What’s Old is New Again, or Newish
Aftertaste, a stock term in the organoleptic vocabulary, also has been appropriated for generations by marketers. Not just for beer, but for other consumer products including coffee and cigarettes. What is aftertaste? Wikipedia helpfully tells us: “[the] taste intensity of a food or beverage that is perceived immediately after that food or beverage is removed from the mouth”.
Yup, that sounds about right.
Those who know the beer palate well generally like a good aftertaste including one where the hop resins are telling. Yet, humans are conditioned not to like bitter tastes, probably because many poisons are bitter, so bitterness in beer has long been a challenge for brewers and marketers who, after all, need a larger market to survive. Hence devising tasty beers with no hop aftertaste, not that anyone has really mastered the trick IMO, but brewers keep trying.
The so-called Vermont IPA type seems prone to minimising hop aftertaste although it really depends on the brand, I think.
References to aftertaste in advertising are older than one might think, going back to the mid-1800s. Initially, the term did not have an invariably negative sense. Some beer ads before WW I speak of a “pleasant aftertaste”, for example. But some edge toward the use legion today, for example when beer was said to have no “bitter aftertaste”.
By the 1930s, aftertaste as used in marketing assumes its present shape, as you see from the nifty ad from 1936 for Evans Ale. I have often referred to Evans, which was primarily a pre-Prohibition brand out of Hudson, NY.
The brewery forever shut with Prohibition, however a brewery in Binghampton, NY revived the name in the mid-30s. The revival did not succeed, and a taste of history – if it was that – quickly disappeared.
The reason I say if it was that is, the ad touts that the beer had no aftertaste while in the eternally win-win world of Madison Avenue, also bruiting virtues of old-fashioned, pre-Prohibition beer. It stated that Evans’ beer was a “real ale”, “for discriminating people”, and indeed made by a brewer who worked at Evans “for many years prior to prohibition”.
Master marketers know how to combine the virtues of pedigree with those of modernity, a stock technique of alcohol marketing to this day.
Was Evans’ beer before Volstead really denuded of all aftertaste? It seems unlikely given, for one thing, Evans used to advertise the benefits of aging, which required lots of hops then, and pushed too its India Pale Ale and musty ale. These styles weren’t known, or so one would think, for palate subtlety.
But covering the bases in this sense didn’t seem to work in Binghampton in the FDR era. Or maybe the fact that Binghampton is in a different section of the state from the original brewery explains why the phoenix didn’t rise.
Still, curate’s egg or not, I’d guess the Evans Mark II was pretty good. We can only wonder. It’s satisfying to report though that a descendant of the Evans brewing family successfully established a brewpub in Albany, NY, some years ago, the Albany Pump Station. The Evans name is used in some of the branding. All details here, and it looks great.
Note re images: the first image above was extracted from the original ad, here. The newspaper in which it appears, the Endicott Bulletin, is available courtesy the NYS digitized newspaper archive. The second image, of modern Binghampton, NY, was sourced from the travel site www.city-data.com. All intellectual property in the sources resides solely in their lawful owners, as applicable. Images appear for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.