Allsopp on the Seneca (Part III)

Here is a fuller story on Allsopp Brewery’s purchase of the Pfaudler vacuum fermentation system. It is clear from the account, and e.g., the total time for the brewing and fermentation cycle, that lager was the main object of this system.

It’s from an 1899 article in American Brewers Review that in turn quotes a local source in Burton-on-Trent.

To what degree therefore was Allsopp’s and National Brewery’s (in Syracuse, NY) brilliant ale, an ale? The 1901 Syracuse news article I cited in Part I stated specifically that brilliant ale made by this system had an ale, not lager, character.

This more detailed account in 1899 of vacuum fermentation, by H. Van Laer in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing, indicates clearly that top-fermentation beers are suitable for the system. In the article, “Cold and Sparkling Ales”, Van Lear is more pre-occupied by other details, for example the order of cooling and filtering, to preserve ale character.

He considers that cooling, to 32 F, should precede filtering and carbonating. His description pretty much is what is done today via cold crashing and the subsequent steps to render beer bright and sparkling.

I’d think therefore Allsopp and National Brewing in Syracuse adapted the Pfaudler system to ale production.

Earlier, I had been aware of course of Pfaudler conditioning tanks in this period, often mentioned in period ads by brewers.  I was not specifically aware though, or did not recall, that it encompassed fermentation via an enclosed vacuum process. One of its purposes was to collect carbon dioxide later to be used to carbonate the beers.

Note how Van Laer lyricises the results of chilling and carbonating ales, going so far to state the palate is improved and an “extremely pure” taste results. This is exactly the converse of what CAMRA and other real ale devotees argued viz. “keg beer”, a later version of Van Laer’s “bright” beer.

One can see that brewing technology in the 1960s, the same type that resulted in Guinness’s nitrogen-dispense system for chilled, filtered stout, had a long history. So long and potent was it that American craft beer for the most part from onset was in fact this keg or bright beer.*

However, by virtue of being all-malt – almost invariably in early years and still to a great degree, using large amounts of hops in line with historical example, and not being pasteurized, the result was beer of excellent character – probably much like Van Laer had in mind.


*A variation today is some beer is left hazy, but often more from proteins than residual yeast. Moreover very little craft beer isn’t dispensed well-carbonated and ice-cold.

Bend me, Shake me … – It’s Still Bright

Bright Ale Joins Clear Northern Waters

The brightness obsession for beer obtained strongly in the period leading up to WW I. And it was international: brewing then was a surprisingly small world. Scientists’ work was quickly publicized in areas distant from their labs; brewers moved around the globe looking for new work, hence beer styles too; equipment makers shipped their latest designs far and wide.

The small Silver Springs Brewery in Sherbrooke, Quebec was no exception. At the time the area was an English-speaking, regional centre. Many Loyalists and late-Loyalists, those who came in the early 1800s as a by-product of the initial surge, settled the area, whose French character was less pronounced than in other parts of Quebec at the time.

Britons immigrated finally as well, and so side-by-side with a francophone population the area developed a unique, bi-cultural character, somewhat like Montreal but in a rural, small town setting.

In this context, brewing did well and Silver Springs was able to resist pressures from the large Montreal and Quebec City breweries selling into its territory. In fact, when most of Quebec’s breweries merged in 1909 to form the National Breweries combine, Silver Springs did not join. (Molson Brewery in Montreal stayed out as well).

Silver Springs in 1900 was run by Seth Nutter. Nutter had been a partner in the business with John Bryant, but Bryant left to found a ginger ale business, the Bull’s Head brand. It is a sign of how pod-like, to use a currently fashionable term, life was in Quebec of the 1950s-70s when I lived there that I never tasted Bull’s Head.

We had our own brands in Montreal: Gurd, Kik. Canada Dry was everywhere.

Bull’s Head is still made, having gone through a number of hands since the 1970s.

On the beer side, Seth Nutter stayed with the business until the mid-1920s when it closed.

This Sherbrooke Daily Record ad of 1900 (via Google News searches) shows the bright beer obsession to the max. So oddly written is it that one imagines the brewer was making fun somewhat of the craze. It is tempting to think his surname was meant to emphasize this, but I don’t think so. For one thing his name was regularly used in more conventional ads for Silver Springs ale and porter.

Today, the rage for unfiltered, opaque, and other beers of foggy depth is unabated. The brilliant beer advocates of 120 years ago – which pretty much was everyone in brewing who intended to stay in it for very long – would have been scandalized.

Tastes change, aren’t absolute.

Note: the source of above image is stated and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


Allsopp on the Seneca (Part II)

Stock Sparkling Ale: Yesterday and Today

This link illustrates well the original sparkling ale process as classified in the 1935 American Brewers’ Review article, discussed in my Part I. It is page 362 of a 1907 article by Thomas Hyde, “Practical Notes on a Visit Through American and Canadian Breweries”.

Hyde, a Briton, wrote his report for the U.K.-based Journal of the Institute of Brewing. He describes the ale of “Brewery No. 3” as stored a few months without refrigeration, hopped down, in vats and barrels. It was of stock ale strength, probably around 7% abv. It was then chilled (to clarify it), carbonated, filtered (to render it brilliant), and sent out.

