Fleet Street Gives Beer the Grand Tour

A cosmopolitan, beer-bibbing London journalist in 1902 surveyed the waters (spas), beers, and wines of the Germans and other Continental nations. He managed to throw in a (useful) word on Bass Ale, as well.

The article, “Drinks of Germans”, was published in the London Express. American newspapers reprinted the story including on October 16, 1902 in the Evening Star in Washington, D.C., see here.

The remarks are of good interest as they use a modern, metaphorical approach to beer description. “Lambric” tastes like sour cider made with decrepit apples – well a lot of lambic still does, except now the connoisseurs like it. 🙂

Some of his terms are delphic: why is Bohemian beer “wetter”? But in other cases he uses terms that can easily be parsed. Biting means hoppy, for example.

I left out the parts dealing with waters and wines but included some other non-beer discussion because of their colour.

The star treatment is accorded to Munich Dunkel beer, the “prince” of beer he calls it.

Another takeaway: exported beer never quite tastes like it does at home.

DRINKS OF GERMANS

A STUDY IN THE FATHERLAND WATERS, BEERS AND WINES.

Beverages That Are Popular in Homburg, Baden-Baden and
Wiesbaden.

From the London Express.

He laughs at gout who never felt a twinge,
and that is probably the reason why my
attitude toward the German waters is
lacking in reverence.
….

The Real Cure

Probably it is the taking of the medicine
rather than the medicine itself which works
the larger part of the cure. No whisky, no
sparkling wines, no late hours, and not too
much tobacco; plain, light foods and
regular habits, a gentle walk before break
fast, a leisurely game of golf on a toy course
before lunch; a drive through the odorous
pinewoods in the afternoon; dinner with
mild German wines and then early to bed,
in the bosom of the serene and fragrant
mountains.

Being one of the lean kind, I found other
German drinks which suited me better than
the waters – Muenchener for choice. It can
be bought in London, as the Gambrinus and
the Cafe de l’Europe demonstrate. But as
English Bass is never quite the real article
on the continent, so Muenchener is never
quite the real thing in England. Whether
beers have to be fortified or not for a voyage,
outside their own country they have a ten-
dency to be both doubtful and dear. Bass is
too “gassy” on the continent; Munich too
biting in England.

In its native beer gardens Muenchener is
the prince of beers-brown and bland and
soft, with a cream of froth like a beaten
egg, a delicate flavor, cold, yet not icy,
refreshing to the body, and comforting to
the stomach- “and,” said the baron, “there
is not an inconvenience, a malady, a-yes,
that is it – headache in a ton of it, not even in the Heidelburg tun!”

The German at His Best

The German sits down to his beer-drink
ing as to a holy rite. He selects a com-
fortable chair, ungirds his loins, empties
the tankard at a gulp, and gazes with pride
upon the growing tower of metal plates
which indicate the number he has con-
sumed.

You fancy you see him growing fatter as
he drinks. On a very hot day I accom-
plished six pots at a sitting. The waiter
said he was sorry I did not like the beer.
Pilsener is a thinner beer, more biting
to the tongue, less comforting to the body.
Frankfort is a cross between the two.
Dutch beer has the ripe color and the soft
froth of Munich, but it has a hard tang,
less pleasing to the alien palate. Bohemian
beer strikes one as being in some way
“wetter” than the others. And of all beers
the worst, to the palate of the inquiring
stranger, are the native beers of BeIgium.
Lambric, about which the Flemish waiter
became enthusiastic, was like sour cider
made from decrepit apples.

Grows Fat and Old

In his youth the German is shapely, occ-
asionally even slim. His military training
gives him a straight back. As the years
go by he grows big and fat, and has a taste
for the restful forms of recreation. The
reasons seem to be beer, beef and bands,
Set a band playing, and the German will
listen to it, drinking beer the while, until
further orders. He listens with a medita-
tive complacency, except when he happens
to be engaged in conversation, when he
talks with fluency and vigor. The English
man’s voice is an apologetic murmur by
comparison, unless he happens to come
from Yorkshire.

The Schaefer Story: 100 years old in 1942

In 1942 Schaefer Brewing in Brooklyn, NY issued a handsome company history to commemorate 100 years in business. A website maintained by (I believe) Schaefer descendants and devoted to the brewery’s history has placed the rare volume online as a public service, here.

Earlier, I discussed a number of brewery and distillery histories, many from the mid-1900s. The Schaefer volume is not dissimilar but is particularly suave and well-designed. Hand-drawn illustrations inside the cover set the tone with their stylized depiction of beer lovers in different ages ranging from a Falstaffian figure to arm-in-arm modern young Americans striding toward their 1940s future.

In truth, the future was somewhat dimmed by America’s recent entry into WW II. War shadows were minimized even as a passage toward the end notes that with the taxes paid by Schaefer America could buy x number of P-40 fighter aircraft. So readers were reminded: the brewery and the country had entered a parlous era.

But certainly the book capped almost 10 years of solid success from the repeal of Prohibition. Schaefer made a particularly strong showing at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York with its art deco Schaefer Center, a restaurant and reception centre whose centrepiece was a curved, 125-foot open-air bar.

Rather than discuss the book further, I thought I’d open it up to discussion in the comments. Feel free to state impressions of this Schaefer valentine, pro-, con, or other.

I’ll respond with reactions when back from a short trip tomorrow night.

 

 

 

Beer: ‘Tis the Vocation of St. Louis

All the tensions inherent in American brewing in 1978, when the craft brewing revival had barely dawned, are displayed in an article published that year in the Ogdensburg, NY Journal. The story came in on the AP wire from St. Louis and focused on brewing in the city.

It profiled Anheuser-Busch, by then the sole brewer in a city that once had dozens of them. It starts by interviewing two men in their 70s who testified how beer had more sweetness and snap in their youth. They were right, as studies of 1930s American brewing processes amply demonstrate and as discussed here earlier.

