tasted by many who were always pleasantly surprised; no wonder, since the recipes are for the most part traditional and belong to the everyday family cooking of many lands, Germany, Spain, China, England, France, Belgium, Italy and even America.

She was a highly-respected author, well-educated with advanced training in food science. I don’t think she would misstate the situation for commercial purposes. But if she gilded the lily on beer dishes from non-beer lands, it doesn’t matter really. Recipes have their final merits on the plate, if it works, it works.

On page three of her book, which you can read in full online, her recipe appears for the puchero. She spells it punchero, which may be an alternate spelling, or a misspelling. The dish as she presents it rather resembles an eccentric carbonnades flamande. 

This makes sense when one recalls the Spanish once ruled Flanders and a long interchange of people and ideas ensued. That is why the Belgians make a version of caveach, say (spellings vary).

So maybe early puchero did use beer, perhaps in a few isolated settlements that still brewed, long enough anyway to send the dish to what is now Belgium and French Flanders – and maybe Mme Benoit in Montreal, Canada knew all this.

Anyway, let’s see if beer works in the dish. I’ll make it in a short while and give my impressions.




Estrella Damm Gastronomic Congress Comes to Toronto

On the list for Moosehead and the affiliated Premium Beer Company promo events, we are attending the following on May 15.* Some details from Moosehead’s website:

Join Estrella Damm for Gastronomy Congress: A Journey to Joan Roca Cuisine from El Celler de Can Roca.

London, Miami, Lisbon, and Melbourne have all played host to the Estrella Damm Gastronomy Congress – a one-of-a-kind event that showcases top culinary personalities from around the world. On May 15, it’s Toronto’s turn – Chef Joan Roca will headline Toronto’s first-ever public Gastronomy Congress.

Roca is the chef-owner of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. In 2013 and 2015, El Celler de Can Roca was named the World’s Best Restaurant. This special event will feature a live cooking demonstration by Roca, followed by an engaging discussion about modern gastronomy between Chef Roca and top Toronto chef Grant van Gameren.

The event will take place at the new Crow’s Theatre. The first professional performing arts facility of its kind east of the Don Valley Parkway.

Estrella Damm has been sponsoring these Gastronomy Congresses for some years. While Spain is not usually regarded as having a long beery heritage, beer accompanies tapas and some other Spanish food well, as we found on a visit to Barcelona some years ago.

The opportunity to pair an ever-increasing range of city or area beers is provided by the spike in the craft brewing movement in Spain including Catalonia. Estrella Damm itself is the “old school” with roots to an expatriate Alsatian brewer, August Damm, in 1876.

The flagship lager is a classic late-1800s adjunct blonde beer. Just about the time Budweiser emerged with its malt-and-rice formula, the same occurred for Estrella Damm – it was in the air.

Damm S.A. has issued numerous other styles including a Munich-style dark lager, Hefeweizen, red lager, and other variations, but Estrella Damm is the mainstay. It has been available in Toronto for at least a half-dozen years via LCBO.

I look forward to tasting Roca’s handiwork – as a world-famous chef it promises to be good. His thoughts on current culinary trends will be interesting to hear as well. He is known among other innovations for promoting the sous-vide method about 20 years ago. What was initially an expedient is today widely followed in restaurant practice, although whether at famed El Celler we don’t know.

For prices and ticket details check this Eventbrite page.

Noteworthy fact: Spain has a much older beer tradition than one would think, anchored in early Celtic settlements – it was interrupted by the Romans and their vines! More on this soon with a c. 1958 recipe for a beer puchero from Canadian chef legend Jehane Benoit.


*Our attendance is complimentary, courtesy Estrella Damm and Moosehead.




Entire Porter: It’s all About the Grain, Says Mr. Redman

Actually, I was going to make this long and rehearse various history including my own (original) theory that the names porter and three threads (predecessor of porter) are derived from the Spitalfields, London silk trade of c. 1700.

But I feel why bother, those truly interested will know the background if I compress it, and for those who don’t, a lot more background will be necessary anyway.

So, I’ll say just this for now:

Nicholas Redman, a former archivist at Whitbread, states at p. 2 in his The Story of Whitbread PLC 1742-1990:

The business in which he now had a share was on two sites. At the larger, the Goat Brewhouse, on the corner of Old Street and Upper Whitecross Street, the partners brewed porter and small beer. Strong beer, or porter as it was generally called (Faulkner’s 1741 edition of Swift’s works calls Stout ‘a cant word for strong beer’) was brewed from grain malt only, and this led to the name Entire or Intire Butt. The use of dark sugars and the blending of pale malts with the brown was practised by some brewers, but was never allowed in the Goat Brewhouse or later in Chiswell Street. Small beer was a weaker extract of strong beer. Across Old Street, in Brick Lane (now Central Street), stood a small brewhouse which produced pale and amber beers. These beers, the equivalent of bitter, were brewed to meet a limited demand and were known as Table Beer.

