New Canadian Beer Definition

Of course I’ve reviewed the changes floated earlier this month by the government, which given the long lead-up are likely to be final when the new rules take effect. I had submitted, to my best recollection, comments in an earlier stage of the process. It must be two years ago or more now.

Just as a general or high-level reaction (not granular/legal opinion style) the process seems evolutionary and the changes reasonable.

Most beer made won’t be affected but some will. Beer remains an alcoholic infusion of barley malt or wheat malt,* to which other things can be added, classically hops or extracts made from them and cereal grains (malt adjuncts) but also many other substances.

It is clear once the amendment becomes law that herbs and spices can be used. The present beer standard permits use of any “carbohydrate”, which these are anyway, but clarification is provided.

Adding bacteria to yeast as a permitted fermentation agent takes account of certain styles using lactic acid bacteria, so this is new.

Brews with nuts, among some others, may need an allergens notice. The idea is that existing substances and new ones to be allowed in brewing may cause allergic reactions or contain gluten (dangerous for celeriacs), so the existing exemption of beer from the requirement to state these contents will be removed. (This explains the statement on some beer labels now, “contains barley”).

The new four percent by weight residual sugar limit is an alternative to the present, vague requirement that beer must have the taste, aroma, and character traditionally associated with beer. It may cause a few practical problems, e.g., for some very rich beer styles such as Imperial Stout or Barley Wine.

If there is one area for a re-think that’s it. The new rule applies to glucose, maltose, sucrose, and other basic sugar units, not dextrin for example.

This delphic-seeming requirement is intended to mark off traditional beer from malt-based alcoholic beverages, so-called malternatives, that traditionally are much sweeter in character and not really beer-like. A factor here is, the malt is often used essentially to provide the alcohol with flavours coming from fruit or other sugars added.

The new rules will not become effective until published in Part II of the Canada Gazette, likely next year. Also, the Regulatory Impact Statement issued by the Food and Drug Directorate states viz. a transition period:

There is a proposed transition period that would allow brewers to continue to use the requirements under the current FDR [Food and Drug Regulations] for a period of two years [from adoption of the new law sometime next year] in order to provide sufficient time for stakeholders to make necessary labelling or formulation changes. Regulated parties may follow either the former requirements or the new requirements during the two-year transition period. At the end of the transition period, the new requirements must be applied.

It is largely a regulatory area where the trade lobbies Beer Canada and Ontario Craft Brewers Association, as well as the Canadian Chapter of Master Brewers Association of America’s Technical Committee, will work closely with members to promote compliance.


*An earlier version of this post suggested that wheat malt was a “bolt-on” to the beer standard. However, on checking the current standard in the Food and Drug Regulations, I note it permits barley malt or wheat malt in beer, so a Gratzer/Grodziskie, say (all-wheat malt-based, or it may be) was always legal, and the wheat malt is not new as a potential 100% mash for beer. To my best recollection, an earlier version of the new beer standard required barley malt as a component in beer, that is what I was thinking of.


My Thoughts on the Beavertown-Heineken Announcement

In various social media many in beer commentary or the industry have weighed in on the impact of the purchase by Heineken brewery of what appears to be a sizeable minority stake in Beavertown Brewery, the London, U.K. craft brewery founded a half-dozen years ago by Logan Plant.

Without taking anything away from the vision and leadership of Logan, the fact that he was related to Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin) helped create buzz in the early years; it didn’t hurt certainly. Whether Robert funded or guaranteed loans to the business I cannot say, but the connection was a cool thing that helped the overall image certainly.

And Beavertown has always made excellent products by all reports with innovative packaging design and marketing. It thus functioned as a lodestar for the burgeoning London group of craft breweries in particular. Many customers and retailers invested hopes and faith in the business as a classic start-up that shined by its independence.

In the wake of the Heineken deal Logan stated that planned expansion required significant new investment. After examining various financing options the sale of a stake to Heineken made the most sense, in part because it is family-controlled despite its behemoth size, and since it has the technical expertise to facilitate Beavertown’s increase of capacity.

Heineken also has a stable of some 3000 pubs in Britain via its Star holding, essentially outlets for Heineken’s beers.

Beavertown’s distribution could avail that network in the future but the decision to use it is at the option of Beavertown, not Heineken. So far no decision has been made.

In the last dozen years or so, in the U.K. and North America, a passel of well-known craft breweries has been acquired by a sizeable international brewery. Heineken itself bought full control of Lagunitas in California after taking a partial position. A stir arises each time this happens in craft circles, and now again.

The phenomenon is not new. Creemore, a lager specialist in Ontario, was bought by what is now Molson-Coors about 20 years ago. Before and since then various small breweries were purchased by large American ones or brought into various joint venture arrangements. The idea often was to give the smaller player access to the larger’s distribution network.

I’ve followed the craft brewing sector with great interest since its start. But I was a pre-craft beer fan as well and budding beer connoisseur with a library of books and thirst to learn more, which I did through travel, attending conferences, and further study. There was always a beer scene, it was just smaller, and different, yes, but not that different.

I yield, therefore, to no one in my respect for the sector, the risks its founders took, the risks its current practitioners face every day, and their often stellar products.

But when I started this interest (mid-1970s) size and scale were irrelevant to quality. Many large brewers made fine products, some made middling, or poor. It was the same for the medium-size and small breweries that existed. Products of high grade were sought out irrespective who made them.