The article then interviews an executive of A-B who states that beer today is meant to appeal to a generation that grew up on soda pop. He notes, in a hardly complimentary way in retrospect, that typical American lager was one-third as bitter as current Bavarian examples.

The output, employment complement, and economic importance of A-B are discussed with admiration, hence to suggest while it is a survivor in a town once famous for brewing heritage, brewing in the city should be regarded for what it is today.

The article notes that Milwaukee had greater output due to its three surviving breweries, but with the implication that the one brewery left in St. Louis wasn’t going anywhere soon. And true enough that was.

There is no suggestion that new breweries can start up, in St. Louis or elsewhere: that likely would have seemed impossible to the writer.

There is no discussion of imported beers, probably because they were negligible in St. Louis then: it was and is not a New York, San Francisco, or sui generis incubator of societal trends such as a Boulder, CO.

There was no discussion of home-brewing, which was still unlawful and would have had little impact in the state at that time.

No, the game locally was A-B and would remain A-B due its vital role in the economy: that’s pretty much where beer was at in the community.

The story ends on a human note, profiling Brendan Carmody who ran an Irish-style pub in the city. The Irish-sounding Carmody made the perceptive comment that pubs really aren’t even famously Irish: at bottom they are about people and that’s what makes a pub superlative (or not).

And true enough, once a beer supply is assured, and A-B was more than capable of doing that, it’s people who tend to give a bar its keynote. If the vibe isn’t right even in green Ireland, the fact that it is “Irish”, or may have great beer, lends no imprimatur (is the implication).

Carmody sounds like a people person, someone who understood his trade well. I wonder if his bar, not named, still exists. I hope so, and that he does too, some 40 years on.

Still, I suspect the writer had doubts whether the beer was really more or less an afterthought. He quoted an Irish visitor who called American beer “useless”. That must have caused a frisson, more than reveries of aged men who might be gilding the lily of their youth.

By 1978 New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, CA was bottling cloudy pale ale full of the Cascade hops released to market by the USDA only a few years earlier. A spate of new breweries and brewpubs opened in the next two years, and most failed along with New Albion, but many of the next crop, from 1980, did better including Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Boulder Brewing, Redhook Brewing, and Hales Ales, all of which still exist.

And a few years ago the seeming powerhouse A-B sold out ignominiously to a truly powerful Belgian- and Brazil-based brewer with a world perspective, InBev, now called AB-InBev. It makes one-third of the beer sold in the world.

The Shakespeare statue with its fine bas-relief of Falstaff is still in Tower Grove Park. You can’t see it on the immobile features of a statue, but I know that in the last decades a special smile graces the ale-loving bon vivant, Falstaff.

Yes, the brewery named after him in St. Louis (the former Lemp) had petered out by 1978 and the beer finally did too c.2005.

But beer is back in the city in all its plenitude and glory heavily bittered or otherwise. Lisa Brown described the richness of the current brewing scene in Missouri in this 2017 year-end article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, entitled “St. Louis Craft Brewers Expand Facilities as Competition Mounts”.

As she notes:

As the appeal of craft beer has grown in recent years, dozens more breweries opened their doors. There are 81 craft breweries in Missouri now, including several dozen in the St. Louis region. That’s nearly double the 43 craft breweries that existed in Missouri in 2011, and 58 more are in the planning stages.

And lo, Budweiser still steams away mid-town, maybe with not as many employees as 40 years ago, but still doing well under direction from Brussels and other international nerve centres of AB Inbev.

Win-win, perhaps. Old Will is long-gone but he’d have liked that quintessential American locution.

Note re images: the first image was sourced from the issue of New York Historic Newspapers identified and linked in the text. The second is from the website of Tower Grove Park, a public park in St. Louis. The quotation is from the 2017 news article by Lisa Brown identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images and quotation used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

A Canadian Salutes the Beers of Rural England

In 1979 Peter Cooney, a Montreal journalist, wrote a “lifestyles” piece for the Montreal Gazette on beer and pubs in England. You can read it here from the Google News Archive. (The Archive has plenty more on pub and beer history, for Britain and other nations).

I was living in Montreal then and would have read this with morning coffee before driving to a downtown law office to beaver away at contracts and transactions. Parenthetically, I often used in my work the 1866 Civil Code of Lower Canada, a Civil Law inheritance of former French rule in Quebec.

I have a vague recollection of having read this piece, it was the type of thing in the back of my mind that encouraged the first visits to Britain a few years later.

I’d guess Cooney had read Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer, out for two years by then, as parts of the article seem influenced by the book especially the history of the CAMRA beer lobby and development of the “Big Six” brewers.

Cooney clearly had a sophisticated approach to beer, food, and travel in any case: there are no bad jokes about flat or warm beer, no gaucheries on undecipherable accents or uneatable food. Most important he was enthusiastic about genuine British beer. His remarks about CAMRA and a Canadian branch show how far its influence was spreading less than 10 years after its creation.

Part of the matrix was being honest about Canadian beer. Cooney pulled no punches and said it more or less tasted all the same.

The article is a template for the kind of beer journalism that later became legion: sophisticated, inquiring, indulgent of local customs. Jackson used a similar approach, pioneered it probably.

Today, we take it for granted but not many years before, in a time of greater chauvinism, articles appeared that could be less appreciative of what seemed the parochial or the provincial in U.K. beer customs.

Opening hours, beer type and quality, the lack of spirits availability (especially during wartime), and the absence of food were favourite talking points. The articles were often by Americans, but the writers of the former colonial countries could be more indulgent.

How much of the U.K. pub world described by Cooney is still relevant? Well, a lot has changed. Restricted business hours are long gone. Food is not just more available and better than in 1979, this is the era of the gastro-pub – and London started it, in a pub still operating I hope to visit in August.

