American Oak Over There

But There’s no Rum-tumming

My coverage of the kind of oak British brewing used for casks in the 1900s, see an example here, has been extensive, yet the war years 1939-1945 were missing.  This discussion fills that gap, from a 1946 Brewers Journal. See p. 910 but also pp. 172, 311, 875, and 915.

The view was clear: the traditional dislike for American oak continued. The problem was the “tang” or “taint” the wood imparted to beer. Earlier articles describe it as tasting vanillin or “cocoanut”. Think buttery Chardonnay wine, or bourbon whiskey.

But war exigencies required use of this wood. The traditional Russian Memel oak, more neutral on the beer and easier to work in the shop, had not been available since at least 1939.

So British brewers did use American wood for barrels but if possible lined them with enamel to counter the ill effects. The writer, the charmingly pseudonymous “Brettanomyces”, also states that with beer short in the war, the ill taste may not have been noticed even where unlined barrels were used.

First, the pubs needed the beer so fast the ale would stay in barrel hardly more than a day: this was not enough time for the taint to develop. Second, people simply took what they could get. It was not like before the war when a pint with that taste would be promptly returned by the drinker.

With the prospect of normal business conditions resuming the cask question had to be addressed. Given the continued absence of Russian wood, what to do? Different solutions were proposed.

Laminated casks with a veneer of suitable wood (it could be British oak) on the interior was one answer. Continued use of lined American casks, another. And finally, use of stainless steel. In the result steel and then aluminium became the norm, by the 1960s.

It may be that use of metal casks in U.K. brewing was hastened due to this perceived problem with American wood. If Russian Memel wood had been available after WW II British producers of cask-conditioned ale, at least, might have persisted with it rather than give themselves over to metal.

On p. 865 in the journal, an extract from the Manchester Guardian was included:

An Anglo-Soviet alliance of British beer and Russian oak appears to be the only satisfactory solution.

It was not to be.

Given today’s fashion for “barrel-aged” beers irony abounds. Most barrel-aged stuff, bourbon barrel or other, sits in barrels made from American oak.

Taste is relative to time, place, indeed person. There is no right and wrong here. But it’s another example of the arbitrary nature of taste. And the power of a catchy slogan.

N.B. Imagine that in a still war-straitened country, with a looming atomic age to add further worry, a national newspaper would devote space to the right type of wood for beer casks. So important is beer to the British psyche!




Victoria Loved Them All

The Cream of Copenhagen Flows in Edwardian Victoria

One of the great porters of the pre-craft era, Carnegie Porter, was a valued import in parts of North America before WW I. By the mid-1900s it was of average or even below-average strength due to Nordic temperance campaigning, but retained the richness associated with Imperial, Double or Export Stout.

An existing porter brewery was purchased early in the 1800s by David Carnegie, Jr., a Scot wishing to capitalize on the Baltic taste for export strong London porter.

The brewery was acquired on the way by a sizeable competitor, Pripps, and is now in the Carlsberg stable. The beer is still made, and is as good as ever, but Carlsberg, despite its large presence in Ontario, has never seen fit to send it here. (Brooklyn Brewery and Carlsberg have a created a small brewery that makes a range of craft beers including a strong stout in the Imperial tradition).

Michael Jackson (1942-2007), the greatest beer personage to dip pen in ink, lauded the inky Carnegie in early writings. This established it as a template, with a couple of other strong stouts he promoted, for “Imperial” or “Russian” stout, now an international craft standby.

Contrary to intuition or at least mine, on the eve of WW I Carnegie Porter was available in remote Vancouver Island as a quality import. It was only 30 years earlier that the edge of the continent in Canada had been opened to settlement by a rail link with the east.

Yet the cream of European beer was now available, at least to the carriage trade and naval officers at the Esquimalt tender base.

It is surprising how sophisticated Victoria’s beer market was. Reputed brands from the U.K. were available (e.g., Bass, Meux, Barclay Perkins, Whitbread, McEwan), from Germany (heard of Humbser? Well-known to Victoria’s beer mavens), the United States, from the Alberta granary, from Labatt in Ontario, and finally the clutch of local breweries I mentioned earlier.

All this for a greater metropolitan area not exceeding 50,000 people. Imported beer was another legacy of The Last Spike albeit not the most consequential (painful as it is to allow).

Carnegie Porter is initially advertised, as expected, as Swedish. After all, David Carnegie first brewed it in Gothenburg, Sweden. See for example here (the colour shading reflects the search terms):

But by 1913, the beer is advertised as from Copenhagen:

At first I thought the Copenhagen Carnegie was an imitation, or knock off in modern vernacular. But no, it was carried by the same importer, a high end liquor and wines dealer called Pither & Leiser. And some ads in Victoria mention that the beer is both Swedish and from Copenhagen, as above. Evidently the Copenhagen version was genuine Carnegie as far as that went.

This is curious, as beer historical studies at least in English has not chronicled a Danish connection.