That said, because most large brewers in North America tended ever more to a uniformity in product type and characteristics, it fell to new, necessarily small entrants to restore older beer traditions. So good beer became mainly associated with them, and an affection developed for the little train that could. But this was the driver for a process, not an end unto itself. Those who made especially good products and had good business stewardship grew quickly, Sierra Nevada is the classic example but there are many others.

Hence, the beer was and for most, I think, remains the point. Beavertown’s beers will continue, there is no reason to think they will change, just as Creemore lager hasn’t changed or Lagunitas IPA. Or Goose Island IPA. Not significantly anyway, which is all that counts. In some cases too these deals result in better beer, better technically and in stability.

If Beavertown beers remain good and creative, more will get to buy them than now. If not, more will get the chance to say no. After some 40 years of telling big beer, “you need to make better beer”, it’s got the message. We need to take “yes” for an answer. The fact that big beer has chosen to enter the field by acquisition is neither here nor there. First, it takes two to tango, the vendors of an equity stake are as much in it as the purchaser.

Second, there are literally thousands of small breweries in North America and the U.K. left to be the next pre-buyout Beavertown, Lagunitas, Elysium, etc. Or if you will the next Sam Adams, Stone, or Sierra Nevada.

For those who philosophically won’t deal with a post-Heineken Beavertown – certainly their privilege – there is almost a countless number of sourcing options.

The upshot is a win-win-win-win. Win 1: Logan Plant gets a payday for his hard work and vision.

Win 2: The public will get greater access to his beers, probably internationally ultimately.

Win 3: The thousands of remaining, fully-independent breweries have new marketing opportunities, i.e., to those who won’t support Beavertown going forward.

Win 4: There is increased employment for the to-be-expanded Beavertown business and the knock-on effects.

This is the business cycle in operation and in truth it was not different in the past. In the majority of larger American cities before WW I independent breweries grouped together in consolidations to survive or were assembled for buy-out by a foreign party (often English flotations).

Domestic raiders, as then termed, many from outside brewing initially (e.g., E.P. Taylor, Paul Kalmanovitz) bought out countless breweries in the U.S. and Canada in the mid-20th century.

The history of U.K. brewery consolidation is on record.

A few early brewers survived by virtue of product specialization, e.g. Guinness (and its great advertising), or by becoming a raider, or by a high degree of technical competency (Carlsberg and Tuborg, say), or in some cases due to unusual politics – Pilsner Urquell in the formerly Communist Czechoslovakia. But they all started out like a Beavertown, young and ambitious and looking for ways to grow and stay in the game.



Beck’s: a Unique Style of Beer?

Beck’s Long Status as a Quality German Import

Back in 1977 Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer made an éclat and included most marquee beer names then current.

Not every name of renown was covered – in practical terms impossible – but most were including Budweiser, Pilsner Urquell, Bass, Heineken, Carlsberg, Guinness, Spaten, and the Munich Lowenbrau.

Beck’s Beer, long a reputed export from Bremen, was included. Jackson devoted a paragraph to it, calling the beer “full-bodied and well-hopped”.

He also noted the strong historic export association and stated the beer was brewed in the far east at one point. This stopped after WW II. Heineken, incidentally, also had a foreign branch brewery into the early 1940s, in Dutch East Indies. It supplied beer to America just prior to its entry into WW II.

Beck’s as sold in the U.S.  and Canada in the 1970s seems to have had a different formulation than for some other markets. For our market it had a lighter taste, at least according to the (fairly detailed) encyclopedia references quoted by Jay Brooks in his 2017 post on the founder Heinrich Beck, see here.

Jackson Flummoxed by Beck’s in Stylistic Terms

In his pocket guides that followed The World Guide to Beer Jackson became more granular on Beck’s. In the 1997 edition of The Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer he stated at p. 27:

…Beck’s carries no description beyond a straightforward Beck’s Bier. It is broadly within the Pilsener style with a fresh aroma, a faintly fruity, firm, crisp, palate and a clean, dry finish. It is light by German but heavy by international standards, and difficult to place in context.

“Difficult to place in context” – a confounding statement from the king of beer description. Both the palate but especially the lack of a claimed style designation clearly unbalanced Jackson. Beyond allowing it was a Pilsener in the broadest terms he seemed unwilling, following the brewery ostensibly, to type it a Pils, even the German type that, while differing from Czech originals, has always been a prime international example of the Pils style.

The Origins and Early Career of Heinrich Beck

Beck was born in Baden-Württemberg in the southwest. Jackson seemed unaware of this and that Beck had emigrated to Indiana and worked in an American brewery for years. See again Brook’s discussion of Heinrich Beck’s background.

Heinrich returned to Germany after some years but to the other end, in Bremen, to work at the St. Pauli brewery. He finally set up his own brewery with two others in 1873.

This U.S. experience had to influence the character of Heinrich Beck’s lager. The evidence is Beck’s is notably pale like adjunct American lager, is fairly dry albeit all-malt, and not greatly hopped. This is how I remember the beer from the 1970s in Canada and it is similar today. It tastes foreign to be sure, but is one or two steps away from the domestic profile, not five.

