The Scholar and the Pressman

Professor Anthony Rose and a Superstar Beer Writer

Anthony Harry Rose (1930-1993) was an English professor of microbiology, he spent much of his latter career at Bath University after stints in Tyne and indeed in Canada it appears.

He is remembered by a Memorial Lecture Series whose articles are published in the U.K.-based Journal of the Institute of Brewing. 

Rose made numerous contributions to brewing science through his books on yeast morphology and alcoholic beverage technology. He was also co-editor of the scholarly journal, The Yeasts.

Rose has the distinction of being quoted in the very first paragraph of the most important consumer book on beer ever written, The World Guide to Beer (1977) by Michael Jackson. The unusually evocative words of a technical man caught the eye of a romantic like Jackson:

Jackson’s wry line that despite “the worst fears of the drinking man” science has not altered the “basic procedure of brewing” serves as a kind of leitmotif, not just for the World Guide to Beer but for Jackson’s entire career and by extension, modern craft brewing. It is also a theme in Anthony Rose’s article from which the quotation above was drawn.

Jackson obviously had read the full article. This is evident not just via the quotation he published but in many passages of the first 20 pages of the World Guide, the part that precedes the national and sub-national classifications.

Rose was, therefore an important influence on Jackson together with other writers or scholars such as Alfred Barnard, Andrew Campbell, George Saintsbury, Peter Mathias, John Bickerdyke, and (or in my view) Wahl & Henius who wrote an important brewing text in 1902.

Unless I missed it, I have never seen a discussion in beer historical writing of Anthony Rose’s article. I offer it here.

The Scientific American is a venerable science journal directed both to professional audiences and the sophisticated general public. In 1959 when Rose’s article appeared, the journal enjoyed an ascendancy due to its revival after WW II by three promoters, one of whom was the publisher and science editor Gerard Piel.

Piel. Brewing. Lager. New York. Correct. Piel was grandson of one of the two brothers who founded Piel Brothers brewery in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1800s. He did not work in the family brewery but his connection to brewing clearly provided the spur for Rose’s article. The Piel brewery link was yet more tangible via the images Rose included of brewing equipment and processes. These were drawn from Piel Brothers Brewery, as made clear in Alfred McCoy’s history of the Piel family and brewery, see pp 245-246.

Rose’s article, simply entitled “Beer”, is available without subscription to Scientific American via JSTOR, free with many civic library subscriptions. It was published in Vol. 200, No. 6 (June, 1959), pp. 90-104. On the JSTOR page for the article you can read the first page as preview, here.

The article is well-organized and unusually well-written, running 10 pages. After a brief but illuminating historical discussion he sets out the basic steps of malting, mashing, brewing, fermentation, and aging.

Among the interesting images included are open fermentation tanks used at Piel. The text makes clear though that some fermentation was achieved in closed tanks, and the CO2 was harvested for injection in the matured brew.

Historical allusions include Thomas Tryon’s (1691) suggestion of various herbs and flavourings as an alternative to hops. They include pennyroyal, balsam, tansy, mint, wormwood, even fresh hay. In a way, this presaged the current trend for a wide use of non-hop flavourings in beer.

Continually through the article Rose balances the need for better science with traditional concerns to preserve beer’s palate and character, something that clearly resonated with Jackson. In discussing the use of cereal adjunct he states it provides mainly just fermentable sugar and “contribute[s] little if anything to the taste and aroma of beer”. (Presumably he thought the same of his native country’s use of sugar in brewing, although he doesn’t say). Jackson’s opinion was similar.

He also implies, in the gentlest possible way, that the need for mass distribution in the U.S. was making its beer ever paler, bubbly, and of low bitterness. Still, he appreciated that Americans had both lager and ale available to them, while in his home country, only top-fermented beer was available (this is 1959).* Rose notes how ale remained a regional favourite in New England, a theme Jackson developed in his writing too.

Rose discusses with admirable clarity the two main forms of enzyme, alpha- and beta-amylase, and how temperature is manipulated to get the best from both for the type of beer needed. In another striking phrase he terms the brewer the “choreographer of an enzymatic ballet”. To my knowledge Jackson never used that one, but he might have.

In terms of science’s vital role in modern brewing Rose cites the Dane Emil Hansen’s landmark work to isolate pure cultures, and of course Pasteur, and other scientists less well-known. For more contemporary applications he explains how science helps to remove haze from beer.

Rose would be shocked at the widespread fashion today for cloudy beer, as he would for use of bacteria and wild yeast in fermentation. For his generation these organisms spelled “spoilage” and nothing more.

But he had the beer drinker’s palate nonetheless, evident in many ways including his observation that the half-pound of hops per barrel for American beer was well-exceeded in Britain. Clearly draught bitter was an example although it is not mentioned as such.

As an example of a further important influence on Jackson, Rose divided lager into Munich, Dortmund, Pilsen, and Bock types – Jackson does the same but added notably Vienna beer (and Doppel Bock, more a gloss).

Adding the Vienna was, I might add, not an intuitive thing to do at the time. Jackson in early writings continually defended his view that Vienna Marzen was a separate branch of lager, and of course he was right.

Rose concludes on a note that chemical engineers are likely to make the greatest contributions to brewing science going forward, in particular he thought for continuous vs. batch fermentation. He also thought yeast genetics would come to play a key role. He was right on the latter but perhaps over-optimistic on the former even for industrial brewing, in other words.

There is no prediction of an American craft brewing revival although reading between the lines he was surely gratified when it came. Similarly for Britain he calls for no revival of small-scale brewing. But British beer didn’t need it, then, really. Despite ongoing industry consolidation there were still many hundreds of traditional breweries to gratify every (non-bottom-fermentation) palate, at least with a little effort made.

What Rose thought of the lager and CAMRA shocks when they came can only be wondered at. Quite possibly he wrote about these developments as he was fully active up to his untimely passing in 1993 at only 63. Indeed he continued to contribute to Scientific American into the 1980s although not on beer specifically, I believe.

This obituary in The Independent adds much to our knowledge of Anthony Rose, and doesn’t fail to note his ace ability with a “turn of phrase”.

Due in part to that gift, his work was consequential, in a way much to do with beer but not with Academe or yeast science as such.

Note re images: The first image above was drawn from The World Guide To Beer (1977), by Michael Jackson, Ballantine Books, NYC. The second image is from an amazon.ca listing for the volume shown, here. The third image is from a Massena, NY newspaper in 1964, sourced via New York State Historic newspapers, here. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*Tiny quantities were made that had virtually no impact on domestic consumption, most of which was exported. I’ll address this soon in a subsequent post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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