A Victorian Meets London Porter

“For The Amusement and Instruction of Amateurs in Beer…”

George Augustus Sala, 1828-1895, was an English journalist and writer, the son of Italian immigrants. He had a vivid manner of description, intensely visual and sensory. It’s a style less encountered today, especially for journalism and topical writing, due to the sophistication of colour photography and imaging. He is remembered as a master of “ephemeral journalism” and the extract below typifies his talent.

Of the many subjects he broached, pubs and beer were not exempt. I have seen most of his writing in this area, but his comments on porter below had escaped me, probably because he doesn’t use the term porter as such. The extract is from his full-length work Gaslight and Daylight, With Some London Scenes They Shine Upon (1859) (via HathiTrust).

It was almost mandatory in “ephemeral” discussions of London’s beer to allude to the possibility it was doctored: it was a Victorian preoccupation. In truth, little of it probably was, at least by brewers. Brewing was a regulated business and most of the porter in London was brewed by sizeable concerns. They had a lot to lose from a prosecution for adulteration. In contrast, publicans sometimes added salt or water to beer, or sugar of some kind, to enlarge their profit margins.

It is unclear from Sala’s remarks whether the gin mill profiled really fooled with its beer. The key part of the description, “half-sweet and half-acrid”, could apply to many porters and stouts today. And Sala’s reference to fining shows the limits of his knowledge, as fining was not and is not adulteration, but merely a clarification of beer – a benign, if not salutary, practice.

In other parts of the book he refers to porter as “mild” or “treacly”. I infer from the term half-sweet that the gin mill’s porter was mild, too. Aged, or stocked, porter would be dry and wine-like in comparison. Most porter consumed in town then was mild.

“Acrid” is consistent with astringent, bitter, sour, smoky, or burned. Porter, especially at that time, certainly could be one or more of those. Could the beer have been doctored? Yes, or maybe it wasn’t.  Clearly he didn’t like it, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. Still, his description is of some assistance, even the brown-tinged foam part, which once again can characterise beer today.

Sala may well have drank something rather like Tenfidy Imperial Stout, or, more pertinent to London, one of The Kernel’s impy stouts. Maybe he needed another 10 years to accustom. When writing the words subjoined, he was a mere 31, and perhaps a “mild ale” man.



Early Days of Ale in Australia

Some Good Oil, There Was

This 1844 review of Tooth`s in Sydney is one of many tours journalists wrote of the brewery that century and in the one following. Australian journalists showed little of the reserve of American and English ones when it came to beer and brewing. They wrote about it straight as it were, without self-consciousness or apologetics.

This continued into the 20th century and was consistent with the fact that no state ever approved Prohibition, nor was it approved to my knowledge by local option. Canberra did for a time stop liquor sales, consistent perhaps with the planned and novel nature of the capital area, but a vote ended that by the 1930s.

Now, in 1844, we are in the classic period where the Australian stuff was supposed to be bad. Terms like swipes, swill, and other unattractive names were attached to local ales and porters. Even 40 years later, brewing author J.C. MacCartie, an Australian who had brewed for six years in Dunedin, critiqued Aussie beer, pre-lager that is.

Yet the 1844 story, written nine years after brewing commenced, praises Tooth`s all-malt beer and claims much local beer was sold as English and no one knew the difference. I cited sources earlier which argued (1860s) that Australian brewing was certainly up to the task, but social snobbery resulted in the product being viewed as second-class.

Where did the truth lie then … maybe somewhere in the middle. Trying the beer at the brewery versus the usual trade sources would have meant for a better experience, almost always. Then too, boosterism surely came into it, and also simple manners: as today, no one wants to excoriate a host.

I wish someone would brew beer today as described in the article: use a mix of old-variety Australian, and California hops (Cluster, I`d suggest), use half Australian malt and half English, and ferment it at a high temperature to finish the primary in under 48 hours. Let it settle out, fine it, and see what it`s like. How bad could it be, I wonder… By today`s standards of appreciating artisan brews, it might be sensational. Or even just very nice.

Tooth`s stopped brewing in Sydney in 2005. KB lager is brewed in other states now.

In fact, Tooth`s (CUB) did brew a recreation of its old pale ale in 2015, and the brew is still sold. The Grain Bar, Sydney, carries it, whence the historical image shown. We hope it is good, if anyone knows, let us know.



Doesticks Does the Lager Saloon

Meet Q.K. Philander Doesticks, P.B.

Mortimer Thomson was an American humorist, journalist, and author who died in 1875 at only 43.  One account states he was wounded in the Civil War where he covered the fighting in the first half of the war.

He wrote a number of full-length books and, acting undercover in Georgia, wrote an anti-slavery expose which is still remembered.

Thomson is catalogued by historians of humour. Comedy famously varies with the times, and even at his death his style was largely passé and the author forgotten. Yet, anthologies of humour sometimes include him, and he has been the subject of a number of academic studies.