Cooney described the early efforts at improving pub meals and the trend has only burgeoned in the last 40 years.

As to beer, the range of flavours he discussed still exists as do some, but sadly not that many, of the 160 breweries then operating. While 160 is a tiny number compared to today’s, they brewed in most cases bitter, mild, and other traditional styles that today compete with craft (American) styles that were just getting going in 1979.

The presence of imported draft beers in 2018 marks another difference, as does the growth in general of lager.

The drink and driving issue he mentioned has long been settled. The smoking issue, still in gestation in 1979, also is just a memory.

Finally, it comes down to the beer, the pub always does. And Cooney showed he was a maven, or maven-in-training, in his particular appreciation of Hook Norton’s beer. The Oxfordshire brewery is among the royalty of surviving English breweries.

Peter Cooney is still active in journalism and currently teaches part-time at Concordia University in Montreal.

Note re quotation: the quotation above is from Peter Cooney’s 1979 article in the Montreal Gazette linked in the text. All intellectual property in the source belongs solely to its lawful owner. Quotation appears for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brewing British on the Moselle

Once brewing passed the artisan stage brewers have always moved to greener, foreign pastures for their trade. When a lawn is well-watered, seek a parcher patch to moisten, quite literally.

Even in olden times brewers moved around: English monastic brewers brought their skills to France, as I discussed a while bachere.

Certainly by the industrial revolution brewers from Alsace and Lorraine, say, moved around Europe, and beyond, to set up brewing. They did so especially after the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and even before, I chronicled an instance in my essay France to Frauncehere. 

Famously, Germans or British under their influence established lager-brewing in the United Kingdom from the late-1800s, with consequences that endure to this day. Pint of Carling, anyone?

Yet the Brits took their brewing on tour, too, sometimes permanently. The Scotsman David Carnegie, Jr. set up porter-brewing in Sweden in 1836. His beer continues in 2018 under the aegis of Carlsberg.

A British-based firm of beer exporters, A Le Coq, established a brewery in 1911 in what is now Tartu, Estonia.  Martyn Cornell details the history deftly in his recent “Albert Le Coq and the Russian Stout Trade”. See Brewery History, Autumn, 2017, pp. 2-8.

British capitalists in the late 1800s invested money in German breweries that had been grouped into limited liability companies, a practice they followed in the U.S. as well and other countries.

That was the extent of British involvement in German brewing since no Briton would think of actually setting up a brewery in Germany. After all, if not the brewing land, Germany was and is premier, at a minimum. You don’t bring coals to Newcastle.

So I’ll move to another country for this narrative, Belgium, say.

But wait. There was at least one British-owned and run brewery in Germany in the 19th century. It was in the Moselle wine country, west of Frankfurt not far from Luxembourg and Belgium.

It was set up in the 1850s to make British-style beer for British residents and travellers in the region, in the village of Senhals.

The beers, pale ale, London porter, table ale, were advertised to Britons as “national beverages” in Murray’s southern German travel guidesee an example here. A German journal in Frankfurt also advertised in 1853 what was a curiosity for its readers:

The availability of the beers at far less than the price of imported British beer was an obvious draw.

A number of German-language sources discuss the history of the Englishche Bierbrauerie, or English Brewery, in Mesenich, a name for the wider municipal area where Senhals is.

Since my German is not up to the task, Andreas Krennmair, a software engineer and beer historian, has kindly prepared a summary in English of the brewery’s history as set out in this 2016 essay on historical breweries.

Andreas is Austrian-born and currently resides in Berlin. He recently authored Historic German and Austrian Beers for the Home Brewer, soon to be added to my cart. It’s garnered excellent notices, see the Amazon listing, here.

From Andreas:

In the late 1820’s, the Rhine and Mosel regions had over 26,000 British tourists annually, so English businessmen had the idea of opening an English brewery. In the protocols of the town of Mesenich the application to open a brewery was recorded in 1852, first under the name J. Heathcoote Brooks, which was later changed to Griffin Jones. The application was granted, as “an establishment of that kind won’t bring disadvantages to either the town or the surrounding area, but rather must bring advantages in relation to the consumption and employment of the working class.” The brewery must have been built rather quickly, as it was already advertising in 1853 their London Porter, Pale Ale, Table Ale, Table Beer and Table Porter (all bottled). The owner was Griffin Jones. The brewery was reported to have failed three years later, since the owner did not have enough capital to purchase necessary machinery or to run the business, “therefore didn’t accomplish anything”. It was sold to another Englishman who ran the former brewery as maltings, and built a new brewery in Senhals. The brewery advertised in English travel guides in 1857. The brewery wasn’t successful either, and was sold two years later in court in a foreclosure sale. It is not known who bought it, but it is mentioned again in 1863 because another owner of the same brewery, went bankrupt. It was most likely operated as a brewery after that, but beer production was stopped in 1870’s. The building was used for other purposes afterwards, as sleeping halls for workers, wine trading business, chicken farm, even wine tavern. The house fell in disrepair in the 1950’s, only ruins are left. In total, the beer brewing business in these towns was only active for 25 years, and probably suffered from economic issues since the very beginning, but the author nevertheless finds it exciting to see the attempts of English brewing in a German wine region.

The original brewery (not the later one it appears) survives as an atmospheric, still-massive ruin. The image below is from a five-minute youtube tour of the long-disused site, see here.

The building was a solid, three-story brick structure with arched entrances. It was clearly built to handle malting as well as normal brewing operations, hence the thick weight-bearing walls.

Messrs. Brooks, Jones, etc. were ahead of their time, oh by 160 years or so. Stone Brewery of Escondido, CA established a branch outside Berlin not long ago and all reports indicate a clear success.

Germans were always capable of appreciating good English and Irish beer. Bass Ale, Guinness and other porter, and other over-the-Channel names enjoyed repute in German lands, even – indeed especially – in the heyday  of German and Austrian brewing.

