Guinness’s Shot Across the Bows

The Tipperary Rifle Barks

How was Guinness brewed in America in 1951? Well, three-quarters of the barley malt was from Ireland:

For a while the bottled mixture had been shipped from abroad, but finding that the stout shipped this way was not a good sailor, brewing was started in this country. Irish malt makes 75 percent of the malt used. Roasted barley, to give color, also comes from Ireland. A blend of American and English hops is preferred. Water, specially selected for purity and softness, and the special brand of Guinness yeast, flown specially from Dublin, are other ingredients used.

The quote is from a September 1951 story in the Brooklyn Eagle. It reported on the Guinness Extra Stout first brewed in 1949 in Long Island, NY by the otherwise resolutely Hibernian, Guinness Brewery.*

The 75% figure, and general context, suggest some American malt was used. Roasted barley by then – not roast malt, as before the 1930s – was also used, to lend the signature colour and burned taste. Perhaps there was no flaked (raw, unroasted) barley in the mash then, although it came soon enough.

The compound was presumably richer than today, when the standard Guinness seemingly has only 60% barley malt, see David Hughes’ analysis, here. 

The fermentation or attenuation limit has an effect too though. Likely it was fairly pronounced in the Long Island version, as 1930s Guinness ads in the U.S. and Canada mention its dry character. See my earlier essay referencing such ads.

That was in relation to the imported Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, stronger and more acidic than Extra Stout was by then. I doubt American Guinness was fashioned to be more malty, though, and the related ads support this. And certainly it was less tart, in keeping with Extra Stout as a domestic vs. export beer.

The old bottled Guinness, pasteurized or not, seemed to offer inconsistencies the brewery didn’t like. The prospect, too, to offer Guinness at something like half the import price was obviously attractive.

Still, American Guinness was likely impactful on the palate. Much of the Eagle article focuses on ways to blend it with, say, Champagne for a Black Velvet, or 7-Up to form a “Cincinnati”.

Guinness gathered food writers and trade magazine editors in an Astor Hotel salon to teach them about this new Yankee Guinness. Its publicists came up with old and newer ways to entice use of the black stuff.

Some of the mixtures are traditional including the grandly-named Tipperary Rifle, stout with gin. The Rifle is the old blackthorn cudgel, or shillelagh, used by Irish fighting factions of old – pre-Troubles, I might add.

London knew the mix as a dog’s nose, rather pacific an image in contrast, isn’t it. All this can be misleading, as Irish history attests only too well.

A stout and rum mixture was also handed round in the Astor. I just bought a Quebec porter infused with rum – plus ça change.

Good attention was given to pairings with food. A spread of cheeses and choice oysters – the local Peconic was one – was sampled and approved.

The event was also covered in the New York Times, which completists should read for its further detail. The Times account mentioned an interesting etymological variation on the beer shandy, a topic I discussed the other day. It is the Dandy, from South Africa, a mix of lemon soda and stout.

Really, when you think of Guinness (any form), its Velvet and other mixtures, apt foods such as the Astor offered, and the romance of beer’s history, it all brings to mind the modern beer or wine vernissage. Not too much has changed really, especially when well-heeled companies lay a spread.

Even though the consumer society was dawning in its full plenitude and the Korean War was raging, they knew how to do these things. The pre-craft era wasn’t all a rec room of thin lager, chips-and-dip, and pretzels.

Far from 1951 being the beer and culinary stone age, the Astor reception showed the sophisticated side, one that ranks with our best today.

Let’s organize a re-do and confirm. Diageo, give me a call. Speaking of Diageo, it should be noted Guinness is back – in the U.S.A., I mean. Its new brewery, the Open Gate Brewery and Taphouse, opened near Baltimore earlier this year. USA Today dished the details. I’ve written about it too, see here.

One difference is Guinness isn’t trying to brew stout again in America. The stout at Open Gate, except perhaps the odd small-batch experimental, is Irish-brewed and imported.

Today, Guinness is a good sailor.

N.B. For history on the shillelagh, or bata, see the excellent website Irish Culture and Customs, whence the image above is taken.

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*For further information on the Long Island, NY brewery of 1949 – c.1952, see my post yesterday.

 

Beamish Stout Journeys to America

But Gets a Dawk in New York

Beamish & Crawford was a famous porter brewery in Cork, Ireland. It closed in 2009 with the single brand, Beamish stout, now brewed at Heineken’s ex-Murphy plant in the same city.

In 1950, Beamish’s made a determined push into the American market. Earlier, it had expanded cautiously, a history you can read in its own words in an advertoriathat year in the Advocate, a long-established paper in New York City catering to the Irish diaspora.

In the article, Beamish described its current brewing range:

At present four types of Stout are brewed:

A Porter for consumption “on draught” in Ireland.
“XXX” Stout for consumption “on draught” and in bottle for Ireland and in bottle for the United King­dom.
“Knuckleduster”—a stronger stout for consumption in bottle for the United Kingdom.
“Foreign Extra”—a still stronger and well matured stout, in bottle, for export to all countries abroad, in­cluding, of course, the U.S.A.
And so, with progress and expan­sion, the aim of those who guide the destinies of the Company to-day, Cork men and Irishmen, will have reason to continue to feel justly proud of this Brewery they have known for genera­tions …

Of these beers, seemingly only the Foreign Extra was sent to New York. The Knuckleduster name evoked the pre-war atmosphere in which the Deasy Brewery’s stout earned the moniker the Wrestler, see some Deasy history here by Martyn Cornell.

(Beer et Seq knows a Mr. Deasy in Toronto with Cork antecedents, maybe he is reading, are you related to the brewing Deasys, sir? That would be grand).

Considering the image of “Irish bars” in the U.S. then, one thinks Knuckleduster would have appealed to the trade, indeed to New York beermen in general. But the brand seems to have gone to the more mild-tempered Britain. Oh well.