The carbonation was not effected here by krausening but the use of a matured ale as the base of the brilliant ale, with no further aging given after carbonation, shows the essence of the old system. The 1935 article acknowledged that force-carbonating tended to replace krausen – “heading” in U.K. terms – once available.

Hyde did not like the flavour, finding it harsh. He thought that non-cooled storage should be replaced by a cold-storage system. A page or two earlier, his describes brilliant ale at Breweries No. 1 and No. 2 as being cold-stored for different periods, in one case after krausening. The krausen type was not stated, it may have been heading, or partly-fermented ale wort.

All are variations on a theme, designed to get a brilliant glass of fizzy beer based on a top-fermentation (ale) process.

Earlier in the article he describes cream or lively ale barrelled at high pressure. He confirms that such beer received no storage at all. This is the cream ale/lively ale whence the 1935 article spoke, the other side of the divide. He detects an “old” flavour but clearly here it was from the yeast, probably cropped and reused many times and deteriorated; the context makes this clear, imo.

Wahl & Henius, and the two British visitors I’ve mentioned, all explained aspects of cream and sparkling ale in ways consistent with the 1935 article, as did other sources. But without a codification so to speak of the practices, a full picture of these types was elusive.

Hence the significance of the 1935 article I discussed in Part I. In that year, with the benefit of a long hiatus from commercial brewing and the passage of a generation, a corner of North American brewing history was illuminated.

This was reinforced by the commentary I’ve discussed earlier, in the same journal in the mid-1930s, linking steam beer to cream/lively ale.

In Canada, O’Keefe Extra Stock Ale (possibly still available on the West Coast), Labatt Extra Stock (defunct I think), and Molson Stock Ale, still made in Ontario, descend from the original sparkling ale type. So did the long-disappeared Brading’s Old Stock Ale.

Another sparkling ale, Sleeman’s in Ontario, perhaps represents more the type that merged with cream ale, but was inspired by a historical recipe certainly. Canadian Beer News gives some background, here. The beer is an occasional or seasonal release, and is quite good.

Mill St. Brewery in Ontario has a stock ale (pictured), here is some detail from the website. A note states:

Our Stock Ale was inspired by old school Canadian golden ales. “Stock Ale” was (and still is!) the term used by Canadian big breweries to refer to the best beer in their breweries before dilution or blending. This is one of the best “lawn mower” beers in the country!

I mean to try this soon, or rather again, it’s been some years.

For Part III of this study, see here.



Allsopp on the Seneca (Part I)

American Ale Sparkles With a British Accent



This impressive spread of beers, advertised in 1903 in Syracuse, New York, includes numerous North American ale types I’ve been discussing.

It’s a contemporary, eclectic beer range offered under one roof as National Brewing by this time was wholly-owned by Haberle-Crystal Springs, lager brewers.

(For background on Syracuse brewing in this period see the multi-authored The History of Beer Brewing in Syracuse, ed., Dennis Connors, Onondaga Historical Association).

As I mentioned recently, in 1935 The American Brewer published an article on cream/lively ale and sparkling/present use ale as understood before Prohibition. Summarizing the presentations of the veteran North American brewers, the two classes can be explained as follows.

Sparkling/present use was:

i) originally based on “matured” (stored, stocked) ale; the cream/lively type was all new beer;

ii) chilled at some point after fermentation; cream/lively ale initially did not benefit from mechanical refrigeration; and

iii) made brilliant from chilling and filtering; cream/lively ales were not crystal clear.

A good explanation of cream/lively beer can be gained from an 1897 article by U.K. brewing scientist Horace Brown, here. While he uses the term present-use as well, it is clear he is referring to the older cream/lively group. This is emphasized by his statement that the beers rarely poured very clear and also he makes no reference to stock ale as a base for the beer.

As I mentioned previously, a steam beer commentator c. 1900 stated steam beer, the bottom-fermenting counterpart to cream/lively ale, also came none too clear. This trait among others was shared by cream ale and steam beer.

Wahl & Henius’s 1902 explanation of cream and sparkling ales in their textbook on American brewing is broadly consistent with the 1935 article, with an important exception. They do not refer to matured ale being the basis of sparkling ale. I think the reason is, they were based in Chicago and surrounded mainly by lager brewers. The finer points of cream ale brewing likely were not present to their mind or even known.

As well, and this is reflected in the 1935 discussion, practice had evolved prior to Prohibition. Some brewers were marketing a sparkling/present use ale that was not a previously matured ale, although it would generally be subjected to some cold treatment before dispatch from brewery.

See Henry Sturm’s and Eric Wollesen’s remarks in particular in the article. But things did not start that way:*



It is evident that finally the various categories merged, but not in the period we are discussing.

India Pale Ale, for its part, before WW I was mostly still a strong (6-7% abv), bottle-conditioned specialty. Cream and sparkling ales were less strong, 5%-6% abv by my canvasses, steam beer ditto.

Allsopp Enters the Picture

A second news article, in the Syracuse Journal in 1901, explains that National Brewing had adopted the Allsopp Brewery brilliant ale system.



