Royko Speaks

From a video archive, footage, seemingly rushes or a rough cut, of an interview with Chicago author and journalist Mike Royko by equally-famed writer, broadcaster, and social historian Louis “Studs” Terkel.

It was filmed in 1991. Royko appears grouchy and uncooperative at the beginning but soon loosens up under Terkel’s ministrations.

The topic is Chicago taverns in the mid-20th-century and how they changed under influence of suburbanization and technology. After their part finishes, two men are interviewed who had had trouble with alcohol and stopped drinking, quite interesting as well.

Perhaps the intention of the director was to make a documentary that covered different aspects of bars, taverns, and the drinking culture. I don’t know if the show was ever completed or officially broadcast.

The uploader includes notes summarizing the different parts of the interview, so there is no need for me to do it here.

It reflects in many ways its time and Terkel and Royko’s ages but is compelling social and cultural history in my view.

Royko identifies the local nature of the bar as the key to its earlier character and makes a direct link to the English pub and German beer gardens.

 

 

 

Mike Royko Wades Into the Beer

Before I start in, thanks to Toronto-based, veteran beer writer Steve Beaumont for sending me Mike Royko’s article mentioned below. Steve’s got a new book out, Will Travel for Beer, which fans of beer and travel won’t want to miss, details here.

In July 1973 Mike Royko (1932-1997), a long-time Chicago journalist and author with a hard-boiled, satirical streak wrote on beer in the Daily Illini. You can read the article here.

Royko (pictured) assembled a panel that rated a selection of beers. The summers of the Windy City can broil, I can attest personally, and beer pieces in July or August were a stock device of editors in those days. Some time ago I described (“New York Magazine Does Beer“) a similar tasting reported on by New York magazine, held a couple of years earlier.

These 1970s beer forays were written humorously: semi-serious would put it at its highest. This was seen as appropriate for the subject of beer versus the serious sniffing of wine that had gained respectability since the 1960s. Spirits? Forget it, not on the scribblers’ map for another 20 years.

Beer critic Michael Jackson came a few years later and had a lot to do with lowering the level of levity toward beer in food and drink writing. He mentioned Royko’s article in his seminal The World Guide to Beer (1977).

I can see the influence it had on Jackson, e.g., the high opinion of Wisconsin’s Point Special, a regional but otherwise mass-market-style lager. The panel’s good opinion of some top German and U.K. names could only have encouraged Jackson as well. True, the panel kind of dissed Pilsner Urquell but Royko was quick to note that slow turnover of such items on Chicago shelves probably accounted for the middling score.

In fact, considering that so many imports then were tired from poor handling and very chancy – I was there – the high scores are testament to how inherently good they were.

(On the other hand, Jackson’s early books gave more credibility to Budweiser, which scored very low in Royko’s tasting).

Royko himself didn’t drink beer in the poll, his job was to wash glasses and break up fights, as he put it. The panel was drawn from the ranks of the everyday beer drinker. It even included a couple of people who drank beer only occasionally. The panel did a good job judging by the tallies, the results are pretty much what one would expect even today among the kind of beers tasted.

But Royko of course was being modest: he had grown up over a tavern run by his parents and helped out behind the taps occasionally. He knew about beer, you betcha.

To be sure, the tasting had limitations: there was no domestic ale, no stout, for example. But this is Chicago, early 1970s: give them a break. Goose Island wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye. Had anyone suggested that a new brewery could take root in Chicago and dontcha know, go international he would have been hooted down in a Chicago minute.

Times change.

Apart the odd outlier result Royko’s panel judged imports like Spaten, Wurzburger, and Bass on top, regional adjunct lagers in the middle (e.g. Huber), and famous names like Budweiser and Schlitz at the bottom – in the toilet as a Chicago ball fan might say.

International lagers like Kirin or Zywiec finished mid-course, as did a national name or two, which makes sense too.

Royko commented viz. the poor showing of Bud and Schlitz:

The American beer industry answers its critics by saying it gives us the kind of beer we really want. Oh yeah? ….

my back-yard beer tasters had a few … comments about Bud: a picnic beer smell; lousy; Alka Seltzer; sweet and weak; yeccch. Schlitz and Bud are free to use any of the above comments as testimonials, or in their next commercials. It might be fun to see one of those dashing actors on a sailing ship downing a can of beer and instead of grabbing for gusto, grabbing his stomach and yelling: Yeecch!