This is an explanation, and new to me, alternate to the others to explain “entire butt” or “entire”, namely that entire means all the mashed run-offs are used for one brewing, or refers to the aging butts (large barrels) from which porter was served, hence not mixed from different containers.

Some will dismiss Redman’s explanation about dark sugar, since sugar was not generally permitted for public brewing in the 1700s (and indeed in the 1800s, to about 1846), so he must have been channeling a retrospective interpretation in company records, perhaps originating in the 19th century. In other words, Whitbread PLC, formerly one of the greatest London porter brewers, didn’t get its own history right, which is possible of course.

However, it may be noted molasses was extensively used in London brewing in the period just before porter comes to public attention in the early 1720s. It was not lawful, but was done anyway, especially in periods when the malt tax was hiked, as it had been in the Georgian teen years to pay for foreign wars.

The excise official Edward Denneston wrote a booklet in 1713 on how to defeat frauds on his Majesty’s Revenue, just a few years before porter appears. I’ve referred to it before in connection with understanding the meaning of three and the other numbered threads, a matter also preparatory to porter.

But in the present context, note his comments on the use of molasses by public brewers at pp 31-32. He states “most brewers in England” used it, and “vast quantities” were used in brewing in place of malt. I know from other researches that even at the end of the 1700s molasses was similarly used when cheap brown malt was found wanting to mash successfully on its own.

See, for example, at p. 290 in Annals of Agriculture and Other Useful Arts, Vol. 36 by Arthur Young, an instance in Norfolk.

It makes sense an upstanding brewer, as Samuel Whitbread was always said to be, abstemious, a benefactor, would want to advertise his use of all-grain beer.

Maybe Redman’s explanation is not so ostensibly off the mark then.

Redman must have gotten his information from an archival record, or perhaps an earlier Whitbread history. But since his book was more a monograph, it is not referenced and we don’t know his source.

Could the erroneous retrospective interpretation theory be true? Of course, but it also makes sense that a brewer might have used the term in the sense of all-grain, all-barley malt.

Parsons’ brewery used the term, as masterfully explicated by Alan Pryor in recent years, as a marketing tool to suggest the virtues of the beer were “amalgamated” in one barrel.

Perhaps aged and fresh beer were mixed, or indeed as many have argued, it was all fresh beer held for six months or a year and then sold as having the right virtues: not too old, not too young, not too bitter, not too sour, etc. But either way, it was entirely one brew, from that container.

But here is the thing: whoever originated the term, it doesn’t mean the sense he gave it was common to the others. This was a time when businesses kept their knowledge in-house. There was no internet, no publicity or educational network in the form of a Brewers Association, say to inform brewers and the public how products were confected, processed, and sold.

Samuel Whitbread, the main founder and surviving partner of Whitbread’s brewery, may well have meant the term in the sense Redman indicates.

The term as used by brewing writers William Ellis and Michael Combrune, which tends clearly to mixed mashes, could have been another independent sense. E.g. the Truman brewery’s “Intire Mild” and “Intire Stale” beer are in line with this sense, so Intire here really can’t mean just matured.* Yet in other contexts entire was a term that many understood as meaning well-aged beer for about 100 years from the mid-18th century.

It is a strange coincidence, otherwise, that a sub rosa but extensive molasses crisis occurs just before porter makes a splash and is introduced by brewers clearly willing to stand public scrutiny. No significant adulteration case was ever made out against a major porter brewer to my knowledge, for example.

They had too much to lose, not so much in fines but reputation. Alan Pryor makes these points in his excellent series in the journal Brewery History in the last few years. He points out that the edge they gained was in the sophistication of their economic and business planning.

Now what about the pale malt idea, that all-brown malt porter was entire to preclude the suggestion it used pale malt? Pale malt has a higher useable starch yield than brown malt, and is typically associated with the 1790s and later porter production, not earlier. This seems at first sight to tie in to an erroneous 19th century understanding of early porter history, even within Whitbread itself.

But look: if brewers selling beer to the public were willing extensively to use sugar to save (indirectly) on the malt tax, don’t you think some might have used pale malt?** There was no illegality in that case, but porter made with some pale malt may not have been viewed as the real thing. In fact we know it wasn’t by some when pale malt was first used in earnest, and ultimately successfully, from the 1790s.