A Range of Modern Beck’s Styles 

Today Beck’s, both in Germany and the U.S. where Beck’s is now produced, has issued a number of beers in different styles. Beck’s Gold, Beck’s Red Ale, Becks Pilsener 1873 are just some. Here though I am focusing on Beck’s Beer, the classic version that is still the workhorse of the brewery. Indeed AB InBev, which owns Beck’s today, claims it is the largest-selling German beer in the world, see here from its English-language website.

Why the Coy Label?

So why has Beck’s not stated on the label that it is a Helles, or Pilsener, or Export, thus opening the door to speculation that it is a unique style of brew, not classifiable?

There is an answer, and an Australian news story explains it crisply: before WW I German export brewers like Beck’s were on the march to find new markets or expand the old. Australia was prime territory.

In 1907 the Daily News in Perth interviewed a Beck’s sales representative, A. Bergner (see here) who was quoted as follows:

I have observed that there is a noticeable want of knowledge on the part of the general public; and also beer-drinkers as to the meaning of ‘Pilsener.’ In effect the word is practically what to you whisky would signify without any particular brand being mentioned. Many inferior breweries shelter themselves behind the word Pilsener and put on the market inferior beer. Many colonial breweries are also making use of the word ‘Pilsener’ so that the consumer is deluded into the idea that he is buying the real genuine imported German lager beer. This has driven us to the position that we have had to remove the word ‘Pilsener’ from our labels, and in future across the front will appear only the word ‘Beck’s Lager.’

In other words, it was a Pilsener, a very good one (naturally) in the company’s eyes, as further discussed in the account. But to sell the product more effectively “Pilsener” was removed from the labels. Finally, or at least in many markets, the word lager was replaced by “beer”.

It was marketing, in other words, that resulted in Beck’s seeming non-classifiable to Jackson, not the absence of a style name on the label. To the extent the palate itself bolstered that view for him, I believe Heinrich’s years of brewing in the U.S. convinced him blonde lager outside Germany should not be too malty or bitter.

The Situation Today

Beck’s still does not carry on the labels a statement that it is a Pilsener, not to my knowledge certainly.

Yet, as stated above, Beck’s in Germany introduced an apparently historical Beck’s beer named Beck’s Pilsener 1873. It was released just a few years ago and is a small seller. In practical terms there is no impact on the international image of Beck’s Beer, nonetheless Beck’s had no discomfiture applying “Pilsener” to its label.

Also, the website of AB InBev noted above, even for regular Beck’s, states it is a “German Pilsener”.

Beck’s also markets locally in Bremen some beer styled Pilsener in its Haake-Beck line. Jackson discusses the beer in his pocket guide mentioned above and assumes (wrongly, in our view) that its “cosmopolitan cousins” Beck’s and (we infer) St. Pauli Girl, not labelled Pilsener beers, are a different style.

And so, while Beck’s Beer still avoids the Pilsener term on its label clearly it is not a sui generis German lager. It started its career as, and remains, a German Pilsener, one of many Pils-type beers in the market.

But the inspired label change to which A. Bergner referred in 1907 gave Beck’s an attractive singleton status. Something like this occurred with Kentucky Fried Chicken. The sometimes negative implications of “fried”, as well as a generic character implied by the full name, were obviated by adopting the name KFC – brilliant. KFC is its own thing, and many today have to think twice to remember, or don’t even know, it’s a fried-in-oil recipe.

I think Beck’s must still see benefit in keeping its labels as they have been essentially since 1907.

Is Beck’s a Superlative Beer?

Does Beck’s deserve its reputation as a famous import? The image may have changed at least in the U.S. Many reviews on Beer Advocate and Ratebeer suggest, as do the scores, that Beck’s is viewed as average, still outside the American lager palate but (on the plus side) at an affordable price.

The fact that it is brewed in the U.S. now tends to take some lustre away as well – a true import always has cachet by that fact alone. In Canada though it remains a German import.

Many comments on the rating services refer to a skunky taste or smell, the presumed effect of the green bottle. Yet to me, the taste is similar on draft or in a can.

I think it is probably DMS, dimethyl sulphide, that gives the impression of skunk or “marijuana”, as some state. Many European lagers have these traits as I have written frequently in the past. It is considered part of the pilsener or Helles profile especially in Germany. Not every central European blonde lager has the profile, but quite a few do in my experience.

Certainly Beck’s has an assertive, fairly distinctive taste, different from the domestic lager norm or most craft interpretations but approachable (by comparison, say, to Pilsner Urquell whose palate is challenging even for many craft beer fans).

Beck’s is not my preferred tipple for Pils or Helles style but clearly both in taste and image has a certain something that keeps it the No. 1 German beer in world markets.

Note re image above: image was sourced from The Beer Store webpage for the brand, here. Used for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property in the image belongs to its sole owner. All feedback welcome.



Vancouver’s Beautiful Long Bar of 1976

The images in this post pertain to an historic event I’ve just learned of despite being reasonably familiar with Canadian history: Habitat Forum 1976. The City of Vancouver archives describe the event as follows:

Habitat Forum took place at Jericho Beach Park from May 27th until June 11th, 1976. It was a conference/exposition … in conjunction with the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements, also known as the Habitat conference. According to the Habitat Forum program, found in the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements fonds (AM337), “Habitat Forum is the collective name for the non-governmental activities related to Habitat: the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements.”