He was born in the western part of New York State, in Riga, Monroe County. He has associations with University of Michigan and its student newspaper but left before graduating.

He became nationally famous in 1855 with the publication of Doesticks: What He Saysa collection of his humorous letters. In late 1858, the Sydney press printed this piece of Q.K. Philander Doesticks, P.B., Thomson’s nom de plume and his alter ego. It may be from the book, or one of the letters separately published in New York newspapers when Thomson was working there as a journalist.

He was a regular at Pfaff’s, a famous early lager beer house that was also a literary hangout. The letter, despite its elements of fantasy and fable, offers good vignettes of the New York German saloon, down to the foods served, the waitresses, decor such as it was, and the beer. The letter states his beer was sour, like a watered, sour strong beer (ale); he was not the first to be unimpressed with New York’s new drinking sensation.

Lager was still quite new in the city then, yet all the stock elements one associates with the German beer hall, down to the house band, were in evidence.

One can see elements in Thomson that later appeared in W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Robin Williams, and today in Stephen Colbert and Sarah Silverman (also the guy who did Borat). There is a zany quality in particular, and the stream of consciousness style.

The letter is satire, including that lager was far from innocent despite the public perception to the contrary, and enough would make anyone drunk. Another observation was the incredible amount of smoking that went on in the German saloons. In this period, pipes were the main agent, to be shadowed soon by cigars, and finally cigarettes.

The old Dutch pipes some people used – long, thin, white – are collected – hundreds of them – in Keens Steak House in New York, a 19th century survivor. Musty ale would come on strong soon in Keens and similar restaurants, but these were Anglophile holdouts in a city where lager soon became an indomitable force.

Here is the opening paragraph but read the full piece to capture the riotous tone and full spirit.

Lager Bier is a kindly liquid, and a moral agent; it is pleasant to the taste, and withal, is not intoxicating, so people say. Lager has taken out his papers and become naturalised, and is now as thoroughly American as before he was peculiarly German. Lager is a capital fellow to know, and I have just formed his acquaintance. I never drink inebriating compounds for several reasons; one of which is, I can’t afford the money it costs to get drunk, or the time it takes to get sober. I have, therefore, renounced my former friends. Brandy Cocktail and Whisky Punch, who are slippery fellows. B. C. left me in a station-house, with my head the size of a peach basket, and W. P. on one occasion led me into the company of some gentlemanly looking individuals, who picked my pocket of all my money, and then blacked my eyes because I didn’t get a bigger salary. But the other night I went with Damphool to drink some Lager Bier because I am convinced it does not contain half as much alcohol as distillery milk, and there is no more danger of a man getting drunk upon lager than on sweet cream.!
 (Distillery milk was milk from cattle fed on the spent grains of distilleries and breweries. Its quality was questioned on this account and colleagues of Thomson would have written exposes).
 Note re image: the image above was sourced at www.flashbak.com, and is identified therein as a Getty image. All intellectual property in or to the image belongs solely to its lawful owner or authorized user. Image believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

Brewer, Author, Entrepreneur Edward Wild – Denouement

Cocculus Indicus and Gentility

Edward Wild died in a public hospital in Melbourne in 1877 at a reported 71: this pensive press account in the Hamilton Spectator thought he had looked much more.

Even at this late date, knowing as I do of Wild’s heroic efforts for decades to promote domestic brewing, the obituary makes for some hard reading. He died in reduced circumstances, as another account put it. Although he assisted years earlier to raise funds to expand an old peoples home, when came the time to afford him a room, he was turned down.

His numerous non-brewing ventures, alluded to in the death notice, came to nought.

The loss of the court case in 1870 was a major blow, but he had suffered for years the slings and arrows of the doubters, the envious, the “haters” they would be called today.

Some readers may have noted the irony that someone who promoted the native Australian product ended by being fined for passing off his beer as from Carlisle, England.

I don’t think he was a hypocrite. Someone of a “literary and speculative” turn of mind, as the story called him, was unlikely to fit that bill. Rather, the new dawn of Australian brewing simply hadn’t arrived, so he made a last attempt at renewed success with his 1870 line of faux imports.

Maybe too it was his way of saying, you really want beer from England, don’t you, then you shall have it, after a fashion.

It was all to be a damp squib.

But let’s go back to the 1860s, when he was still fighting the good fight, when he earned the obituary’s left-handed compliment, “brave old heart”.

Yesterday you saw a quotation from a pamphlet he wrote defending the worth of Australian ale. His screed elicited a number of reactions in town.

This writer in the Melbourne Punch (1866) seemed to concede his point that local beer could be excellent but refused still to give up foreign “potations”. The writer reserved the right to be guided by certain non-common sense passions, for reasons of appearance, essentially. In his own, supercilious words:


“The time has arrived”, says Mr. WILD, in a concluding burst of swipy eloquence, “when we should ask ourselves whether we are to be governed by reason or enslaved by prejudice.” Mr. PUNCH refuses to be governed except, by his own common sense, or enslaved otherwise than by the sweet glances and tender attentions of his numerous lady admirers. But, on this account shall he give up other potations, and addict himself to colonial swipes. Go to, Mr. WILD.