Allsopp, the great Burton brewer was famous for its Red Hand I.P.A. By 1900 it was also marketing a “dinner ale”. This was a lower gravity bottled beer, an evolution of AK and similar light bitter ales, rendered brilliant for table use.

Other UK brewers about this time were marketing brilliant, gem, diamond, and similarly termed ales. These were meant for quick consumption and did not manifest the characteristic flavours of beer long-matured in cask and bottle. Their storage was much  abbreviated, versus the classic I.P.A. and old ales.

Allsopp is well known in brewing history for having moved into lager-brewing early. In 1899 it built an impressive lager plant in Burton, as Ian Webster records in his 2015 history of Allsopp and Ind Coope (they merged in 1934).

Webster explains that 26 Pfaudler enamelled glass-lined steel tanks were brought from Rochester, NY for this purpose. Allsopp was deploying, in part at least, an American approach to brewing lager.

Rochester, NY is just down the road more or less from Syracuse.

How odd then, or perhaps it isn’t, that the influence came back the other way. The Empire State assisted Allsopp to brew lager, and Staffordshire returned the favour with its brilliant ale method.

The 1935 article states that a brewery in New Jersey, not identified but probably we think Ballantine Brewery, devised brilliant, aka sparkling, ale. How and where it got the idea from is unknown, but perhaps National/Haberle felt it was best to go to the source of ale-brewing, Britain, for best methods. Haberle likely knew of the Pfaudler deal through trade connections.

It is interesting that in this very period Ballantine is advertising its India Pale Ale as without the “clouds” of “imported ales”. See for example this squib ad in 1900 in the New York Evening Post.

As to what the National and Allsopp brilliant ale method was, the 1901 article states that National had installed the same type of steel conditioning tanks Allsopp had bought for its lager plant. In fact, a Mr. White came from England to help with the work. This suggests that the brilliant ale was cold-aged in those tanks, as lager was in Burton for Allsopp, but was not itself a lager.

I suspect as well that the base pale ale for both brilliant ales, whether aged before or during conditioning, was aged longer than for cream ale but not as long as for India Pale Ale. Contemporary commentary in the UK stated the newer class of light bitter ales received less maturation before dispatch to market than stock ales such as I.P.A.

Frank Thatcher’s prescribed two to four weeks for this class of beers, but viz. Allsop and National specifically, one can only speculate.

National sold both cream and brilliant ales, indeed also an export, apart its I.P.A. These classes likely were aged for different periods before being sent to market in cask or bottle. Cream ale was likely at the low end, a week or so (see Wahl & Henius), then brilliant ale, maybe a month or two, then export ale, maybe a few months, then I.P.A., maybe nine months to two years.

Allsopp Dinner Ale in the U.K.

Allsopp Light Dinner Ale was likely the model for National’s brilliant ale. Alamy has an advert here that seems of the period in question.

Mitch Steele, at pp. 76-77 of his text on IPA (2012), has Allsopp Burton Light Dinner ale in 1896 at 13.48 P., finishing 1.93 P., 5.81 abv. An article in the Journal of the Society of the Chemical Industry, in 1897 renders substantially the same results (alcohol there appears to be by weight).

Steele has Red Hand IPA in 1901 at 6.80 abv which could well go higher with further age. The difference in quality (from a market standpoint) is evident and the IPA commanded a higher price always in this period.

For storage time, see my comments above.

The Pfaudler equipment was not yet installed at Allsopp viz. the 1896 and 1897 Dinner Ale data. I suspect after the installation the tanks were also used to cold-store Dinner Ale, in other words that the Dinner Ale changed from a bottle-conditioned to a chilled, filtered, bright beer.

To my knowledge Allsopp, at least before 1934, never marketed a brilliant ale as such, so in 1901 this class must have been its Dinner Ale.

I doubt any form of Allsopp dinner ale, or National’s by extension, ever used lager krausen. I think it was cold-storage and filtering that joined them in character, and likely other attributes. Perhaps force carbonation or ale krausening, yeast type, hopping, two-row malt, a similar storage method and temperature, or a combination.

Ale vs. Lager Character in Brilliant Ale

The result of it was that the 1901 article claimed National’s brilliant ale retained an ale character, while competitors’ brilliant ale tasted more (it said) like lager. Indeed some American sparkling ale, Wahl & Henius implied in 1902, had a lager character due to use of lager krausen. Likely green flavours were meant such as dimethyl sulphide.

Bartels of Syracuse was likely one of the brilliant ale competitors alluded to in the 1901 article. Bartels marketed a brilliant ale in about the same period as National, Old Devonshire Brilliant Ale (ad linked is from 1909). The English reference is interesting, perhaps an implied riposte to Haberle viz. the character of its brilliant ale.

Finally, some readers may recall my post about a mini-keg of Allsopp ale available in New York State in approximately the same time. In light of the foregoing, it is pretty evident this was brilliant ale, probably Allsopp Dinner Ale despite being marketed as Allsopp Pale Ale. They didn’t say India pale ale.

See Part II to this study.

Note: the source of above image(s) is stated and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*The quotation shows a practice not dissimilar to the old way of dispensing Guinness, or some porter in England, or some steam beer, as I discussed earlier. The same circle of practices comes round and round in widely dispersed contexts.