Habitat Forum staff and volunteers converted the five airplane hangars at Jericho Beach Park (former air force base) to an exhibition site for the Habitat Forum. They worked at the site from October 1975 until May of 1976 to prepare.

Habitat Forum was a private initiative largely the vision of Al Clapp (d. 2013), a broadcaster and activist. Clapp played a large role as well in founding Granville Island in Vancouver, a revitalized, mixed-use urban space. The internationally known locale also birthed Granville Island Brewery, an early entrant in the craft beer stakes. It still exists, owned today by Molson-Coors.

The Georgia Straight, in a memorial piece on Al Clapp a few years ago, stated this:

Most people remember him as the guy who built the Habitat Forum in five derelict Royal Canadian Air Force hangars down at Jericho Beach. With a secondhand portable sawmill, some horses to haul driftwood from the shoreline, wharf railings that came from the Lions Gate Bridge, and a crew of employment-grant rehab cases, he built a people’s forum to parallel Vancouver’s landmark 1976 United Nations Habitat conference on human settlements.

Lindsay Brown is a Vancouver writer and designer who has written a book on Habitat Forum 1976, and her informative website explains:

Habitat I was the first time the global community had come together in a substantial way to discuss cities & all human settlements: the growing challenges of urbanization, rising inequality, the accelerating human migration from rural to urban areas, urban problems including clean water, sanitation, poverty and homelessness, as well as the nascent field of sustainable urban development and design.

In time, Habitat Forum became better known than the international Conference which inspired it (even as the latter continues periodically in different parts of the world).

In Hangar no. 7 a social centre and bar were installed. The bar, built of attractive blonde and tan wood as much of the interior was, was at the time said to be the longest in the world. Despite the spare construction an atmosphere of amity and warmth was conveyed, in tune with the wider environment – at least it’s one way to achieve it.

The serenity was enhanced by the beautiful murals, probably by the famous Canadian artist Bill Reid. Reid was a broadcaster, jeweler, and artist of partial aboriginal West Coast (Haida) ancestry. Some of his work decorates Canadian currency.

The black-and-white shot shows an intriguing pile of wood barrels in the centre. Did these hold beer? The photo caption states that “tankards of ale” were dispensed, yet the shots of people holding and being served beer suggest standard Canadian blonde beer was served.

Did the barrels, or some of them, contain whisky? This seems unlikely. Vancouver’s civic ethos was not quite as uninhibited as today and the long history of Canadian temperance and irregular prohibition, not far behind.

I think it is more likely the barrels held wine. In fact, one of the images shows barrels marked “Andres”, a venerable winemaker with a pan-Canadian history. One barrel seems to state “Tilford” though, probably from Park & Tilford, a Canadian whisky brand. Also, some shots show bottles of wine on the bar, so wine from the barrel would seem unneeded unless both forms were available.

If some beer was sold from the wood, perhaps a brew was specially made for the event. If so this would pre-date any modern craft barrel-aged beer in Canada.

Hipsters of 2018 will approve the plaid jackets and shirts, exactly like today’s, and the beards. In many ways the 60s-70s really were The End of History. And it started here, or a lot of it, arguably.

As to the pile of parti-coloured beer cases on the old-fashioned cart, it’s old-school all the way: no craft beer was available back in ’76 except any bubbling in hippies’ basements or Frank Appleton’s mind. Appleton is the early, influential British-Canadian craft brewing consultant, I’ve written of him before.

Every single one of those brands is available today, 42 years later. Some don’t sell as well as back then, but you can still get them. If you put the modern cases on a cart they’d look almost exactly the same. In contrast, the hangars and interiors were demolished after the event at the instance, apparently, of the Vancouver Parks Department. Nothing remains.

Vancouver to this day retains a rebellious, anti-establishment spirit. It mixes oddly perhaps with the town’s sky-high home prices and big money business and social circles, but there you have it. A lot of that spirit started around the time these images were taken.

Note re images herein: The black and white image was sourced from the City of Toronto’s archival photo collection, here. The remainder were sourced from the City of Vancouver’s photo archive on Habitat Forum 1976, see here for the group of 31 images pertaining to Hangar no. 7). All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.








Update re Canadian Judging for World Beer Awards, June 26

As I mentioned, here, last week I’m part of the Canadian judging panel for the World Beer Awards 2018. The event takes place one week from tomorrow on June 26 at Bar Hop Brewco on Peter Street downtown. I was just at its sister pub on King Street, in fact, and no place is better qualified to host an event of this nature.

Just a quick update to link to the judges page on the website of World Beer Awards. Numerous of the Canada judges including yours truly are listed with bio details, see under World Beer Awards 2018. (My image will go up in a day or two).

Toronto-based beer writer Steve Beaumont is the Chair of Judges for Canada, whom I’ve known for about 30 years. Scanning the other names, I know most of them as well, no surprise really given the nature and standing of this event.

I’ve been reviewing the product categories on the website. I don’t know who wrote them but they are clearly written with a good understanding not just of recent beer history but certain more distant historical essentials as well.

Of course every classification method has its own approach and internal logic. I’m making sure to absorb this one in readiness for the event.





Beer Connoisseurship – a Neglected Grace

Beer gets no respect, many say. With all the changes in recent decades in brewing – the gazillions of craft breweries, the countless exotic beer types, the ceaseless innovation – one suspects in the culture at large not much has changed. Beer is beer, honourable but at bottom a quaffer, for informal occasions – cottage, the cheap and cheerful evening out, barbeque, office party, that sort of thing.

