The Yank Beer of Casablanca … of Napoli ….

U.S. Army Beer 1944-45

Allan J. Barney (1913-1995) was an American brewer and business executive. He worked as a chemist for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis from 1938 until 1942. U.S. Army service followed, including in Europe. In 1946 he re-joined Anheuser-Busch, and later worked for a brewery in Dallas as its master brewer.

Further details on his career may be obtained from this entry at Free Online Library. It states in part:

He took part in the invasion of North Africa in 1943. Following the Tunisian campaign, he was assigned to army headquarters in Algiers to supervise the production of beer for the U.S. Army in Casablanca, Oran and Algiers. When the U.S. Army entered Naples, Italy, Barney was put in charge of restoring beer production at the Peroni Breweries in Naples, Leghorn and Rome.

I have uncovered a detailed report by Allan Barney on the brewing he supervised in these cities, “Operation of the Overseas Breweries for the U.S. Army”. It is significant for brewing historical studies. See pp 28 et seq.

It was published in 1946 in Wallerstein Laboratories Communications, Volume IX. This publication was the eponymous house journal of the New York-based brewing consultancy. I have discussed Wallerstein and its founders a number of times in this blog.

The report has considerable detail on the brewing, particularly for brewing at multiple facilities in Italy. I will summarize aspects here, but anyone concerned with brewing history will want to read it in full. It will be of special interest to those familiar with brewhouse operations.

If you know Italian, all the better as some data in the article is in that language.

The beer produced in all these places was, unusually in an American context, all-malt, or mostly. Malt was shipped from the United States, hops as well. Unless I missed it, the report does not state if the U.S. malt was two row or six row, but simply that it was “pilsener” malt.

One of the Italian breweries had enough malt for brewing, and at least two had enough hops on hand, as well. Fine seedless Saaz, in fact.

In North Africa, Barney worked with French-speaking brewers. He does not refer, or in Italy, to language issues, so the people he dealt with either knew English or he had language assistance.

Speaking the international language brewers do anyway, once a deal was worked out to brew the beer, it went smoothly enough, or so we may conclude from Barney’s formulations.

The biggest challenge was in Italy as the Germans had dynamited parts of the breweries before departing. In Naples, the head brewer and chemist were Germans and left with the retreating German Army. Barney worked with the staff under them, most of whom had remained.

Barney does not state why all-malt beer, common enough then in Europe, was made when of course adjunct beer (using rice, corn, or sugar to supplement the malt) was standard in American brewing, including at Anheuser-Busch.

He states simply that no adjuncts were “ordered” from the U.S. Perhaps the North African breweries had no facilities to prepare adjuncts for brewing, no cooker and the related plant. In Naples, from his explanation, it appears Peroni brewed both all-malt and adjunct beer, but mostly all-malt beer was brewed for U.S. personnel.*

In fact, since Peroni used the decoction process to mash all-malt beer, that was used for the American brewing. This seems to have rankled Barney who tried to discuss infusion mashing with the Italian staff, but to use our vernacular, they didn’t want to know. (Probably to the benefit of the brew).

A stroke of luck was finding tons of fresh Saaz hops, as mentioned, in some Peroni plants. Clearly Czech hops were supplied through the war years to some breweries in Europe under German occupation. Barney indicates the Saaz greatly assisted the quality of the beer, no surprise of course to those who know, as he did, the reputation of Czech brewing.

Barney gives detailed data on malt and hop quantities used, and the hopping schedule. Again, the report should be consulted for this and other historically important information.

By my calculation, a beer emerged at about 3.7% abv – he states OG 10.3 B., FG 3.3 B. At that closing Balling, or 1013 FG, a rich-tasting beer emerged, for sure. It was not pasteurized due to being consumed fairly rapidly after production. He notes with interest that a lab sample showed good clarity for one month, before slightly clouding.

 

 

We see here the influence of his American adjunct brewing background. American brewing then was dominated by the felt need to use adjuncts to maximise beer clarity, by diluting the proteins in high-nitrogen malt, especially six row malt.** In fact from this angle it seems likely the malt sent from the U.S. was six row.

Much else of interest appears in Barney’s article. In Naples, surplus yeast from the Army beer was dried and debittered, and added by the workers to their pasta in lieu of cheese!

Barney in general was complimentary to the foreign plants, finding their mashing, brewing, and fermentation systems comparable to American standard. Where the foreign breweries fell down he said was for bottling and packaging as the plants were using equipment regarded as outmoded in the United States.