The Leiser in Pither & Leiser was Max Leiser, a Jewish German who emigrated in the late 1800s with his brothers to trade in British Colombia. The business prospered to the point it was purchased in 1910 by no less than Guinness Brewery according to a University of Victoria historical précis.

From this source:

The 1st business venture of Max [Leiser] here was the purchase of ½ share in the liquor business of Urquhart and Pither, and for several years it was operated under the name of Pither and Leiser. In 1906 they built the 6-storey liquor warehouse overlooking Victoria Harbour. Pither and Leiser prospered until about 1910, when the English brewing family of Guiness [sic] became interested in the wholesale possibilities in this field. They negotiated for the purchase of Pither and Leiser, finally paying more than one million in cash for the business.

Hence in the period we are considering Guinness was doing the advertising. Presumably the agency carried Guinness’ beers too, but anyway Guinness can be presumed to have known and had high regard for Carnegie.

Did Carnegie Brewery establish a branch in Denmark? Or did a Danish brewery, perhaps Carlsberg, obtain a license to brew it for export and the Danish market? The modern connection to Carlsberg perhaps dates back to before WW I. Was Guinness even mixed up somehow in this?

Neither a Swedish nor Danish origin was evidently held to devalue the brand’s appeal, by comparison that is to London or Dublin porter. In fact Carnegie Brewery is described in some ads as “famous”. The fact that it was porter from Europe was warrant enough even though made far from the Georgian Thameside whence porter’s international reputation arose.

Porter in other words was a European by-word for quality in beer as late as the Edwardian period. Ales had gained considerably on porter in Britain, as did lager in North America, but once established in the collective memory a product and reputation can long endure. Pither & Leiser made hay of this. Probably too the British sound of the Carnegie name helped.

Finally, the coincidence of a prominent American, Andrew Carnegie, sharing the same name as the beer cannot have hurt. In fact, I suspect it’s one of the reasons Carnegie Porter had cachet in North America. Few people in the U.S. or Canada, even in obscure Vancouver Island, had not heard the name Carnegie, if only from the lending libraries he established internationally.

A final ad, from 1911, shows Carnegie Porter in context with some of the competition:

Note re images: images above are sourced from the historical newspapers respectively 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.






Rallying Against British Stout

In three parts all referenced here, I discussed an advertising campaign in Victoria, B.C. in the Daily Colonist for stout from Barclay Perkins, a venerable London brewer. These ran from 1909 to about 1917. Some ads were sizeable and focused only on Barclay Perkins, which suggested perhaps some support from the brewer, as this example from 1910.

Ads ran in other local papers for Barclay Perkins but the Daily Colonist had the most lavish ones.

In a comment to Part III in the series I referenced a 2008 article by the Victoria journalist and writer Ross Crockford that described a sophisticated local brewing scene. Although not mentioned, one of the brewers was Esquimalt Brewery. It was located in the harbour town of Esquimalt a few kilometres to the west of Victoria.

Esquimalt had hosted the Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet from 1865, when it had re-located from Chile, but by 1910 the newly-established Royal Canadian Navy took control of the installations. Esquimalt and Victoria nonetheless retained their British character for generations. This was due in part to the earlier history but also later connections with Britain, for example U.K. retirees moving there.

The expression “to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” is not as applicable in business as in physics, but it conveys an essential truth. Local brewers were not going to let foreign brewers beguile the Victoria beer trade without some replique.

We see an example in 1915 in the form of this ad in The Week, another journal of the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

Esquimalt Brewing operated on Viewfield Road, having taken over a business of similar name earlier, see some details here.

The reference to “Genuine British Labour” is interesting. The ad states that the brewer was a Briton working in Canada, and perhaps some other staff were. This would have reassured readers on the authenticity of the beers. The denigrating references to Germans, Austrians and lager are due to the prevailing war, evidently.

The statement that the beers were “Local Products” meant their purchase would support the local economy.

Note how the ad suggests the long journey from Europe would have made the imported beers excessively acid. Sourness in those times, for these beers of English tradition, was regarded as a fault except in some old ales. Esquimalt Brewery here was referring not just to Barclay Perkins’ porters but to stout from Bass of Burton, Meux of London, and Carnegie porter (from Denmark or Sweden as I discussed earlier), all of which were advertised in the same period.

So Esquimalt is saying, our “London Stout” is made locally and has no undue acidity, hence is superior in quality.

There is therefore a passive-aggressive quality to the ad. It is not quite “native son” in that it appeals to the British quality of its products, but refers to local manufacture and lack of acidity to help sales.

Victoria’s water is notably soft, which favours porter production. Esquimalt Brewing probably made a good version of London porter but as good as imported stout? That must remain an open question.

The detail given on Esquimalt’s ales is commendable. The nomenclature uses X designations in connection with pale ale or India pale ale. This reminds me of a similar, 19th century practice in Syracuse, New York. I cannot find the source quickly but will add it to the comments later today.