Another article was more forthright that local brews had merit, but agreed it was an idée fixe to follow English ways, to be well-regarded in society that is. It’s the old problem of snobbery, of fixed social practices and hierarchies. (Note the implication too that snobbery derived from ineluctable female expectations, which seems rather unsporting, frankly).

At bottom, as a bumptious Yorkshireman, perhaps Wild never really fit in the upper reaches of Melbourne’s caste system. The city always was the most English of the Australian burgs – to this day some argue its educated accent doesn’t sound typically Australian.

Referencing the Melbourne Punch article, the second writer wrote:

The question in fact is one, not of beer, but of ethics, not of good breweries, but of good breeding. It is one, in fact, in which the interests of the colonial brewers are less involved than the instincts of the colonial ladies, and though it may be all perfectly true, as Mr Wild says … that the ales and porter brewed in Collingwood and Castlemaine come from a purer source, are made of purer water, and are quite as tonic, and quite as aromatic, as the imported liquors, still the prejudice is dead in favor of the latter. It is not that Wild’s and Fitzgerald’s are inferior, but it is that Bass and Allsop are more respectable. In all other features the competition would be an equal one. But though there is a natural tendency in consumers to prefer the article which is superior in wholesomeness, cheaper in price, and choicer in flavor, “society” is compelled to be more discriminating, and the result is, cocculus indicus and gentility carry the day. Meantime, it should be consoling to Mr. Wild to know that there are beer-drinkers who are sufficiently wanting in refinement to sympathise with his plea for colonial beer. We can vouch, from a vulgar experience, that there are breweries in Castlemaine which manufacture beverages as fine, as sparkling, and as sound as any that come from Burton or Carlisle, beverages which might please the palate of the most sensitive connoisseur, and are deficient only in those stupefying ingredients which the critics seem to miss, and which, probably, inspire their criticism.

The last story noted with perspicacity that a prophet has no honour in his own country – that may come closest to the truth.

I have not been able to find an entry for Edward Wild in any current or older dictionary of biography for Australia even though he was well-known in mid-century brewing, wrote a book on accounting still remembered, and contributed in other ways to Australian business and cultural life.

To say he has been forgotten is an understatement. We will remember him here, as the day did come certainly when Aussie beer became the sole drop consumed in the country, indeed (famously) a matter of national pride. And today, there is a second brewing renaissance in the form of the vibrant craft industry.

I don’t brew in Australia or anywhere, but if I did, I would issue Wild’s Pale Ale No. 3, or Wild’s 1/2 and 1/2, to remember him, using J.C. MacCartie’s 1884 handbook as a guide.




Edward Wild, Accountant With a Flair For the Beer Business

A propos my recent posts on Edward Wild of Vaughn and Wild Brewery, Melbourne (also called Collingwood Brewery, and Melbourne and Collingwood Brewery), this is the a la Carlisle Ale label that got Wild in legal trouble in 1870.


Yorkshire-Born Wild was the financial mind behind the brewery, he arranged the money and kept the books. He was well-qualified for this work, as he was an expert accountant with a trading and financial history in European commercial cities (Hamburg, Oporto) before arriving in Victoria.

Wild is remembered by accounting historians for writing a notable text on simplified double-entry bookkeeping. He also made an early call for Australia’s accountants to organize and adopt common professional standards. He practised as an accountant in Melbourne, and taught the subject in schools. In fact, Wild’s book was only the second accounting text published in Australia.

Further detail on Wild’s importance in accounting history can be gleaned in this 1995 article by Garry Carnegie and Scott Varker.

Brewing requires many skills apart from making good beer: legal, technical/engineering, marketing, accounting, finance. Wild excelled in marketing, too. He was an indefatigable supporter of “colonial beer”, a topic that absorbed much press ink in Australia from 1850-1930s.

Wild tussled with many who weren’t persuaded by the local products he boosted, or who seemed just irritated by his brassy business ways. Accountants are noted for their conservatism: like lawyers, their work requires that perspective, yet some are also great salesmen.

When the legal dispute regarding “a la Carlisle Ale” occurred, the nature of his connection to Collingwood brewery is not clear. The trade mark for a la Carlisle ale was registered in Wild’s own name. He also registered similar trademarks for Edinburgh Ale and Dublin Stout and sold beers under those names before the court shut down further use of the gambit.

The Pereira shown as bottler was a fiction. A news story on the dispute referred to Wild as “brewer”, but it is clear he was not a hands-on brewer. Vaughn had performed that role when the two were in association, but was Vaughn still involved in 1870 given Wild obtained the trade marks personally?