Brewers would have figured out long before then that pale malt rendered better. Its price alone, see Peter Mathias’ landmark The Brewing Industry in England 1700-1830 (1959), or Pryor’s work again, would have shown that. The fact that everyone knows 1700s porter used all-brown malt may be more a result of an early quality control campaign by the leading porter-brewers: the result, that is, not the start of the all-brown malt tradition for porter.

Some words in business and marketing are uniquely adaptable to wear different hats. Take IPA: to many today it means just the American citric version. To others, it means the British one that became popular in England from the mid-1850s. To yet others, it means a fairly strong pale bitter beer meant for and consumed initially only in India, Hodgson’s beer I mean.

Whose IPA is it anyway?

Is the entire grain idea a false lead? Maybe. But Redman was no accidental beerman. He wrote numerous other brewery histories. He spoke at the celebration of life of the lately-deceased Michael Jackson in 2007, an honour that attests to his standing in British beer historiography.

Redman is still with us, and perhaps can be encouraged to explicate the statement I quoted. I understand he has been concentrating on his other passion, how whale bones are used in different countries for decorative and other purposes. He has a series of volumes on this interesting topic, as well.


*See Terry Foster’s Brewing Porters and Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing, here. This is about the same time Whitbread began his career in brewing.

**Obviously the malt tax had to be absorbed, but factoring the greater efficiency of pale malt that may have been more acceptable than risking indictment for using illegal molasses or sugar.




The Session: Beer Blogging Friday #134

This month’s Session is hosted by Tom Cizauskas. No better Session leader can be imagined due to his impressive resume in beer and brewing, he’s covered so many areas: brewer, pub owner, writer, beer educator, and more.

You can read the topic in Tom’s post from mid-March. I can summarize it (but be sure to read his full post) with this excerpt:

What is a beer garden? Or what isn’t a beer garden? Or what should a beer garden be? Or where is a beer garden?

Preface: in parsing the rules to participate in this Session, I’m hoping this post doesn’t disqualify due to its left field approach. By this I mean, I propose, not my own contribution on the topic but one written by a New York journalist some time ago – 1869 in fact. That’s 1869, no typo.

I need only reference an earlier blogpost where I discussed what amounts to, in many ways, Junius Browne’s answer to Tom’s questions, see A Yankee Views Askance the Lager Beer Garden

As well, I know I’m a few days late to participate. In defence, I plead, as Junius’ agent, his advanced age. We request Tom’s indulgence on that account as well.



A Right Royal Porter

The great brewing name of Whitbread survives today, but as a different business from its origins. Today, the company, a listed concern based in London, focuses on hotels (Premier Inns), coffee shops (Costa), and a range of branded restaurants and a few family-style pubs.

Brewing was sold off in 2001 to what is now Anheuser Busch InBev. Whitbread sold its once-vaunted pub portfolio as well but kept its beer brands. If any beers still bear the name in Britain they are produced under licence by other breweries.

(For a clear account of how most of the major brewers of Britain after WW II spun-off their plants and pub estates, see this 2005 article in Brewery History by Pat Saunders).

But until the early 2000s the name Whitbread meant beer and brewing prowess and an extensive pub network in England – for many it still does.

We write this post for those “many”.

Whitbread issued or sponsored a number of company histories over its long existence, which began with Samuel Whitbread and two partners in 1742.

Earlier, we had an off-and-on series discussing brewery and distillery company histories. We’ll return to the subject today to consider the one issued by Whitbread Brewery in 1935. (The publication date is not stated in the book but various factors point to it).

In this period, Whitbread was still a potent force in brewing albeit the porter that powered the company’s rise was largely replaced by other types of beer.

As for businesses anywhere in any period, they like to keep in touch with their customers, and breweries especially given their intimate link with the consuming public.

The book in question was probably sold at the shop on exit from a tour at Chiswell Street, London or given to pub landlords, suppliers of materials, and other trade connections.

What is the equivalent today? Probably glossy pdfs linked to company websites or in their Facebook pages. Facebook itself serves as a kind of ongoing “story” for many companies, Instagram too.

The business “story” of our time – as in “we tell our story” –  existed no less in a former day, but in less continuous form.

You can read Whitbread’s Stanley Baldwin-era story, Whitbread’s Breweryhere, stored in University of Glasgow archives. As for most analogous accounts it used good paper and included well-chosen photo- and other illustrations.