For tony London West End or Upper East Side Manhattan restaurants, no.

For the edgier hot names in Brooklyn or Bermondsey, well, maybe, for lunch.

Beer, to the public mind, is not really part of gastronomy no matter the pretensions of some to elevate it there. The late chef and world food authority Anthony Bourdain, a democrat and populist in food and its customs, did not tarry on craft beer, which upset many of its devotees.

Eloquent voices have spoken up for beer to be sure, writers have laboured especially since the 1970s in its service, many certainly talented. But even devoted beer people harbour the feeling that it gets, if not no respect, then not half to what it deserves. They open the papers and see beer treated as a generic item, after all this time, derided by food columnists who write, “don’t try wine, even Riesling, with [thus and such, often non-western, dish], drink beer”. Well yes but which one? Which type? Don’t you care? Not really.

And the U.K. media still revels in those lurid, full-page stories about lager louts on the weekend high street. It delights in showing the Roman circus at music festivals where half-dressed party animals with glittering eyes clutch cans of lager or some other beer, maybe even craft beer. It’s anything but the dignified surroundings always associated with wine.

The New York Times doesn’t have a dedicated beer critic, as most big city papers don’t. The job is handled by the wine expert, often. And so on.

In 1934 the Australian editor and author Brian Penton (1904-1951) perceived the injustice in this conventional wisdom, idée recue I might say but oops, I’m writing about beer. Someone sent him a new book called A Book About Beer. Penton wrote:

As the writer points out, the mere mention of beer among Britishers always, for some obscure reason which only psycho-analysts could track down, elicits a snigger. Clearly there is, in British minds, some curious repression about beer, some strange and infantile complex of snobbery, condescension, superiority, and guilt. The word wine never excites amusement. It is a noble word and tomes, learned and ecstatic, are written around it. A man who talked about wine in the way it is our custom to talk about beer— as if all wines were just wine— who did not know that Burgundy must not be warmed, that red wine must not be drunk with fish, or that the mouth of a brandy glass must not be less than two inches in diameter, would be scorned and spat on for a barbarian. But who knows or cares anything for the canons of beer-drinking? Who knows why beer should be drunk out of a metal vessel, what dishes go best with beer, how beer is made, what times are most proper for absorbing it, and what its varieties and potencies are? If you go to a good restaurant you will find all the wines impressively set out and divided and sub-divided — all the Chateau Lafittes, the Chateau Margaux, the Chateau Yquems, the Chambertins, Clos de Vougeots, the Romanee-Contis, the Nuits St. Georges, the Steinbergers, Rauenthalers, Geisenheimers, Heidsiecks, Bollingers, Clicquot-Ponsardins, the Moet and Chandons. And stuck away in a corner you will see, perhaps, “Also Beer” — as in the passenger list of a liner you read “Lady So-and-So, and General Such-and-Such, and Mr. This and Mrs. That; also 250 in the steerage.” As if the 250 in the steerage had the vast, composite, undifferentiated personality of a bee-hive! As if beer, to a connoisseur of beer, was not also divisible into an infinite variety of classes and sub-classes! But connoisseurship of beer is one of the neglected graces of life, and the “Book About Beer” is an indignant protest against this.

You can read Penton’s full remarks here, published in his column The Sydney Spy in the city’s The Daily Telegraph. Maintaining the same wry, mock-indignant tone as above, he mounted one of the best defences of beer seen prior to the 1970s, when serious beer critique starts in earnest.

The book in question seems consigned to minor status in the annals of beer appreciation. It was anonymous, credited only to A. Drinker. Snippets have been discussed by beer writers in recent years, but nothing revelatory seems to have come from the tome. Penton’s review of the book and literate defence of beer may be the best thing.

Rare book dealers still sell it though, see one on offer, here.

Penton was a grammar-school chap, like that well-known U.K. beer writer Michael Jackson (1942-2007). Good writing about beer doesn’t need university credentials but neither are they a particular bar. Beer is, when all is said and done, a worthy, even noble subject, but one that remains equal-opportunity.

Penton has a luminous entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography by the educator Patrick Buckridge, who also authored a 1994 biography of Penton. Buckridge wrote:

He had been one of Australia’s great newspaper editors, an important novelist, a passionate but critical Australian nationalist, and a courageous liberal campaigner for what he called ‘a civilized mode of social living together’.

Obs. Writing of the calibre of Penton’s – I’m speaking generally now, not of beer as such – seems a neglected grace. Our relentlessly earnest age doesn’t prize the levity of past times, useful as it often is beyond the merely entertaining.

Note re images: The quotation above is from Penton’s news article linked in the text, available via the Trove digitized archive. The cover of A Book About Beer is drawn from the vendor’s site also linked in the text. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to their lawful owners, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



The Scholar and the Pressman

Professor Anthony Rose and a Superstar Beer Writer

Anthony Harry Rose (1930-1993) was an English professor of microbiology, he spent much of his latter career at Bath University after stints in Tyne and indeed in Canada it appears.

He is remembered by a Memorial Lecture Series whose articles are published in the U.K.-based Journal of the Institute of Brewing. 

Rose made numerous contributions to brewing science through his books on yeast morphology and alcoholic beverage technology. He was also co-editor of the scholarly journal, The Yeasts.

