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

Beers for Local Populations in Western Europe and North Africa, World War II

When the Americans arrived to engage breweries to brew beer for their troops, those breweries were already brewing, of a sort anyway.

The two articles I canvassed in Parts I and II recorded, not just the beer made for the troops under contract as I have explained, but beer for their own people.

Leonard Saletan, in his 1946 article in American Brewer, stated that the German breweries, due to war conditions, brewed a beer of only 1-2 Balling. So did, he said, the French and Belgian breweries he worked with.

He writes that the beer was actually “brewed in at about 8 B and cut during or subsequent to fermentation”.  In other words, the produce was watered to stretch the result but this would have produced a barely alcoholic drink. He doesn’t say, but I’d think between .5% and 1% abv was the result, almost or equal to the near beer of Prohibition times.

Saletan doesn’t say again, but perhaps the beers were hopped more or less normally for the volume. This would lend the impression of a beery drink – a hop ale in the old English terminology.

He does state “hops were generally available in Germany”. Indeed when the breweries turned to making real beer for the Americans, the hops remained German and the amounts used were “left to the discretion of the brewery”.

The tenor of all this is that hops were not an issue for brewing, so I suspect more rather than less was used for the barely there wartime beer. As to hops for similar beer in France and Belgium, Saletan doesn’t address that issue. (His remit of course was to describe the beer made for American Forces).

Allan Barney’s 1946 article in Wallerstein Laboratory Communications, linked in my Part I, states of the brewers in Oran, Algiers, and Casablanca that they made a beer of “3 Balling”, or “1%”.  I believe this meant the brew was 1% abv.

A starting of 3 B with a finish, say, at 1 would produce just over 1% abv. Possibly he was referring to 1% abw, which would be about 1.25% abv. In that case the attenuation would be greater of course, hence less body.

It seems on average breweries in North Africa had been brewing slightly stronger beer than in Germany, but this is hardly a distinction worth mentioning, as all this stuff was barely alcoholic.

Nonetheless it is noteworthy that Axis or Vichy breweries were still brewing at all. And that barley and hops were still grown throughout the war, as the two articles make clear they were, and Saaz hops in Bohemia.

Saletan in particular seemed to marvel how few of the breweries he encountered had suffered much damage. Lowenbrau in Munich was about the worst, and even that didn’t affect actual production much.

It’s something that bears an analogy to the limited effect even heavy bombing of industry had on the Axis war effort. I’d think the thoughts occurred to Barney and Saletan on their unusual European brewery pilgrimage.