In fact, porter became a minor specialty of some German brewers, a legacy of the influence the original imports had.

What was the Senhals Englische beer like? We can only guess. It seems the brewery failed not from want of customers but the usual problems of tight finances. The fact that the product was bottled suggests perhaps too the intended market was too narrow.

Beer from the barrel would have broadened the appeal to locals. Perhaps though they were wedded to the famous Mosel wines and indigenous beers or ciders. Maybe English beer in German wine country just wasn’t fated to be, then.

Today, in distant Rochester, NY the long-established, satisfyingly German-sounding Rohrbach Brewing Co. markets a Moselle English Porter, pictured above. It is part of the brewery’s small-batch series.

There is no connection as far as I know to the intrepid 1850s British brewers in central-west Germany, but as the name resonates anyway I include their label here. All reports suggest a prima beer, too.

I will look for it when in Rochester this fall re-visiting western New York State, and will raise a toast to the Englishmen who had the chutzpah to brew beer in Germania – hopefully with Moselle English Porter.

To conclude, below is an image of charming Senhals today, from the town’s website, here. Senhals is now known officially as Senheim, or Senheim-Senhals, the second name is the larger, not-quite-adjoining town on the opposite bank. On flows the Moselle, even as a second river flowing through the towns, of English porter and ale, long ago dried up.

Note re images: each image above was sourced from the sites mentioned and linked in the text. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images are used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcome.

 

 

 

 

Tabular Data For the Pre-WW I Colour Plate of Beers

I went down to University of Toronto library and found the book, Der Mensch und die Erde, by Hans Kraemer. I believe this translates as Man and the Earth, or Soil. It covered such things as geology, mining, agriculture, forestry, textiles and industries deriving from them including brewing and distilling.

It’s a multi-volume, multi-year work. The 1908 volume had the colour plate of beers I discussed yesterday and much else including the table of analyses below for the 23 beers.

So the effective period here is 1908.

The table really speaks for itself and even with limited German makes for interesting reading. The last column is a series of brief but informative taste comments. Notable in my view are the references to a smoky or sourish quality for some beers. Lichtenhainer was said to be both. The Gose and Berliner Weisse were also noted as sourish with “salty” being applied to Gose as well.

Barclay Perkins’ porter (as termed in the table) is listed as 6.72% (ABV surely)* and rated as having a peculiar, strong bitter and being full-tasting. Bass pale ale was considered also peculiarly bitter, and “vinous”.

The two Pilsen beers had a “fine hop aroma”. Makes sense, Urquell still does.

My English renderings don’t claim perfection but that’s the tenor I think.

I can’t get the numbers quite to work though, the alcohol seems slightly understated, in particular. I’m taking the Stammwurze gravity measure as equivalent to Plato. E.g., for the porter at 21.06 P and finishing at 8.68 P I get 6.97% ABV, not 6.72%, not a huge difference, but still. Similarly the final gravities shown in the table seem too “low”.

Perhaps some difference between the Plato and Stammwurze (original gravity) measure used here explains it, or something else. Happy for those more knowledgeable to comment.

The description of Weihenstephan seems indeed to suggest it’s a lager of a piece with the other Munich beers, not a wheat beer, so thanks again to the commenters who made that point.

The beer chapter is detailed, maybe 40-50 pages, with a historical discussion leading up to present day. Interesting black and white photos are included of various brewery processes, e.g., the cellar in a Vienna brewery shown below. The only colour image I saw though was of the 23 beers.

Experts were enlisted to author all sections, mostly doktors, so Hans Kraemer was an editor, in effect, or compiler.

The thoroughness of German study and methods really comes across in this work, not just for brewing but for everything in there.

………………………………………….

*Note added July 29, 2018: The alcohol column in fact appears to render alcohol percentage by weight, not today’s commonly-used volume measure. (Alcohol by weight, or ABW, may be converted to alcohol by volume by multiplying the number by 1.25, e.g., 4% ABW = 5% ABV, so in effect for our purposes today the alcohol column may be viewed as “understated”. Converted to ABV, for example, Pilsner Urquell’s 1908 level is about the same as today’s). See brewing historian Ron Pattinson’s remarks in the comments section below. We thank Ron, a German-speaker with great experience in analyzing historical European brewery records, for his clarifications.

Iconic Beers in Flying Colours

There are still arguments in beer circles as to what Vienna Marzen actually looked like in its heyday. Or, say, whether the head of London porter was typically brownish vs. snow white.

A poster that shows 23 breweries’ beers available in Germany or Austria at the opening of the 20th century is shown below. It can be purchased or downloaded from the Etsy e-commerce site, here. The illustration shows with remarkable skill and unquestionable fidelity the colours of the beers and style of glassware or stoneware evidently associated with their consumption.

This poster assists greatly to answer some questions related to colour. Is it definitive? No, as it depicts one brewery’s beer, for one thing, but I think we can take it that the depictions show the colour of the style as often presented or something close to it. One way we know is, the colours of three Munich beers, presumably the main form sold by the brewers, Dunkel, are almost identical. (The Helles form had not emerged yet or not definitively).

The illustrator, A. Dressel, clearly took great pains to delineate shades of colour that differentiated beers only a little if at all to the casual eye. The publisher was a Berlin-based concern, Deutsches Verlagshaus Bong & Co.

By magnifying sections of the poster on your keyboard you can see the beers and other details in almost pointillist form.

The illustrations also depict in bar graph form the alcohol content and finishing gravity.

It isn’t the purpose here to go into detail on each beer and brewery, but I’ll make some observations as I go along. Suffice to say most of the styles are familiar to the craft world today. Many have come back, e.g. Gose-Bier, or Berliner Weisse, and many of the breweries still exist in one form or another.