This four-cornered beer strategy, with gravities rising from four to eight per cent ABV (approximately) was followed by Guinness too, always Beamish’s “bigger brother”. See e.g., R. Pattinson’s tabular data here, and Jess Kiddens’ extensive review of Guinness’ c.1950 activities in which the following appears:

 

As is well-known by brewing historians and Jess Kidden limns in his notes, Guinness bought a brewery in Long Island, NY, the E & J Burke Brewery, to brew Guinness domestically. Burke was the venerable distribution arm for Guinness in America.* The Stateside Burkes finally went into brewing for themselves just after Prohibition.

A Burke Stout and Burke Ale were marketed in the New York area, evidently with Guinness’ approval. Finally Guinness bought up both distributorship and brewery, the former in 1943 according to the Kidden timeline, and the latter in 1949 as confirmed from other sources.

Kidden states that Guinness Extra Stout was brewed and distributed in the U.S. following this purchase, but that (higher gravity) Guinness Foreign Extra Stout continued to be imported. At first blush that’s an unusual arrangement, but I can think of a possible reason for such anomaly.

First the question: why would Beamish choose this moment to enter the U.S. market, when Guinness was making a determined effort to implant itself, quite literally, in the U.S.?

I think Beamish must have looked at it a different way: it would market itself as truly Irish, given its beer was still made in Ireland. On the same page as the advertorial, a box ad for Beamish states “Imported” in prominent type. Additional text puts further emphasis on the Irish origins.

The message to the intended market surely was: Guinness is no longer the real stuff as it’s brewed in America.

I don’t know how long the Beamish imports lasted but Guinness is a formidable adversary. While the Guinness Long Island brewery closed in 1952 or 1954 (accounts differ), Guinness stout continued to be imported, initially via Heublein and later other arrangements.

If Beamish did appear in the U.S. much after the early 1950s, it never made a big splash, I’m sure.

But the path for Guinness was not smooth: in 1952 it was sued for anti-trust violations by Dublin Distributors, Inc. (“DDI”), a local (NYC) business. DDI for years was a sub-distribtor for Guinness, obtaining its supply from Burke, now Guinness/Burke, warehouses in Manhattan and Long Island.

Why would DDI sue Guinness? Because DDI also agreed to represent Beamish, and Guinness, anxious to protect its newly-hatched domestic business, didn’t want that competition and terminated DDI’s distribution for (now domestic) Guinness.

I infer that possibly the litigation was resolved on the basis that DDI could sell Irish-brewed Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, the type historically imported by Burke, but not the locally-brewed Guinness Extra Stout.

If so, it wasn’t the best resolution for Guinness, but preferable to years in U.S. courts on debilitating anti-trust issues. In fact on the face of it I’d think the court debacle contributed to premature closing of the new domestic business.

Most accounts recite that people didn’t want to buy domestically-brewed Guinness, but with a dual source of supply confronting consumers, Guinness could not have implemented a  coherent marketing strategy.

By the early-1960s, Guinness bought DDI too, which would have resolved any lingering issues with Beamish.

Note re images: the source for the Guinness product description is identified and linked in the text. The source for the Beamish Knuckleduster label is the excellent BestBeerStuff t-shirt and apparel site. The last image was sourced from the excellent Tavern Trove site, here. All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*See my Comment below which clarifies that E & J  Burke may not have imported Guinness after Repeal to New York, vs. before Prohibition that is, but another New York company may have.

 

 

 

Shandy-gaff

The other day I noticed a half bottle (PET-type) of Canada Dry ginger ale in the fridge. I had a can of beer partly-filled from a couple of days earlier, it was Amsterdam Autumn Hop Harvest Ale, but I’d have used any IPA or pale ale available for what follows.

(The Amsterdam beer, a wet hop seasonal release, isn’t labelled IPA as such, some have called it American pale ale, but I think it has an IPA character).

It’s been hot in Toronto again, earlier this week I mean. And after a long walk, I mixed the two. It’s shandy-gaff, sometimes called simply shandy, or beer-shandy.

It’s one of the family of beers mixed with a gaseous or other non-alcohol drink in varying proportions, e.g., Radler, bitter tops, clara, Diesel, etc. Tasting it I was reminded how good it can be.

The Canada Dry, while not as assertive as ginger beer, still has a good smack and had the telling flavour in the mix. The beer was not hidden though, especially the hops which gathered round the edges.

The etymology of shandy-gaff is very obscure. I won’t rehearse the different theories except to note they range from a nonsense term to a corruption of a certain blacksmith’s favourite drink (sang de Goff) and yet more. Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang (ed. Jonathan Green) offers up two other theories, one related to a sense of “shanty” as a quart, or quart of drink.*

1853 for the compound word, and 1888 for the unadorned shandy, have been cited as first appearances, but searching ’round in Google Books I found this 1846 reference to the full expression. It’s in Charles Dickens’ magazine Bentley’s Miscellany. This is the earliest citation to date, as far as I know.

Bentley’s defines the drink quite precisely as a mixture of ale and ginger beer. Scotch ale was used in that instance which would have produced a quite sweet and still strong mix if 50-50 was used at any rate.

The one I made was only 3% ABV if that, and I think shandy should be not too strong, it is of its nature.

I tend to stay away anyway from strong beer. I still try them but usually add sparkling water to reduce them to 5% or less. It’s surprising how much character is retained in the original drink.

A shandy in Canada to many would mean mixing beer with 7 Up or another lemon soda. You don’t see it as often as years ago. Certainly it was a golf clubhouse or summer fixture at one time.

Brewers have plumbed the depths of the Radler mixture and should launch into shandy. The possibilities are endless and different flavours and strengths can result.