Royko was known for speaking up for the common guy: the office drudge, labourers of Slavic background (as he was) or from another sub-set of Chicago’s melting pot, all pushed and pulled by national advertising (who isn’t) and that’s just the least of it.

But he didn’t defend famous beers as somehow still keyed to the national taste, the workingman’s heart of hearts. He implied the popularity resulted from clever advertising.

 

 

 

 

 

“Microbrewery”: a Pre-1980 Term of Brewing Science

This is the third part of my look at use of the term microbrewery or the variant, micro-brewery, prior to its appearance in Zymurgy magazine in 1980. The second part is here, and the first part, here. 

Zymurgy is a magazine for homebrewers, and with the American Homebrewers Association whence it issued, was an important resource for American homebrewers in a newly-legalized (from 1978) environment. Inevitably some early craft brewers read it, if for no other reason than not a few had previously home-brewed (Ken Grossman, say), and others were operating on a scale not so different from the purely amateur home brewer.

I showed that a noted Belgian brewing scientist, Jean De Clerck, used the term in 1969 to describe the model or teaching brewery established at the brewing school in Louvain where he had long taught. The term was used in English by an American journalist on sojourn in Belgium reporting to an American audience on the importance of beer and brewing in Belgium.

Let’s shift to 1985, a seemingly irrelevant year for this purpose given it is five years after the appearance of the term microbrewery in Zymurgy.

D.E. Briggs, T.W. Young, and J. Howard authored in the U.K.-based Journal of the Institute of Brewing, “A Simple Experimental Six-Line Microbrewery”. It appears in July-August, 1985, Vol. 91, pp. 257-263, see here.

“Microbrewery” appears only in the title. The article describes the development of a “small-scale brewing system for repeated trials”. So, a brewing system for trial work for industry. The article states it was received by the Journal in October, 1984. This is still some four years after the Zymurgy usage.

To be sure, we can assume CAMRA’s publications and probably some general press coverage on beer in the U.K. used “microbrewery” in its current signification as a small-scale commercial brewery.

Did the three authors get their usage from such presumed appearances, taking a leaf from innovative vocabulary of an infant American industry? I think it’s very doubtful. First, they don’t explain the term to their audience, a specialized academic and industry audience concerned with the fermentation and other sciences vital to brewing.

If this audience did not know the term already, surely there would be a need to explain it. If they did know it, as I think we can assume they must have, how could that have arisen?

Can we presume all those dons, lecturers, and industry QC specialists should be taken to know the latest developments in American craft brewing? Developments so arcane only a comparative few knew of them in the U.S. in 1984?

Quite doubtful, when there was just a handful of new breweries in the U.K. established in the wake of CAMRA’s creation as well. None of this was “on the map” for the purposes of such an audience, in other words.

So how did they know then? They knew because De Clerck was only one of many brewing scientists and technical authors who used the term before 1980.

Based on my far-from-exhaustive survey, consider these sources in addition to the 1969 De Clerck usage.

In 1978 in the same Journal, Messrs. Hyde and Brookes authored “Malt Quality in Relation to Beer Quality”. See May-June, 1978, Vol. 84, pp. 167-174,  here.

Referring to testing of certain mashes they write, “Mashes were carried out in a microbrewery”, again a model or testing brewery of some kind.

In 1971, J. Harrison, in the same Journal, authored “Effect of Hop Seeds on Beer Quality”, see here. He wrote, “Microbrewery trials with … [crushed hop seed] indicate that it will not affect beer quality”.

So this Journal had used the term before 1985 in a way similar to De Clerck, i.e., in a non-commercial beer-making context. That’s why the article by Dennis Briggs et al didn’t seek to explain the term; they presumed their audience knew its meaning.

And yet more.

In 1960 B.A. Burkhardt authored “A Micro Brewery for the Early Quality Evaluation of Hybrid Barley Selections”. It is published in Proceedings, the American Society of Brewing Chemists, 1960 at pp. 123-128. See publication details, here.

I haven’t been able to source the text but the title explains clearly what the author addressed.

This shows the term was understood as early as 1960 in brewing technical circles to mean a small-scale experimental or model brewery, to add therefore to the case for Belgium in 1969. Consistent with brewing science having long been international, use of this term was international, too.

Given the popularity of the microprocessor and microchips c. 1980 certainly the term could have been hit on independently within the American Homebrewers Association as I stated earlier.

But at a minimum, the familiarity with “microbrewery” by brewing science well before 1980, added to use by early craft brewers of brewing consultants with a highly technical background, suggests to me the term’s efflorescence from c.1980 is not unconnected.