This 1873 trade exhibition included “Wild’s Victorian Edinburgh Ale”, but the maker was still listed as “Vaughan and Wild”. Given the Wild prefix, possibly he was running the Collingwood brewery himself, or connected to a different brewery by this time, albeit retaining the Vaughan and Wild business name.

But one way or another, in 1870 an ale was produced under the Carlisle name in Melbourne, and this attracted attention from a party who imported genuine Carlisle ale.

Four years before the court decision, Wild wrote a pamphlet to collect his ideas on colonial brewing. This news article from 1866 contains an extract, reproduced below. His words have the ring of truth and remind one of the potency of the power of suggestion.

Mr Edward Wild, a Melbourne brewer, has just published a pamphlet extolling the virtues of colonial beer. Mr Wild, in speaking of the existing prejudice against Victorian malt liquor, says, “Place the label of the finest colonial brewer on a bottle of the finest Burton ale or London stout ever brought into this market, and people would turn up their nnscs at it. Label a bottle of “Wild’s No. 3″ with Bass or Allsop’s name, and connoisseurs will smack their lips over it, and exclaim as they watch the brilliant sparkles rising to the creamy surface of the lucid liquor, “Ah! they can’t brew such ale as this in Australia!”. This is no imaginary statement. I speak of what has actually occurred, when the experiment has been tried for the sake of testing the strength and inveteracy of the prejudice. I have known private families to rack some of my draught stout into bottles from which the labels of the most distinguished London brewers have not been detached, and when it has been brought to table experienced judges have been eloquent in its praise, supposing it to be of exotic manufacture, and have observed with unsuspicious candour, “There are only two places in the world in which they brew good stout — London and Dublin”; little dreaming that the subject of their honest eulogy was produced in Collingwood.

The Inspirational Victoria Brewery, Melbourne

Brewery visits were a stock device of the 19th century journalist in larger cities. A book could be written, and most interesting it would be, collecting these with commentary.

In 1875, heyday of the Australian “colonial ale” era, a Melbourne writer wrote up his visit to Victoria Parade Brewery, later known as Victoria Brewery. The founder Thomas Aitken originated the famed VB brand in the 1850s.

The brewery was a key component of Carlton and United Breweries, the pre-WWI merger of Victoria breweries which later crossed state lines to become a big national. The brands are now owned by AB InBev/SAB Miller. VB still has a large market, and today is brewed in Abbotsford, Melbourne  – you saw the Abbotsford name, vintage later-1800s, on a Yarra hotel the other day.

His account gains interest, not just from the good technical detail conveyed, but some high-flown rhetoric – rather unusual in business or general interest journalism. The author was probably an aspiring novelist or highbrow type working for lucre in the raucous mills that were – are, no doubt – the world’s press rooms.

Consider this elegant, unerring formulation:

The art of making beer is one of the most ancient known to man. From the earliest ages the desire implanted in the human mind to drink deeply of beer has been ministered to, and intoxicating preparations of barley have been brewed at periods far anterior to that to which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. Beer, happily for its cosmopolitan character as a respectable, sober, and every-day liquor, had no mythological god, under whose auspices the drinking of it formed a religious rite. The worshippers of Bacchus thought, no doubt, they were doing their devotions in proper, orthodox style, and probably felt as virtuous as though they were going to meeting in their Sunday clothes, when they drank themselves red in the face and purple in the nose with the juice of the divine wine ; whereas, the lovers of beer drank in the past, as they drink in the present, from no sense, of religious feeling, but simply to gratify a profound instinct of an earthly nature.

Beer has never been considered a romantic liquor. Its praises have not, like wine, been sung by the poet; and the painter does not love to depict scenes of revelry where it is the standing drink. The progress that beer has made in the affections of mankind is due solely to its own intrinsic merit. No factitious help is given to its consumption. It stands, speaking metaphorically, on its own bottom, and flourishes now in spite of the abuse, the enactments, and restrictions against it, as it did in the far past ages of our Saxon ancestors.

The writer goes on finally to taste the beer, and makes the argument that beer tasted at the brewery is “morally” superior to that drunk elsewhere. By this he implies, not just that the beer is literally often better than in the pub or when brought home, but is symbolically better as it were, since consumed in the place where so much attention and skill are deployed to make such a special thing.

Indeed, important technological and scientific history played out at Victoria Brewery, whose brewer for years was Auguste J.F. de Bavay, a long-lived, Belgian-born brewer and scientist. He developed pure yeast cultures, initially for top-fermented beers, after Emil Hansen in Denmark led the way with his groundbreaking work. Bavay also identified a wild yeast strain which was contributing (sometimes) to troubles in stocked ale. He finally turned to bottom fermentation as the most secure route to stable beer.