I think the ales were probably two grades of pale ale or bitter beer, but in different strengths. The stronger one was longer-aged and fermented out further, hence drier than the staple pale ale. The same distinction was expressed in 19th century British beer ads in different ways, IPA vs. EIPA, say, or pale ale vs. IPA. Possibly though the XXXX here was not a pale ale but rather in the style of a regional U.K. strong ale, and well-aged.

By 1915, eastern ale breweries were losing interest in such refinements of classic Victorian ale. They were developing and perfecting their sparkling ales: medium gravity, filtered, and finally pasteurized. These were beers meant to be consumed cold a la lager.

Yet, way out in Victoria in 1915 Esquimalt Brewery was still working in the habits of a generation earlier. This makes sense given the distance from the east coast where the money and market existed to capitalize on recent innovations. Perhaps too as Esquimalt’s population was still a British rump local brewers wanted to work in a vernacular familiar to them, this is possible.

Note re images: the first image above was sourced from this 1910 issue of the Daily Colonist. The second was sourced from this 1915 issue of The WeekAll intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters a Distant Shore, Part III

Without having access to company records and pursuing a detailed study of British brewing economics in 1900-1914, it seemed unlikely I could make further progress in this series. Yet I can, due to the happenstance that an issue of International Brewers’ Journal, No. 45 is available full-view in Google Books and covers 1909.* This is approximately when Barclay Perkins starts to advertise prominently its stout and ale in Victoria, British Columbia (see my Part I and Part II).

All my earlier conclusions are borne out, I’m happy to say, except the idea that Victoria was intended as a depôt to supply Asian or coastal U.S. markets, which is not substantiated to date.

First, take the travails of the industry in general, for which I cited some secondary authority. The journal makes very clear that the years 1901-1909 were continually loss-making for British brewing except for one year’s rally, in 1907. See the discussion at p. 2 of the link above. Barrel “shrinkage” in the eight years was “enormous”.

Regarding Barclay Perkins itself, indeed it had overvalued and written down freehold purchases for pub locations, and the company failed as well that year to declare a common share dividend. Both are confirmed in a Barclay Perkins communication reproduced in the journal, even as the company remained bullish on its general prospects, as companies will. Clearly though the industry and company picture were not encouraging when far-away Victoria beckoned as a new market. See p. 418.

I speculated Victoria appealed due to its strong Britannic character. This is borne out by a research study summarized in the journal that examined the prospects of the Canadian market for British brewing. The message: imported British beer is generally too expensive in Canada at a shilling a bottle, or “a quarter”, and hence only “Englishmen” here can be counted on to buy it. The account does not state Barclay Perkins commissioned the study,  but it is unlikely it didn’t know about it, if only to read it in this issue. See p. 103.

The study was by a H.J. Rodgers, apparently published in Canada. It would be very interesting to put one’s fingers on it; if anyone can, I’ll stand you a pint in Toronto.

Hence, the company was following this advice, or at least was acting consistent with it. Perhaps Barclay Perkins made a similar effort in Newfoundland and other places retaining a strong U.K. character here, but so far I have not found the evidence.

The journal notes at p.176 that beer exports to British North America were 7,729 barrels for the year ended December 31, 1908 (so Canada and Newfoundland), while the U.S. got 66,387 barrels, consistent with its greater population. Clearly Barclay Perkins wanted to increase its share of sales to “BNA” and possibly shore up total North American sales, as the journal notes total industry sales to the U.S. were down, as for British India.

Now, to oatmeal in beer. Remember I stated some of the Barclay Perkins ads touted “two flavours” of stout, one being “oatmeal”?

A correspondent wrote in to ask the journal if approximately 7% oats in the mash would entitle him to call his stout “oatmeal stout”. See p. 130. The journal replied that 7% was the range used by some producers who called their stout just that, hence he might, too. Indeed the journal estimated that 15% would be a “high” rate.

Beer historian Ron Pattinson has examined aspects of this area, see e.g., a blog post from 2016, here. It seems the London porter brewers whose records he examined did not exceed 1%, and 3% was high generally in U.K. brewing with some exceptions such as Maclay Oatmeal Stout (30%).

Nonetheless the journal’s advice in 1909 that 7% oats in the mash tun was typical of oatmeal stout so-labeled is noteworthy given the source, which regularly advised brewers on many kinds of technical issues.

Whatever Barclay Perkins’ oatmeal stout in 1909 held by way of oats, evidently the quantity was thought enough to affect the flavour. Unless the advertising was puffery, which is possible. 

See our next post for one response by a Victoria brewer to the pitch made (sorry) by Barclay Perkins in Victoria.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from this 1910 issue of the Victoria Daily Colonist. All intellectual property in the source belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Image used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*See Ron Pattinson’s Comment which notes that the journal title is actually Brewers’ Journal. For some reason Google Books includes “International” in the catalogue title.