N.B. Among the half-dozen sources cited by Briggs et al in their 1985 article is one by notre ami De Clerck, but I am not able at present to locate the text. No reference is cited peculiar to a recent emergence of the term in America to describe a new brewing cottage industry.

 

Did the Term “Micro-brewery” Come From Brewing Science?

I showed the other day that the term micro-brewery appeared in 1969 in an American newspaper, see this post for details. The term was used by an eminent Belgian brewing scientist, Jean De Clerck. He authored numerous textbooks, was a major influence on modern Trappist brewing via Father Théodore of Chimay, and was long-associated with a famous brewing school in Louvain.

In reply to a comment from Ray, of the writing team Boak and Bailey, I wrote in part:

Certainly the 1969 usage is not on all fours with the 1980 one, but the main difference is the non-commercial context. The other elements, a very small brewery, one typically making a range of experimental vs. standard recipes, the name itself, and the American appearance, are constant.

Not an all fours, maybe on three fours, to coin a term.

I added that if one bears in mind the significant influence of brewing scientists on craft brewing, perhaps the term “micro-brewery”, apparently an in-house term before 1970 for an industrial pilot or teaching brewery, was introduced to craft brewing by one or more such experts, many of whom consulted to the nascent industry.

Not the least important was Joseph Owades. American-born and holding a doctorate in bio-chemistry he was responsible for a wide range of brewing innovations. They ranged from inventing light beer (the Miller Lite kind) to perfecting the formulations for many early craft beers including Sam Adams Boston Lager, Pete’s Wicked Ale, and New Amsterdam Beer.

Due in part to his association with light beer, his star in craft brewing never achieved, in his lifetime, the lustre it deserved. However today, when use of grain adjunct in craft beer is approved by the Brewers Association and we take a wider view of the styles and heritage of all beer, his importance seems greater than ever.

In Tom Acitelli’s craft brewing history, The Audacity of Hops, he is referred to as a “quiet and immensely respected force in the nascent craft brewing movement”. He consulted to many early craft breweries including Fritz Maytag’s Anchor Brewing, Pete’s Wicked Ale, Boston Beer Company, New Amsterdam Brewing, and early Ontario microbreweries including IIRC Upper Canada Brewing.

His death in 2005 at 86 was widely reported including in the U.K. This Wikipedia entry gives a good overview as does this LA Times obituary. Owades had worked for years at Rheingold in New York, and in the early 1970s with well-known national brewers. He was a member of and received an award of merit from the Master Brewers Association of America.

Owades set up a brewing consultancy for small and medium-size breweries in San Francisco in 1975 and moved there three years later from the East Coast. Probably Anchor provided in substance and metaphorically the base from which to develop the practice.

The consultancy, the Center for Brewing Studies, thus started before the appearance of the first modern craft brewery, New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, CA in late 1976. New Albion was founded by 27-year-old Jack McAuliffe, a homebrewer and U.S. Navy veteran who had been exposed to good beer during service in the U.K.

After leaving University of California at Davis, home of a noted school for wine and beer studies, U.K.-born Dr. Michael Lewis taught courses on small-scale brewing at New Albion from about its founding. See some bio on him from Brewers Publications, here.

Did Owades in lecture notes or some 40 research papers he wrote, or Dr. Lewis in his publications, use the term micro-brewery before 1980? That was the year the term appears in Zymurgy, the magazine of the American Homebrewers Association, as discussed in my earlier post.

Does “craft brewing” or a cognate appear in those papers? What did Jean De Clerck do on his U.S. brewery tour in 1970, whom did he meet?

Do the terms micro-brewery or craft beer appear in proceedings of the Master Brewers Association of America during the 1970s…?

These sources could well supply a link between the intra-mural sense of micro-brewery before 1970 and the modern sense.

Or perhaps they would not. My point here is to note the many links between brewing consultants who had worked in industry or teaching and early craft brewing. Speculation on vocabulary transfer, and the impetus to further research, gain credibility in consequence.

N.B. See the third part of this study, here.

Note re images: Both images are from a 1943 issue of Review, an employees’ (in-house) publication of National Breweries Ltd. in Montreal. They show a detail and discussion of a pilot brewery installed in the Dawes Brewery unit of National Breweries Ltd. National Breweries later was absorbed into what is now Molson-Coors. All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes only, with feedback always welcome. Here is the link to the magazine and, from those pages in general, one may read much interesting history concerning National Breweries Ltd. The issue in question is March, 1943. The magazines were originally issued in French and English but most appear in French only on the site, an online exhibition on the brewery’s history hosted by the City of Montreal. Nonetheless the March, 1943 issue happens to appear in English (this for readers who may look at other issues and wonder about the language. As well, some, but not all, of the narrative material of the exhibition is in both languages; what is not is in French.