Mexican-style Lager – Boon to Craft

In recent years this category has burgeoned. I’ll call it here MSL, partly a seasonal phenomenon in the way imperial stout is for winter, or bock in the spring. Writers have addressed the trend, in The Full Pint GT Wharton sets out various categories: blonde, amber, flavoured, etc.

His first category, blonde lager that emulates macro Mexican brands – Dos Equis, Pacifico, Modelo, Corona, etc. points up the similarities with American-style lager.

I agree with this, but craft use of corn seems often to give better results. One reason perhaps is craft makers often use flaked corn, as many brewers did historically, vs. the corn syrup ubiquitous in macro-level brewing today. Also, the craft MSLs I’ve had seem less thoroughly fermented than macro examples, which adds to their body.

(Flaked corn is the degermed grits hot-rolled but still a solid when blended with malt in the mash. It can add a fresh, “cereal” savour where not over-fermented. Corn syrup is said by some to be more neutral in its effects but I am not sure of that, based on tasting certain beers using it. All things equal, using a less processed form of the kernel seems salutary).

MSL appeals to many for its sun and fun image, which resonates in our ever-short northern summers. Some buy the beers to make a Chelada or Michelada, a beer cocktail popular in Mexico with many variants. Macro brewers market their packaged versions, e.g., Bud Light Chelada.

In MSL I look for a character that’s a step or three above the macro norm but still recalls its broad lines. I’ve had two recently that are prima, and will try others over the summer.

First, there is Fría Cerveza from Amsterdam Brewery in Toronto. The grist is pale barley malt with some flaked corn – not too much judging by the palate. A classic Hallertau note denotes German-style hopping, and a little lime zest is added (no juice). The taste is excellent: malty but not sweet, with the corn giving a light, tortilla-like note. The lime is subtle but adds almost a creamy note if that makes any sense.

The other is Reminiscence, from Rorschach Brewing in east Toronto. The current canning uses no lime, I believe, but I think a lime version was issued earlier. The website states Vienna malt is added to a pale malt base and a touch of flaked corn. Reminiscence has a pleasing maltiness balanced by emphatic, mineral-like hopping. It reminds me of a good craft lager with “something different”.

Two appealing but different takes on a style that in the hands of big industrial brewers so often seems lacklustre.

Using a historical lens, a good MSL can be seen to resemble many pre-Prohibition lagers. The latter were often full-bodied with firm bitterness. Frequently they used flaked corn or corn grits* but not too much, 10-20% for best quality (imo).


*Corn grits is still used by some large brewers. This discussion on Home Brew Talk explains how it differs from flaked corn. Basically it is less processed but requires correspondingly a more thorough mashing.




Breweries and Community (Part II)

This Part bookends Part I by noting instances of German brewery “phoenixes” – the renaissance of a brewery long dormant. The fallow period can vary between 10 and 100 years.

As noted in Part I Joule’s is such a brewery in Market Drayton, U.K. It occurred to me whether similar examples exist in Germany, a great brewing nation no less than Britain.

Certainly there are many such revivals in Britain, the U.S., and Canada since the 1970s. Each in its unique way participates in the small brewery revival. In Ontario there is Sleeman’s Brewery in Guelph,* and the Lion Brewery in Waterloo, ON.

There was also Taylor & Bate, founded in St. Catherines, ON in 1835, and closed in 1935 by (unrelated) industrialist E.P. Taylor. In 1988 Tim Taylor, a descendant of the founder, re-established the brewery near the original location.

The flagship was Niagara Spray Lager, marketed back in the 1930s. He had a good run, until 2004 when the brewery closed.

The famed Conrad Seips beer in Chicago is coming back, see in Classic Chicago Magazine, “The Beer That Built Chicago” by Judy Bross. There are countless other cases in the English-speaking world. I know of cases in France and Spain, as well. Belgium surely counts a few.

And so, why not Germany, a premier beer country? There are such cases, perhaps not as many comparatively as in Britain and the U.S., but they do exist.

But first, why do brands return, in general?

The article Teaching Old Brands New Tricks: Retro Branding and the Revival of Brand Meaning by Stephen Brown, Robert V. Kozinets, & John F. Sherry Jr. goes a long way to explaining. The article appeared in July 2003 in the Journal of Marketing but is still highly relevant.

The authors addressed a related situation where a company brings back a formerly dominant brand. Volkswagen’s New Beetle was a focal point in the study. They elucidate:

… the late twentieth century was characterized by an astonishing “nostalgia boom” … and many marketing scholars have examined that phenomenon …. Stern (1992), for example, attributes the latter-day advent of nostalgic advertising to the fin de siecle effect, or humankind’s propensity to retrospect as centuries draw to a close. Belk (1991) contends that personal possessions, such as souvenirs, photographs, heirlooms, antiques, and gifts, serve as materializations of memory and evoke a powerful sense of the past. Holbrook and Schindler (1989, 1994, 1996) have developed a “nostalgia proneness scale” and have tested it in various memory-rich domains…

The authors state that retrospective branding is based on “a Utopian communal element…” and evokes “better days”.

In the brewing field, this can take a variety of forms. A mass market brand, often, is given a label or bottle type such as it used 30 or 60 years before. In such cases the beer usually doesn’t change.