Black Malt’s Centrality for Irish Porter

In a 1928 Guide to Guinness Brewery published by the brewery, which recently became available in full view on Google Books, this statement is made at p. 46:

The discovery of roasted malt as a flavouring material about the year 1800 was responsible for converting the “Brown Ale” previously manufactured into the “Porter” or “Stout” of today.

If one takes a literal approach to porter history, as one should who is concerned with the record and accuracy, this statement is inaccurate – as far as that goes.

Brown ale, and porter made from brown malt, are not the same thing and Guinness made both ale and London-style brown porter in the late 1700s. These data are well-known to students of beer history. The colour was certainly in many cases shared, but porter was more bitter and meant to keep longer. So roasted malt did not coincide with the development in Ireland, or anywhere, of porter.

Yet, something very similar to the above quotation was stated in the Irish Section of a Handbook prepared for the 1887 Royal Jubilee Exhibition in Manchester:

The discovery of patent or roasted malt as colouring and flavouring material had transformed the Irish trade chiefly into a porter trade.

Black malt is an almost carbonized form of malt patented in 1817 by Daniel Wheeler who used a coffee drum-type apparatus.

1887 is rather closer to porter’s origins than 1928. So what’s going on here? The Handbook’s statement follows its acknowledgment of “brown ale” as the historical Irish type. The statement is then made that before roast malt appeared London porter was still being imported to Dublin and Cork. It was competing with Guinness’s stab at the style.

Were the authors – in the first case, Guinness itself – just spinning a yarn of marketing blab, or were they driving at a larger point, that black malt really “made” Irish porter?

What they were driving at IMO is that the early use of roasted or black malt by Guinness was a keynote development for its beer that made it different from London-style porter. London’s porter, as many authorities state, used in the 1800s varying combinations of pale malt, brown or amber malt, and black malt.*

Some breweries in England by then did use only pale malt and black malt a la Guinness, or for some brews, but Guinness was pre-eminently associated with black malt usage. The author of a Guinness history, David Hughes, insists on the importance for Guinness of black malt, see his remarks in his 2006 study A Bottle of Guinness, under “Brewing From 1801”. He notes that porter production at St. James Gate relied very early on pale and black malt only, with some use of amber malt as well for keeping, superior, and foreign stout, not for the staple draught form in other words. Hughes speculates that the amber was used to assist stability, i.e., in beers kept long or exported, not (as I read him or his 1880s grist table) for the staple porter including town and country porter.

According to the American beer writer Kim Winship, writing originally in 1987 and citing Stan Corran’s A History of Brewing (1975), Guinness started to use black malt even before Daniel Wheeler patented it. He cites the year as 1815, which is “about the year 1800” for practical purposes. Know-how and practical innovation often develop simultaneously in different places and usually precede legal recognition in the form of patents and other intellectual property.

Use of roasted or black malt in the staple Irish beer to replace brown or amber malt had to lend a particular flavour as 1800s commentary noted, often a liquorice taste even without use of real liquorice.** The percentage of black malt or, today, perhaps roasted (unmalted) barley, will be relatively low in the mash but the “colouring” and acerbic taste conveyed are disproportionate in their effect.

Beers made in the earlier (1800s) London manner had, when fresh, a more caramelised or luscious taste than the Guinness style,*** as well as often being less intensely black. These early London beers were probably more smoky as well but this is difficult to pinpoint viz. the Irish competition at this juncture of time.

As an example of an essential distinction between the two types I recall Vaux Jubilee Porter as made by Fred Koch in Dunkirk, NY in the 1980s, a recipe supplied by the northern English brewer, Vaux, that owned Fred Koch. The beer was dark reddish-brown and of the taste I’ve noted for London style, quite different to Guinness.**** Many craft stouts, in contrast, hew to the Guinness model, probably under influence of that beer from the 1980s when craft brewing started to spread.

In this sense, the 1928 and 1887 statements are interesting. They seek credibly IMO to mark a dividing point between the older brown beers and the almost black, very roasty Guinness stout that appeared possibly even before Wheeler’s patent. Whether ale or brown porter, it was all brown stuff to the citizen reading the Guide or Handbook…

Had Guinness continued to make a copy of London porter as it started to do in the late 1700s before roasted malt was known, it would likely not have achieved the eminence it did, especially in England which after all was the home of porter.

In modern terms, we would call it brand differentiation, or such was the end result. That is what the guide and handbook writers were trying to explain to, need I stress, a non-technical audience.


*See Martyn Cornell’s Amber, Gold and Black, viz. continued use mid-1800s of brown malt in England while the Irish had given it up (or for practical, domestic purposes they did, and see later in the century, 1888, Frank Faulkner in England writing that in Dublin only pale malt and black malt are used in mashing (at 261)).