Bavay should be remembered as part of the VB story, but also had great influence in his adopted country in numerous industries. Here is some background on him, from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Victoria Brewery can be said to have birthed some of the best rhetoric about beer and also key technology pertaining to the eminently earthy matter of yeast. The profane, the sublime, not a bad trick.

From Carlisle to Collingwood…

International Brew Ha Ha

Wild & Vaughan were brewers in Collingwood, an inner suburb of Melbourne. The brewery, known as the Collingwood Brewery, was founded in 1840 just a few years after Melbourne’s settlement. Along with many breweries in Victoria it served the growing economy of the next generation which was powered in part by resource exploitation.

Indeed, the miner was a stock Australian figure in the international imagination until well into the 1900s.

Edward Wild was a kind of marketing genius. One way he showed it was to bring journalists into the brewery – always apt subjects for a beer session –  to help decide on a new beer. The news report in the Leader, from 1864, is full of interest.

The party tasted both running (fresh) and stock (aged) ales and noted the difference in taste.

They didn’t seem to like the old beer while allowing it was better after two or three goes. How many times have you heard that about any unusual food or drink?

In the visitors’ words:

There was very little difference between the several samples, except in the matter of age, which, of course, greatly affected the taste and strength. The sample labelled No. 1, and which was only about a fortnight old, was very much admired because of its lightness and the strong flavor of hops which it possessed. No. 2, which was of the same strength but had less hops, was also highly praised; but, although it was a month old, No. 1 was preferred to it. No. 3 was a matured ale, being about eighteen months old, but still in bulk. It was a little heavier in saccharine qualities than either of the other two samples, and had a rich vinous taste which it has acquired solely from age. This peculiarity of taste seemed, of course, strange at first, but after a second or third trial it was found to be extremely palatable. The body of this ale, though only similar to that of light English ale, was considered as somewhat too heavy for summer use. After due deliberation, tho judges determined in favor of No. 1, which they considered, if another fortnight older, would provide one of the best summer beverages that could be desired. Mr. Wild then announced his intention of abiding by the decision of the gentlemen who had favored him with their opinion, and to supply ale of the same description as had been approved of for summer use, under the designation of Wild’s No. 3 pale ale.

It’s just as a group of friends or colleagues might do at a tasting today, compare and contrast, except 150 years ago.

In contemporary agricultural exhibitions and advertisements for the Victoria colony this brewery touted its “a la Carlisle ale”, “a la Edinburgh ale”, and “a la Dublin stout”.

The unusual formulations meant, ostensibly anyway, that the beers were in the style of beers from those cities but were brewed in Collingwood, Victoria.

Why Cumbrian beer attracted interest in Melbourne is hard to say. It’s probably one of those accidents of international business that can’t be deciphered at this late date. Carlisle beer had no special reputation in the 1800s yet it achieved repute in far-away Victoria. Anyhow, it satisfied Melbourne’s thirsts and Wild clearly wanted to trade off that.

As sometimes happens in such cases, he was sued. And he lost. You can read about it in this informative report (1870). It states that at least in the year mentioned Wild’s take on Cumberland’s best tasted sour. The real Carlisle stuff did not, one of the factors noted by the court.

Wild’s labels had the a la in very small script which hurt his case as well. His argument was that Carlisle ale was a type, as Bath is for the Bath Bun, say, and he had as much a right to use it as the importer who sued him. But the judge didn’t go along.

An amusing satirical “exchange in the Melbourne Punch (1872) shows Wild continued to get publicity out of  the debacle –  perhaps one of his objects.

Looking at it today one has a certain sympathy for him. A stablemate product was a la Edinburgh ale. Well, “Scotch” ale is sold today around the world, i.e., under that name. The story of pilsner beer is only too well-known. Carlisle wasn’t a major player in brewing, nothing like Britain’s famous Bass or Allsopp from Burton-on-Trent, but still it had a market in Victoria. The court wasn’t going to let even a notable local citizen trade off that.

Which Carlisle brewer sent beer to Australia? I think it was probably the Carlisle Old Brewery, founded in 1756 and long-associated in the 19th century with Sir Richard Hodgson.

The town had about a dozen breweries c. 1870, but Carlisle Old Brewery was listed in a trade and export directory for its East India Pale Ale, amongst other exported brands. It was not the sole brewer listed, but I’d guess the beer sent to Melbourne was Sir Richard’s (the source is not explained in the court report).

Carlisle Old Brewery survived into the First World War, it was one of four breweries remaining in operation in 1914. It was purchased by the government under the Carlisle State Management Scheme to supply beer, at a controlled alcohol level, to pubs also purchased, a unique experiment that was thought to suit wartime conditions. The government had taken the brewery over because Carlisle was a centre of munitions manufacture. The mandarins wanted to control drinking to minimize accidents and perhaps the suborning of workers for sabotage.

Goverment ownership lasted until Theakston in the next county bought the old place under a privatization scheme in the early 1970s.