In time-honoured G.I. fashion scrounging and other expedients were used to help package enough beer, by adapting metal water cans for instance. Wood barrels of course were mainly used. Some of the beer was dispensed straight from the cask by faucet, while other beer was pressurized for dispense.

In “Arms and Ormolu”, my recent post on U.S. Army rest and recreation facilities in Nice, France in 1945, I mentioned that beer was arranged for the troops, but had no further details. Quite possibly it was the beer Barney describes, procured a (relative) short distance away in Italy.

He states for example that some beer was sent to Sicily and Sardinia, but does not mention France. If, alternatively, a brewery in Nice was engaged to make the beer, we can presume a process was followed similar to what Barney describes.

As one might expect from a professional and given, too, the context of war, Barney does not employ superlatives when describing the beer, but there can I think be no doubt he was proud of the beer and its flavour.

Certainly the product was avidly consumed by all it was sent to, the article makes that clear. It is probable more than one soldier, enjoying his all-malt brew, intoned in silent salute, “Brew it again, Sir”.

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*On a daily brewing sheet reproduced in the article, ris is pre-printed on a form, hence rice. This shows Peroni sometimes brewed beer with rice. Some malt that ended with the Army for brewing was milled in Europe before Barney received it, and had been mixed with unmalted grains, unspecified except for oats. The reason is, it was meant for use as horse feed, not for any brewing purpose. Barney called the adjuncts “unheard of”, meaning not the corn or rice he was familiar with as brewing adjunct. He states the mixed malt was “distributed” among a few of the brews made which lowered the yield.

**Our decades of study suggest that at bottom, cost was the ultimate reason, but that is a different issue.

In Homage of J.L. Shimwell

A Brewing Iconoclast and Visionary

In 1937 John Lester Shimwell, a bacteriologist and (at the time) brewer, authored a paper for the Journal of the Institute of Brewing, “Practical Aspects of Some Recent Developments in Brewing Bacteriology”.

A review of biographical materials on Shimwell indicates he held a B.Sc from Birmingham University. He was a prolific author of papers in his chosen field, brewing bacteriology. In recognition, the same university granted him a D.Sc not long after the article was published.

English-born Shimwell was born in 1901 and died in 1964. During the 1930s he was head brewer and on the board of directors of Beamish & Crawford brewery in Cork, Ireland.

A side note of interest is that his wife at the time, Birmingham-born Olive Seers, was a successful mystery writer under the pen name Harriet Rutland. The Passing Tramp website in 2015 reviewed her career and noted a revival of interest in her work.

The couple lived in a village near Cork, St. Ann’s Hill, and removed to England in 1939. A  “hydropathic” institute in St. Ann’s Hill formed the setting for Rutland’s first novel but in altered, “Devonised” form. See, for useful background, Curtis Evans’ introduction to the reissue (2015) of Rutland’s Knock, Murderer, Knock!.  A good discussion (2017) also appear in the website Promoting Crime Fiction. Both include details of J.L. Shimwell’s career as well.

So in Shimwell we have both man of theory and practice. Dr. Raymond Anderson, the U.K. brewing historian, has written of Shimwell that he was a “great reforming” figure in brewing bacteriology but also “combative”. See his article (2012) on the origins of pure yeast culture in top-fermentation brewing, in the Journal of the Brewery History Society.

Shimwell worked in the 1940s for Whitbread Brewery in London, and later in the British vinegar industry. Much of his work had to do with scientific classification especially for acetobacter, the family of bacteria that cause souring in ferments.

However, unlike many brewing scientists, he held, or at least publicly expressed, firm views on how the taste of beer was affected by modern technology. Perhaps his frankness arose from his practical experience in brewing. Perhaps it was a personal trait, the combativeness noted.

Specifically, from my review of a number of his articles, Shimwell would not concede that technology always made a better beer to drink.

From the 1937 article:

No one, surely, would contend that pasteurised, carbonated beer is better than unpasteurised, naturally-conditioned beer, and it is therefore perhaps not untrue to say that the quality of beer, as at present retailed, is just as good as bacteria and yeast will allow it to be, since pasteurisation is enforced at the dictation of yeasts and bacteria.

Hoffman Beverages Co. in Newark, New Jersey, only a few years earlier (see my last post) underscored the point by vaunting its Hoffman Draught Beer in the Bottle as unpasteurized. A beau geste almost unheard of for the time.

Shimwell adds on the same page that chilled, filtered, pasteurized beer, while biologically stable, is “not very palatable”. That was a nervy thing to write in a staid industry in a staid country at the time.

As Dr. Anderson discussed in his article, Shimwell had a higher regard for the role of Brettanomyces, or wild yeast, than most in the British brewing establishment.