Clearly some styles are “missing”, Alt-Bier, say. Why this is is hard to say. Still, a great deal of ground was covered and a bonus: two English beers are shown, Barclay Perkins’ porter and Bass Pale ale. In the mitteleuropa world then, these beers were part of the scene and sometimes local porter or pale ale was made in recognition of their importance and market.

No. 1: Pilsener Erste Actien Brauerie, Pilsen. Notably paler than its famous town-mate, Pilsner Urquell (see No. 2). Founded 1869, it merged into Urquell before WW II.

No. 2: Pilsner Urquell. Medium-gold, seemingly a touch darker than today.

No. 3: Wiener Marzenbier, none other than the famous Dreher’s. Clearly bronze, as Michael Jackson said it was and other evidence (imo as I’ve discussed before) shows.

No. 4: Lichtenhainer, the tangy Thuringian specialty that one 19th-century observer likened to a weak camomile cider.* Strikingly pale, yellow-greenish, like some absinthe.

No. 5: Gose, from Leipzig, so in fashion today. A shade darker than Urquell.

No. 6: Dortmunder Union. I just had one the other day. Same as it always was, medium-gold.

No. 7: Furstenberg Brau, not sure exactly about this one. Presumably the same brewery as the well-known brewery in the Black Forest. A couple of gold-coloured beers were made c.1900 (see company website), this might be the pilsner.

No. 8: Hochschulbrau: This was VLB’s (the national German malting and brewing institute’s) brewery that operated 1898-1981 although VLB still continues in Berlin. It made different styles, I’d guess this was pilsener. College beer, in other words.

No. 9: Marzenbier, Berlin. A German Marzen, a touch lighter in colour than Dreher’s.

No. 10: Berliner Weisse: look at that glass! Cupped with both hands it was mentioned in a couple of 19th century accounts but I’ve never seen one. A half-litre so not the bucket-size one reads about as well. Unlike the other beers the head has great development. No woodruff essence or other colouring added, clearly.

No. 11 Gratzer (Grodziskie): an elegant pale with tinges of red, from the smoking perhaps.

No. 12: Lagerbier from Breslau. Brownish-amber, not sure what this is actually.

No. 13: Bass Pale Ale! A beautiful orangey amber, just like we’ve seen in colour ads from early in the 20th century and if memory serves in some 19th century depictions. Pale meant not golden for the avatar of IPA.

No. 14: Siechen, from Berlin. This was a dark, rich style, perhaps a Dunkel variation but I don’t know for sure. The maker was later absorbed into Tucher, I believe.

No. 15: Braunschweiger Mumme. The famous malt-extract beer, non-alcoholic by this time (see the graph), sold in a one-kilo tin! Too thick to pour from kegs, and why risk glass bottles in sea transit? A riot of rich malt loaf, herbs, flowers, hops, and what not. The cut-away view shows an almost sludgy black. This can rocks, a star like the Weisse glass.

No. 16: Kulmbacher Candlerbrau. The famous near-black lager of Kulmbach in Bavaria.

No. 17. Tucher, Nuremberg. Not sure of this style, a bock or Dunkel?

No. 18. Pschorr – in pre-Hacker-Pschorr form of course. A good medium-brown, perhaps a touch lighter than its Munich competitors shown.

No. 19:  Hofbrau’s beer from Munich, a little deeper in colour than Pschorr’s.

No. 20: Weihenstephan: the famous wheat beer. Evidently a standard deep brown through the 1800s.

No. 21: Spaten, a Munich Dunkel again, the golden Helles still in the future (or if it was available, it was still gaining legs, ditto for the other Munich lager breweries shown).

No. 22: Barclay Perkins Porter: deep, dark brown but not as black as modern Guinness, note how the light catches the corner which shows the difference. Guinness in deep light is translucent but is darker than this porter. And the head is a brownish colour too, in contrast say to No. 23.

No. 23 Braunbier. Another Berlin style, I remember Andreas Krennmair writing about it a few years ago, and others, but have no further recollection without checking. And brown it is, indeed.

The modern mumme shown below, sourced here from the City of Braunschweig’s (Brunswick) website, continues the old tradition, made as an extract (no alcohol). Other mummes have appeared in recent years carrying some ethanol, as they did centuries ago.

Note added 23/07/18: see in the comments a few emendations/clarifications viz descriptions above.

Please see a second part to this post, here.

Note re images: the images shown were sourced from the sites mentioned and linked in the text. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images are used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcome.

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*See the English writer Henry Mayhew in his 1864 German Life and Manners, here.

 

 

 

 

“Where the Wurzburger Flows…”

The title is a reference to a hit song composed in 1902 by the Americans Harry von Tilzer and Vincent Bryan that lauded a much-admired German beer of Luchow’s, Wurzburger. The beer is from a brewery, called Wuerzburger Hofbraeu, still going strong in northern Bavaria.

The beer had a cult status in America from the 1880s until the 1980s and can still be found (numerous brands), for example at the national retailer Total Wine.

There are two ways I can do what follows, one long, one short, and I elect the latter. I reproduce below notable passages on beer in Leonard Jan Mitchell’s Luchow’s German Cookbook, published in 1952. They have historical importance and have not received attention from other beer historians, to my knowledge.

The book is sub-titled: The Story and Favorite Dishes of America’s Most Famous German Restaurant.

In the short method, I’ll state first some detail, with minimal references, gleaned from weeks of reading Luchow’s history in New York. The subject is surprisingly vast and would warrant a full-length essay if not scholarly article.

The sources are digitized Luchow menus, Mitchell’s book, books on the history of New York cuisine, books by H.L. Mencken on literary personages and beer (sample: Luchow’s is a “citadel of pilsner”). Also, websites, blogs, newspaper and magazine articles, and yet more.