Theakston ran the place for some years but finally closed it in 1987. A surviving part of the structure was later turned into apartments for Northumberland University students. This use ended last year, and the building will now be converted to private housing.

As it happens Collingwood, unlike many other parts of Australia, has many structures that survive from the 1800s. One appears above, the Yarra Hotel, seen in its mid-1800s pomp. It seems likely beer made in the first image was consumed in establishments shown in the second, or in nearby buildings, maybe alongside Wild’s a la Carlisle ale while it was still on the market.

To ponder that is some good oil, I reckon.





The Pre-Industrial Aussie Ales (With Taste Notes)

The Sydney brewery Toohey’s, a landmark since 1869, had gone public in 1901. It had entered a second phase, an expansion both of plant and for advertising and branding. The founding brothers had died and the brewery was now under professional management. The Sydney Evening News of December 23, 1905 carried a short article/advertisement full of details on Toohey’s Mark II.

The company had recently built its own maltings to replace the malt sourced previously from New Zealand, Tasmania, and Victoria. The new malt was mostly from Australian barley and the increasing use of Australian materials was mentioned with pride. This was a sign of the growing maturity and confidence of Australian industry, indeed of the country in general which had federated only four years earlier.

I asked yesterday whether by 1910 Toohey’s flagship sparkling amber ale, a bottled beer, was pasteurized. It was, as the 1905 article makes clear. As I discussed yesterday the beer was also mechanically filtered and so can be viewed as a modern form of packaged ale. Even five years later though (1910) fermentation was still a quick, 30-hour process. Presumably it was still conducted at a high temperature (> 70 F) and in this sense followed 19th century practice for “colonial ale”.

The ales were aged in cellar in hogsheads before filtering and bottling, but whether this occurred at near-freezing, lager temperatures is unclear. I’d think that stage had not been reached yet.

In Food, Power, and Community, ed. by Robert Dare (1999), brewing historian Dr. Brett Stubbs confirms that pasteurization, and force-carbonation, was usual in the country for bottled beer by 1900. Tooth’s of Sydney, the other great brewer in the city, introduced it and Toohey’s and others later followed.

Here, from 1907is an example from Maitland Breweries, in Maitland up the coast from Sydney. The ad was for Maitland Crystal Ale and proudly advertised the beer was pasteurised. The brand was still an ale, so once again an instance of a top-fermented beer, derived from the types originally made in the Colonies, but showing some characteristics of the new lager.

Toohey’s sparkling ale and Maitland’s crystal ale represented an interim phase between “colonial ale” and the later hegemony of industrial bottom-fermentation. The same thing happened in other countries of British influence, and in Britain itself.

In Canada, beers such as Labatt 50, Molson Stock Ale, and Keith’s India Pale Ale survive which represent this tradition. Over the years they have become lighter and more lager-like, but still an ale character can be detected especially when consumed fresh on draft. They show this mainly by an estery quality from warm fermentation. Still, in Canada too industrially-produced lager became almost universal, at least until the craft industry gave some blowback.

But those old, pre-1880s Aussie ales … what were they really like? I’ve mentioned J.C. MacCartie’s 1884 A Handbook for Australian Brewers which set out frankly many faults: inferior local hops, fermentation at excessively high temperatures, poor sanitation, and lack of sufficient aging. MacCartie was both a brewing writer and a professional brewer who had worked at Dunedin Brewery in NZ for six years, so his views must be taken seriously.

Yet, were beers from the specific breweries all bad? We have some remarkable evidence from a detailed press account in the Melbourne Argus in 1875. The story summarized findings of government analysts who had the police fetch samples of local ales. They were tested to determine alcoholic strength, presence of additives, and other characteristics including the “twang” that famously attended colonial ales – indeed we saw an instance of it as late as 1945 when an English observer remarked on it for Brisbane’s beer.

The article is long and there is no substitute for reading it, but some highlights: The average ABV of Melbourne’s ales was 7.5%. Impressively high and showing the influence in this regard of English mild ale brewing. The Fitzroy district showed the same level, and a couple of other areas’ beers were just a point under. When people complained of “soporific” ales by comparison to lager, one can see what they meant. Still, the Aussies clearly liked the beers that way, the pre-AC climate notwithstanding. Australian beer remains relatively strong to this day when compared to the norm in the mother country.

Most of the beers showed fusel traces, which was due to the high fermentation temperatures that MacCartie had noted. One analyst referred to a “fruity” taste resulting from this. Some beers were deemed “rancid”, probably from a putrefactive fermentation or a “fret”. No dangerous additives were detected but some samples showed use of quassia or coriander, deemed harmless but not traditional. One analyst attributed the twang to the local hops and inadequate aging. Another said it was from high fermentation temperature. Probably it was a case of both being right.

Some of the beers were deemed of high quality and one at least was mistaken for Joule’s Stone Ale, a reputed English brand.