**See pg. 331 in Britannica.

*** See London, Vol. 4, viz the “balmy” character of a “crack” London porter vs. the “sub-acid” and “brisk” character of Guinness stout. This comparison was between extra stout sold in England, bottled there from casks shipped from Dublin, and mild London porter. To be fair, draught porter in Ireland had a milder character and probably resembled the best mild London porter more closely, but Guinness was always recognized by British commentators including technical ones for a distinctive product, e.g., Tizard in 1846. I attribute that in good measure to its mash bill, mainly reliant on pale and roast malt from 1815. The use of highly roasted black malt vs. still-smoky brown malt, in connection too with a correspondingly greater amount of pale malt, may have resulted in a milder, creamy pint, in particular.

****Per Howard Hillman’s 1983 Gourmet Guide to Beer: “A regional brew from Dunkirk, New York. Deep tea-brown tinged with orangy-red. Malty nose. Smooth bittersweet palate. Relatively thin-bodied, mellow and short-finished for a porter”.  Some porter is still made like this, I think most reading have had examples.



Pubs Without Pints

As something different today, my friend Stephen Rive (pictured), of Toronto, authors a guest post entitled “Pubs Without Pints”.

. . . in France she learned to savor a drink by small mouthfuls, and is no longer used to bolting great quantities of liquid as beer-loving requires.

—Milan Kundera, Ignorance

One of the pleasures of beer is ‘volume.’ You fill your mouth with beer, you take great, thirst-quenching gulps of it. This full-mouth feel of beer is just as important to the overall experience as the brewing, the level of carbonation and the serving temperature. It’s also unique to beer and quite different from the small sip of scotch or cognac, or the “small mouthfuls” of wine that that set Irena, Kundera’s returning exile, apart from her former friends in post-Communist Prague.

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, by volume I don’t mean chug-a-lugging one glass after another, with a view to getting falling down drunk as quickly as possible. I mean that each time that you raise the glass to your lips you want to feel the volume of the beer filling your mouth, especially for those first few mouthfuls when the flavour is most intense. Now part of that feel of volume in the mouth is pressure—like the pressure in a water pipe or behind a dam—and that pressure is in turn a function of volume in the glass. And herein lies both a problem, and the subject of this blog: the disappearing pint.

I was at a pub in Toronto this week that boasted over twenty high-quality beers on tap, a comfortable, un-pretentious atmosphere, good food and staff who really knew and loved their beer. But there was not a single pint on the menu. Think about that. The largest serving size for a draught beer was eighteen imperial ounces, two ounces short of a pint, and there was only one! All the others on offer were considerably less than a pint. To be fair, there was no misrepresentation. The serving size for each beer was clearly shown on the menu, and the word “pint” was nowhere to be seen.

This is different from what happened to me many years ago, when a bartender claimed that what looked to me like a half pint was in fact a “Leffe pint.” When I politely but firmly pointed out that a pint was a pint and that there was no such thing as a “Leffe pint,” I came close to getting thrown out. I had no idea that that incident of the rogue “pint” was just the beginning, that one day we would have pubs without pints of any kind, real or fake. Repeat that to yourself: pubs without pints. How strange it sounds. But it’s true—hidden in plain sight, open, above board, in black and white on the menu. Pubs. Without. Pints.

Why does this matter? It matters because anything less than a pint not only lacks that wonderful heft as you raise the mug or sleeve to your lips—that sense of abundance, of the fullness of life—it also fails to provide the all-important pressure behind the volume of beer filling your mouth. It’s just not the same.

I feel like the prole in Nineteen Eighty-Four, whom Orwell’s protagonist, Winston, has followed into a “dingy little pub”:

“’E could ’a drawed me off a pint,” grumbled the old man as he settled down behind his glass. “A ’alf litre ain’t enough. It don’t satisfy. And a ’ole litre’s too much. It starts my bladder running. Let alone the price.”

But with this difference: a half liter is about seventeen and a half imperial ounces—not that far short of a pint, and considerably more than the drink sizes on offer at most pubs these days.

At great personal risk, Winston has followed this “very old man, bent but active, with white mustaches that bristled forward like those of a prawn” into the pub, hoping to draw him into conversation about a past that the Party has all but erased and that Winston is trying to reclaim. But we’re more fortunate than Winston. There are more than just a handful of octogenarians left who can testify to the fact that we did indeed used to drink pints. Didn’t we? I’m sure we did.

Is it time to start a Campaign for Real Pints, along the lines of CAMRA? Maybe “CARP” doesn’t quite have the right ring to it, maybe it sounds more like cranky old age than the generous, progressive movement for gastronomic justice that I have in mind. But it’s worth thinking about. Over a pint.


Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters a Distant Shore, Part II

This is a sequel to my Part I earlier today. To understand the history and state circa 1909 of beer exports from Barclay, Perkins & Co. would require, a) a detailed review of the company’s business and legal archive, and ii) a comprehensive understanding of the post-1900 economic environment of the U.K. beer industry. Neither is a simple endeavour.