I think an Imperial stout mixed with ginger beer should be very good, an analogue to a Dark and Stormy, the rum and ginger beer mix. The ginger beer would pick up the dryness of much porter as it’s now brewed, too.

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*See my additional remark in the Comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prima Lagers Encountered in 2018

The following are the best lagers I encountered in Toronto this year, to date of course.

Amsterdam 2018 Traditional Pilsner

This beer was a seasonal lager release of Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewery at the start of this year. It featured clean, rich malt with lots of flavour from Czech Saaz hops and the German Mandarina Bavaria variety. There was no obvious New World “citrus” from the partial Cascade heritage of the latter hop.

The total effect was traditional European in a very full, crafted interpretation.

Side Launch Mountain Lager

Side Launch in Collingwood, ON is known for its authentic, German-style wheat beer but our pick of the range is Mountain Lager. It’s a familiar sight in the blue can in Toronto beer stores and is available on draft in many bars.

It has a unique profile, as I guess all excellent beers do. It reminds me of some “super-premium” lager of the 70s-80s, especially Michelob of that era, but with a fuller, more natural flavour. Despite lots of taste it is fermented out thoroughly and ends fairly dry on the palate.

Some Munich-style lager has an “eggy” note, a sulphide of some kind in action; this beer generally does not, a plus in our view. (None of the beers in this post exhibit that trait, or not that we can detect, which adds to their quality in our view again).

Ace Hill Pilsener

Contract-brewed at Brunswick Bierworks in Toronto, and the lightest of the beers canvassed here. Its palate and branding seem designed for the urban aspirational class but the quality is there, especially on draft, which seems deeper in taste than the canned version.

To have a quality product, a “big” taste is not always needed; a good taste is the thing. Conversely, a big taste can be coarse and unappealing…

German pils, a favourite style in the north half of Germany, is often dry and light on the palate, too. Ace Hill is in that tradition but without a pronounced German character vs., say, a Jever pils.

Muddy York Gaslight Helles Lager

The Cranfield Road, Toronto craft brewer Muddy York excels in a broad range of styles. Gaslight Helles has a rich but clean taste powered by Bohemian malts, fine hops, and a distinctive yeast strain. This beer drinks great iced, cellar temp, or tepid. One of the best of the style I’ve had anywhere.

Bellwoods Brewery Bellweiser

Not five years old, the Bellwoods outfit has always impressed by its quality and innovative spirit. I tend to associate ales and other top-fermentation styles with Bellwoods but this blonde lager, Bellweiser, wowed by its good taste and rich floral quality.

If anything the website description undersells the beer.

We encountered it on draft in Guelph recently but intend to drop by the Ossington Street location to pick up some in bottles.

Pilsner Urquell

The Czech classic comes into Toronto warehouses super-fast from its homeland and the quality shows. This beer has always set the standard for blonde lager with its deep floral quality from generous Saaz hopping, and honeyed Bohemian malts.

I had the iteration in London, England this year sold at the Draft House in the City which is the “tank” version, unpasteurized but filtered. This is the best version in my view and avoids the somewhat yeasty top note of unfiltered Urquell you can taste in Pilsen.

But in any form it’s a classic and the draft version we get in Toronto is fine too, although not necessarily better than a very fresh can.

Summing Up

Obviously there are many more blonde lagers available in Ontario than those above. I don’t taste them all, or regularly, few of us can, so there may be a great one I missed. For those I have tried the ones above were my pick for 2018.

A new beer I had high hopes for and just tasted, Creemore Springs Whole Hopped Lager, disappointed by lacking a “middle”. The expected quality from the whole flower hops is there, and I liked the more restrained yeast background (seemingly) than Creemore in any iteration usually presents, but the malt seemed lacking.

Perhaps it’s meant for a demographic that feels the standard Creemore Lager is too rich-tasting. If so, fair enough but to me it’s neither fish nor fowl.

Also, there are dozens of good solid beers one can drink day in day out that are perfectly satisfying while not, IMO, at the level of those above. Czechvar lager from the Czech Republic, say, or the excellent Slovakian Golden Pheasant, Ontario’s Muskoka Lager, or Purity Pilsener from Walkerville, ON, and many others.

The year is not out, if I encounter a new sensation before December 31 I’ll post an update.

 

 

 

 

Where the Turf Meets the Surf

It’s all About the Beef, ‘Bout the Beef, Plus 1

A food history topic of no little interest and complexity is the euphonious “surf and turf”. Like many corners of gastronomy, it is rich in socio-cultural detail, extending well beyond the culinary. A book could easily be written on the subject, in fact.

Certainly, any dish that has earned this professorial assessment merits deep investigation:

Surf and turf was often considered to symbolize the middle-class “Continental cuisine” of the 1960s and 1970s,[7] with (frozen) lobster and steak as ersatz status foodstuffs for the middle class.[8]

The name has been reappropriated by more recent chefs such as Thomas Keller.[9]

My inquiries will bear on two points. First, when does surf and turf first appear in print as a dish, second, does the term also mean a type of restaurant or menu?

I’ve concluded the dish first appeared in a Los Angeles newspaper in 1961, and the term has also long-denoted a restaurant type or menu.

As well, despite the lack of a pre-1961 citation, the elements of the dish existed on American restaurant menus, including in New York City, in the 1950s.

That is, lobster tails and other seafood, as well as steak cuts, often formed the two main categories of the (North) American steakhouse. At some point, in all likelihood some years before the dish is first documented, someone placed a sample of each category on the same plate to form Surf and Turf.

First Appearance of the Dish

10 years ago the well-credentialed, New York-based food blogger and editor Barry Popik, who is also an amateur etymologist, wrote an entry on the origin-year aspect. His account is still valid today. He cites two Los Angeles-area sources in 1961 as follows:

 

13 August 1961, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. N7:
The “Turf and Surf” is an interesting combination: lobster tail and small beef tenderloin.