Luchow’s was started in 1882 by a German only lately arrived from Hanover, August Luchöw. (Henceforth I’ll omit the umlaut, which has a mini-history of its own in relation to Luchow signage and advertising).

It was founded on the site of a saloon on East 14th Street in the Union Square district in New York, then a happening area gathering theatre, business, and nightlife activities.

August had worked there for two years as a waiter, and then set up his German-theme restaurant. He had the help of a $2000 stake from William Steinway, the piano magnate and fellow German-American.

August did this by buying the saloon and steadily enlarging the restaurant through land acquisition until it occupied a full block to 13th street. It encompassed various “hunting” and other rooms in the baronial German style in addition to the main dining hall. It was known for dark wood panelling, carved beams, giant paintings, statuary, and cut glass. A wag once termed the general style “Early North German Lloyd”.*

The restaurant lasted at the same location a full 100 years. It moved to new premises on Broadway in 1982 but expired a couple of year later with a satellite in Penn Station going dark in 1986. From 1950 Luchow’s had been owned by Mitchell who bought control from August’s nephew, Viktor Eckstein.

Mitchell, who must have changed his name in the fashion of countless American immigrants, was a debonair blond Latvian or Swede (accounts vary) who arrived in the country by jumping a ship of the Russian merchant marine in 1932.

In his book he suggests had he not come to America he’d have settled as a country squire at home. I believe this an arch or humorous statement as he was a Jewish immigrant and like millions of incomers, likely came without much personal resource except abundant drive and ambition.

He became prosperous through investments in the restaurant business and also by collecting pre-Columbian gold, a collection he donated to a New York museum which you can see today.

Mitchell’s goal was to revive Luchow to its pre-Prohibition eminence and he did this successfully for decades until the bell finally tolled. He had his work cut out for him since Prohibition and WW II had diminished the venerable establishment.

After WW II the menu was considerably slimmed, the beer choice too, from the prewar glory. In 1936 for example no less than 15 draught beers were available, see details here in a menu in the collection of the Culinary Institute of America. Numerous bottled beers were offered, in addition.

Only Janssen’s in New York had anything comparable, as I discussed earlier here. Still, its draught range, certainly carefully selected, was rather smaller than Luchow’s in its prime.

Still, Luchow’s enjoyed new-found popularity from the 1950s until it finally lapsed in 1986.

Quite amazingly, Leonard Jan Mitchell lived until 2009, dying at 96. It is truly a pity no one interviewed him on Luchow’s and its beers in his last years. He passed away just before the onset in America of widespread interest in culinary and beverage matters. One wishes that a gastronomic researcher such as Anthony Bourdain had sat down with him for an extended chat.

Luchow’s was American agent for Wurzburger from the 1880s until well into the 20th century. It also represented Pilsner Urquell, two valuable franchises for the top end of beer imports.

As Mitchell lived well into the era when beer again became a gourmet item in New York one can only ponder how he viewed its revival. Had he been in his prime in 2009 I’m sure he’d have wanted to start again in the beer and restaurant trade. As it was, he sold out in 1970 to focus on other endeavours, and the restaurant faltered thereafter.

Earlier I described the wide-ranging 1930s beer offerings of the Waldorf-Astoria bar in New York. Luchow’s offerings, especially in the 1930s, amounted to almost as many beers but focused more squarely on the European lager tradition, not least via its palette of draught beers.

Wurzburger in multiple types was the star, a light or Helles, an Edelbrau (perhaps a Dortmund or Export variation), a dark Munich, and sometimes a bock or other seasonal specialty.

Now from Mitchell’s volume, which benefitted from a witty introduction by the Belgo-Austrian-American writer Ludwig Bemelmans, who possibly ghost-wrote the book:

Down Where the Wurzburger Flows 


When August Luchow and his friends first sniffed the 
fine Bavarian fragrance of Wurzburger Hofbrau and 
tasted its benign liquid blessing, they were overjoyed for differ- 
ent reasons. To August the beer was a happy reminder of home, 
and to those who had never been fortunate enough to sample 
such a brew, the gates to a new gastronomic heaven were thrown 
open and they hearkened to the singing of hitherto unheard 
choirs. 

Loud were the cries of anguish when they were cast out of 
this paradise by the advent of the first World War. The long dry 
reign of Prohibition following immediately after added to their 
parched misery. Then, scarcely had imported beer started flow- 
ing once more in the thirties when war ended the supply again, 
and it was not until 1950 that Wurzburger was at last obtainable. 
Meanwhile a whole thirsty generation has slipped by and a new 
one, unused to the delights of Wurzburger, awaits education. 

For the uninitiated, then, this celebrated nectar comes from 
Upper Bavaria. It is amber in color (between light and dark), 
and its special distinction is its status as the original March beer. 
When a shipment arrives, the beer has to rest from its journey 
for at least three days in the cooler before it can be served. 

Wurzburger is the glory of Luchow's beverage list, but the
restaurant also offers seven different kinds of draught beer and 
fifteen domestic and imported bottled beers. Every week 
Luchow's uses about one hundred barrels of draught beer, which 
is maintained at a cellar temperature of forty degrees. If a guest 
wants colder beer, a glass, mug, goblet, stein, or seidel is chilled 
for him. Imported beer is usually served in big half-liter (pint) 
stone mugs with covers. 

It is not at all uncommon for the older customers to ask for 
warm beer, and in other days the restaurant had beer warmers 
nickel pipes filled with hot water in the bar [sic]. Now the task must 
be done by more modern methods. 