 

 

Session #136: Farmhouse Brewing

DaveS at Brewing in a Bedsitter has proposed the topic of farmhouse brewing for this month’s The Session.

He has left the topic open to contributors’ interpretation but provided some guidance, including whether we think there is a skein or theme to usage of the term.

I’ll do an uncharacteristically short post and say, in my experience, almost all farmhouse beer is saison, a riff on Saison Dupont or Silly or one of the other old-school Wallon beers.

Virtually every farmhouse beer I’ve had has the typical yeast signature of those beers. Some are tart, but so were numerous of those beers.

So for me, farmhouse means that style. I would suggest the ubiquity of the term today is due mainly to an influential book, Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition, by Phil Markowski (with two contributors), published about 10 years ago.

(The image of the cover is from the amazon.com listing, here). Markowski, a brewer formerly with Southampton Publick House on Long Island, NY, was an early promoter of the related styles of saison and bière de garde, and treats of them in the book.

Do I fancy the beers? Not really as I find the saison (Belgian-origin) yeast signature unappealing and beers using it tend to taste rather similar.

 

 

Christian Heurich’s Lager: From Wien to Washington

 

On April 23, 1933 the Evening Star in Washington, D.C. published a long article by John Clagett Proctor, “Gardens and Picnics in the Old Wet Days“.

This article is a sub-genre of the Prohibition Repeal coverage widespread in 1932-1934. It can be defined as a generally fond retrospective on pre-Repeal “wet” days. Journalists reminded readers of the beer customs of yore, what saloons were like, what growlers were, and the like.

The pundits speculated what might return under the reformed regime brought in by F.D.R., and what might change.

Sometimes the stories are tinged with caution, as in, the good old days are back but don’t take it too far or Uncle Sam will pull up the reins. This fit well with the family image most newspapers wanted to project.

In general, the genre tended to the sentimental and benign, as did Proctor, focusing on liquor’s good side, on how many of its producers were successful, upstanding men (or women, he cites the case of one brewery continued by a founder’s widow).

Beer was a natural ally for this journalism given its family and sportive associations. Beer never quite had the devilish reputation that attached to whiskey everywhere until recently (now it is a high-class drink admired world-wide).

The German communities around the country suited a cheery, cozy, essentially harmless image of pre-Prohibition beer given the Germans’ well-known social customs as detailed by Proctor.

Thus, he devotes much space to Washington’s singing clubs and “shooting” picnics frequented by generations of German-Americans and, clearly, other ethnicities as well, occasions often moistened with the ichor of Gambrinus.

The article deals with beer generally though: first a potted world history is offered, then Proctor takes a close look at brewing history in Washington. He focuses on Christian Heurich whose business lasted from 1872 until 1956 most of it, amazingly, under the tutelage of the founder.

Heurich is a titan in American brewing history, having created a brewery that lasted in his lifetime through three international wars (Spanish-American, WW I, WW II). Not only was the sturdy patriarch past 100 at his death in 1945, he was still running the brewery!

There is a fair amount online about Heurich, some which I mentioned in tweets today, and I learned that a biography was written which I will buy soon.

In tweeting about him I mentioned he had worked for Anton Dreher in Vienna. He therefore represents an unbroken line from a cradle of lager to c.1945 by which time the industry was greatly automated and hi-tech. What a run.

I was asked why I stated a Dreher connection. It appears from this quote in Proctor’s article:

It was not far from the brewery of C. Coningham & Co. that Christian Heurich, many years later, erected considerable of a plant. However, he began the manufacture of beer at 1229 Twentieth street northwest, on rather small scale in 1872, a year after he came to Washington. According to an old sketch of him published in 1884, nearly half a century ago, we are told he is a native of Germany, where he was born September 12, 1842. When he came to the United States in 1866, he first obtained employment at his trade as a brewer in Chicago, later going to Kansas and then Baltimore before coming here.

When he left Europe, he was an overseer in the world-renowned brewery of A. Dreher, of Vienna, and had learned the manufacture of the malted beverage from the ground up. As far back as 50 years ago the people of Washington were consuming over 50 000 barrels of his beer annually.