One analyst, who would not have approved of Beeretseq’s blending techniques, deprecated mixing local ale with “pricked”, or soured or otherwise spoiled, English ale. He also disapproved when all-local beers were blended to improve one element (even though this was an old English technique). How could he tell there was mixing simply from analyzing samples? I’d guess he had gotten wind of the practice earlier and wanted to issue a pronunciamento.

News articles also reported results of local competitions, as this one in 1880 from the Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser (NSW). The article is of particular interest as it reports the judges’ taste notes for numerous beers including from Toohey’s. Joseph Marshall, father of a noted solicitor in town, did particularly well and received first prize for his very pale, strong ale.

Sample terms in the report: full body, fine hop flavour, cloudy, pale, very pale, light amber, dark amber, nice brown colour.

Sounds familiar, eh?

Note re images: the images above were sourced from the website of the Kiama Library, here. All intellectual property in or to the images belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorized user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



Toohey’s, Technology, and Two Austral Ales

A Twain of Australs

Looking for references on Toohey’s Standard Brewery of Sydney, founded 1869, I found this interesting article from 1910, but it is one of many similar pieces that appeared between 1900 and 1910. All are clearly advertorials, and while the enthusiasm of the writers can pall after a while, there is good detail conveyed in the accounts.

Essentially, they tell a story of unceasing technical development and a burgeoning reputation for the once-deprecated “colonial ale”. Automated bottling machines were the focus of one story, the corks were allowed to protrude to exactly 1/8″. Mechanical filtration was used, and so good it was the bottles would not throw a deposit for 3-4 months. (I didn’t see a reference to pasteurization).

The beers were clearly still top-fermented as fermentation was indicated to be a short 30-40 hours, with skimming done before the beers were cleansed. There is continual reference to storage but the length of time and temperature regime are not mentioned. My sense is the beers were not then stored at lagering temperatures, but I could be wrong.

The plant stood on 15 acres, with facts such as boiling kettles holding 10,000 gallons. The barley came mostly from NSW. Some sugar, also mostly local, was used. Hops were both Australian and international.

The company made “bulk” pale ale (draft), a bottled pale ale, which was slightly lighter in colour, an amber sparkling ale (bottled), and yet other beers including stout. Refrigeration machines allowed brewing in summer.

The articles mention that Toohey’s distributed Dog’s Head Bass Pale Ale and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. This was the well-known bottling by London’s Read Bros., who dominated the Australian market in this period.

This 1905 article published in the Perth press (Western Australia) gives some good detail on how Read operated and how Bass’s ales were treated before bottling. The term “nutty” was suggested for the state Bass reached on perfect maturity. I’ve seen the word before, I think in an Institute of Brewing article from about the same time.

One would think a term referencing brettanomyces would be used – the wild yeast element made active by long aging and imparting earthy, barnyard aromas. In contrast, nutty seems to imply a malt characteristic. Maybe it meant a Madeira quality, an oxidized but attractive taste such as some fortified wines have. Alfred Barnard used the term “Madeira odour” to describe a London-matured stock ale in this period.

The Bass ads also referred to its Austral Ale, bottled specially for Australia, and the article gives a taste note here as well. The Trove newspaper resource shows numerous ads for Bass’ Austral Ale between about 1900 and 1914. Read Bros. clearly made a big push to sell it in Australia and New Zealand.

The article stated that Austral Ale had the aroma of “wallflowers” – an unusual metaphor for beer then. In botany the wallflower, sometimes called the gilly-flower, is a flowering plant of the mustard family – the cabbage is also related. It tends to grow at the base of walls where there is good drainage, hence the name.

The botanical word is not pejorative, unlike the social expression presumably inspired by it. I’d guess the social term takes the idea of “hiding” behind walls but it is not a reflection on the odour, which is favourably commented on. Indeed the scent commonly appears in perfume and bath products.

What does the wallflower smell like? This site gives a good description: it’s like clove and violets. Some hops definitely have a clove-like taste, I just had a beer like that, Tankhouse Ale from Mill St. in Toronto. Some English hops have a garden flowers scent, so one gets an idea what the hop note was like. Also, it was different to the hops in Bass Pale Ale (red triangle), or partly anyway.

The 1905 article states too that the beer is “light”, implying a lower gravity and ABV than for red triangle. The article makes clear the beer was designed for a warm climate.

Martyn Cornell discussed Bass’ Austral Ale in this 2011 article, but addressed an earlier period, when the brand seemed to be a strong beer. Clearly it was lightened late in the 1800s or after 1900, probably to meet the challenge of lager. It was sold in nip bottles that were crown-corked, a very recent innovation, the image above is from this Christchurch-based collectables site which also contains other interesting promotional items for the brand.

The 1905 article also states that Read’s man was looking at trade mark protection in Australia. Why would he want to protect the trade mark in this period, especially as Austral Ale had been around for some 50 years in one form or another?

Let’s turn now to another part of the world, but also the southern hemisphere, and where Britons were influential.