But some thoughts. This business story in the New York Sun on May 30, 1915 indicates the troubles British brewers experienced even before the first steep beer tax increase by David Lloyd George in the Asquith government (1915).

Before the war the breweries were paying about half their profits to the Exchequer. Also, many breweries including Barclay Perkins had overpaid to expand their pub estates and had to write down asset values, by $5,000,000 (U.S.) for Barclay Perkins. The businesses (as public companies, Barclay Perkins was since 1896) were still profitable but had less value after the write-down.

With declining production during the war under food conservation measures, and price controls on the pint, the industry was between a rock and a hard place. Thoughts of exports to more productive markets had to be delayed or canceled. Revisiting Canada after 1918 was a no-go due to the patchwork of post-war prohibition laws in the country.

That said, despite the German U-boats some beer must have been exported in April 1915 when Barclay Perkins was advertising in a Victoria, B.C. newspaper, unless it was selling prewar stock perhaps.

In terms of the position up to the war, and most of the ads I referenced were between 1909 and 1911, clearly the company saw opportunities in Victoria and perhaps as I’ve said to trans-ship further west. The push makes sense to parry declining prospects after 1900 caused by new challenges. (The Daily Colonist lists some ads for Barclay Perkins products in 1916 and 1917, which seems late in the war for exports, but these are expressed as clearances, perhaps for old stock).

In The History of the Beer and Brewing Industry (2018), ed. by Ignazio Cabras and David M. Higgins, it is noted that U.K. beer production fell annually for 10 years from 1899 and by a total of 14%. Nearing the end point is about when Barclay Perkins seems to have started its push in B.C…

The reasons for the industry’s decline were diverse: falling working class incomes, the new suburbs that lessened access to Central London public houses, and prohibition attitudes which in turn were linked to the respectability issue pubs and drinking could no longer sidestep, as I discussed earlier.

An industry-wide turnaround did commence after 1910 (see Cabras and Higgins) but it would not have affected each brewer in the same way. In C.C. Owen’s 1987 journal article History of Brewing in Burton on Trent he states:

After 1900 opposition to the brewers grew even stronger, with talk of prohibition and a steady decline in beer-drinking. Falling demand and lack of retail outlets drove some of the smaller Burton firms out of business or forced them to amalgamate…

Albeit in relation to Burton, these words summarize a long-term trend in Britain a few years respite before WW I could not arrest. In this climate, an attempt to promote Barclay Perkins in a western Canadian seaport makes sense.

To be sure Barclay Perkins had repute in North America in the 1800s. It wasn’t coming in unannounced, so to speak. A newspaper article in the Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel in 1869, so down the coast for our purposes, called Barclay Perkins one of the two or three dominant brewers “on both sides of the Atlantic”. It is not difficult to find examples of Barclay Perkins ads for its porter a.k.a. brown stout across the United States, and Canada could not have been very different.

Hence, limited as this purview is, I think it is fair to say that by 1909 the company felt impelled to open up a fresh market in Canada, with ancillary plans possibly as noted earlier.

Once the war began, this prospect was stopped in the water. A long slide continued, for social and economic reasons largely outside the company’s control that are well-documented in the literature. The end point was the 1955 merger of Barclay Perkins with Courage & Co., close by it Thameside, London.

For a continuation of the above, see Part III.






Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters a Distant Shore, Part I

From Thameside to the Pacifiic

Based on our researches, leading up to WW I the population of greater Victoria, B.C. was c.50,000, small in relation to Canadian cities of equal prominence in that Victoria was and remains the capital of British Columbia.

Today, Greater Victoria is about seven times that number and the city itself, only some 85,000.

Yet, Barclay, Perkins & Co., the venerable London porter and ale brewery, targeted Victoria as a market early in the 1900s. There is evidence in numerous, substantial ads appearing in Victoria’s Daily Colonist from prominent grocers such as Copas & Young and Hudson’s Bay.

Whether Barclay Perkins paid for all or part of the cost is unknown but it seems not unlikely. Ads for Guinness Stout sometimes appear, usually a single-line listing, or Meux from London, also for Whitbread ale, but the large box ads of Barclay Perkins in Victoria are unique.

I checked available digitized newspapers in Vancouver and while ads for all these beers can be found, Victoria’s prominent notices for Barclay Perkins’ beers stand out.

This ad, in Victoria again, lists beers in a fashion more similar to Vancouver ads I’ve seen, serially without a special “push” behind one brand. Note that a Carnegie Stout from Copenhagen is included. Perhaps this was Carnegie Porter from Sweden (Gothenburg, then) as known in export markets but may have been an illegitimate imitation, or knock-off.

This 1910 ad is typical of the “dedicated” Barclay Perkins type – about 18 sq. in. here. Numerous similar ads appear between 1909 and 1917.

London stout, oatmeal stout, and Russian Imperial Stout were advertised in pints and sometimes nips. This ad described the Imperial Stout as Russian Porter (“very rich”). Three main types were offered despite variant terms used: London or brown stout, oatmeal stout, and Imperial stout.