On its way from barrel to consumer, beer can find its way into 
considerable trouble, a thought which seldom occurs to the 
drinker who watches the brew foaming effortlessly from the tap. 
Clean pipes are essential, for instance, and some time ago we had 
the old coil system taken out because it was so difficult to clean 
the coils, and the modern Zahn system was substituted. Because 
different pressures are needed for every type of beer, each 
draught type has to have its own set of pipes. An old bartender's 
axiom reads, "The older the beer, the greater the froth," a pri- 
mary factor in determining the correct amount of pressure for 
the pipes. Our pressures vary from sixteen to eighteen pounds, 

A housewife who is particular about her cleaning would be 
well pleased with the way we clean our beer pipes. Water is run 
through them until it is clear, and this is followed by a cleaning 
solution made especially for us, which remains in the pipes for 
an hour, after which the water is resumed until it becomes clear 
once more. As a final touch, the pipes are blown out with fifty 
pounds of pressure. 

The tanks are cleaned by hand, which experience has shown 
is the most effective method. We test the success of the entire 
procedure by not drawing beer for three days, then drawing a 
test beer, which always turns out to be perfect. In less effective 
systems, the beer will not stand more than twenty-four hours 
without becoming dark and cloudy.

Besides the Wurzburger, another beer specialty on the 
Luchow list is October beer, so called because that is the autum- 
nal moment when it is first drawn in Germany. October beer 
was also a victim of war and Prohibition, and like Wurzburg, 
it returned to these shores in 1950, where patrons first tasted its 
strong, tangy flavor at the Venison Festival in November of that 
year. 

About Christmas time the brewers are busy preparing another 
delight for us, the heavy, dark Christmas Bock, which is poured 
out of the vats where it has been aging for eight months into 
barrels which are shipped to us. 

At Luchow's beer enjoys a festival all its own on the calendar 
of special events, when the first days of March come around and 
the Bock Beer Festival is celebrated. That, too, was resumed in 
1950 after fifteen years, and the enthusiasm for it was uncon- 
fined. While the amber herald of spring flowed unceasingly for 
three evenings, a ten-piece German band played the old songs, 
just as it did in August Luchow's time. 

As a fitting accompaniment for the revelry, we served the 
menu that traditionally goes with bock beer, which is bockwurst, 
liver dumplings Bavarian style, a Schwabenplatte consisting of 
liver sausage, roast ham, and pigs' knuckles, and pheasant on 
wine kraut. 

It was a year of festivals, revivals of the great feasts which 
made Luchow's famous, and part of my program to restore the 
flavor of the old days. There is a Venison Festival in Novem- 
ber and a Goose Feast in December, with the superb wines these 
meats demand brought up from our cellars. 

The Goose Feast is enough to start the tears from a grateful 
gourmet's eyes. It begins with a choice of Luchow appetizers, 
including marinated herring; soup made of goose giblets and a 
barley called Giblet Ecossaisse, and consomme with dumplings; 
then as a prelude to the main theme, goose ragout and potato 
dumplings, and at last the roast goose itself, served with stewed 
apples and cranberries. 

Parsing a number of statements, here is my interpretation:

  • the reference to March beer may refer to the colour of the standard Wurzburger then, apparently a Vienna-like bronze. Wurzburger is a classic Franconian brewery and would seem inapt for influence from the Viennese brewer Anton Dreher, so perhaps March beer simply meant here long-aged lager. American breweries had cut down lagering times significantly but Wurzburger in 1950 likely aged its standard brew three or four months and the specialties (see below) longer
  • the “resting” of the beer in cooler after shipment was probably to allow re-absorbtion of carbonation. There is no indication if this beer was pasteurized or treated with preservative of some kind, or how long the journey took from a newly-peacetime Germany
  • the beer-warmers mentioned can still be seen in parts of Germany, e.g., for wheat beer
  • the “Zahn” draft system mentioned probably is technology of Zahm & Nagel, a brewing equipment supplier based in Buffalo, NY founded by a German immigrant who had brewed in Germany. He designed volume meters and other carbonation and piping equipment whose basic designs are still used by the firm today (see website referenced).
  • The October and Christmas beers were probably heavier-gravity versions of the basic lager that received longer aging
  • Beer kept long in barrel would in the old days sometimes have been extra-fizzy from continued fermentation in the cask, often probably by wild yeast or Brettanomyces. This is lore deriving from pre-Prohibition times
  • The consumption, at some 100 barrels per week, is impressive but was far greater in the heyday of Luchow’s, when the house got through scores of thousands of half-barrels per annum
  • The reference to different gas pressures for each beer is of particular interest. The range specified is quite high by modern standards, I’d say 10-12 psi is more typical. Two reasons may explain Luchow’s practice: first, if the lines were unusually long between casks and fonts, more pressure may have been needed to speed the beer to destination. Alternatively, if the lines were a standard length in relation to the pressure, Luchow’s may have liked a high froth as in some German traditions beer is served with a thick head
  • would that I could have attended their 1950s Bock Beer Festival! What I wouldn’t give for that. A gala of Gambrinus, gammon and gans that must have been…
  • to my best recollection, none of the beers on any Luchow menu or menus of other German-American restaurants from c.1900-1970s was a wheat beer. The reason I think is, the relative lack of popularity of these beers in contemporary Bavaria. The style only really resurged from the 1970s as many commentators have stated. One can see this refracted through the contents of otherwise well-curated German beer lists in America

N.B. The edifice that housed the restaurant on 14th Street no longer exists. The building, derelict by the late 1980s, was torn down to build a residence and related functions for NYU or New York University.

Note re images and quotation: the first and second images are courtesy the historic photo and menu collection of the New York Public Library, www.nypl.org. The third image was sourced from the digitized newspaper site Chronicling America, here. The fourth image is from the menu collection of the Culinary Institute of America, here. The extract from Leonard Jan Mitchell’s book is from the online version of his book linked in the text. The last image is from the website of Wuerzburger Hofbraeu, also linked in the text. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images and quotation are used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcome.

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*For further context regarding North German Lloyd see here, and this 1982 article by Frank Prial in the New York Times. The wag was journalist and author Bob Considine, famous for his co-authored Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

Paint me a Picture

Using Images to Market Food and Drink in Restaurants and Pubs

One of the simplest ways to depict food and drink, and certainly the oldest, is pictorially, as below.