In 1895 German immigrant José Fischer founded a brewery in Patagonia, Chile. It has remained independent ever since and markets, amongst other brands, an Austral Pale Ale. The current range includes three ales and a number of lagers. The brewery is in Punta Arenas on the southernmost end of Chile.

As it happens, Punta Arenas was a British enclave then, a dêpot. Punta Arenas is a port town and was a major transit link for Atlantic-Pacific sea-going trade.

Did Fischer sell his Austral Pale Ale from day 1 and pre-empt Bass’s market for an Austral beer in Patagonia? Bass Pale Ale (red triangle) certainly was known in Chile and elsewhere in South America in the late 1800s, many sources confirm it. Also, the ocean trade meant sailors and others in transit from Australasia would have known an Austral Ale, from Bass’s earlier exports to the Antipodes. Could Fischer have seized an opportunity Bass was slow to exploit for this particular brand?

It’s a tempting theory, but the brewery’s website makes clear the brewery was called “Patagonia” on founding, not Austral. The Austral corporate name only dates from the 1990s. The website shows a number of attractive labels from c. 1900, but most are lagers or pilseners, and none is for a pale ale or any Austral-branded beer. If Fischer did brew an “Austral Pale Ale” in 1900 for his Britannic customers, I have not seen the evidence.

Austral in many Romance languages means “south”, southerly, and this also is the origin of Australia’s name, from Latin.

I’d count the matter therefore a coincidence unless evidence emerges that Fischer did sell an Austral Pale Ale c. 1900.

Current reviews for the beer indicate a malty-fruity taste with good hop notes, and 5% abv. See the website linked above where the company gives its own notes on the beer.

Note re images: the first two images above were sourced from the Christchuch, NZ collectables website linked in the text. The third is via Wikipedia Commons and its author is Fredlyfish4 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. The last image is from the Chilean retailer Lider, sourced here. All intellectual property in or to the images belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorize user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



The Greening of Cervisia

In a 1914 issue of The Western Brewer, German-born Leopold Nathan, designer of the famous cylindro-conical fermenter, said that American lager typically had green flavours.

The German term for this is Jungbuket, see a discussion on the taste, here, a few years ago from The Brewing Network. Indeed Nathan used the very term in English, “young bouquet”.

Beer Bottle.

Nathan argued that a well-matured lager, as in Europe, did not possess the taste. In the same discussion, he said a “tinge of youngishness” was acceptable when krausen (young fermenting beer) was used to carbonate, but he felt the sulphide taste in American beer was much more pronounced.

The krausen process, he said, should only be used with old, well-matured (lagered) beer. In other words, just a touch of green taste results as the krausen was added to a much larger bulk of beer which had none. Indeed he thought the result beneficial.

Nathan said American beer was green because CO2 collected from the fermentation and re-inserted in the beer still retained aromas of fermentation.

The implication was the beer was not permitted to undergo prolonged lagering and carbonate itself or receive a fillip with a final krausen.

Nathan also said on the same trip to America that in Pilsen, the beer was “pumped” to the lagering vats to rid it of any lingering carbonation. This perhaps explains why Pilsner Urquell to this day has no green taste. The word pump implies an agitation, to allow residual CO2 to lift off.

It was this sulphide taste – old vegetable, burnt match, etc. – that the Clausen brewery in New York proudly advertised (1888) its beer did not have. But evidently it still characterized much American beer 25 years later.

Of course, it is hard to know how much green aroma Nathan was referring to compared to modern lagers. One thing I do know: on a trip to Munich some years ago, I found the taste very strong in most helles, much more than in Heineken, say, or numerous craft lagers.

This means I think an interesting reversal has occurred: what Nathan objected to here has become part of the beer palate on his own turf. The reasons would be, abandonment of open fermentation and short lagering periods – the same circumstances which attended increasingly American brewing after 1900. Possibly too shorter boils in the kettle have an influence, as a longer boil can distill off these tastes, if allowed to vent that is.

Nathan’s fermentation system, now usual around the world, used enclosed fermentation to be sure. This would trap objectionable odours not eliminated in the boil, but he claimed to eliminate them by a “washing” method, also described below.

And so in our day, as in his, some lager has the taste (different intensities), and some does not. For lager which does not, some element of the process must explain it: the yeast strain, the malt, CO2 washing or its modern equivalent, or something else. From a homebrewer’s perspective, see this discussion on how to address the issue, which broad brush appears valid commercially, too.

We should note, finally, Nathan’s comment:

I have come to believe that people become so used to the taste they hardly notice it any more.

This may be the true explanation why the Jungbuket taste endures to our day.

Note re images: the first image above was obtained from O. Berk’s packaging solutions website. The extracts from the Western Brewer are via HathiTrust and the links are provided in the text. All intellectual property in or to the images belongs solely to their lawful owner or authorized user. Images are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.