17 December 1961, Los Angeles (CA) Times, calendar section, pg. 18 ad:
Surf & Turf
Australian Lobster Tail & Choice Top Sirloin Steak
(Happy Hollow on Silver Lake Blvd.—ed.)

Turf and Surf is an alternate usage that occasionally appears in the early years. In the second reference of 1961, it becomes Surf and Turf. The sources for the two descriptions were evidently different as the cuts of beef are not the same.

Early versions of the dish across the country are as described above: a lobster tail married with a piece of beef. The beef can be various cuts including tenderloin, filet, sirloin, and prime rib.

The spiny or rock lobster tail was, by numerous accounts, e.g., Calvin W. Schwabe’s in 1979, regularly sourced from South Africa after WW II. Food historian Jan Whittaker’s useful account of surf and turf has good detail, in particular, on the frozen lobster tail history.

An early advertisement for lobster tails that were probably from South Africa appeared in 1951 in a box ad in Sarataga, NY, see here.  The ad mentions other dishes including “steak rolls” (usually rolled flank or other thin steak).

Unlike the other dishes, the steak rolls is shown adjacent the lobster tails, separated by a widely-spaced dash. We believe this is not a combined dish, however, but two separate dishes.

Brazil has sometimes supplied the toothsome morsel, or Australia as in 1961 above or in this Rochester, NY ad (1966). This store ad in Syracuse, NY from 1942 advertised rock lobster tails and identified the source as Cuban.

Many news ads in different parts of the United States can be cited for surf and turf after 1961, as the dish went national early, but there is no sense to multiply them as Barry Popik has identified the earliest; at least, so far he has by my research.

Surf and turf may therefore originate on the West Coast, perhaps in the Happy Hollow restaurant, Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, but this is unclear.

Food and drink phenomena, as I discussed earlier in the context of “wine and cheese”, often appear early on both coasts. Then, as now, a “bi-coastal culture” existed where its various manifestations, from food to drink to television – and politics – are similar on both littorals.

This is due to the large numbers of arts and “chattering” classes in these sections, and frequent travel and interchanges between them.

It would be satisfying to know that Silver Lake Blvd. runs along or near the Pacific Ocean; it does not, yet as the name suggests it does lie by a body of water: Silver Lake Reservoir. The lake is to the northwest of central Los Angeles and the area at least today is a hipster and restaurant hub.

Could the dish have been given a semi-ironic name in Silver Lake due to the presence of such “surf”?

Examples of Restaurants, or Menus, Called Surf and Turf

Early on, the term surf and turf also described a restaurant, or menu, that mainly featured steak and seafood items. This 1967 article from the Press in Binghampton, NY in south-central New York, is illustrative, describing an area restaurant (West Endicott, NY) called Surf ‘n Turf and its menu. The image above is drawn from the story.

In 1973, a restaurant called Turf and Surf Steak and Seafood House in Niagara Falls, ON similarly advertised a steak and seafood menu. The Ontario restaurant also pitched to Americans given the propinquity to the border.

Surf and turf, the dish, was surely an offering on each menu but could not have been the only food sold; there was also a selection of steaks, and seafood or other fish.

Also in 1973, a restaurant called Surf and Turf Steak and Seafood House advertised a menu, evidently of various steak and seafood items, in New Paltz, NY.

In 2018, a Brooklyn, NY restaurant called Surf and Turf operates a dining hall and catering service, with the type of menu suggested by the name, see the website here.

Jen Miller in a 2011 book on the foods of the Jersey shore uses the term surf and turf on the same page to describe both the dish – a variant involving crab cake – and the type of menu.

In general, in my personal experience dining in various parts of the northeast since the 1970s, surf and turf means a type of cuisine, not just a dish of that name.

Examples of Restaurants or Dishes Similarly Named

There were alternate names, without quite the snappy sound of Surf and Turf, for the type of restaurant that offered a steak and seafood menu, and/or for the dish itself.

The Rib ‘n Reef is a luxury steakhouse in Montreal that has operated continuously since 1960. The extracts above are from its 1963 menu (source: the McCord Museum’s archive of historic Montreal restaurant menus).

The menu has two main rubrics, “From The Charcoal Pit” and “From the Sea”, with numerous selections under each. None of the dishes combines steak and seafood, although on today’s Rib ‘n Reef menu you can find surf and turf, by that name, indeed in three variations. Of course prices have changed!

“Beef and Reef” is a variant term that titled a restaurant in Cazenovia, NY in 1979. It was also the name of a dish of broiled lobster and steak in Huntington Station, NY in 1972.

Hy’s Steakhouse in Toronto currently offers its “Steak and Lobster”, a filet mignon and Atlantic lobster tail combination; however in its case it eschews the term Surf & Turf or a similar metaphorical term.

The “Steak and Seafood” Menu and its American Character

These restaurants placed, and still do, an strong focus on steak and seafood. Other dishes might be offered, say, chicken, lamb, or ham. But in the main the “steak and seafood” menu offered a choice of beef or seafood with each category given equal prominence on the menu.

It appears this menu emerged in the 1940s-1950s as a peculiarly American innovation, one that spread to Canada early. Hy’s Steakhouse mentioned above began in the 1950s in western Canada, for example (see its website mentioned). We think American inspiration was inevitable.

In countries other than these two, a beef house might offer a fish dish or two (main course). See for example the menu of Simpson’s-on-the-Strand in London in 1963. This is not a “steak and seafood” (or other fish) menu in the North American conception.

The concept did arrive in Britain finally, from American inspiration in my view, and whether steak and seafood or just steak as such. See for example the historical discussion on the website of the Guinea Grill, part of the well-known Guinea Pub in Mayfair, London.

