The account of adjunct use which follows was presented by Robert Wahl at the 1911 Second International Brewers Congress. It also appeared in a 1911 issue of the technical journal American Brewers Review, whence the extract below.
It is good to read the full page to get a full sense of how the profession viewed the issue before Prohibition. I could give another dozen similar accounts which illuminate small corners of the question but don’t deviate from the essence of Robert Wahl’s remarks below.
Wahl states that the main reason to use unmalted cereals in brewing was to ensure a stable product (“must meet the requirement of stability, more so than in any other country”). See especially his comments under “Shipping Beer – Stability”.
Adjunct use together with other procedures meant the beer would not cloud, from excessively high protein content, when shipped long-distance or where bottled beer was alternately exposed to cold and warm temperatures. It is evident from his remarks that both professional brewing and the public required under all circumstances a clear drink. (There were minor exceptions, e.g., “weiss” beer, and steam beer in part).
As to Wahl’s statement that the public wished a less satiating or sweet beverage (“toning down the too-great richness of all-malt products”), my view is that as adjunct use burgeoned from the 1870s, the result became the norm, just as winter or new lager replaced the taste for summer lager or 7-9 month aged beer.
What you get used to, you expect. While high protein levels even today are said to affect mouth feel and “body”, generally 2-row beers are felt to produce richer-tasting worts – they have been said for many years to have a less “grainy” flavour than 6-row.
See this American Homebrewers Association comparison of the two types of barley: haze is mentioned as a major disadvantage compared to 2-row barley. There is not even a reference to a heavy body of 6-row that needs to be reduced with unmalted grains. If anything, 2-row barley is again the richer-tasting malt.
It must be remembered that Wahl, and his colleagues writing similar statements, were as much talking to their German confreres as an American technical audience. The 1902 American Handy Book of Wahl and Henius was also published in German. Their journal, American Brewers Review, into the years of the first war was published in both English and German. German influence was huge in American brewing then. Assuring German colleagues that America was accepting of adjunct beer was IMO essential to acclimatize them to American brewhouse procedures. Nor does Wahl take on four-square the Bavarian all-malt tradition, he elides it, rather.
Further, all-malt beers can be made dry or sweet, as can adjunct beers. We have a product called Molson Stock Ale in Ontario. It is all-malt yet few comparing it to other Canadian mass market ales, say Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, or Labatt 50, would say it is much different to these others. The same was true of a now-discontinued lager, Labatt’s Classic. Many modern German lagers are quite dry, Beck’s, say, or even Spaten Helles. In the Handy Book, Wahl and Henius state – so were aware – yeasts can be high-attenuating or low-. In one of their charts of sample fermentations, they include a beer attenuated to 81%. They could brew whatever they wanted from malt or malt and adjunct, basically.
Therefore, I read Wahl’s remarks as primarily focused on stability which meant clarity in his day of brewing.
To read more into the statement that Americans preferred a less sweet or satiating drink is not warranted IMO. Using adjunct, you could use an attenuation limit to reach the desired sweetness level: adjunct was consistent with the taste the American brewer sought to attain, it is not a sine qua non, in other words. By this I mean, had European-style barley been available in quantity to American brewers in Wahl’s day (as it is now), I believe all-malt beers would have been the norm with that barley and Wahl says as much. In its absence, adjunct provided a solution to provide the limpid Bohemian (pale blonde) beers desired by the public.
Does this mean adjunct beer and all-malt beer of the same attenuation taste “the same”? No, but that’s not the point. As I discussed in an earlier post, American adjunct lager was quite sweet, satiating if you will, by modern standards. It wasn’t “dry” because of adjunct, it was dry in relation to all-malt of the same gravity since the malt beer had a higher dextrin content which added to the body and mouthfeel. Brewhouse procedures could be adapted to bring the two forms into close relationship if wanted.
At day’s end, I do feel that as close as adjunct brewing and all-malt can be made to be, the latter has the edge in palate. It may be a relatively small one the mass market wouldn’t notice, but it exists IMO. Why did Heineken make the change to all-malt in 1998 after all? That was in the early days – very early – of craft beer. There was no pressure from a beer lobby. They did it surely because it made for a better beer. This is why the German Pure Beer Law was enacted, IMO, and continues to be maintained in Germany, taking all with all.
Conversely, American beers internationally before the craft revival were regarded as lesser to the European lager models, not in quality control areas, but in palate. There was a reason and I think it transcends differences in attenuation and hopping over the generations. This has nothing to do with likes and dislikes at an individual level. Tastes of consumers cannot be gainsaid. But based on decades of reading about beer and talking to many experts about it, the American lager norm was not regarded as on a par with the great European lagers in taste and other sensory characteristics before the craft era – I repeat, before.
I believe in part that was due to the adjunct tradition (the other part mostly related to hop varieties and hopping rates). The lagers of Canada, indeed of most places making lager outside Germany and the few Pure Beer Law countries, were viewed similarly.