Brewers have always moved to greener, foreign pastures to ply their mash fork. 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 back, here.
As the industrial revolution gained, brewers from Alsace-Lorraine moved around Europe and beyond to work. They did so especially after the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and even before, as I discussed in my essay France to Fraunce, here.
Famously, Germans, or Britons under their influence, established lager-brewing in the United Kingdom in the late-1800s, with consequences that endure to this day. Pint of Carling, anyone?
Yet, the British took the national brewing on tour, too, sometimes permanently. Scotsman David Carnegie, Jr. set up porter-brewing in Sweden in 1836. His beer continues in 2018, under aegis of the giant Carlsberg.
A British-based firm of beer exporters, A Le Coq, established a brewery in 1911 in what is now Tartu, Estonia. Martyn Cornell detailed the history 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 they grouped into limited liability companies, a practice applied in the U.S. as well, and other countries.
And there was at least one British-owned and run brewery in Germany in the 19th century, in Moselle wine country west of Frankfurt, not far from Luxembourg and Belgium.
The brewery was set up in the 1850s to make British-style beer for British residents and travellers in the region. The village of Senhals was selected for the location.
The beers were pale ale, London porter, and table ale. They were advertised to Britons as “national beverages” in a Murray’s German travel guide, see here. A German journal in Frankfurt also advertised, in 1853, what was surely a curiosity for its readers:
The availability of the beers for much less money than imported British beer was the 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 of Senhals.
Since my German is not up to task, Andreas Krennmair, a software engineer and beer historian, kindly provided 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 authored Historic German and Austrian Beers for the Home Brewer, soon to be added to my cart. It garnered excellent notices, see the Amazon listing here).
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, 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, built evidently to handle malting as well as normal brewing operations. This explains the thick, weight-bearing walls.
Messrs. Brooks, Jones, etc. were ahead of their time, indeed by 160 years or so, given that is craft brewing success on the Continent including to a limited extent in Germany.
Germans were always capable of appreciating good English and Irish beer. Bass Ale, Guinness’s and other porter, and other over-the-Channel brands enjoyed good repute in the German lands, even – indeed especially – during 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 too perhaps that the intended market was too narrow.
Beer from the barrel would have broadened the appeal. Or maybe English beer in the German wine country just wasn’t fated to be.
Today, in distant Rochester, New York the long-established, German-sounding Rohrbach Brewing Co. markets a Moselle English Porter. It is part of the brewery’s small-batch series.
There is no connection, as far as I know, to the intrepid 1850s English Brewery in central-west Germany, but as the name resonates anyway I mention them here. All reports suggest a prima beer, in fact.
I will look for it when in Rochester this fall re-visiting western New York State, and raise a toast to the Englishmen who had the chutzpah to brew beer in Germania – hopefully with Moselle English Porter in my hand.
To conclude, below is an image of charming Senhals today, from the town’s website here. Senhals is known officially today 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 these towns – of English porter and ale – dried up long ago.
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.