Or, an older brand is simply brought back – Molson Coors just did this with Molson Golden Ale in Ontario.

Pabst, successor to Ballantine Brewery of Newark, New Jersey,  brought back Ballantine India Pale Ale some years ago although the attempt proved unsuccessful.

Sometimes product or labelling is not revamped but an old ad slogan is resuscitated, and so on.

In the craft space, a new brewery or distillery may assume the business or brand name of a defunct business with little other connection. More frequent I think is re-establishment of the business by a descendant, sometimes using old recipes. Sleeman’s is a case in point.

Sometimes a once well-known brewery name is re-deployed with no connection to the old recipes: Watney’s in London is an example.

So what of Germany, then? Do Germans in general have a similar sense of nostalgia to that described above? Their great beer heritage is unquestioned and still alive and well despite the fall in beer consumption over the years. But does a community have feelings in regard to an old brand or business name in a way that makes re-launching a payable proposition?

I have studied aspects of the country’s brewing history where sources are available in English, back to the mid-1800s (beers, breweries, beer-pubs and gardens, etc.) but that doesn’t answer such a question.

I can highlight a few examples of revived German breweries, at least. First, I want to thank Frank on Twitter, a beer-judge and home brewer in Aachen, Germany, who kindly provided the last two names below, and also Chris Begley, a Canadian in Germany who kindly offered assistance.

The first case is Bergmann Brauerie in Dortmund, the storied brewing city responsible for creating a style of blonde lager: Export, sometimes still called “Dortmund”. Bergmann’s history, past and more recent, was well-described by FT correspondent Olaf Storbeck in September 2018.

The brewery was founded in 1796 and finally closed in 1972 after ownership by the well-known Schultheiss of Berlin. Some 40 years on Herbert Prigge and Thomas Raphael of Dortmund acquired the Bergmann trade mark. First, they had a regional brewery brew a batch and later established their own brewery and bar.

The brewery has enjoyed good success by appealing to Dortmunders’ affection for the city’s brewing heritage. And the beers look great, see company website.

Export, Adam Bier (two kinds), a black lager, Pilsner, and yet more are produced including a neatly-named ’72, a pale bock beer.

A further revival is the Nolte brewery, whose Cristall brand is based in Cologne while it appears the beer currently is brewed at Rittmayer in Franconia.** The website shows good images of the brand as currently marketed, a blond brew, and historical images pertaining to the brand in the past.

A further revival is Hensen in Mönchengladbach, North-Rhine Westphalia, about 50 miles from Dortmund. Hensen dates originally from the late 1700s. See its range of beers and backstory in the website 

I like their motto: We don’t call it craft beer we call it Brauhandwerk.

Good additional information, including on the town, is offered by an American in a Trip Advisor report. Check out Hensen’s Facebook page, as well.

Pilsener and Alt are the standbys with other styles brewed as well. Some are emblems of craft brewing. The retro-styled labels are skillfully done and attractive.

It appears in these cases that heritage and tradition are invoked in a way similar to other countries. There has been reasonable craft brewery implantation in Germany in the last decade or so (parts at least). So the interest to update or revamp brewing culture is there, with the retrospective aspect finding its place as well.

Per capita consumption has been falling in Germany for 30 years as shown in this Statista graph. But there are still about 1500 breweries, with craft breweries accounting for much of the growth (numerically) in recent years.*** This discussion in The Local is helpful.

We wish all these breweries well. Each is helping to perpetuate a national brewing tradition of international prominence and historic influence. But the phoenix group renews the ancient ties of brewing to community in a special way.

Note re image: Image is drawn from the Bergmann website linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the Bergmann Brewery. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*Now owned by a large Japanese brewer, but its product line has remained largely unaffected.

**An earlier version of this post linked the correct Nolte website but I misstated the location of the brand due to not seeing the Koln location in the website (it is there). We thank Frank, mentioned in the text, for setting me straight on this (see his note in the Comments).

***Of course the great number of small-scale breweries pre-craft, gasthauses and similar, is in many ways of a piece with the newer group but there are some differences in focus and product line. The same applies to the type of brewpub that preceded craft as such, focusing on unfiltered beers.







Breweries and Community (Part I)

I discussed earlier interesting issues that attended Joule’s Brewery in Stone, Staffordshire late 19th century.

As stated there, the beer had a good sale in Australia and parts of the United States. I found numerous advertising mentions in Sydney and San Francisco, in particular. India was covered as well according to the revived brand’s website.

The website claims, with justification from my review, that the beer always had an unusually good reputation. It was mentioned in the same breath as Bass at one time locally, each with a sizeable estate facing the other’s.

Today, I want to link a 1971 televised account of the takeover and closure of the brewery by that very Bass, Bass Charrington at the time. It is particularly useful because it focuses on the beer, not just the economics, jobs, and other aspects when a local hero expires.

We thank Tim Holt, editor of the journal Brewery History, for drawing our attention to the MACE video archive whence I found the Joule’s piece.

People of different backgrounds are interviewed, all agreeing how fine a drop the beer was.