Mr. Heurich is one of the vice presidents of the Association of Oldest Inhabitants, and at nearly 91 gives every indication of being with us for some years to come. He is as straight as an arrow, still has a beard and a good suit of hair, which is still more black than white, and although he is not a regular attendant at the monthly meetings, yet rarely misses those of a patriotic character.

John Procter (1867-1956) must have known Heurich, judging by the detail in the article and his own background. In any case, the Dreher reference is too precise to admit of any doubt.

In an amazon.com listing for one of Proctor’s books he is described as follows:

… historian, poet, genealogist and writer, Dr. Proctor earned a law degree from National University Law School in 1893 and lived his entire life in Washington, DC, where he was active in numerous organizations, including the Masons, the Columbia Historical Society, and the Society of Natives.

As a lawyer, that training surely as well added to the credibility of the article (smilicon).

One of Heurich’s beers was revived by a local brewer, DC Brau. The alcohol is 7% ABV which would not have been usual for lager before Prohibition. It uses some grain adjunct as well although most American lager before Prohibition did so, so this aspect may be historically accurate, unless that is Christian Heurich was an all-malt brewer (of that I’m not aware).

Regardless, some pains were taken clearly to offer a pre-Prohibition taste and I’m sure I’d enjoy tasting the beer.

Ads in the D.C. press for 1933 advertise an impressive six months’ aging for Christian Heurich’s post-Repeal beer.

One was called Maerzen, most appropriately given his training in the birthplace of Vienna lager brewing.

Note re image: The image above and quotation were sourced from the digitized newspaper article linked in the text, via Chronicling America. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

Life With Father (and his Beer)

Of Pints and Pyramids

It is idle to cite 19th century references for the “half and half” as a mixture of ale and stout (or porter) as they are legion. Indeed they go back to the early 1700s in the form of porter’s predecessors, but also successors as the mixes were always present, and continue in some form to this day.

Beer historical literature has covered well 19th-century examples, so no need to survey them here.

Nonetheless, it is instructive to consider specific examples, not previously cited to my knowledge, for their didactic or entertainment value.

One such appeared in Slang and its Analogues Past and Present by John Farmer and W.E. Henley. The book was self-published in 1893 and sold to private subscribers, exactly where though is not clear. A casual scrolling of the tome shows why, look opposite the definition of Half-and-Half, for example (on p. 248).

Among references for half and half cited by Farmer and Henley we read one from Albert Smith in Punch magazine in 1841:

Ale and porter, the proportion of the porter increasing in an inverse ratio to the respectability of the house you get it from.

Now, this shows us that the proportion of ale was important – in 1841. Why? I’d infer because the ale mentioned was at the time mild ale, not pale ale. Mild ale was strong and on the sweet side from low attenuation.

The cheaper the dive you took your half and half in the more likely the house saved money by using more of the standard-strength, cheaper porter. At least that’s what I think, vs. that too much porter put the taste off, say. Low respectability and elevated palate don’t seem to match up, in other words.

Another discussion of half and half of more than passing interest is in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from July 1875 in a piece entitled Drinks, here.

In fact, two variants of the half and half appear in the article. One was a mix of Bass ale and Guinness porter. The other was a mix of “bitter”, almost certainly draft, with XX London stout. This was termed “stout-and-bitter” and said to be known by its humorous alternate, “mother-in-law”.

That term is often today thought of as a jape on another mixture, “old and bitter” (old ale and bitter ale), but it looks like the joke was elastic enough to apply to the stout-and-bitter too.

The article is by the pseudonymous “Flaneur” and is quite funny and typically American in its rambling humour and irreverence. The ostensible subject is a declamation of drinks that might be suitable for American conditions.

Various bibulous candidates are considered, only to be rejected. Beer (i.e., ale and porter) is good and its mixtures interesting, but it doesn’t really suit the American climate.

Lager does better, but only partly. The various rums enumerated are good, but if you drink them like they do in the Caribbean you’ll be dead in three weeks.

Wine is divine, but too expensive. And so on.

A centrepiece is a description of writer William Thackeray’s drink habits. In one episode, he drinks a glass of stout regularly, this observed by Flaneur in England apparently, but pays in a precise amount of copper pennies vs. lavishing sovereigns or at least asking for change from same. I infer here a charge of meanness although I find the reference to coppers vs. sovereigns vague in a Pythonesque way.

A second episode occurs on one of Thackeray’s tours in America, in Boston. A sophomore takes him to a bar and orders “one of those things”. No further precisions given, evidently a house slang. The drink is provided but it throws the eminent author into a tizzy.