The event was a dinner in Paris in 1937, held for an international theatre organization.

The reason is simple to contemplate: most attendees did not speak French. The simple pen-and-ink drawings gave them an idea of the food to be served, and drinks. A secondary reason may have been the inclination of those trained in the dramatic arts to communicate by visual impact, sometimes without verbal aid (think of silent movies).

It is surprising that ideograms, or pictograms properly speaking, aren’t used more often on menus. The “Mad Men” have long known that images on billboards and food labels convey strong content but one sees it much less in restaurant menus.*

Images of bottled or canned beer are sometimes included in a menu offering these formats, but not as often as one might think. In part, the reason is probably continuing change of supply and increased cost to keep the images current.

For draft beer, given beer has a variety of colours a skilled artist can render a bar’s offerings in pictographic form. Where a specific glass is used for each beer, the content can be even stronger. You could put Russian or Irish iconography around a glass of stout, say.

Shape and colour can prompt or encourage consumer demand. Many people react to images positively, I see this on social media a lot. To suggest that a person’s reaction is childish and intemperate someone might upload an image of a crying baby, maybe from a well-known film or tv show.

Emotional reactions are frequently depicted in this way, a primal form of communication that has returned ironically with a hyper-sophisticated medium, Twitter.

Obs. You know you are in France when not less than four alcohol courses accompany, not a special gastronomic evening, but a meal for a trade group: aperitifs for the hors-d’oeuvre, Riesling with the soup, Burgundy with the duck and lamb, and Champagne to conclude.

The caterer no doubt proposed liqueurs with the coffee. One can imagine the organizers were mindful the troupes had a show to mount the next day, or of their budget.

Perhaps one should speak in the past tense of this Gallic proclivity. What’s bred in the bone may be no longer…

Note re images: the first and third images are from the Culinary Institute of America’s Digital Collections, see further details here. The second image is from the source identified and linked in an earlier post of ours, here. All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*An exception may be some Asian cuisines, at least in Western markets, as I recall numerous menus with colourful depictions of the foods offered. I may be wrong but I associate this practice with popular or lunch-oriented eating.

 

The End of Quebec’s National Breweries Ltd.

 

As a clue to the end of National Breweries Ltd. in Quebec, consider its 1949 annual report. It’s the final report in digital form in McGill University’s business reports archive before buy-out in 1952 by E.P. Taylor’s Canadian Breweries Ltd.

The report states that sales were down, production and other costs were up, and taxes unchanged from wartime peaks. Hence, earnings were considerably down although a profit was still made, paying a dividend of $2.38 on the common shares. The rate the year earlier was almost $4.00.

The total tax bill absorbed half the sales dollar and had sharply risen since the start of WW II.

While reversing the excess war tax would have improved results other indicators suggested danger ahead.

The report states the company was not able to meet full demand in the peak season. Quebec has a long cold winter and spring, and a short although sometimes hot summer. In those pre-air conditioning days, drinking cold beer was a common way to refresh. I remember growing up in Montreal seeing people drink it on their balconies, stoops, and backyards.

The problem seems to have been structural. National could not make enough beer when it needed to, but most of the year had too much capacity. It had, in a geographically large but comparatively small-population province, six plants: two Dawes plants in Montreal, the Dow and Frontenac plants there, and two small breweries in Quebec City.

Too much capacity, too much work force… The answer seemed clear: reduce excess capacity but modernize plant to enable spikes in sales to be met. A solution required capital investment and rationalization, but National was already paying interest on a debenture draining profits.

It sounds like the company couldn’t afford the first course and delayed the second although they went hand in hand, arguably.

The report states that the company was still in a good competitive position. I think the idea was steadily to increase sales to obtain the revenue to re-invest in the business. Yet, sales had dropped from the year before.

Canadian beer industry historian Allen Sneath, cited in my posts earlier, writes that E.P. Taylor was not able to do a handshake deal with Norman Dawes of National. Taylor had to mount a hostile takeover but was successful as he gained enough of the public float to gain control.

E.P. Taylor, who had limited production in Quebec province before buying National, implemented full rationalization after 1952.* The Dow brewery in Montreal was chosen to make all remaining brands for that city while the Boswell plant did the same in Quebec City. The Black Horse and Boswell brands exited the market, henceforth the focus was Dow Ale.

The corporate name was changed finally to Dow Breweries Ltd.

One has to admire the tenacity of the Dawes family, but wonders what strategy they would have implemented had Taylor not appeared. He came along, as I said earlier, at the right time for the company as a whole. But for one of its brewing dynasties, a saga that commenced in the early 19th century in Lachine, Quebec, the end was reached.

N.B. High taxes again are an issue in the brewing business as the main Canadian beer lobby, Beer Canada, has recently argued. You can parse the figures different ways, but ceaselessly increasing the excise tax together with various provincial mark-ups and other levies on the beer business, even with the break craft brewers get in Ontario, is a mug’s game (sorry!).

While consolidation at the industrial brewing level – the Big Two in Canada, I mean – has reached the limit seemingly, consumers have other options today, wine in particular, but also cannabis, soon to be legal in this country. Government needs to be mindful not to kill the golden goose.

Yes, cannabis will be taxed, but the robust survival of the illegal trade is a real possibility if that rate is seen by consumers as excessive.

Note re image: the images shown are sourced from the City of Montreal’s online museum exhibition on the history and advertising campaigns of Dawes Black Horse Brewery, here. All intellectual property in the images is owned solely by the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*In 1951 National sold the Frontenac plant to Canadian Breweries Ltd. Taylor later turned Frontenac into a Carling Black label plant. National no doubt hoped the money would delay survival but for Taylor, it was simply the beginning of taking the whole prize.