A 1950s Food Idea Needs Revival

Back to l’Avenir?

There is a tendency, despite the hits it has taken in recent decades, to consider “progress” as inexorable. When it comes to applied food technologies, for example, nothing in the past seemingly can compete with what we know today.

While older methods continue – canning, bottling, freezing, curing – today, sous vide – low temperature cooking in a sealed bag to retain taste and moisture – is commonly used in home, restaurant, institutional, and transport settings.

Sous vide was perfected in the 1960s and 1970s by industrial technologists (the technique itself is not quite new). Thence it sprang to the commercial world including some restaurants. Troisgros in France probably made it fashionable at the high end.

Other technologies have gathered pace since the ’60s: cryovac packing, aseptic packaging (which has its own separate history including in brewing), and food irradiation. Or take the stand-up pouches widely used today for soups and other fluid foods.

Some old school tech falls by the wayside, not from inherent defects of design or cost limitation, but due to public policy that overrides. Carbon emission control seems destined to end fossil fuel engines, gasoline or other. Plastics pollution measures are another instance, which impact food systems especially.

Sometimes though one finds in the past applied technology that seems due for revival. What follows is an example, in our view.

The famed citadel of cuisine Maxim’s of Paris, on rue Royale in the “8th”, is today a Pierre Cardin brand. In the ’50s, when the Vaudable family was the owner, Maxim’s deployed a clever idea: send out food to the United States in frozen, pre-packaged portions. This used an efficient, proven technology to sample French food, quite literally, far from home – and from an icon of haute cuisine.

In 1955 the press in Philadelphia carried a splashy story on the launch in that city, a fashionable dinner at John Wanamaker, the upscale department store. City “hostesses” arrived in force, one is pictured being kissed on the hand by a Parisian from Maxim’s displaying old-school charm.

Maxim’s partnered with Pan American Airlines to fly the food with dispatch to sales points Stateside. What did the matrons, captains of industry, and other notables eat?

The Belgian staple of beef carbonnade, for one. Maybe the hearty taste was thought to survive the freezing and trip over well, or American palates.

There was also veal blanquette, and lamb sauté, both postwar classics of “French cuisine”. And Normandy trout. Channel sole, too – Dover sole no doubt. It was planned that the sauces, then emblematic of French cooking, would ultimately be manufactured and sold in the U.S.

Maxim’s was an early proponent of scientific methods, always looking to expand its reach with new techniques, and methods of commercialization. It established a branch in Hong Kong as early as the late 1950s. Finally one arrived in New York, in 1985, although it closed 15 years later.

Exporting full meals in frozen form is one idea I’ve never seen here. It clearly occurs within the E.U., which after all is a polity of sorts, but I’m thinking of North America as a market for notable prepared foods of Europe, or Asia, say.

I’ve never seen French, British or German dinners sold frozen here, for example. Individual foods, yes: fish, ham, cheese, chocolate, etc., that goes without saying. It is always interesting to eat prepared fresh food* from another country, especially one with a storied food tradition.

Maxim’s merchandized its ready-to-eat meals through premium delicatessens in New York and Jersey. The same dishes enjoyed by society in Philly were advertised in 1954 by a “gourmets'” shop in Princeton, New Jersey. (The locale should give away the reason, all those academics…).

 

 

The idea seems to have lapsed, although perhaps Maxim’s still does a form of it, I don’t know. It has numerous restaurants around the world today, which perhaps made the export of pre-packaged meals seem unnecessary.

Of course as well, there was the rise of popular interest in international cooking. It was encouraged by the success of Julia Child’s and many other cookery books. Those interested probably focused on their own kitchen. Why buy a frozen imported meal when you make “the same thing” here?

Yet, foreign ingredients and preparation techniques often end as quite different to local emulations. The French beef I used to make a carbonnade in a Boulogne-sur-Mer apartment earlier this year had a different taste than our beef. The Gallic meat was seemingly softer and sweeter (sugar beet feed, perhaps?).

And, what better time to revive the idea than right now? International travel is almost at a standstill. As we can’t quite travel to foreign locales to sample a local meal, surely fast travel, improved logistics, and latest food technologies can conspire to bring it to us. A real Bolognese sauce, not in a bottle or can, would be something I’d like to try, on Italian-made pasta.

Government regulations may have to change to allow this in certain places. Governments have proved flexible in other ways to accommodate the current pandemic.

And the transport fleets of our carriers can use the business, eh?

Note re image: the image above, an 1899 Maxim’s menu, was sourced at Wikipedia, here, and is noted as public domain. Any and all intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*I mean, not canned or bottled. So excluding, say, British baked beans as currently marketed in Canada.