As early as 1952 the Guinea’s tenant, described simply as Alastair, had the idea to offer the kind of steak American visitors wanted. It was thin on the ground in Britain then, or probably anytime before the steak chains finally took root. The Angus Steakhouse is one, and its early-1960s origins have been described as American-inspired.

It is bootless to argue that the American steakhouse is ultimately British to begin with – the chophouse, beefsteak clubs, and similar. This is unquestioned, and the culture transplanted here with early British arrivals. But that is a long time ago. The Stateside steak restaurant evolved in its own way, including often with seafood or fish as a prominent feature, with an effect finally that rebounded in the old country, like a boomerang.

The case of India Pale Ale, now a craft sensation in international beer circles, is similar. “I.P.A” is of English origin, a beer type sent to India in the later 1700s whose high hopping rate was meant to preserve the beer on the journey. The style was given a twist by modern American craft brewers and their interpretation rebounded and has been adopted in the U.K. (which still makes the original type too but often under a different name, Best Bitter, say).

The 1950s American Steak and Seafood House

In New York in 1950, the Red Coach Grill offered an early but classically recognizable steak and seafood menu.

Each rubric has the same prominence with numerous choices under each. Lobster and swordfish, say, are offered in the seafood section. No dish combines meat and seafood. 10 years later similar restaurants exist (and still do), but are now offering the mixed form of dish.

It may be noted from its menu that Red Coach Grill was a chain, comprising in 1950 eight establishments on the East Coast down to Miami.

Here is another example, from 1958, also in New York State and near Binghampton again: the Vestal Steak House menu. This menu featured broiled lobster tails, probably imported from South Africa or another exporting country later associated with the surf and turf dish, but surf and turf does not appear on the Vestal menu. It is too early, as for the Red Coach and 1963 version of the Rib ‘n Reef, and  O’Henry mentioned below.

This menu of O. Henry, a restaurant which operated in Greenwich Village, NY, is undated but apparently from the late 1950s: note the telephone exchange format. (“CH” means Chelsea: these went out by the early 1960s). The menu offers among the seafood selections “imported rock lobster tail”, but no surf and turf.

This menu of 1940 from Shevlin’s New Chop House in Cincinnati, via New York Public Library’s menu archive, is instructive to show the roots of the 1950s and later steak and seafood restaurant. The name evokes the 19th-century, or older, English chop house. After 1945 the chop house name was viewed as old-fashioned and is less commonly encountered.

Still, the Shevlin menu, although cluttered by more dishes than the later steak and seafood house offered, has its main elements: lobsters, shrimp, and other seafood on one side, steaks and chops on the other. Pre-WW II menus tend to offer many more items than in the post-war era, so the slimming down of menus in general may have assisted the emergence of the classic steak and seafood menu.

Of the countless restaurants that existed in the U.S.A. or Canada with such menus, did not one before 1961 combine steak and seafood as a surf and turf, or turf and surf? This seems likely but no example is documented to date. If such a dish did exist, perhaps it was a “customer” special, bearing his name ad hoc, or another (or no) name.

A dish we can document in 1967 akin to surf and turf was called the Coach. This suggests perhaps that surf and turf existed under a different name(s) before 1961. Still, we are not aware that such a dish has been documented.

Steak and Seafood/Fish Together are not new

To be sure, dishes have always existed combining meat and seafood, famously in Asian cooking. The West features as well, e.g. the Spanish paella, or Catalan Mar i Muntanya. Carpetbag steak is beefsteak of some kind with a pouch to hold oysters or other shellfish. A form exists from Britain to North America to Australia.

A menu in 1900 offered “sirloin and oysters”. Steak and oyster pie, and various foods with anchovy, are old hat in Britain and elsewhere in the West.

But once again: the American steakhouse menu of the 1950s with its binary of steak and seafood was uniquely American. In part this was due to the Maine lobster whose size and excellence permitted featuring it as a main course item. As an example, see this 1954 New York Post restaurant review, where a basic steak menu was supplemented, especially on Friday, by a main course lobster plate noted for its size and quality.

Lobster tails of other countries are usually smaller, often not as tasty, and not as suitable for a main dish. Clearly, with the expansion of middle class eating they were resorted to for cost and availability reasons, but their comparative inferiority to the Maine lobster meant ultimately a combination with beef to kick it up a notch.

Non-Culinary Usages of the Term Surf and Turf

Since the 1940s the term surf and turf has also been applied to various types of clothing, sportswear usually, suitable for use in boating activities or beachside. See this example for women from 1941. The term has also been applied to air-blown mattresses, and other paraphernalia associated with the lifestyle of the seaside.

This is not unusual as surf, and turf, are old usages for sea and land. Their rhyming quality must have meant for an early coinage outside a food context.

In coastal Del Mar, CA surf and turf became a catchphrase in the form of, “where the turf meets the surf”. This phrase, and “surf and turf” in general, were used to promote the racetrack and resort facilities built by entertainer Bing Crosby and partners in 1936 to attract Hollywood luminaries and other names.

Bing crooned a once-famous tune called Where the Turf meets the Surf (Crosby/Monaco/Burke), the signature song of his Turf Club in Del Mar. You can hear him here.

Where the turf meets the surf
Down at old Del Mar
Take a plane
Take a train
Take a car.
There is a smile on every face
And a winner in each race
Where the turf meets the surf
At Del Mar.

In 1947 there was a Turf and Surf Hotel in Del Mar. In 1952 there was at least one Turf and Surf restaurant in town, perhaps in that hotel, as confirmed in this California news squib.

The term surf and turf also had, and may still, a general sporting connotation, covering sports fishing and various land sports. The term appeared in this context, for example, in late-1960s advertisements relating to a “Sportacular” exhibition.

Did the ubiquity of the phrase surf and turf on the California coast and around L.A. in the 40s and 50s give rise finally to the dish of the same name? We think it probable, until further evidence may suggest another path.