College men were prepared then. The sophomore orders him “one of those other things”. And that fixes up old Makepeace just right! Flaneur was impressed.

The piece ends on a note of anti-climax where Flaneur asks an old boy what he thinks is the best drink. The man tells him, dog’s nose, a mixture of gin and beer. But Flaneur doesn’t like the answer and presses the old gent further who finally walks away in a huff. Deflation.

A strange piece Drinks is, in some ways, as it presents elements of the fantastical sometimes found in comic writing of the period but also today. It’s that surrealist or disconnected touch you see in modern comedy from Monty Python to Sarah Silverman.

A lot about nothing perhaps (not comparable to finding that the term “micro-brewery” first appeared in the American press in 1969, say) but fun to read.

This piece by Flaneur, in the same paper in the following month, is noteworthy for its “harried dad” monologue, something that with a change of a word or two would fit right into Home Alone or a Chevy Chase vacation film.

I ain’t a dad, but I get it completely. My clanging milkmen are the non-stop emergency vehicle sirens that go day long, night long in this town. But they help people, like delivering milk does, so we grin and bear it – like Flaneur did.

Note re image: The image above was sourced from the digitized newspaper article linked in the text, via Chronicling America. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

A Black and Tan, Please

In Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer (1977), he wrote:

Some drinkers still mix Guinness with bitter to produce a drink known as a “Black and Tan”, but the military connotations of this mixture’s name are properly dangerous in the light of the recurrent Anglo-Irish Troubles.

This was a reference to the Black and Tans, the British-raised force who fought the Irish Republican Army in the wake of the Irish Rebellion, you can read about them here.

This said, and with due caution (if any needed today) to ordering such mixture in the Republic of Ireland, or possibly certain districts in Ulster, the mixture is a long-established one under this or more anodyne names. Guinness itself, by then an Irish company, advertised such mixtures in the late 1930s in ads similar to the one above (via Chronicling America) albeit the sample shown took a different tack, touting the “long pull” unalloyed.

The origins of the Black and Tan combination are obscure. The American Puck Magazine is said by the Oxford English Dictionary to have referred to it in 1881 but I can’t find any reference in the complete set of magazines available on HathiTrust for that year. If Puck did refer to it, perhaps the origin is American although many British sources refer to the drink.

In The Taster’s Guide to Beer (1977) by the American Michael Weiner a Black and Tan is defined as “stout-and-mild, mixed half and half”. The idea to mix stout with rich mild ale makes sense to me, as stout was sometimes a little sharp or sour from long age.

Weiner’s source is a Whitbread publication, Word for Word: an Encyclopaedia of Beer (1953), so back to the U.K. again.

With bitter ale becoming less bitter and dry in the 20th century, using bitter for the mild made sense too.

I made a Black and Tan recently, half of Stenhouse Porter from Amsterdam Brewery in Toronto, half of Doom Bar, a pale ale from England. I didn’t try the gimmicky American layering, but simply mixed them the way it was done (surely) originally.

The Doom Bar’s blandness was effaced by the rich malt of the Stenhouse while the latter retained a lot of flavour, a perfect blend. It is rather like some of the high-grade Guinness’s available, Special Export Stout, say, but at a reasonable alcohol level.

Would I order one in the Republic? I don’t see why not, if for no other reason my accent would vouchsafe safety, I think. Anyway no harm in asking. One has to be intrepid in beer discovery, to learn and develop.

I ordered light-and-bitter 30 years ago in East London pubs and specified I wanted light or pale ale for the bottled beer. (It’s half that, half draught bitter). I was told in one place, here we do it with lager and bitter so that will do, yeah? I said no thanks, I’d like it the other way.

They did accommodate and while I was not a bird of a feather, shall we say, it went just fine and I remember an engaged conversation over the pint.

Being at home at the moment, I make the drink as I think fit, and it suits very nicely. For me.

 

 

 

 

The Origins of the Term Microbrewery

The Little Yellow Brewery That Could

When does the term “micro-brewery”, or the same word unhyphenated, first appear?

Paul Gatza, a long-time director of the Brewers Association, stated it was 1980 in a comment to an article by beer writer Tom Acitelli in 2016. Acitelli was examing early appearances of the terms craft and micro beer and the related expressions. The article appeared online in the Food Republic, you can read it here.

Gatza wrote in part:

…the first usage I am aware of the term “micro” in connection with a small brewer is the Winter 1980 issue of Zymurgy. I can scan you the page if you like.