Well, it’s been back for some years now. Joule’s Pale Ale is the flagship, a revival of the old 4% ABV bitter, with some new additions to the line. The brewery is behind a pub in Market Drayton a few miles from the old shop. The same aquifer is used as did the old brewery in Stone.

The current owners have full rights to the Joule’s name and famous red cross trademark, bought a few years ago from Molson-Coors, successors to the Bass brand. See again website for more detail.

What strikes me in a film like this is the deep affection the British have for a local brewery. Of course finally, as anywhere, it is to beer, not brand or even style for that matter. But they’ll go with you for a good long while if you stay the course with them. Having started in about 1780, John Joule PLC did that and then some.



A good example of this unusual attachment is the “funeral” marches the Campaign for Real Ale used to do when a local brewery was taken over. Where else would you see that in the world? Not even Germany.

One more film interviews former staff of the Fuller’s, Watney’s, and Young’s breweries in London (“Oral History of West London Brewery Workers”). It aired about a year ago. Known to a few beer historians, it is on YouTube and can be viewed by all.

Here, we get a really full picture of what the local heroes meant to London. All sorts again are interviewed, at every level of the organizations. The message that finally comes through is, remorseless change. It is explained big picture and smaller by the testimony.

An example, prophetic in retrospect, was the lady who missed the clatter of barrels rolling across the yard when the method of shunting changed. An ex-senior manager (Young’s) explained change from his perspective: technological, the market, the difficulty of holding together a Victorian facility in a new era. Finally it got all too much.

Yet, nothing in business is very permanent and probably never was, appearances to the contrary.

John Joule built his business in the first half of the 1800s by constantly growing and adapting. Today adaptation may take the form of selling the brewery but keeping the pubs, or whatever it is. You do what you have to.

Perhaps it all happens faster today, maybe.

The good news for a Joule’s is, it came back, the brewery I mean not just the name. It is something we see much less frequently in Canada or the U.S. It does happen – Sleeman’s was an example in Ontario, or Narragansett, say, in the U.S., brewed at a craft brewery cooperative.

But it seems to happen, including just the brand, more often in Britain. Truman and indeed Watney are further examples but there are many more.

It’s that special connection to long-established breweries, unique in the world. It comes through well in these two films.

See Part II immediately following, which discusses Germany.

Note re image: sourced via California Digital Newspaper collection, see here (July 1868, Daily Alta California). All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.




Ballin’s Bitter (Part III)

Seeing is Believing: Beer on the S.S. George Washington

In this series I’ve linked to resources that show interiors of the ships that carried mini-breweries in the 1920s and early 30s. Not just where (general location) they were housed but the elegant lounges, cafes, smoking rooms, and restaurants where tippling occurred.

So, short of seeing an actual image of brewery or beer, this conjures the atmosphere where seidels were lifted.

These breweries didn’t quite “brew in a teapot”. We have seen a report that 1000-1500 (U.S.) quarts could be produced in a day. That is about eight U.S. barrels per day at the low end. Annualized, about 3000 bbl per year. Most brewpubs and craft breweries in the U.S. produce under 1000 bbl. Of course, the ship’s brewery likely was working much less in a year than a modern craft brewery, but still we can see it was not your home kit in the garage.

How was beer made in a day or two? Almost certainly liquid malt extract was used, perhaps even a hopped extract. Boiling, if done, would take at most an hour, with only fermentation, filtering, and carbonation left. Generally, brewing at home takes at least a month, more usually two months or more.

If you make ale vs. lager, it is faster, the fermentation takes just a few days. In fact, beer can be made in an hour – see this discussion in the forum Home Brew Talk. And carbonation could be quick, via a tank of compressed gas. Speedbrewing, it’s called.

More typically such fast brewing takes two or three days, which accords with some press reports on the ships’ breweries. Their plants probably varied with year of installation and the passenger complement, as well.

The breweries were designed and built in Germany and clearly the makers knew how to achieve a decent short-cut beer. Hans Kausler, the brewer on one of the ships, implied in a story we saw that his expertise made a difference to the finished result. I don’t doubt it. Any brewing worth its salt is a skilled endeavour that benefits from long experience and good training.

I searched long and hard for an image of either brewery or beer, but could not find one, with a possible exception noted below.

I examined many dinner and lunch menus for different classes of accommodation aboard the ships – S.S. Stuttgart, S.S. Columbus, S.S Albert Ballin, S.S George Washington – as well as cruise brochures from Hamburg-America and North German Lloyd (NGL). I couldn’t find any mention of beer or any alcohol.*

I think the shipping lines were simply reticent to mention it to an American audience. The flavour of the press stories I’ve discussed suggests this.

Alcohol was obviously a sensitive subject in America, hence I think why the breweries weren’t mentioned in the burbling brochures.

Of course press archives in Hamburg, Bremen, or elsewhere in Germany may offer more information, or technical journals.

A January 27, 1930 press story in Long Island, NY states however that the George Washington’s brewery was filmed. A shot of the brewery was included in a film, probably a newsreel, shown in American theatres on the 1930 London Naval Conference.

Five U.S. delegates sailed on the ship to attend, led by Henry Stimson. The story states that movie-goers were not much interested in the Conference issues, but cheered when the brewery suddenly appeared.**

YouTube and Fox Movietones feature numerous newsreels on the Conference, but not this one, it seems.