Note re images: The sources of the images above are identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

Palm Ale – a Review

Palm Ale, a product of Palm Breweries in Steenhuffel, in north-central Belgium, is a “special”. This is a modern type of ale broadly comparable to the early 20th-century U.K. and North American sparkling, cream, and dinner ales, and evolved at the same time.

Hence, it pours clear and while top-fermented presents certain traits of lager beers: fizzy, often served cold, rounded in character.

The version pictured is the standard in the line, and newly imported in Ontario. The bottled and some draft have been available for a while.

Palm Breweries is owned by the Dutch brewers Bavaria, of the Swinkels family. Bavaria also owns the famous Belgian Flanders red ale producer, Rodenbach.

Unlike Rodenbach, Palm Ale is not lactic/acetic in character. To me it tastes like a bottled light ale of 1980s Britain. Quite light in palate, seemingly with a non-barley malt component in the mash. There is some sweetness from the toasted malts, trumpeted on the company website as a signature.

The yeast background, also bruited, is quite evident, clove-like in the Belgian way but more subtly than in many other Belgian brews.

All the traits of this beer are more restrained than I recall 10 and 30 years ago. The website claims the use of English Kent hops but they are used with discretion, almost not detectable.

Decades ago I recall a richer, flowery hop character and more of a malty note in the palate.

Perhaps other beers in the Palm range offer more character, the Royal sounds promising for example, but this beer was a disappointment.

Beer Sampling

Here sampling is borrowed from its musical sense. It’s been stated of music sampling that it is:

…  the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece.

This, by analogy, is what I do when blending beers. You combine two or more beers to get a new and different whole.

Blending beer has an old commercial history, which is probably where I got the idea, but it has its own justification.

Remember, it is all malt, all hops, and brewers blend malts and hops to make the beers they sell to begin with. If you do it right, you can get an excellent result. If you do it wrong, it won’t be terrible.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “there are no second acts in American lives”. What did he know about beer? Bathtub gin – maybe.

It is perfectly correct to buy beers with sampling in mind. I occasionally do this, say, to make a pumpkin porter from a pumpkin ale and a porter.

But usually I blend from open cans or bottles I have. I have them because, I taste so many beers over time that I can’t finish them all after opening. I may open a couple one evening, drink part of both, and save them for another day.

I used to seal them in some way but now I just put them in the fridge, the cans open and bottles with crown cork loosely reattached.

If you wait one day, it’s like drinking regular draft beer in the bar. If you wait two, it’s like drinking a good (English-style) cask ale, only lightly carbonated in other words.

I had the three beers shown, kept in the fridge two nights, or maybe three for one of them. Each was slightly less than half-full.

I blended them about one-third each and then adjusted the pint until I got it right. It’s interesting how small additions change the taste or texture noticeably.

What you see tastes like a good West Coast IPA if served on cask. There is a bitter, lightly blackcurrant finish, a caramel sweetness, and fruity (pineapple?) background. The alcohol by volume is about 6%, perfect for the style.

It reminds me of Ballantine India Pale Ale as brewed before 1981 by S&P/Falstaff at Cranston, R.I. I bought it once on a trip to the dunes of Cape Cod and Provincetown, MA.

Provincetown then looked like an English coastal town or towns around the Caribbean or the Maritimes in Canada. Maybe it still does.

The funny thing is, I remember also buying cans of light American lager, Piels, say. They were thin aluminum cans you could easily crush with a fist. (Hence, by a wending route, the hip term for an approachable craft beer of reasonable strength, “crushable”).

Somehow, I liked those and the IPA equally. I’m not sure what that means.

Note re image: The Ballantine India Pale Ale image was sourced from Dan Hodge’s article on Ballantine at the (excellent) BeerNexus site. The Piels Draft Style image was sourced from this Ebay listing. All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

BIG Makes a Splash in Guelph, ON

 

(BIG means Brewers in Guelph, discussed further below).

Last night we attended Guelph Civic Museum’s formal reception for the opening of its excellent “Brewing Changes Guelph” exhibit which runs to the end of February next year.

Guest curator Eric Payseur, a historian engaged to consult on the project, spoke along with curator Dawn Owen.

They explained the genesis of the program and thanked the many persons who helped make it possible. I mentioned earlier John Sleeman and Charles MacLean but was glad to hear also names such as Lawrence Sherk, who was there and a pleasure to meet, and Gordon Holder.

All who know the roots of post-1970s interest in Canadian beer and brewing history know these names. I met Jim Duffy too who remembered me from the Bartowel discussion forum days.

Lawrence Sherk is a pioneer in the collection of Canadian beer labels, containers, and related collectibles. He started his work in 1972.

There were others to chat with but our time was limited.

BIG are releasing a beer a month to salute the exhibit, starting with Wellington Brewery’s Way Hey Hey, a session bitter style. The beer is meant in a general way to evoke the kind of beer made in Wellington County by early British incomers. It doesn’t replicate a historical recipe as such, we believe.

It was debuted in town at the historic Albion Hotel, now a restaurant-bar where we had an excellent dinner. A comfortable old country tavern it remains despite some updating and attention to the menu.

The beer (pictured above) is on the light side, a latter-day Wellington Brewery characteristic in our view. As it warmed and decarbonated some virtues came out: lightly sweet, with an interesting orangey hop note. I thought it might be lightly spiced or even use a heritage hop culled from an old hop yard.

It will be available on cask in some places and this form would show it to best advantage. You can buy it by growler and at the bar of the Wellington Brewery, currently.

In the Albion is an old painted window of a youthful Eastern dignitary. It seems inspired by mythological, religious, or other art of India. The image might date from around 1950 when there was a “Raj” theme to some bar decor in Canada. I remember seeing survivals in Toronto in the 1980s.