 

 

 

 

Forthcoming Publication of new Theory on Name Origin of Porter

Some five years have passed since I penned my post, “Spitalfields Weavers, Three Threads, and Porter“. That post, dated September 20, 2015, argued that porter, the famous London black beer, and three threads, for a related beer type, quite plausibly were named for terms used in the Spitalfields London weaving industry of c. 1700.

In turn, the argument had its origins in a paper I wrote in 2010 called “Notes on Three Threads and Numerical Variations”, as explained in the 2015 post.

My theory is completely novel, there was no hint of it in porter studies preceding. It is the first new idea on the name origin of porter for hundreds of years.

While there are elements of speculation in it, the pieces I put together, in my opinion, are rather compelling, especially as no other theory accounts nearly as well for the term three threads, or the related thread beers (two threads, four threads, etc).

(The hitherto generally accepted theory for the origin of the name porter, that it came from the men who moved goods in London because they liked the beer, also is speculative, in that it is based on inferences from period terms such as “porter’s liquors”).

I bring the blog work forward, hyperlinked above, as it may interest those who have never read it, and perhaps also some who would like to revisit.

Further, I have now completed a formal, referenced paper on this subject that has been accepted for publication by the prestigious, UK-based food history journal, Petits Propos Culinaires. PPC, as it is known, is edited by well-known author, publisher, editor, and journalist, Tom Jaine.  It will appear in print by mid-2021.

Plattsburgh, Beer, Chocolate

A discussion on Twitter among beer writers today reminded me of a tableau, or so it is in my mind, in Plattsburgh, New York, late 70s probably.

I was buying, in a small store on a corner, beer from a cooler and chocolate. The candy was definitely M&Ms, a chocolate bar not available at the time in Montreal.

The beer may have been Genesee Cream Ale, made in Rochester elsewhere in upstate New York. But I think it was Michelob.

I said to the clerk: “two fine tastes”. She agreed but added, “But one after the other and man …”, making a gesture with both hands away from the midsection.

So it is with two good things, or a surfeit of anything (culinary) in succession. A wealth of calories. Too much, usually, for most.

Whether literally to pair them is a matter of preference. For me, after a few decades of experience, beer is best served, usually, on its own. Maybe have cracker or some cheese. hallowed exceptions:  a burger, fries, pizza, wings. And yes, a Belgian dish or two, e.g. carbonnade).

It’s also a question of metabolism and age, frankly.

Plattsburgh at that time had talismanic significance for us in Quebec, for young Beer et Seq anyway. It was a way to experience the United States yet arrive back even the same day. They had McDonald’s, Burger King, and regional chains like Lums. If you haven’t had a Lumburger you haven’t lived. Its Ollieburger, with its own interesting history, was the prize jewel in the range.

And a frosty “schooner” of Schaefer lager, Genny, Piels, etc. went well with an Ollieburger, surfeit or no. You’ll have to take my word for it.

When I think of Plattsburgh, a small ,upstate border town, I think mostly of icy air  – often we went in winter. It was easier to cross the border then, and we had more time. The summer was busy with cottage life, or summer camp, or first overseas trips.

It was music at local clubs, first taste of bourbon, and American cigarettes. The distinctive odour (odor) of Camels, Phillip Morris, Parliament (oddly), and Kents – with the Micronite filter – lingers with me to this day.

In memory only, of course.

 

 

 

 

U.S. Army Beer 1943-1946 (Part III)

Beers for Local Populations in Western Europe and North Africa, World War II

When the Americans arrived to engage breweries to brew beer for their troops, those breweries were already brewing, of a sort anyway.

The two articles I canvassed in Parts I and II recorded, not just the beer made for the troops under contract as I have explained, but beer for their own people.

Leonard Saletan, in his 1946 article in American Brewer, stated that the German breweries, due to war conditions, brewed a beer of only 1-2 Balling. So did, he said, the French and Belgian breweries he worked with.

He writes that the beer was actually “brewed in at about 8 B and cut during or subsequent to fermentation”.  In other words, the produce was watered to stretch the result but this would have produced a barely alcoholic drink. He doesn’t say, but I’d think between .5% and 1% abv was the result, almost or equal to the near beer of Prohibition times.

Saletan doesn’t say again, but perhaps the beers were hopped more or less normally for the volume. This would lend the impression of a beery drink – a hop ale in the old English terminology.

He does state “hops were generally available in Germany”. Indeed when the breweries turned to making real beer for the Americans, the hops remained German and the amounts used were “left to the discretion of the brewery”.

The tenor of all this is that hops were not an issue for brewing, so I suspect more rather than less was used for the barely there wartime beer. As to hops for similar beer in France and Belgium, Saletan doesn’t address that issue. (His remit of course was to describe the beer made for American Forces).

