International Conclave on Ale – 1935

Ale Under the Microscope in Cincinnati

When the Hagley Digital Archives made available mid-20th century issues of The American Brewer sans paywall, it was a big service to beer scholarship. The issues cover the period from 1928-1942, approximately 160 issues comprising thousands of pages.

I’ve uncovered a nugget from November 1935 – at least, I haven’t seen it discussed elsewhere in modern beer studies. The issue reprinted papers given at the Cincinnati convention that year of the Master Brewers Association of America (MBAA). Included were three presentations on ale history and brewing.

It was significant that the conference devoted this attention, as top-fermentation had been relatively minimal in American brewing for decades. And the post-Repeal 1930s was the least propitious time for it. Still, ale continued to be brewed, both in its Northeast heartland and elsewhere in the country.

Indeed as I showed earlier some brewers took especial pains to deliver authentic, British-inspired productions. Louis Wehle tried to recreate authentic Burton pale ale in Syracuse and Rochester, NY. Ballantine in New Jersey, also 1930s, brought back its long-aged India Pale Ale. There were many other examples, to varying degrees of authenticity.

So the profession still turned its mind to ale. Otto P. Rindelhardt addressed his colleagues from a Canadian perspective. Capt. Francis N. Ward spoke on British practice. Henry O. Sturm and Eric Wollesen dealt with both America and Canada.

Rindelhardt worked for Carling Brewery in London, Ontario. He did not deliver the speech, as I surmise he wasn’t well enough to travel. He died in 1936 at 61, and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Middlesex County, Ontario.

He was with Carling from about 1906 until his death. The American Brewer’s Review (1903) stated he was from Detroit, Michigan and received a scholarship to the Milwaukee Brewing School run by Hantke. By 1906 he had joined Carling Brewing and Malting Co. in London, Ontario, as we see from Letters on Brewing, Volume V.

He had worked under the Carling family and latterly with E.P. Taylor, the financier who created Canadian Breweries Ltd., the pre-eminent brewery “raider” of its era. Rindelhardt was Carling’s long-time superintendent of brewery operations.

 

 

Together with Wollesen, they helped create the Master Brewers Association of Canada in 1914, which was (and is) affiliated with the MBAA.

Eric Rindelhardt, perhaps his son, delivered the paper in lieu of its author. The journal made an error in rendering the surname, terming it Rindlehardt, but it was actually Rindelhardt.

There are few if any other lengthy treatments on these lines in American or Canadian sources of that period, hence their value.

There are so many points in them, I don’t know where to start. I’ll simply send it out for scholarship to examine, and will mention just a couple of points.

Both Rindelhardt and Sturm-Wollesen make detailed comments on the history of cream ale. They make a basic distinction I found useful, especially as the various terms in this regard – cream ale, lively ale, sparkling ale, present use ale – were often used loosely even in brewing circles.

Rindelhardt stated that cream ale and lively ale, which he considered synonymous, were devised in the mid-1800s to compete with lager. He said they were ale barrelled before fermentation had completed to build up carbonation in the trade casks, or krausened in those casks, and sent out.

In contrast, sparkling ale and present use ale – again synonymous – might also be krausened, and later force-carbonated, but were a flat stored ale blended with lager krausen. This form, provided the lager krausen was handled correctly, still offered an ale character but in a fizzy, chilled way as lager would offer.

Cream/lively ale was, as I discussed in the steam beer series just completed, a top-fermented equivalent to California steam beer. Both were newly made and highly effervescent from active yeast. These experts’ comments are fully in accord with that schema, imo.

Sparkling/present use ale, in the strict sense, should not be analogized to steam beer as it offered mainly a mature character. It had a similar fizz, and was intended to be be drunk cold, but the flavours contrasted with the relatively green character of cream/lively ale. This is a reasonable inference to draw from their remarks.

The experts pointed out as well, in a restrained but impliedly critical way, that some post-Repeal brewers were selling lager dressed up as ale, for example, by dry-hopping it.

Their comments on the history of stock ale are very interesting too, including that (as in the U.K.) beer stored upwards of two years could taste sour. Sour I.P.A., that craft phenomenon of our time, fits right in there…

I had no luck in tracing Francis N. Ward. He seems not to have been connected to Ward’s Brewery in Essex, U.K., at least not in the patrilineal line of ownership. He was clearly a formally trained brewer. His comparison of the different regional fermentation methods is instructive, as all his remarks. Every phase of the brewing process is reviewed.

The part I liked best is his description of the taste of contemporary mild ale. He stated it was lightly sweet in character, something most beer today offers much less, imo. He seemed of two minds about sugar in brewing. He said modern, little-aged beer needed it to ensure clarity, but seemed to consider as well that sugar was only necessary when malt of lesser quality was used.

There is lots there, read for yourself.

Note re image: image above was sourced from the issue of the The American Brewer identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.