Ads for the oatmeal stout depict a handsome bottle with a plaid label, see here, suggestive therefore of a Scottish origin for the oats. For what it is worth, this 1913 ad stated there was a difference of flavour between this oatmeal stout and the brown (or regular) stout.

So important was this market that some wartime ads recite that the lately increased Canadian tax on malt liquors will be absorbed by the supplier, e.g., here, in 1915:

Important Announcement

To the People of British Columbia

Since 1781 the famous London firm of Barclay, Perkins & Co.has been manufacturing stout and ale for the entire British Empire and the world at large.

During that time this firm has established a reputation for dealing fairly with the public, not alone in making THE BEST STOUT and ALE on the market, but in selling it at a price within the reach of every family.


Since the war the tax on malted beverages in Canada has largely increased, but, in order to more thoroughly introduce their STOUT and ALE, Barclay Perkins & Co. have decided to ABSORB THE ENTIRE WAR TAX on their products and will continue to sell, for a limited time, OATMEAL STOUT and ALE at the same price as before the war.

Interestingly, this ad demurs on the question of selling the best, insisting more on the excellence of its price.* But some ads rely heavily on tradition with the implication of quality, as those which invoke Dr. Samuel Johnson’s association with the brewery.

Famously, Johnson when selling the brewery as a co-trustee described the rewards promised as “beyond the dreams of avarice”. Barclay Perkins was still bustling, in its way, around the edges of empire in the 1910s to fulfill that prediction.

The question is, why the focus on such a small and distant market? I think a number of reasons explains it. First and foremost, even though British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871 Victoria retained a strong association with the British Isles in habits and customs that endures to this day.

The Empress Hotel in the city was famous for its afternoon tea service throughout the 20-century, and perhaps still. This cultural background derived from the many British retirees who settled in Victoria in the last century, and their descendants’ enduring attachment to British mores and habits.

Second, nearby Esquimalt facing the Pacific to the west hosted the Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet throughout the 19th century. A complement of British officers, ratings and support staff was a ready market for London porter. Many probably stayed on to work or retire in the city after the Royal Canadian Navy took over Esquimalt from 1910.

The city enjoyed a realty boom in the Edwardian years, as well as being a hub for trans-Pacific and coastal trade. Prosperity never hurt the ability to indulge a foreign luxury.

In fact, all these factors together may suggest Barclay Perkins viewed the city as a depot for trans-shipments to U.K. possessions or other markets in Asia.

The building that housed Copas & Young still stands, a handsome, corner building you can see here.

See Part II of this post, here.

Note re image: the image above, of Victoria, B.C. early in the 1900s, is believed in the public domain and was sourced from Flickr here. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*Rereading the ad, I think perhaps an implication of superiority was meant in quality terms as well. The term “alone” may have meant simply “just”.



Gammel’s Beer Bonanza, Utica

The following is based on search of archival information in various sources including, Google Books, and Fulton Historical Newspapers. In the late 1800s and at least until 1910 George Gammel operated a restaurant and off-license business at 17-19 Liberty Street, Utica, NY.

The restaurant had been started by George’s German-born father Robert, a son of ’48, the fighters for liberty who fled Central European states seeking freer lands.

The hull of a building stands today that is likely the site of Gammel’s business, see details here, via Google Maps. Very different the site was c.1900 when Utica was a manufacturing and commercial hub in the Empire State.

George Gammel bottled beer in no. 17, probably the smaller structure on the left, and ran the restaurant at no. 19, likely the structure to the right.

He was clever in his advertising strategies, sometimes placing short banner ads in local papers that mentioned different beer brands. These were the pop-ups or rotating panel ads of their time.

Sometimes advertisers chose other strategies, especially around the concept of the advertorial, which is hardly new in America.

An amusing ad of this type appeared in the January 10, 1897 issue of The Journal in Utica. It attests floridly to Gammel’s expertise in the beer arts. 27 men were assembled in their club telling jokes and seeming tall tales, the fireside aglow. They were persuaded on a bet to troop to a local restaurant, Gammel’s, to see if they could order as many (different) beers as their number.

The promoter of the proposition had to pay if he lost, and if he won, a doubter had to ante. Both were probably put up by Gammel who likely repaid the “loser”.

Below are the beers, a “world of beers” of their day in a small but prosperous American city. Even well outside New York City or a Chicago, beer expertise of this sort was not lacking, evidently.

Now, I counted 26 beers in the story. One of the clubmen is described as a long-haired scribe. I’d think he didn’t order a beer – he wrote the story.