Allan Barney’s 1946 article in Wallerstein Laboratory Communications, linked in my Part I, states of the brewers in Oran, Algiers, and Casablanca that they made a beer of “3 Balling”, or “1%”.  I believe this meant the brew was 1% abv.

A starting of 3 B with a finish, say, at 1 would produce just over 1% abv. Possibly he was referring to 1% abw, which would be about 1.25% abv. In that case the attenuation would be greater of course, hence less body.

It seems on average breweries in North Africa had been brewing slightly stronger beer than in Germany, but this is hardly a distinction worth mentioning, as all this stuff was barely alcoholic.

Nonetheless it is noteworthy that Axis or Vichy breweries were still brewing at all. And that barley and hops were still grown throughout the war, as the two articles make clear they were, and Saaz hops in Bohemia.

Saletan in particular seemed to marvel how few of the breweries he encountered had suffered much damage. Lowenbrau in Munich was about the worst, and even that didn’t affect actual production much.

It’s something that bears an analogy to the limited effect even heavy bombing of industry had on the Axis war effort. I’d think the thoughts occurred to Barney and Saletan on their unusual European brewery pilgrimage.

 

 

 

U.S. Army Beer 1943-1946 (Part II)

The American Beer of Benelux, France, Germany

In Part I, I discussed an article in the 1946 Wallerstein Laboratories Communications that explained how the American army supplied beer for its soldiers in North Africa and Italy in the latter part of World War II.

That article was written by Allan J. Barney, an officer with the U.S. Army during the period covered. Before the war he had worked as a chemist for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. Barney directed the brewing and worked with local brewers in these areas to make a beer of starting gravity 10.3 B., ending at 3.3 B (1013 FG), 3.7% abv.

That beer was all-malt except that some malt that had been mixed in Europe, contrary to the specifications, with oats or other unmalted grains. That malt was “distributed” for use in some brewing runs. Except for some beer in Italy that used European malt and hops in store at some breweries, imported American malt, and American hops, were used in all brews.

As I noted earlier, it was probably six-row malt.

Barney did not explain how beer was brewed for troops in France and Germany. He described only brewing in North Africa and in multiple plants of Peroni in Italy.

I have now uncovered a second article that substantially adds to the picture of U.S. Army brewing in wartime Europe. To my knowledge, neither article, hence the detail they disclose, have previously received attention in beer historical studies. I therefore put my pen to it.

The second article is “Brewing Beer for Soldiers in the European Theatre” by Leonard T. Saletan, described as a chemist for Tivoli Brewing Co. in Detroit. Tivoli’s history is outlined in Stephen Johnson’s (2016) Detroit Beer: a History of Brewing in the Motor City.

Saletan’s article was published in a 1946 issue of American Brewer, a trade journal of the U.S. brewing industry. It is not available online.

Saletan, in five closely written pages, explains how brewing was organized for troops in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Austria, and Germany. His article is an excellent counterpart to Barney’s as it covers many points Barney did not, and vice versa.

Together they give a good picture of how the Army approached a supply and logistical issue that, as both stated, had its origins in the morale factor.

Broadly, brewing was arranged and supervised in a similar way in both instances. American brewing experts worked with local brewers to make beer to American specifications. In both cases American materials were imported but with some use of local (European) malt and hops.*

Saletan explained that a J.G. Shakman of Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee, reporting to the Army Exchange Service, engaged six staff. Saletan was one, and each supervised brewing in a given geographic area. They were brewers or chemists from different American breweries including Schlitz, Pabst, and Pfeiffer.

The project Saletan described was of considerably larger scope than Barney’s. During 1945 and 1946 some 30 breweries, each listed by Saletan, made beer for the Army in western Europe. Not all operated concurrently as beer needs depended on troop strength.

The complement constantly varied until, as Saletan explained, a stable occupation force (postwar) existed in Germany.

Further, the Army worked with five malt houses in Germany, also each enumerated.

Just as illustration, breweries included, in France, La Meuse in Paris, Champigneulles in the city of the same name, Graff, in Rennes, and Hornung, in Chartres. In Belgium: Piedboeuf in Liège, Lamot in Malines, and Léopold in Brussels.

In Holland: Brand in Wylre. In Luxembourg, Mousel. For Austria: Stiegel, in Salzburg. In Germany: Schultheiss in Berlin, Hasen in Augsburg, Hofbrau in Bamberg, and Sandler in Kulmbach.

Only lager brewing is referenced or at least implied, similar to Barney’s account; there is no suggestion of any form of top-fermented beer, although it is possible some was made.