Rose has the distinction of being quoted in the very first paragraph of the most important consumer book on beer ever written, The World Guide to Beer (1977) by Michael Jackson. The unusually evocative words of a technical man caught the eye of a romantic like Jackson:

Jackson’s wry line that despite “the worst fears of the drinking man” science has not altered the “basic procedure of brewing” serves as a kind of leitmotif, not just for the World Guide to Beer but for Jackson’s entire career and by extension, modern craft brewing. It is also a theme in Anthony Rose’s article from which the quotation above was drawn.

Jackson obviously had read the full article. This is evident not just via the quotation he published but in many passages of the first 20 pages of the World Guide, the part that precedes the national and sub-national classifications.

Rose was, therefore an important influence on Jackson together with other writers or scholars such as Alfred Barnard, Andrew Campbell, George Saintsbury, Peter Mathias, John Bickerdyke, and (or in my view) Wahl & Henius who wrote an important brewing text in 1902.

Unless I missed it, I have never seen a discussion in beer historical writing of Anthony Rose’s article. I offer it here.

The Scientific American is a venerable science journal directed both to professional audiences and the sophisticated general public. In 1959 when Rose’s article appeared, the journal enjoyed an ascendancy due to its revival after WW II by three promoters, one of whom was the publisher and science editor Gerard Piel.

Piel. Brewing. Lager. New York. Correct. Piel was grandson of one of the two brothers who founded Piel Brothers brewery in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1800s. He did not work in the family brewery but his connection to brewing clearly provided the spur for Rose’s article. The Piel brewery link was yet more tangible via the images Rose included of brewing equipment and processes. These were drawn from Piel Brothers Brewery, as made clear in Alfred McCoy’s history of the Piel family and brewery, see pp 245-246.

Rose’s article, simply entitled “Beer”, is available without subscription to Scientific American via JSTOR, free with many civic library subscriptions. It was published in Vol. 200, No. 6 (June, 1959), pp. 90-104. On the JSTOR page for the article you can read the first page as preview, here.

The article is well-organized and unusually well-written, running 10 pages. After a brief but illuminating historical discussion he sets out the basic steps of malting, mashing, brewing, fermentation, and aging.

Among the interesting images included are open fermentation tanks used at Piel. The text makes clear though that some fermentation was achieved in closed tanks, and the CO2 was harvested for injection in the matured brew.

Historical allusions include Thomas Tryon’s (1691) suggestion of various herbs and flavourings as an alternative to hops. They include pennyroyal, balsam, tansy, mint, wormwood, even fresh hay. In a way, this presaged the current trend for a wide use of non-hop flavourings in beer.

Continually through the article Rose balances the need for better science with traditional concerns to preserve beer’s palate and character, something that clearly resonated with Jackson. In discussing the use of cereal adjunct he states it provides mainly just fermentable sugar and “contribute[s] little if anything to the taste and aroma of beer”. (Presumably he thought the same of his native country’s use of sugar in brewing, although he doesn’t say). Jackson’s opinion was similar.

He also implies, in the gentlest possible way, that the need for mass distribution in the U.S. was making its beer ever paler, bubbly, and of low bitterness. Still, he appreciated that Americans had both lager and ale available to them, while in his home country, only top-fermented beer was available (this is 1959).* Rose notes how ale remained a regional favourite in New England, a theme Jackson developed in his writing too.

Rose discusses with admirable clarity the two main forms of enzyme, alpha- and beta-amylase, and how temperature is manipulated to get the best from both for the type of beer needed. In another striking phrase he terms the brewer the “choreographer of an enzymatic ballet”. To my knowledge Jackson never used that one, but he might have.

In terms of science’s vital role in modern brewing Rose cites the Dane Emil Hansen’s landmark work to isolate pure cultures, and of course Pasteur, and other scientists less well-known. For more contemporary applications he explains how science helps to remove haze from beer.

Rose would be shocked at the widespread fashion today for cloudy beer, as he would for use of bacteria and wild yeast in fermentation. For his generation these organisms spelled “spoilage” and nothing more.

But he had the beer drinker’s palate nonetheless, evident in many ways including his observation that the half-pound of hops per barrel for American beer was well-exceeded in Britain. Clearly draught bitter was an example although it is not mentioned as such.

As an example of a further important influence on Jackson, Rose divided lager into Munich, Dortmund, Pilsen, and Bock types – Jackson does the same but added notably Vienna beer (and Doppel Bock, more a gloss).

Adding the Vienna was, I might add, not an intuitive thing to do at the time. Jackson in early writings continually defended his view that Vienna Marzen was a separate branch of lager, and of course he was right.

Rose concludes on a note that chemical engineers are likely to make the greatest contributions to brewing science going forward, in particular he thought for continuous vs. batch fermentation. He also thought yeast genetics would come to play a key role. He was right on the latter but perhaps over-optimistic on the former even for industrial brewing, in other words.

There is no prediction of an American craft brewing revival although reading between the lines he was surely gratified when it came. Similarly for Britain he calls for no revival of small-scale brewing. But British beer didn’t need it, then, really. Despite ongoing industry consolidation there were still many hundreds of traditional breweries to gratify every (non-bottom-fermentation) palate, at least with a little effort made.