Hamburg-America Line and NGL merged in 1970 to form HAPAG-Lloyd. If the prewar archives still exist, no doubt they can fill in many details.

Below is a dining party in 1931 on the George Washington. Is there possibly on the left a pilsner-type glass filled with a pale liquid…?

On the page image is sourced (see Note below) numerous menus from the ship are reproduced from this period. These are of good interest just for their culinary content. It may be noted they, and menus of other German ships plying similar routes (see elsewhere in the site), defined the term “Continental” before the term existed for a genre of cuisine.



Note re image: image above was sourced from the GG (Gjenvick Archives) historical website, see here. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcome. 


*See note added in Comments, I did locate finally an Albert Ballin cocktails and spirits list, but it is not conclusive.

**This put me in mind of the 1960s film Ship of Fools…





Molson Golden Ale

Golden Returns to Ontario

Canadian-brewed Molson Golden Beer has been sold consistently in the States for decades. This ad shows a six-pack image, from a Florida retailer, ABC. The label reads beer, not ale. We stopped seeing Molson Golden in Ontario perhaps 15-20 years ago, but recently it reappeared at The Beer Store and LCBO.

The bottle size and shape, 625 ml or 22 Imp. oz. harks back to the old “quart” of Canadian beer lore. But Molson-Coors Beverage has covered the bottle in a garish tight gold-coloured wrapper. I like the bottle, don’t love the mega-label. I’d have used the same bottle with a standard, maybe gold-coloured paper label.




But the beer, always the beer… By standard Canadian beer histories Molson Golden was introduced in 1954. In a 1956 news ad (Plattsburgh Press-Republican, August 21, 1956) we see the range as advertised in the United States. Media in Ontario carried similar ads (behind paywalls).

It was the trio of Crown & Anchor Lager later re-dubbed Molson Canadian, Molson Golden Ale, and Molson Export Ale.



That Golden presumably was entirely top-fermented. Fast-forward to 1982, James D. Roberston in The Connoisseur’s Guide to Beer writes that an “industry source” told him Golden was “a blend of ale and lager beer” (p. 162). In 1978 Robertson wrote an earlier version of the book, called The Great American Beer Book. He reviewed Molson Golden but did not include the statement about blending.

Quite likely it was such a blend in 1978, as Robertson doesn’t suggest the taste changed in the intervening years. (He was more preoccupied by what he felt was a skunking problem).

In both books he called it lighter and sweeter than Molson Export, which he preferred.

In the 1982 book a Molson Golden label is shown that clearly states “Ale”. It’s a Canadian label, as the French side reads “Bière“. This suggests the ale term was used even though the beer was partly lager. It may still be true today, of course.

Crown & Anchor Lager/Molson Canadian was first produced in Toronto in 1955, an adjunct (rice) brew. In theory, 1954 seems a little early for Molson Golden to be a lager-ale blend. But of course we don’t really know.

Maybe it was, or became, an ale krausened with fermenting lager, as many North American ales were starting from the late-19th century. Perhaps even it was, or is, a blend of Molson Export and Molson Canadian in some way.

The final and real answer is in Molson-Coors’ records.



My History With Molson Golden

I first drank it in the late 1970s when – I’m fairly certain of this – it was new in the Montreal market. Previously it was known elsewhere in Canada but not there. I remember my first taste, at a friend’s place on Northcliff Road in Côte-des-Neiges.

It seemed quite different than Export Ale, is all I can remember at this juncture. Export was then my go-to.

Once craft beer and good imports became more available I did not buy Molson Golden very often if ever.

My Assessment in 2020

I cracked it yesterday ice-cold because that’s the way it was drunk back in the day and meant to be drunk.

I liked it. It had a lightly malty taste, with evident hops undergirding. The hop may be Galena as some U.S. sources suggest for Molson Golden Beer. Galena is a high-alpha acid hop that suits the type and scale of brewing.

There is a faint fruity taste from the hop I think, but nothing obviously “craft”. Good soft carbonation too, almost draft-like. If it is a blend of Export and Canadian, I like the way they’ve done it.

In contrast, the Coors line – far from a fave of mine – has an evident corny tang, IME.

I had a craft pale ale after and it didn’t seem that different. Most craft ales are typically more assertive, though.






Ballin’s Bitter (Part II)

North German Lloyd Ahoy Hoy Hoy!

My Part I described the floating brewery of the Hamburg America Line’s Albert Ballin. Previous to that I discussed the Menestheseus, the Royal Navy amenities ship of 1945-1946 that included a brewery, and Alumna, an ex-logging vessel appurtenant to a commercial brewery in Ketchikan, Alaska, 1930s.

Below I will document additional ocean-going breweries of the 1920s and ’30s.

North German Lloyd (NGL), berthed in Bremerhaven about 40 miles from Bremen downriver on sea, was the main competitor of Hamburg America. Like Hamburg America it was impacted significantly by German’s defeat in World War I. Through various arrangements some ships were handed over the Allies, while others were retained, and yet new ones planned.

NGL re-started transatlantic service for some ships via an agency deal with United States Lines (USL), formerly United States Mail Steamships Company. USL sailed ships under the U.S. flag that formerly belonged to NGL.