The dark wood in the bar and parts of the restaurant seems mid-1900s but could be older.

The Albion is clad in 19th-century stone and the whole makes a certain impact. The structure was once a town hub and it continues in dignified old age.

A nice evening in a handsome, liveable town. Some streets retain a Scottish rural aspect, as you see below: it could be a street in any number of Highland towns today, down to the impassive sky grey.

 

 

 

English Master Brewer Arthur Vaughan Comes to America

Below we profile this brewer who came to Depression America to recreate the ancestral pale ale of his home country. But first to resume:

The present post is the fifth, and so far final, in our series on:

i) the beers George Zett Brewery in Syracuse made from 1933-1934, and

ii) the Burton-style pale ale Louis Wehle, founder of post-Prohibition Genesee Brewery in Rochester, NY, introduced via Zett’s successor, Syracuse Brewery, Inc. (1935-1937 or 1938).

As discussed in our last post, due to the timing of release of various beers all identified as of Burton or English character, we think it possible, even likely, that Wehle placed imported Burton fermenters and aging casks both in Rochester and Syracuse.

In February 1935, Niagara Falls was supplied with Old Stratford Ale while Syracuse news reports I linked showed it was mid-1935 before Syracusans got a similar beer.

Hence, possibly Wehle was running two Burton Unions to supply Rochester, Syracuse, and various points in the Niagara Frontier and upstate.

We think the history might have gone, in 1934 based on advice from brewing scientist Francis Moritz in England he buys and installs a Union set in Rochester. And in 1935 he does the same for Syracuse but brings Arthur Vaughan, an English master brewer, to run them since Wehle was not on the scene to supervise, he was in Rochester at Genesee.

In any case, and as confirmed in Wehle’s autobiography, he gave up on Burton Union production within a few years of launching the plan. 1938 seems the last year a beer of this type was marketed, Genesee Light Ale.

Both Old Stratford Ale and Genesee Light Ale were advertised with varying amounts of detail on Burton Union production. Some ads even showed a line drawing of linked Burton Union casks with the distinctive trough running on top.

What beer was sold in Syracuse though once Arthur Vaughan, brought from England in May 1935 to brew for Syracuse Brewery, Inc., had the Burton set running?

This was Dickens Ale. Ads for Dickens Ale, also sold outside Syracuse, did not trumpet Burton Union details. But Dickens Ale seems to have been the same beer as Old Stratford Ale and Genesee Light Ale, or essentially, i.e., just differently branded.

Syracuse Brewery Inc. had emerged in 1935 from bankruptcy proceedings and was on a tight budget. It makes sense, therefore, that ads for Dickens Ale were less elaborate than Genesee could afford to run for Old Stratford Ale and later, Genesee Light Ale.

Perhaps at some point Wehle stopped using all-English ingredients for Dickens Ale or even Genesee Light Ale but continued Burton fermentation and large cask dry-hopping and aging. The answer is somewhere deep in Genesee Brewery archives.

The more traditional American ale in the Genesee line of the 1930s was 12 Horse Ale, sometimes described as a stock ale. It was probably quite fizzy and made mainly or only with American hops and malts.

Not until the craft era inaugurated by Fritz Maytag and others in the 1970s did America get ales consciously made on traditional British lines again, with methods such as open-fermentation and both generous and dry-hopping.

Of course the ales that emerged showed an evolution as they featured (initially) the distinctive American Cascade hop taste. Cascade was a new variety introduced in 1972.

As to Burton fermenters, the craft producer Firestone Walker, founded 1996 in California, introduced a (rather modified, in our view) version. To my knowledge, the only two Burton sets used in production in the world today are Marston’s in Burton, and Firestone Walker’s.

The above news story of 1935 in Syracuse, “Expert Brewer From England Works Here”, profiled Arthur Vaughan further.

The detail offered is quite specific, yet some of it seems possibly exaggerated. We have had no success in tracing his line of brewers or the alleged ownership of famous breweries by his father.

Maybe others know more.

Coda. The 1935 story on Vaughan states that the fermenters, bought by Louis Wehle on his English trip that year, were “century old”. As I’ve mentioned and documented earlier Burton beer production was in serious decline by the 1930s. There was lots of excess kit, as the British say, in the sheds and yards of the sooty old town. Did a brewery or cooperage unload some wormy old stuff on a rich, star-struck American brewer?

Was Wehle the Daisy Miller of brewing? I don’t think so. His record and success show the kind of person not easy to flim-flam. Anyway, it seems Wehle wanted old equipment because his book states – I included the extract yesterday – he wanted to capture the original Burton pale ale flavour he thought hidden in those boards.

The fact that he wanted an English set, meaning it was made from English or other European oak, shows too he thought American oak wasn’t suitable for Union fermentation. Otherwise, why not build a Union from American oak in Rochester or Syracuse?

Francis Moritz surely told him the wisdom then conventional and unchallenged in British brewing circles: don’t use American oak in any part of processing if you want English pale ale.

 

 

 

From Stratford to Syracuse: Burton Pale ale in 1930s America

In an earlier essay, I explained that Zett’s Brewery in Syracuse, NY, with roots in pre-Prohibition brewing, was revived from 1933-1934. Genesee Brewing of Rochester, NY, mainly then owned and controlled by Louis Wehle, was a principal backer of Zett’s.

During the initial run Zett’s focused on an ale, Zett’s Sparkling Ale, and later introduced a lager, Par-Ex.

Zett’s was reorganized in bankruptcy proceedings in 1935 under the name Syracuse Brewery, Inc., still with Genesee ownership. Genesee injected $25,000 to cover operating costs for a couple of years.