Gatza went on to explain that the group behind Zymurgy, an early, influential magazine of the American Homebrewers Association, started to use the term microbrewery in 1980. One of their team, Stuart Harris, worked in the microcomputer industry and “saw some of the parallels”.

So Harris is said in effect to have originated the term. It first appeared in print, if I read Gatza correctly, in a Zymurgy article under Charlie Matzen’s byline in 1980.

In fact, the term “micro-brewery” appeared earlier, in late 1969, years before the first personal computer emerged, and not in California or Colorado, but in New York State. The first modern craft brewery would not appear in New York until William Newman’s brewery in Albany, NY in 1981, some years after the first new breweries emerged on the West Coast.

Nonetheless, the user of the term was a brewing figure, indeed a famous one in the beer world: the Belgian Jean De Clerck (1902-1978). He was interviewed by a young American journalism graduate, Michael Kuchwara, in an article that first appeared in Ogdensburg Journal on December 30, 1969. While the article does not carry his by-line, later appearances of the same article in the upstate New York press did, so he was evidently the author. Here is an example of subsequent publication.

Kuchwara had spent time in Belgium and in a series of at least 10 articles reported to his home audience on the European Economic Community (as then termed), NATO, and other “European” issues becoming of moment internationally. The brewing article appeared as part of this series.

The young writer was impressed with Belgium’s brewing heritage, which he called a “brewmaster’s paradise”. He gave interesting details on Belgium’s lively beer scene and contrasted it with the “mild” taste of American beer.

De Clerck, an eminent brewing author and teacher, discussed his background in brewing science and his current tour in the United States to learn more about American brewing developments. The famous brewing school in Louvain is described and some of the focus of the teaching. Many of the students were drawn from developing parts of the world whose governments underwrote the cost.

While stating that Belgium still had a sizeable 275 breweries for its population Kuchwara also mentions Stella Artois in Leuven itself as an example of modern, large-scale brewing – and he noted Stella Artois was only a tenth the size of America’s biggest brewery.

Having set the tone to understand the modern brewery Kuchwara then describes, as gleaned from De Clerck, the brewery at the Leuven University School of Brewing.

The pride of the Louvain School of Brewing is a small yellow room which De Clerck affectionately refers to as “our micro-brewery”. Here the entire brewing process can be seen in miniature from the mashing of the special grains to the final placement of the liquid in bottles.

Presumably De Clerck would have used the French “micro-brasserie” or perhaps the term, “mini-brasserie” although the latter is more applicable to a brewpub. De Clerck, who evidently spoke English, must have supplied the term “micro-brewery” to the young and presumably unilingual Kuchwara.

But either way, Michael Kuchwara introduced the term micro-brewery to an American audience in 1969 and was the first, it appears, to mention the term in print.

Of course, the Zymurgy team may have hit on the term independently, but nonetheless this earlier citation is significant, especially considering its source. Large breweries and brewing schools often have pilot or experimental breweries. It sounds like some familiar with their operation used the term microbrewery well before the beer renaissance in the U.S. and U.K.; at any rate Jean De Clerck did. It’s not of course in the context of a for-profit business but the link to the small scale and experimental orientation of future craft breweries is obvious.

The article is revealing in another sense. When referencing the state of American beer in 1969, De Clerck, diplomatic as all brewing consultants are, stated the beer was meant to be drunk ice-cold because of the warmer climate.

Kuchwara though had the nose of a good reporter: he muses to his readers, but why is wine the preferred drink (c.1969) of southern Europe? Having tasted good beer in the not-terribly-warm Belgium, Kuchwara had a sense the Stateside brew could be better.

De Clerck suggested the way forward, again in his urbane way (Europe was more urbane then). He states in the future one can expect beer to be better both in the U.S. and Europe due to combining the traditions of Europe with the technology at which the U.S. excelled.

And that’s exactly what happened to the future of brewing: craft brewing, now a world influence, is built substantially on that premise.

Given the vital Belgian influence on craft brewing of which all dedicated beer fans are aware, it is satisfying and apposite that we can add the term “microbrewery” to the legacy.

N.B. Michael Kuchwara later became a well-known theatre critic for Associated Press, based in New York. He passed away in 2010 at 63, see this obituary in the New York Times. To our knowledge he did not write on the subject of beer again.

N.B. The second and third parts of this post appear here, and here, respectively.

Note re image: The image above was sourced from the website of the 2015 Belgian Brewing Conference, here. All intellectual property in the image belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Image used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

Did you Hear the one About Three men and a Beer in Belgium?