It seems likely that Shimwell’s appreciation of Brett’s role in maturing beer was derived from its ongoing practical relevance in Irish brewing. Whereas in British brewing, that lore of vatting and re-ferments had long been bypassed by 1937.

Of course in time, as Shimwell had to know, Irish brewing would follow by filtering, carbonating, chilling, and finally pasteurizing its stout, a drink that became world-famous under alternate circumstances when Shimwell still brewed in Cork.

Tilting against the windmills of his time, Shimwell would be astonished (but also gratified) at the current success of unpasteurized beer, a heartland of the craft movement. He would be no less amazed at the niche “wild” beers have established, the group that includes Brett-injected and barrel-aged beers.

Why is it technical challenges viewed as indomitable in the 1930s are of less importance today? It is probably due to improvements in brewing science. In particular, brewing in the all-enclosed Nathan fermenter offers better temperature and bacteriological control than the old open vats. This minimizes the risks of acetobacter infection.

Better sanitation in the brewery, and use of easy-to-clean brewhouse materials such as stainless steel and aluminum, have helped as well. Likely too, improvements in transport and logistics.

Shimwell states in the same article that if a way could be found to ensure that bacterial infection didn’t rule brewing, “brewing trade conditions might be very different from what they are today”.

In effect, this has come to be. Of course the danger of infection is always present. Nonetheless, beer can be distributed over a wide area today, not only in unpasteurized containers, but those containing unfiltered beer, and remain both stable and excellent to drink.

 

 

 

The First Draught Beer in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle

What is the first draft beer in a bottle? By this I mean, not beer bottled with its residual yeast, which is near-ancestral, but filtered, bright beer?

We must qualify further with “modern”. In the 19th century there had to be unpasteurized, bottled beer that was roughly filtered – filtered enough to pour clear in the glass. Pasteurization only become general late in the 19th and early 20th centuries, certainly for brewers with any geographic reach.

There were many debates within the industry on beer pasteurization then. These are mostly a dead letter today. While craft beer is mainly unpasteurized in can or bottle, the inherent taste advantage (in the opinion of many, I should add) is something tacitly understood rather than vaunted to consumers, today.

This is one by-product of a beer renaissance now some 40 years old. Some craft beer is, in fact, pasteurized, but rarely is much hay made on the point in consumer beer writing at any rate.

Pasteurization is used in brewing, including for most imports and mass-marketed beers, not to make it safe for consumption as in the case of milk, say, but to render it stable from a microbiological aspect – to retard souring in particular.

Thus, for modern, bright, bottled or canned beer that is not pasteurized, which is the first?* Coors beer is a notable early case, at least the domestic U.S. Coors.** Coors did not abandon pasteurization in bottles until 1959 though, as we discussed earlier in this post.

Miller Genuine Draft is another case, rolled-out in 1986 as beer writer Tom Acitelli set out some years ago in the (now defunct) magazine, All About Beer.

So what is out there before MGD, before Coors?

It is always chancy to claim the first, but in 1934, Hoffman Beverages Co. in Newark, N.J. made bold claims for its “draught beer in the bottle”. A number of ads make clear Hoffman felt its unpasteurized draft beer was singular in the industry, see this one in March, 1935.

Morean Breweriana has a small bottle for sale which states clearly “unpasteurized”.

How many persons these claims confused or dismayed in the 1930s is hard to say. The industry knew exactly what was meant. But the period was one of high public confidence in scientific methods including as applied in industry.

The success of Hoffman’s brand, which seems not to have been stellar, was possibly affected by stating an undoubted positive to industry insiders. Hoffman did try to explain to consumers why its unpasteurized beer was superior. A September 1934 advert, in question and answer format, is an example. Whether very many reading “got” what was said is another matter.

The plant had been built from the ground up in the early 1930s to prepare for post-Prohibition, although standing apparently on the grounds of earlier breweries.

The bottles shown are sturdy-looking things, probably made heavier than normal to resist any re-fermentation in the bottle. At the same time, the tall bottle in particular, containing an impressive 29 oz., has an elegant look, not unlike a Champagne bottle.

An ad in the New York Times in 1934 shows the bottle clearly and, given the context, contains a detailed explanation of the bottling process.

 

 

Script on the labels suggests an all-malt product. One tag line reads “from world-selected malt and hops”. If that wouldn’t fit neatly into the branding of a modern craft brewery, I don’t know what would. Plus ça change…

A 1934 advertisement in the trade journal American Brewer proudly explained with images that Hoffman had adopted the Nathan fermentation and cooling system. The core of the Nathan system was, and is, the cylindro-conical fermenter, a stand-by of craft and other brewing around the world. Then, it was still novel.