What Rose thought of the lager and CAMRA shocks when they came can only be wondered at. Quite possibly he wrote about these developments as he was fully active up to his untimely passing in 1993 at only 63. Indeed, he continued to contribute to Scientific American into the 1980s although not on beer specifically, I believe.

This obituary in The Independent adds much to our knowledge of Anthony Rose, and doesn’t fail to note his striking ability with a “turn of phrase”.

Due in part to that gift, his work was consequential, in a way much to do with beer but not with Academe or yeast science as such.

Note re images: The first image above was drawn from The World Guide To Beer (1977), by Michael Jackson, Ballantine Books, NYC. The second image is from an listing for the volume shown, here. The third image is from a Massena, NY newspaper in 1964, sourced via New York State Historic newspapers, here. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*Tiny quantities were made that had virtually no impact on domestic consumption, most of which was exported. I’ll address this soon in a subsequent post.








Tank Canadian Budweiser Beer

This story, on the release of “tank” or unpasteurized (North American) Budweiser in Quebec, got virtually no comment in the blogosphere that I saw.

Mass-market products like Budweiser excite no particular attention among the beer commentariat, justly so in view of their lacklustre, high malt-adjunct taste.

Yet this move in Quebec, especially if it heralds a similar launch in other North American centres, is of interest both on historical and, at least potentially, palate grounds.

It’s historically interesting because into the 1970s and 80s most draft beer in North America was not pasteurized.  Many sources confirm this, indeed it was a defining trait of “draft” that it was not pasteurized and had to be kept cold with a relatively short life span. The “new” tank Budweiser in Quebec is allowed only a two-week life span.

1970s draft beer was invariably filtered, sometimes in a prolonged process to reduce the chance of micro-biological instability, but pasteurization of draft beer was not usual, with some exceptions. Beer exported a distance, say Guinness Stout or Watney’s Red Barrel, was pasteurized. Anchor Steam Beer has always been flash-pasteurized since Fritz Maytag overhauled operations from the late 1960s. The flash method is less invasive as it subjects the beer to a higher temperature than traditional tunnel pasteurization but for a much shorter time.

“Keg” beer in the U.K. and Ireland then even for the domestic market increasingly was pasteurized, as the two brands mentioned.

At some point here, flash-pasteurization became the norm for most mass-market draft. All Labatt-brewed draft beer is, I’ve been told, pasteurized, so this Quebec initiative is a departure albeit simply a return to standard practice as viewed historically.

In an earlier post I examined pasteurization in detail and referred to Moosehead’s discussion of the topic on its website, see here. I wrote:

Moosehead Brewery in Canada has a commendably long discussion of pasteurization, here, which is similar in its arguments to Anchor’s. Moosehead states however that flavour can be impacted, particularly hop character, but opines that adjustments can be made at the brewery to compensate.

Yet, the unpasteurized Budweiser now on display in Quebec is being touted as having a special character due to no pasteurization. The freshness is emphasized, but the implication clearly is that sensory characteristics – taste – are boosted.

Having tasted unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell recently in London, I can state it is considerably better than the regular, pasteurized draft, itself no duff performer in the beer stakes. As to North American Budweiser, its fairly lean, starchy palate may resist improvement through deleting the pasteurization step, but I’d like to try it to see. You never know.

Perhaps in time, all mass-market domestic draft will return to unpasteurized form. If so, all to the good as, in the view of the committed beer fans I know, these products rate far below the typical craft palate in quality.

N.B. As far as I am aware, draft Coors and Coors Light, and the bottled and canned forms for that matter, are not pasteurized in the U.S., but are in Canada. Conversely, draft Goose Island IPA, say, a craft-style brand of AB InBev/Labatt, is pasteurized in Canada as is Mill St Tankhouse. A switch to no-pasteurization, if that ever happens, will only increase the merits of the craft-style brands, in other words.


Dish a la Chimay

The Birthplace of a Famous Beer Resonates, With a Twist

At the height of the Depression in Canada in 1937 a Canadian Pacific Railway hotel in distant Regina, Saskatchewan offered the following menu:

The hotel, built in 1927 in the boxy, neo-classical style popular in the 1930s and 40s, was a Regina institution for decades. It was a charter member of the Canadian Pacific Railway hotel chain that dotted the trans-continental line to help link Canada’s regions. The railway and hotels did much to assist Canada’s early expansion and growth.

Today the hotel is owned by Temple Hotels, controlled by Ontario-based, publicly-traded Morguard Investments.

The menu (the link is via the NYPL digital menu archive) is a very creditable fusion of diverse influences. These include B.C. planked salmon or pickerel fillets from northern lakes, Britannic standbys such as liver and bacon, beefsteak, and lamb with chutney, and U.S./Canadian foods such as tomato soup, ham steak, potato salad, and shortcake. The sauerkraut juice may owe something to the Central and East European immigration that the federal Liberal Party encouraged from about 1900, especially to develop western farming.

The odd continental dish appears as well, some in the French repertoire. One is “Stuffed French Mushrooms With Noodles, Chimay”, offered as a main course.


Those who study beer and gastronomy will immediately think of the Trappist beer of Chimay, Belgium, or perhaps the cheese made under auspices of Chimay abbey. We have an interest in Chimay’s beer and have written about it here in numerous respects. We uncovered its alcohol content as it was 1877 and revealed that Chimay was all-malt in 1969, for example.