Of the two German lines, it appears Hamburg America was first out of port with a brewery, the Albert Ballin in 1923. A further account of Albert Ballin, in New York’s Evening Post of January 10, 1924, states where the brewery was located. It was below F Deck near the laundry.

In Part I linked to this shipping text, which shows a midsection of Albert Ballin’s hulls. The brewery was probably on the foreshortened G Deck. A brewery and laundry have a mutual need for water and venting of exhausts, which likely explains their propinquity.

NGL sailed at least three ships with floating breweries between 1924 and the early 1930s. These were the S.S. Stuttgart, S.S. Columbus, and S.S. George Washington.

The ships plied a U.S. coast – Bremen route, often via Plymouth, Southampton, or Cherbourg. Hoboken, New Jersey had been a traditional destination for German ships, as seen in the atmospheric image below (1909).

The Stuttgart is briefly referred to in the new article on the Menestheseus by Geoff Dye in Brewery History which I referenced in Part I.

Dye states that according to a brewing journal article of February 15, 1924, Stuttgart sailed to Plymouth on its maiden voyage and could brew “8,000 litres of beer” (no further details). One would think other NGL ship breweries were similar.

NGL launched the 34,000 ton S.S. Columbus in 1924; a brief account in the Brooklyn Standard Union revealed the ship’s “… private brewery caused a sensation in shipping circles”.

In this YouTube video, a series of still images portrays the lounge, dining, and other interiors of the Columbus, to period music. Look at 1:35, it’s a midsection view showing decks, rooms, supplies, equipment. If you freeze it, you see tanks in the lower left section, where F and G Decks are. The brewery is probably there. The set-up appears similar to the Albert Ballin’s in other words, which makes sense as both ships were designed at about the same time.

An account in 1930 tells of the brewery on the S.S. George Washington, see here (Buffalo Courier-Express, January 7, 1930). The brewer’s name is mentioned – Hans Kausler of Hamburg. He joked that his “baby brewery” had already supplied plenty of beer to “Amerikaner families”.

It perhaps meant beer was bottled in some fashion on the ship – empty wine bottles would be ideal – and smuggled by passengers alighting in U.S. ports. At least one press story on the London Naval Conference referred risibly to S.S. Floating Brewery George Washington.

More likely however Kausler meant similar small breweries were in operation illicitly in or for American homes. This story on the George Washington’s brewery, January 7, 1930 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, states similar “machines” could be bought in the U.S.

Buying and selling of brewing equipment was not, from our determinations, illegal under the Volstead law, nor was sale of malt extract and hops.

The various press accounts of 1930 viz. the George Washington’s brewery are not completely consistent. Some state the beer was made in one day, others in two, but the general tenor is standard draft beer from Germany was loaded for the departure west.

On being used up part-way through the voyage, the small brewery became operative to make the required barrels needed for the remainder of the voyage (until the U.S. international limit was reached). Five barrels is mentioned in a number of accounts for the “top-up”.

Some accounts in 1930 on the S.S. George Washington brewery refer to a 12-mile-limit being observed, not a three-mile-limit. Between 1924 and 1930 the United States extended its jurisdiction to seize rumrunners within a 12-mile-limit and even beyond under a hot pursuit rule. It did not claim ownership of the additional nine miles (at the time) but rather an enforcement right under its customs laws.

The legal background to this area is understandably complex and we do not seek here to make definitive statements on it. In this series our focus is the ship brewing itself, which certainly occurred for the ships mentioned.

Finally, viz. George Washington, this account also of January 7, 1930, published in Kingston, NY, states the beer was “12 per cent”. It seems unlikely this meant 12% ABV (although possible); more likely it meant 12 U.S. proof, which is 6% ABV.



At Prohibition’s end these ocean breweries seem to terminate. With alcohol now permitted for loading at U.S. piers, the need for them disappears. Only much later do they come back, on some cruise ships as I mentioned earlier. There of course it’s a case of novelty vs. necessity.

I’ll leave you with a few words from a NGL brochure on S.S. Columbus, as quoted in a shipping historical website on Wayback, see here.

“… the architect … to whom the North German Lloyd entrusted their artistic decorations, has in every way fulfilled his task most satisfactorily. With the practical collaboration of skilled German artists and artisans, he has created rooms which may well claim to be the most beautiful on any modern ship.  Most imposing is the stately suite of social rooms, which, beginning with the Social Hall, leads through two side connecting Antechambers to the Library, Smoking Room, and on to the Great Staircase.  The Social Hall, the two side Antechambers, and the Library form in architecture, decoration, and coloring, one harmonious whole, in spite of their varied arrangement.”

Nearby were the equally stylish lounge and dining areas, well-described on the site. In these surroundings of charm and serenity beer made on the self-same ship was served.

If it was brewed by an artist of the genre, as one hopes, indeed expects in the German tradition, the beer provided a neat complement to the artistry noted. That beer is impermanent by nature, not to mention sometimes inconsistent, cannot change this, because those who appreciate the liquid arts engrave the best taste in their memory.

See Part III of this series, here.

Note re image: Image above was sourced from the Wikipedia entry on North German Lloyd linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.