Of the great amount of detail Saletan conveyed, below I will focus on the brewing specifications, vs. production figures, pricing, packaging, distribution, unfamiliar (to Saletan) German practices like “bunging” (spunding, to carbonate from the fermentation stage), or quality control.

Brewing followed two main forms. Outside Germany, malt and grits, a form of corn adjunct, were used for the mash. The grits formed 25% in dry weight. Saletan wrote:

The beer produced was to have an O. G. of 11.3° B … The beer produced was to have 3.2% alcohol by weight, and 13.5 kg. of malt, 4.5 kg. of grits, and 200 g. of hops per hl. were to be used in producing the specified beer.

In Germany, only malt and hops were used, product in this case of Germany. Of hops there was enough, malt was more difficult. Special permissions were needed to obtain barley for malting, given postwar shortages. Nonetheless, considerable beer was brewed.

This all-malt German beer was set at 10.6° B starting, but still to produce 3.2% abw (4% abv); hence it can be seen the malt beer was drier than the other. I calculated an impressive 1015 finishing gravity for the adjunct beer and 1012 for the all-malt, still respectable certainly by modern standards.

Whether the differences noted were due to the difference in mash bill or for some other reason – greater penury of materials in Germany, possibly – is interesting to ponder. Ditto for the beer Barney was tasked to brew.

The adjunct beer was hopped at what works out to approximately .5 lb. hops/bbl (U.S.). This is expected for the time, and continued broadly for the same type beer into the 1960s. Today surely it is the maximum that would be used for mass market light beer, but changes in alpha acid content must be factored as well.

Compare a 1960s recipe for Schlitz, from the Brew Your Own site.

I would conclude the Army’s adjunct beer represented an average of specifications from American breweries at the time, at least for the “3.2” beer introduced after Prohibition. Saletan wrote that the beer was designed to taste, and did, like the beer American soldiers were familiar with at home.

Indeed he said most of the production had “an excellent taste” and was comparable to “a good glass of American beer”. None was pasteurized, as for Barney’s beer as well. American draft beer then was unpasteurized, so the analogy held here in that sense, especially as most beer produced was barrelled.

As to the all-malt German beer, Saletan wrote that being 100% malt it differed in character, but was “very good in taste”, and “greatly appreciated”. I don’t doubt it.

At a generous finishing gravity of 1015 the adjunct beer likely was pretty good too, as some craft beer similarly brewed has shown.

The hops in the adjunct beer was probably Cluster, or one form of it. A venerable pre-craft American variety, the American soils of its birth would still have conferred a craft-like character.

Of the breweries Saletan worked with, Piedboeuf in Liège impressed him the most due to its modernity of design and great size. It was built in the late 1930s following Art Deco industrial design, of reinforced concrete. Its clocks and roof-top flood lamps were storied in Liège.

Closed in 1992, the building, known locally as the Jupiler Tower, endured in degraded form. If we have it right, it was bought by a developer recently from Anheuser-Busch InBev, and will be (or has been) demolished due to asbestos content, as precursor to a grand urban re-development scheme.

On this Facebook site you see an image of the building as Saletan knew it, glistening in Art Deco black and white. Saletan said the V-2s hit the city hard but “despite its great height”, apart from blown-out windows, the building escaped harm.

It brewed for another day, another nation, and then some.

Part III follows below.

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*Saletan’s account, for its part, makes clear the American malt he worked with was six row. He describes how this caused consternation among the European brewers, due to differing husk size and lower yield as compared to the two row malt heretofore standard in European brewhouses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Army Beer 1943-1946 (Part I)

The Yank Beer of Casablanca … of Napoli …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On a daily brewing sheet reproduced in the article, ris is printed on a pre-printed form, hence rice. This confirms Peroni sometimes used rice in the mash. Some malt that ended with the Army for brewing was milled in Europe before Barney received it, and had been mixed with unmalted grains, unspecified except for oats.

The reason is, it was meant for use as horse feed, not for any brewing purpose. Barney called the adjuncts “unheard of”, meaning not the corn or rice he was familiar with as adjuncts. He states this mixed malt was “distributed” among a few of the brews and that this lowered the yield.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

He states for example that some beer was sent to Sicily and Sardinia, but does not mention France.

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

Certainly the beer was avidly consumed by all who received it, the article makes that clear. We can imagine that more than one soldier enjoying his all-malt brew intoned in silent salute, “brew it again, Sir”.

Part II of this study follows.

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

In Homage of J.L. Shimwell

A Brewing Iconoclast and Visionary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the 1937 article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The First Draught Beer in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is out there before MGD, before Coors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Taste in the Dominion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sorting the Sardine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She states too in her forthright way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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