Shout-Out To Vienna Beer, 1867 Style

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In 1867 a widescreen description of a Vienna tour surely opened a few eyes in starchy Philadelphia, where it appeared on January 5 in the Evening Telegraph. The tour included a visit to the Volksgarten, or Peoples’ Garden, where beer and food were consumed in the open air.

The Peoples Garden is still a major attraction of Vienna although I think large-scale beer bibbing is gone from the scene.

While disavowing giving a description of the taste of Vienna lager, the Evening Telegraph’s correspondent did a pretty good job notwithstanding:

The Austrian malt liquor is not, except in the cities, a common drink for the humbler classes; for wine, even out of the grape countries, is a cheaper beverage. Tastes can neither be disputed nor be described, and so those whose ill luck has prevented them drinking Vienna beer must be satisfied to hear that it is less bitter, less “capiteux”, and more ethereal in flavor than Bass and Allsop, weaker in alcohol, and more neutral in taste than other German beers; above all, that, when poured into a glass fresh from a cask just brought up from the ice-cellar, it glows like fluid amber, and is crowned with a delicate beading of bubbles, which are true bubbles of the air, and not, like the soapy foam of Scotch ale, bubbles of the earth.

To sip from a glass of Lager, puffing wreaths from a cigarette of choice Latakia, while you gaze vaguely up to a sky flaming with the gold and crimson of a Danubian sunset, and catch the rhythm of waltzes and mazurkas – this is the perfection of ignorant and mechanical bliss. And nowhere else is such blessedness so surely to be found.

I will leave it to readers to figure out what was meant by bubbles of the air and bubbles of the earth. If you know let me in on it, eh?

The writer, clearly of English origin, felt constrained to point out Barclay Perkins’ brewery in London produced almost three times what Anton Dreher’s brewery did and employed a commensurately larger work force. Still, he was seduced by Vienna’s beer, of that there can be no doubt.

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The writer who inaugurated the modern beer renaissance, Michael Jackson, noted (1970s) that Vienna doesn’t make the old amber style anymore. He even wrote that brewers there argued with him whether Vienna lager ever existed as a style. Maybe it’s different now, and anyway craft brewers around the world know how to make the beer of Anton Dreher. Still, you are more likely to find it in a California strip mall, or Liberty Village, Toronto, than the city of its origin, an irony not quite dispelled by the fact that at the right time of year, the blueness of the sky in the three places bears a striking resemblance.

Note re images: the first image above, of the modern Volksgarten in Vienna, is © Bwag/Wikimedia, and was sourced here.  The second image was sourced here. Both are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

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