Hence, there was all-enclosed, sterile fermentation and cooling. In conjunction presumably with fine filtration, evidently Hoffman felt it could bottle beer at least for regional sale without heat-pasteurization. The bottling stage itself was possibly conducted under aseptic conditions as well. Such technology was known in the general period. I will return to it in a later post.

Hoffman Beverages lasted from 1933 until December 1945 when Pabst Brewing in Milwaukee bought it out, see this New York Times report. That was an important deal, beyond the significance of the relatively small Hoffman, as it gave Pabst a first entry on the ground into the important Eastern market.

The mighty Anheuser Busch of St. Louis, now Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, followed a few years later, in Newark to boot. If you ever deplaned from Newark Airport you saw the plant on your way in.  It’s still there.

For decades the Hoffman-Pabst plant had a rooftop bottle-shaped water tower, a landmark in Newark. It was finally dismantled with the rest of the plant a dozen years ago. The big bottle is pictured in the Roadside America site, a monument to a now vanished era of New Jersey industrial history.

Ironically (in some ways), the type of beer Hoffman Draught Beer in a Bottle was has never been more popular, pace the segment of IPA that is happily cloudy, and most wheat beers.

Most craft beer you buy today is made from world-selected malt and hops, is unpasteurized, and pours bright or almost.

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*The context here is modern American. In Britain from about 1900 bottled beer was marketed as bright, diamond, sediment-free, no-deposit, etc. Some was chilled, filtered, carbonated and filled by counter-flow, but not pasteurized. In the 1930s pasteurization became routine, which it did in America earlier, at least for brewers distributing widely. What stands out for Hoffman is, advertising lack of the process.

**The one brewed today in Canada is, according to our last inquiries, pasteurized, the draft as well. In this regard it should be said there are different types, and intensities, of pasteurization, depending sometimes on the type of package used. It is likely, too, today that all methods of pasteurization are less damaging to beer than 80 years ago. The technology is likely better, in other words. That said, our taste impressions over the years confirm the superiority of unpasteurized beer whether bottled, canned, or on draft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Taste in the Dominion

The taste of modern British pale ale – in cask-conditioned form the classic “bitter” – varies among brewers in its homeland. Despite this desirable variety in palate, there are markers.

I would describe them as malty, often with a caramel tone; flowery or bitter-herbal, from the hops; fruity or mineral-like, from the yeast.

Generally this bitter ale is not strongly citric in the way we associate with IPA of craft brewing. A famous English hop, Golding, can offer a lemony tone but is noticeably different to Cascade, Centennial, Citra, and other foundational hops of the craft renaissance.

The true British taste is rarely encountered on these shores, in my experience. That is, most craft brewers choose not to brew it. They work in other directions and in the process have created a vibrant craft industry, but to my mind an opportunity is missed by not giving greater attention to a classic resource.

Some craft brewers do market of course an English-style ale, or Irish or Scotch type which is related in parentage. These can be excellent but only rarely again does the true “pub taste” emerge.

(More fidelity is achieved in porter and stout but that is a relatively small part of the beer market; I’m speaking here of an equivalent to classic pub bitter).

As for imports, cask-conditioned beer is almost never imported due to its fragility. A bottled equivalent is sometimes sold – unpasteurized, unfiltered – but these seem rarely to reach our markets.

We do get pasteurized, fizzy, British and Irish beer. It comes bottled, canned, and even on draft, meant to be served cold. Valid on its own terms, this form rarely achieves the character of cask- and bottle-matured beer.

Draught bitter as a category doesn’t exclusively use English hops, for which the crop is small today. It uses enough of them, usually, to impart a keynote. Also, hops are often used like Target, Challenger, Nugget, and Galena that fit the British profile albeit developed in the last century with some U.S. lineage.

Classic English varieties like Fuggle and Golding, also Styrian Goldings (related to Fuggle despite the name), are still grown. Used alone or with a simpatico type as mentioned and the right malts – in sufficient quantities – the true British character emerges.*

 

 

Occasionally one can find a letter perfect British style made here. An example is pictured, made by Mille Iles in Terrebonne, Quebec, a 30-minute drive from Montreal. I drank it at the warm end of cellar temperature. This was perfect to deliver the full effect especially when some carbonation had lifted.

The beer is evidently unpasteurized, and unfiltered, which adds to the authenticity. The choice is yours how to pour it, I poured the first half which emerged crystal clear, the second half was lightly veiled as seen above.