From mid-1935 until 1938 Wehle threw the dice behind ale again in Syracuse, this time with a Burton Union fermentation set and conditioning casks imported from Burton-on-Trent, England. Unions were installed in Syracuse at the former Zett’s. See further background in our post, here.

Wehle intended his new ale to be a copy of Burton pale ale. He seemed to be using the old Zett’s as a hub, a hedge against a second act in Syracuse, assuming that is there was only one Burton unit.

In 1938 Wehle marketed in various parts of upstate a similarly-billed Genesee Light Ale. Perhaps he had bought two Burton Union sets, one each for the Syracuse and Rochester breweries, as (see below) he was selling Burton Union beer in early 1935 in Rochester and upstate, it was initially called Old Stratford Ale. This was before the beer was made available to the public in Syracuse.

However it worked between the two cities, this was no half-hearted effort: Wehle, a trained brewer himself, engaged as consultant no less than Briton Francis Moritz, scion of a noted brewing science clan. Wehle also brought a U.K. brewer, Arthur Vaughan, from Burton to Syracuse to supervise the brewing there (at least). Vaughan’s arrival with his fiancée, later wife, made something of a splash in the Syracuse social pages.

In his autobiography written c.1960 that I profiled here, Wehle explains that the venture did not succeed. Yet, he states he should have persisted with it because American taste was changing. In his words:

It’s an extraordinary statement, as 1960 would seem the apogee of the light lager style. Why did the 1960 Wehle, now a lion-in-winter, think a true Burton beer would work if it didn’t before? Ballantine India Pale Ale was just hanging on in Newark, NJ as he had to know.

To use the vernacular, America didn’t want to know from genuine ale, seemingly.

One factor may have been the early growth of Heineken in America, a factor he had to notice. Perhaps he thought a quality English counterpart, brewed locally, would challenge this and other imports.

In the end he was a visionary, obviously ahead of his time in the 1930s, and still believing in 1960 a true, British-style ale would fly in America. Of course it finally did, birthed by luminaries such as Fritz Maytag, Jack McAuliffe, and Ken Grossman (all CA), Joseph Owades (national + Canada), Frank Appleton (Canada), Bill Newman (NY), Bert Grant (WA), and Greg Koch (CA).

The first image shown is from his book, This was my Life, that I profiled as stated. I highly recommend it to beer researchers and historians despite the difficulty to find it. The picture was taken during a trip to England in 1958.

But Wehle states in the book he first visited Britain in 1932. He must have planned his new ale during 1934 as the first press ads and news stories we traced appear in early February 1935. The book states he bought the fermentation and storage equipment on the 1935 trip but clearly something similar was in place at the beginning of February 1935. Either he bought it before the trip, or he sailed overseas in fact in 1934, or he had a separate Burton unit initially in Rochester at Genesee.

The book states that Moritz made several trips to America for Wehle, so I’d think he came in 1934 to help install the Burton Unions and have beer in place by the start of February 1935, possibly for the Rochester area first. Finally Arthur Vaughan arrived in Syracuse – this is documented – in May 1935 to operate the system there.

Why did a German-American brewer have such an intense interest in British pale ale when he was from a town steeped in a tradition of lager or fizzy ales not so different from lager?

In general, Wehle seems to have been an Anglophile, as the book is admiring of the countryside and other attractions of Britain, Ireland too.

Also, as I stated earlier, when Wehle trained as a brewmaster c.1910, Burton still enjoyed a world reputation in brewing. This may have inclined him to an outsize appreciation for a (basically) non-American beer type.

Further, Rochester’s Bartholomay Brewing and Genesee Brewing were owned by an English syndicate even before Wehle worked there between 1905 and 1918. He states in his book his family owned shares in the group.

See this Genesee outline of the syndicate’s formation.

Wehle had surely met English representatives of the owners who likely discussed their native pale ale with him. Perhaps they had brought samples for the Rochester staff to try.

Bass Pale Ale was always available in America but bottled Bass was one iteration of pale ale, matured and with secondary maturation flavours. It would not have tasted as Burton “running” pale ales. This surely is what Wehle sought to sell to consumers across upstate New York during Depression America.

The beer shown with him in the Cheshire Cheese would have been that type, even if London beer.

Initially Wehle’s beer was called Old Stratford Ale. Detailed news ads of 1935 explained that all-English malt and (Kent) hops were imported, and English yeast was used. In effect Wehle did what those today do who seek to re-create a historic beer taste. It’s what I did with Amsterdam Brewery in Toronto earlier this year when recreating an 1870 AK bitter recipe.

Old Stratford Ale did not take off, sadly. Wehle evidently re-named the beer for another try. Ads for a similarly-made Genesee Light Ale appear through 1938, as I showed earlier.

The Burton Unions must have been retired by the start of WW II, as Wehle states in the extract of the book above that he abandoned such brewing after a couple of years. It was more like four years.

Perhaps Vaughan and wife went home, I don’t know. Wehle gave up finally on brewing in Syracuse but went on to consolidate a regional powerhouse in Genesee Brewing. He relied on both lager and sparkling ales such as 12 Horse and (finally) Genesee Cream Ale as the bulwark of his business.

The book notes that N. Wesley Markson, head of sales in Syracuse in whom Wehle had great confidence, died at only 40. This was in 1937, we separately confirmed.

The implication is this dealt that business a mortal blow. Markson is mentioned in the story linked above chronicling Vaughan’s arrival to brew for Syracuse Brewing, Inc.

“Genny” in Rochester is successful to this day, now under aegis of Costa Rican ownership.

While a businessman to the core, Wehle had an evident affection for the old Burton India style. He wanted to make it the toast of New York State; that much is clear.

He was a proto-Maytag, proto-McAuliffe, proto-Appleton. I salute him.

Note re images: The images above, except for the first whose provenance is noted, were drawn from mid-1930s searches in the Fulton Historical Newspaper archive. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.