While the beer was commercialized early – we’re speaking relatively here – was it well-enough known in the 1930s to enter into a dish of international catering? Not at all. Apart from the temporal problem the idea that the sparest of monastic diets inspired a plush restaurant dish is out of the question.

Chimay must have meant something else, then, and did. Yet explanations do not come easily. The Hainault region in Belgium is not a gastronomic haven (despite or perhaps because of the famous Spa), not a haunt of luxe hotels that developed dishes soon to become staples on the international food circuit.

Chicken Normandy, peach Melba, veal Marengo (connected to Napoleon), Saratoga chips, all make sense. What could rural Chimay, dominated by an ancient castle inhabited by an old line of European aristocracy, have to do with haute bourgeois eating in hardscrabble 1930s Regina?

I have researched the question and cannot find a crystal-clear answer, but almost certainly the dish is named for Clara Ward, Princesse de Caraman-Chimay (1873-1916). She was born in Detroit, Michigan from an industrialist family and married the Prince of said title at only 16 or 17 (accounts vary). Her background and eventful life are set out in this referenced Wikipedia essay.

Only the second American to become a princess, the union with the twice-her-age Prince did not last. She took up with King Leopold II, a cousin of the Prince, and ended marrying three more times. She had a stage career as well and possibly worked as a courtesan, a femme de scandale.

A chocolate cake is named for one of her husbands, Rigó Jancsi, a Hungarian Gypsy violinist, so it is entirely plausible that the Princess inspired the dishes styled Chimay in standard culinary references. The pair evidently frequented the fashionable restaurants her position and wealth gave access to. See this recipe for the cake from the Food Network, courtesy Wayne Harley Brachman.

There were Princesses of Chimay earlier, but they seem unlikely to have named the dishes as I cannot trace them before the 20th century.

The main dish encountered is “eggs Chimay”, or oeufs à la Chimay. One or two references, including a 1975 New York Times recipe, call it “Eggs in the Style of Princess Chimay”, so Clara Ward’s connection again is plausible and almost certain. You can find many recipes online, it’s a dish of standard Continental cuisine. I didn’t check but it’s probably in Julia Child, for example.

The rich concoction blends minced egg yolk with a duxelle, that is, mushrooms cooked in butter and minced. The mixture is then stuffed in the hollow of the boiled egg white. A Mornay sauce with Parmesan is poured over and glazed under the grill. It is an appetizer, generally.

Another Chimay dish in the French canon is chicken Chimay, which involves the noodles mentioned on the CPR’s 1937 menu.

Here is a recipe for the eggs dish from the Yes Chef, No Chef blog, and this one, from Escoffier, illustrates the chicken-and-noodles dish. He calls it (in English) Pullet Chimay (see p. 496). Needless to say, no beer here, Chimay is used in an entirely different sense, which lends confusion. If you search dishes for chicken or eggs + Chimay more recent recipes appear, quite unconnected to the two above and calling for the beer to be added.

The CPR’s dish appears to adapt the two classic Chimay dishes to come up with something different: mushrooms are stuffed instead of eggs, perhaps with minced chicken, probably glazed with Mornay, and noodles served alongside.

The chicken form must have been named for the princess too, at any rate, no other explanation appears as likely.

Other than the Chimay name, our epicurean, Michigan-born princess and her namesake dishes have nothing we may connect to Chimay’s monks or their beer – to the contrary in every way.  Ironically though, Chimay beer became in time of gastronomic repute, as did Trappist beer in general. And it’s used in cooking too quite frequently today. Especially in Belgium, historically a lively beer culture, the best chefs take pride in using beer in some recipes, not least the ale of Chimay and other brewing monasteries.

If our blue blood vamp was on the Paris stage today, swanning through chic restaurants with current husband in tow or an extra-marital friend, she might well run into a dish cooked with the beer of her locality. Maybe she would even taste the beer alongside with a glint of pride. “Les moines de ma principauté le font ne savez-vous pas”.

Do you hear just a bit of the nasal twang of The Mitten, though? I do. Or maybe it was her years in Toronto…*



*See this article by Anna Passante who explains Ward spent most of her youth there.






Beer Judging in Toronto, June 26, 2018

This year I’m part of the Canadian judging panel for the World Beer Awards 2018, the event is June 26 at Bar Hop Brewco on Peter Street downtown.

An e-mail from the U.K. invited me to join the panel sitting in London on August 15 for the final tasting of rounds 2 and 3 of the World Beer Awards. In that stage, the best beers entered are selected by an international panel with participation as well by entrants. As my trip to London in August to attend the Great British Beer Festival just skirts that date it was suggested I join the Toronto judging.

Glad to do it. I’ve got years behind me studying and commenting on beers current and former – former both in memory and via in-depth historical study. I’ve got by now probably a thousand (or two) taste notes on Twitter, this blog, the forum at, and other sources. To which the hundreds of essays here looking at beer in every imaginable way can be added.

I feel I can contribute usefully to the judging.

For the upcoming event I will review the product categories and judging criteria carefully to ensure maximum effort and impartiality. Any judge must separate personal preference from an accurate assessment based on intended style or the other criteria relevant. I’ll apply special efforts to ensure I do that.

To learn more about the awards and structure of the competition see the organizer’s web information, here.

The annual World Beer Awards form part of the annual World Drinks Awards which cover numerous beverage categories. For all details see the main web site, here.