A Taste of Belgium: yes, no, Maybe?

Beer is made primarily from barley malt, hops, yeast, and water. Sometimes non-malted grains, or other malt substitutes, or various flavourings (fruits, spices, etc.) are added.

Apart these basic characteristics not much else seems immutable in the beer world, with the result that often, tastes or visual traits considered chic today were only a few generations ago regarded with disdain or worse.

Our age venerates Belgian beers, which takes in a palette of flavours leading finally to the frankly sour. In the 19th century, Anglo-American travellers generally disliked the beers, with sourness often cited as the reason.

There were exceptions, as I discussed in this recent blogpost. Alan at A Good Beer Blog gives further examples of visitors’ reactions to Belgian beer in the 1800s, noting some favourable impressions.

Having read all these again and further sources I didn’t use to date my conclusion is the great majority who encountered Belgium’s beers then did not enjoy them. Now, in truth that is probably not so different from today, in the sense that Belgium’s more extreme beers, Lambic, Gueuze, Kriek, some Flanders Red, some Saison, are surely a minority taste even in craft circles.

IPA, pale ale, lager, porter/stout, and German-style wheat beer seem the main calls, at least judging from what I see on beer lists in pubs and festivals locally and abroad.

But the difference is, the connoisseurs of our time defer to the extreme end of the Belgian spectrum. In the 19th century, they did not, especially the Briton confident of his nation’s fame in the brewing arts, the evidence of which – Burton pale ale, Irish stout – was spread around the known world.

As a telling example, consider the jibe on Belgian beer in the second paragraph of this extract from a long chapter on beer by a proto-Michael Jackson, William Kingston-Beatty. It appeared in a book he authored in 1890, A Journalist’s Jottings:

How funny is that in a time when all Belgian beers except mass-produced lager are a cornerstone of recherché beer culture? Not very.

Who is right? Neither. Every age has its likes and dislikes, its pet causes, its pet villains. Nothing here can be proven right or wrong.*

William Beatty-Kingston

Beatty-Kingston (1837-1900) was a British civil servant turned journalist, librettist, and author, who had long worked in Germany. This brief obituary from the Glasgow Herald gives further data on him.

His exposure to German and Austrian beers was obviously in-depth and assisted greatly to produce the beer survey in the book, which is mainly confined to those countries’ productions.

The rest of the chapter is well-worth reading. Together with George Sala, Henry Vizetelly, and George Saintsbury, all of whom I’ve discussed earlier, Beatty-Kingsbury was a true progenitor of Michael Jackson and Roger Protz (et al) . It’s not so much the volume of output that counts in this regard but how these writers approached the topic.

They were “journos” in the post-WW II British phrase, denizens of Fleet Street (or that type) who learned the technics of beer sufficiently but had the gift to impart keen interest in it.**

It’s half-way between the current scholarly academic writing and authors with advanced scientific training who write brewing technology texts. Modern “beer writers” including bloggers occupy the same space.

The Rest of the Story

Among other current beer fashions, barrel-aging is an example. At one time the American oak barrels usually used to age stout or other beer were avoided by U.K. brewers for what were thought unusual tastes (vanillin, coconut). I discussed the history in a number of posts earlier this year. Today, barrel-aged beers are hot and those specific tastes are sought after by connoisseurs.

Crystal-clear, high-adjunct, low-hopped lager was popular in North America for 100 years but – in craft circles to be sure – has been displaced by high-malt, heavily-hopped pale ales and other pre-lager styles.

What is the constant in it all? Maybe it’s really just the alcohol. People want the buzz, it must be there, and is in all these forms of beer. Since hops change over time, malts too, production methods, tastes, that unchangeable DNA of beer is perhaps the only real constant given the core definition in the first paragraph above.

This should induce people to a due modesty when talking about beer. What was dogma in one time can become a detail in another or worse, bad practice. Enjoy what you enjoy, don’t apologize for it, but on the other hand be chary of imposing standards on others.

Of course, encouraging people to try something new is different, it is all to the good if done with courtesy and the sense genuinely to inspire, not restrict.

………………………………………….

*The Chavette mentioned was the French comic novelist Eugene Chavette, see more here.

**Many readers will know that George Saintsbury was a noted literary scholar based in Academe but he also worked for years in newspaper journalism in an early phase of his life, especially in Manchester. His 1920s Notes on a Cellar-Book, which has a chapter devoted to beerreflects influences from his dual spheres.