The brewery calls it Irish Red Ale but Irish and English pale ales are, in the view of many, really one style. Irish-style, frequently made by craft brewers with New World hops, accentuates the russet colour but a lot of British bitter has a similar hue.

 

 

One could also call it extra-special bitter. In fact, it reminded me very much of Director’s Bitter, Fuller’s ESB, and Ruddles County Ale as experienced in British pubs 30 years ago. It’s that type, for those who know, which means, very good!

Mille Iles also markets a paler beer styled English Best Bitter, so the Irish designation perhaps helped to differentiate the two.

The Irish Red Ale also has a fruity note (non-tropical), probably from an English yeast used. Every element, in sum, was in perfect synch.

Montreal is not ideal to visit at the moment. Pandemic restrictions. As soon as I can get back I will get more Irish Red, in fact all of the brewery’s English SeriesAu fur et à mesure…

N.B. Mille Iles, run by two brothers, was founded only three years ago. It has definitely made a mark with brewing of this quality.

 

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*See Comment added which clarifies some points re the hops.

Sorting the Sardine

The popularity of sardines during the lockdown/quasi-lockdowns got me thinking about this old staple of the pantry.

Even before the pandemic, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and some northern European brands (also for brisling, sprats, pilchards) were enjoying good popularity. The classification of the various sorts can be daunting but suffice to say numerous kinds of fish are canned as sardines, most of the herring or a closely related family.

Good canned fish was always appreciated in Europe, but fashionable restaurants and bars are now featuring top brands, as a specialty. In part it entices younger patrons with something that seems new. Often the can arrives at table with the top peeled back. Many tins are colourful and attractively designed, which helps.

Right here in Toronto Birreria Volo, one of the top beer destinations in the world, offers a superb quality line of tinned sardines and other fish. See here.

Some reading may remember the sardine sandwich of school days or from picnics or community gatherings. That food was always good but a good can with compatible foods – olives, salads, good bread, etc. – and drinks well-selected – wine, beer, cider – can raise things to another level.

I mentioned a book recently for its beer notes, the 1932 Gone Abroad by Charles Patrick Graves. In the book he states he indulged a lifelong wish, by eating a restaurant meal, in Belgium, composed solely of hors d’oeuvres!

His wish can today be our command, particularly in present circumstances. Graves was avant la lettre, so to speak.

A top brand of sardine will improve with aging, it seems. In Fish Cookery (Penguin, 1974) Jane Grigson suggests rotating the stock, to treat the comestible as a vintage item. The oil penetrates more fully when the fish is kept longer, in particular.

She states too in her forthright way:

…methods of canning have produced not just a poor substitute for the real thing (like canned crab and lobster) but a product worth eating in its own right.

Grigson opines that the French do the finest work, due largely to their cold Atlantic waters. Many feel cold water fish have a firmer, better texture than from other waters. Yet, some consider Iberian sardines the best – more meaty, says one account. As always, tastes will vary.

The Algarve was once a famed fishery and cannery region; today, the venerable, family-owned Ramirez still carries the flag. There may be one or two other local producers as well.

An engaging history of Ramirez is offered in this link, from one of its associated brands, LaRuche. It states Ramirez is the oldest fish cannery in the world.

Nowadays in the countries mentioned the fish being canned may be imported, from waters off North Africa or further afield. The cans will indicate the source, or least the fishing area or “zone”.

Ramirez still cans some sardines from local waters, its Queen of the Coast range. The quality of graphic art displayed in these examples is impressive, no doubt with quality to match inside.

It’s not just the fish itself though that denotes quality. Much depends on the kind of oil or other medium used, the spices, and other flavouring.

Some packers use recipes handed down for generations that have a winning taste. New flavours are continually introduced as well, as for other prepared foods and drinks.

Norway, for its part, specializes in smoked sardines. Its brisling enjoy a market around the world. This type, noted for its mild flavour, is also canned in Britain.

I remember from my youth the iconic Brunswick brand in Canada. Checking on Brunswick today, I learned that Quebec celebrity chef Ricardo Larrivée is a particular fan. In 2019 he made a short but lively video of the sardine fishery in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick.

He interviewed one of the canners who stated Canada stands at the top of the quality range due to our cold waters and quality in production. Brunswick enjoys an enviable export market, certainly, and is available everywhere across the country. I intend to revisit the brand soon, to add to the four pictured below.

 

 

I’ll sample them all as the weather gets colder. With good bread, prima butter, a crispy salad, and firm, brown-black olives, delectation awaits, I have no doubt.