  1. Schlitz Export.
  2. Pabst Export
  3. Pabst Bohemian
  4. Rochester Rienzi
  5. Consumer’s
  6. Rochester Bohemian
  7. Culmbacher (imported)
  8. Rochester Bavarian
  9. Ralph’s Cream Ale
  10. Ralph’s Old Ale
  11. Ralph’s India Pale Ale
  12. Ralph’s Old Stock Ale
  13. Munich Augustiner
  14. Kaiser Beer (imported)
  15. Coburger Bock
  16. Guinness Stout
  17. Greenway’s India Pale Ale
  18. Bass Imperial Stout
  19. Younger’s Scotch Ale
  20. Evan’s Cream Ale
  21. Allsopp’s India Pale Ale
  22. Eagle Bohemian
  23. Smith’s India Pale Ale
  24. Bass Pale Ale
  25. Smith’s Philadelphia Stout
  26. Philadelphia Weiss Beer

I have discussed beer bars in different pre-craft periods, as well as beer festivals offering an enticing range of beers. To these we must add busy Utica, NY of the Gilded Age, as Gammel offered beers from (at least) Utica, Rochester, then a reputed brewing centre, Syracuse, Milwaukee, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and England.* Moreover, he ensured representation of around a dozen styles.

The equivalents today would make a fine palette of beers, for anyone, anytime who cares about the genre.


* See my earlier post where I discuss the innovative advertising of a different kind by Oneida Brewing in Utica. Oneida was successor, even by 1897, to the earlier Ralph’s Brewery but the Ralph’s name was still being used clearly to describe beers from this source.



Donald F. Hyde Visits Barclay Perkins, 1950

Is Donald Hyde the Connection to Importing Russian Stout in 1950?

In a recent post I identified a plan in 1950 to send Barclay Perkins Russian Imperial Stout to the United States. Before WW I the beer had reached some markets in North America, including Victoria, Canada.*

A story in the Buffalo Evening News in 1950 stated some beer had already arrived, with more planned.

We think this was a flash in the pan, a commendable idea but well-ahead of its time. To our knowledge the beer was not available in America in the 1950s although some very small sales may have occurred before the Korean War intensified.

Certainly the Imperial Russian Stout of Courage, successor to Barclay Perkins, did reach America by the 1970s. So did stout in that style from some European breweries, I gave examples in my article on 1970’s American beer writers in the journal Brewery History. By the 1980s the growing boutique brewing phenomenon embraced the style as its own.

I found what may be a clue to the genesis of the 1950 plan. A letter dated July 19, 1950, stored in the Samuel Johnson Collection of Houghton Library at Harvard University, was written by Barclay Perkins to an American in New York, Donald F. Hyde. The letter appears in a Harvard blog entry in 2007 by John Overholt, a cataloguer with the Houghton Collection.

Hyde had visited Barclay Perkins’ Anchor Brewery that year during a European tour. The letter enclosed labels of various Barclay Perkins’ beers including Russian stout (see link above), and promised to send a book on the brewery being prepared for the forthcoming Festival of Britain.

There is no reference to a plan to export Russian Stout to New York or any involvement by Hyde in this effort. Still, I think it quite possible there is a link between Hyde’s 1950 visit and the export plan, as the two events viewed independently would seem rather coincidental.

Who was Donald F. Hyde? He was not just a curious American taking an off-beat tour on vacation. He was a lawyer and wealthy society figure with a deep interest in Samuel Johnson, the writer and trustee of the estate of Henry Thrale, a predecessor of the Barclay Perkins partnership.

Ohio-born, Harvard alumnus Donald Frizell Hyde moved to New York in the late 1930s when he married Mary Morley Crapo, a member a prominent Michigan family with origins in New England. By 1950 both were well-known collectors of books, other literature, and memorabilia pertaining to Samuel Johnson as well as John Keats and Oscar Wilde.

Today, Harvard University maintains the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson. In its words:

The bequest of Mary, Viscountess Eccles (1912–2003), Houghton Library‘s Hyde Collection contains a comprehensive collection of the published work of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the 18th-century English author best known for his Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

Mary Hyde married the Viscount Eccles after Donald Hyde’s passing and took up residence in Britain.**

Hyde’s death in 1966 at only 56 was memorialized by numerous literary and university associations, here is one example from a papyrologists society. A lengthy, highly respectful obituary also appeared in the New York Times, see here.

The Times noted that in addition to his distinguished collecting he maintained a number of business interests although the ones mentioned seem not to relate to wine and spirits.

The answer, if there is a link between Donald Hyde and importing Russian stout to America, resides in the Houghton Library and/or Barclay Perkins archives.

Note re image: the letter above is from the Houghton Collection of Harvard University as reproduced in 2007 on a blog of the University. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the Houghton Library of the Harvard College Library. Image is used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*For a good sketch of the history of Barclay Perkins brewery, see Ian Hornsey’s A History of Beer and Beer and Brewing, from p. 555. (Published 2003).

**See also the Guardian’s obituary in 2003 of Mary, Viscountess Eccles, formerly Mary Hyde. It gives good detail on the depth of the Hydes’ interest in Dr. Johnson and the Thrale family.