U.S. Army Beer 1943-1946 (Part I)

The Yank Beer of Casablanca … of Napoli …

Allan J. Barney (1913-1995) was an American brewer and business executive. He worked as a chemist for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis from 1938 until 1942. U.S. Army service followed, including in Europe. In 1946 he re-joined Anheuser-Busch, and later worked for a brewery in Dallas as its master brewer.

Further details on his career may be obtained from this entry at Free Online Library. It states in part:

He took part in the invasion of North Africa in 1943. Following the Tunisian campaign, he was assigned to army headquarters in Algiers to supervise the production of beer for the U.S. Army in Casablanca, Oran and Algiers. When the U.S. Army entered Naples, Italy, Barney was put in charge of restoring beer production at the Peroni Breweries in Naples, Leghorn and Rome.

I have uncovered a detailed report by Allan Barney on the brewing he supervised in these cities, “Operation of the Overseas Breweries for the U.S. Army”. It is significant for brewing historical studies. See pp 28 et seq.

It was published in 1946 in Wallerstein Laboratories Communications, Volume IX. This publication was the eponymous house journal of the New York-based brewing consultancy. I have discussed Wallerstein and its founders a number of times in this blog.

The report has considerable detail on the brewing, particularly for brewing at multiple facilities in Italy. I will summarize aspects here, but anyone concerned with brewing history will want to read it in full. It will be of special interest to those familiar with brewhouse operations.

If you know Italian, all the better as some data in the article is in that language.

The beer produced in all these places was, unusually in an American context, all-malt, or mostly. Malt was shipped from the United States, hops as well. Unless I missed it, the report does not state if the U.S. malt was two row or six row, but simply that it was “pilsener” malt.

One of the Italian breweries had enough malt for brewing, and at least two had enough hops on hand, as well. Fine seedless Saaz, in fact.

In North Africa, Barney worked with French-speaking brewers. He does not refer, or in Italy, to language issues, so the people he dealt with either knew English or he had language assistance.

Speaking the international language brewers do anyway, once a deal was worked out to brew the beer, it went smoothly enough, or so we may conclude from Barney’s formulations.

The biggest challenge was in Italy as the Germans had dynamited parts of the breweries before departing. In Naples, the head brewer and chemist were Germans and left with the retreating German Army. Barney worked with the staff under them, most of whom had remained.

Barney does not state why all-malt beer, common enough then in Europe, was made when of course adjunct beer (using rice, corn, or sugar to supplement the malt) was standard in American brewing, including at Anheuser-Busch.

He states simply that no adjuncts were “ordered” from the U.S. Perhaps the North African breweries had no facilities to prepare adjuncts for brewing, no cooker and the related plant. In Naples it appears Peroni had brewed both all-malt and adjunct beer, but mostly all-malt beer was brewed for U.S. personnel.

On a daily brewing sheet reproduced in the article, ris is printed on a pre-printed form, hence rice. This confirms Peroni sometimes used rice in the mash. Some malt that ended with the Army for brewing was milled in Europe before Barney received it, and had been mixed with unmalted grains, unspecified except for oats.

The reason is, it was meant for use as horse feed, not for any brewing purpose. Barney called the adjuncts “unheard of”, meaning not the corn or rice he was familiar with as adjuncts. He states this mixed malt was “distributed” among a few of the brews and that this lowered the yield.

Peroni used the decoction process to mash, and that was used for the American brewing. This seems to have rankled Barney who tried to discuss infusion mashing with the Italian staff, but to use our vernacular, they didn’t want to know. (Probably to the benefit of the brew).

A stroke of luck was finding tons of fresh Saaz hops, as mentioned, in some Peroni plants. Clearly Czech hops were supplied through the war years to some breweries in Europe under German occupation. Barney indicates the Saaz greatly assisted the quality of the beer, no surprise of course to those who know, as he did, the reputation of Czech brewing.

Barney gives detailed data on malt and hop quantities used, and the hopping schedule. Again, the report should be consulted for this and other historically important information.

By my calculation, a beer emerged at about 3.7% abv – he states OG 10.3 B., FG 3.3 B. At that closing Balling, which is 1013 FG, a rich-tasting beer certainly emerged. It was not pasteurized due to a rapid consumption after production. He notes with interest that a lab sample showed good clarity for one month, before slightly clouding.

 

 

We see here the influence of his American adjunct brewing background. American brewing then was dominated by the felt need to use adjuncts to maximise beer clarity, by diluting the proteins in high-nitrogen malt, especially six row malt.* In fact from this angle it seems likely the malt sent from the U.S. was six row.

Much else of interest appears in Barney’s article. In Naples, surplus yeast from the Army beer was dried and debittered, and added by the workers to their pasta in lieu of cheese!

Barney in general was complimentary to the foreign plants, finding their mashing, brewing, and fermentation systems comparable to American standard. Where the foreign breweries fell down he said was for bottling and packaging as the plants were using equipment regarded as outmoded in the United States.

In time-honoured G.I. fashion scrounging and other expedients were used to help package enough beer, by adapting metal water cans for instance. Wood barrels of course were mainly used. Some of the beer was dispensed straight from the cask by faucet, while other beer was pressurized for dispense.

In “Arms and Ormolu”,¬†my recent post on U.S. Army rest and recreation facilities in Nice, France in 1945, I mentioned that beer was arranged for the troops, but had no further details. Quite possibly it was the beer Barney describes, procured a (relative) short distance away in Italy.

He states for example that some beer was sent to Sicily and Sardinia, but does not mention France.

As one might expect from a professional and given, too, the context of war, Barney does not employ superlatives when describing his beer, but there can be no doubt he was proud of it and the flavour.

Certainly the beer was avidly consumed by all who received it, the article makes that clear. We can imagine that more than one soldier enjoying his all-malt brew intoned in silent salute, “brew it again, Sir”.

Part II of this study follows.

………..

*Our decades of beer study suggest that at bottom, cost was the ultimate reason, but that is a different issue.