Still, a “luxe” tone was avoided, appropriately as the Depression was still operative and these histories were written mostly for a non-technical audience. They tended to balance technical discussion (unavoidable) with a layman’s perspective, Whitbread’s book no less.

The tone is even, “quiet” yet assured: a typical example of English public writing in this period. One may contrast it with the brash American commercial style of the late 1800s, or the chatty-technocrat business prose of the 1950s-1960s.

We like especially Whitbread’s three pages on the Royal Visit by King George and Queen Charlotte in 1787, with three Princesses in tow.

Royalty had visited business works before, but this visit was a landmark in the evolution of capitalist enterprise and its relation to aristocracy and the landed estates. One sees the seeds of the current busy public program of the Royal Family.

Here is part of the account, itself excerpted from contemporary (1787) newspaper coverage:

The cooperage was looked at from an adjoining room; and it was at this window, looking into the street, that the people without, who by this time had gathered into a great crowd, first seeing the King, gave breath to their loyalty, and repeatedly huzzaed. The Queen, whose worth, were it her sensibility alone, would be beyond our praise, paid the people with a tear!

In all that related to the Brewery, and the passages through them —all that was necessary, was done; but, very properly, nothing more. Matting covered the way that was dirty—lamps lighted where had been dark.

When everything was seen, the walk ended in the house. Their Majesties were led to a cold collation, as magnificent as afluence and arrangement could make it. The whole service was plate. There was every wine in the world. And there was also that, without which the board had been incomplete, some PORTER, poured from a bottle that was very large, but, as may be thought, with better singularities than the mere size to recommend it. As there was no want of anything else, there was no want of appetite.

The Duchess of Ancaster and Iady Harcourt sat at the table as well as the Princesses; but the Duke of Montagu and Iord Aylesbury finding in another room a second banquet, scarcely less sumptuous than the former—prepared for their attendants, had there been any—very heartily boarded there, that it might not seem so much good cheer had been thrown away.

This being done, it became two o’clock; when the King and Queen, not more than completely satisfied with the wonder of the works, than the good sense and elegance with which they had been shewn, took leave of Mr. Whitbread and his daughter, and returned to Buckingham House.

Note the Georgian precision of language and cadence; the sentences almost dance with each other. Yet all is informative and concise, sometimes amusing. This is the obverse of today’s emotive, feverish/confessional style, but this is now, eh?

Returning to the 1930s, the pages on cooperage note the importance of Memel oak to build or repair the company’s casks, a topic I discussed recently. Good images of the casks are shown.

It is noted the work was conducted in a former porter “vat”. This could mean simply a surface area where one of the huge wood vats had stood, or perhaps a sub-floor where a large cistern once held porter.

So what were the “singularities” of the upper case – upper caste – porter served to Royal personages? One can only speculate. Perhaps it was an unusually good blend, or a particularly aged porter from the huge cisterns and vats.

Porter was made then (we know) from all-brown malt, malt that despite toasting in the kiln would convert to fermentable sugar. It was often not more than 10-15% less the equivalent weight of pale malt, so pretty good mashable stuff, with diastase intact (or enough) to produce the essential maltose for fermentation.

The porter was probably a touch phenolic without (we think) being a Bamberg forest fire in the mouth. It was probably a little fruity from yeast esters, and surely quite bitter from hops. One may see the impressive hop pockets, or elongated sacks, used in the Thirties in the book. They probably looked quite similar in George III’s time.

A porter royal for a visit no less noble. British royalty survived into the period the book was written, and endures today.

What do Princes Harry and William drink, I wonder? If they drink at all that is, I’d be nonplussed if they don’t.* Some kind of lager, probably, or any kind. Remember, aristos aren’t known for connoisseurship, that’s more a middle class or academic preoccupation.

So-called Sloanes, certainly not immune to being drunk on royalty, will drink any kind of beer, said Sloane Ranger Handbook (1982). I read the book on an airplane once, someone in the seat before me had left it. An interesting book, and I never forgot that little bit on beer.

True, “wine merchant” was among the traditional occupations of this class, the book made that clear too, but not the customers really; that was the point of the discussion and it makes sense I think.

I like Prince Harry, and am very impressed with his Invictus work. It takes conviction, courage, and good values to do that, not to mention a suitable personality, and he does it well. Few causes are more worthy.

When he gets marries I’ll raise a personal toast, in singular porter. Canadian porter though, Hazz.

Note re images: the first image above was sourced from the excellent U.K.-based Gracie’s Guide site, here.  The second image was sourced from the Wikipedia entry on Whitbread, here. Images are used for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property in said images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.


*Nonplussed is used in its North American sense.