Grace Brothers Brewery and the Puzzle of Memory

Circa-1900 Image from Grace Bros Brewery

(Circa-1900 image of Grace Brothers Brewery, Santa Rosa, CA. From Sonoma Heritage Collections, at this link).

A melancholic account of the history and passing of Grace Brothers Brewery in Santa Rosa, CA appeared in 1977 in “The Press Democrat”, the town newspaper.

I’ve been to Santa Rosa, a few times, in fact. It’s one nice part of the world, in the “North Bay” as it is known.

Santa Rosa is not a large place and in the 1970s was smaller, not just in the obvious sense, but at a time when society was less mobile both physically and electronically. Yet, as journalist Gaye LeBaron wrote in her memorial account there were people in town who didn’t know that Grace Bros Brewery had operated there a mere 10 years earlier.

Even in a small place, where memories tend to be longer than in the megalopolis, people can forget a closed local business very quickly.

Ironically, just a year before, in 1976, and not far away in the same Sonoma County, a brewery started up which, while it lasted under 10 years, helped shake the foundations of brewing not just in America but worldwide.

New Albion Brewing Company had emerged from the homebrewing hobby of founder and ex-sailor (with a stint in U.K.) Jack McAuliffe. He started to produce unfiltered, hoppy pale ale and stout that diverged radically from the American norm. North American breweries had once produced these styles in quantity, but the beer types had died out with the consolidation of brewing and adoption (imposition?) of a single standard of beer (bland, corny).

While remembered by Gaye LeBaron as a supermarket brand it is unlikely that Grace Bros.’ Happy Hops, the star brand, tasted similar to modern mass market lager. It was probably more hoppy, as its name suggests, although one can only speculate. Perhaps it was as hoppy as nearby Anchor Brewing’s Steam Beer still is, which is not huge in character but certainly marked.

In any case, people didn’t have the chance to judge how Happy Hops stood up to the new hand-crafted brews because by 1967 Grace Brothers Brewery, after a short period of control by a conglomerate, was history.

This pattern of small brewery closures or acquisition by larger fish only to be subsequently closed was repeated countless times around North America and indeed elsewhere. The current craft boom is buoyant enough to have resisted the historic trend.

Certainly today artisan brewing is a vibrant activity in Sonoma County and California in general.

I’d like to think that in ways not always easy to trace the earlier existence in the state of small breweries as well as a notable barley and hop cultivation – ever heard of Hopland, CA? – did influence the rebirth of local brewing.

Older history can reverberate through the generations in ways not always easy to explicate and document. Despite Santa Rosa’s rapid memory fade for Grace Brothers Brewery I think beer and hops were embedded in folk memory, even subconsciously. This smoothed the way for a vibrant new generation of brewers to emerge.

Russian River Brewery, an iconic craft business in Santa Rosa, has issued a Happy Hops in recent years to salute the old local favorite. Good for them to honour the brewing history of their own town – certainly there is no one more appropriate to do so.

And the beer is pretty good judging by reviews at Beer Advocate. A purist would want it to be a close copy of the original, which it likely isn’t: for one thing it is an I.P.A. while the original was a lager. Still, what’s important is caring about the town’s brewing past and preserving the memory in some way.

N.B. I wanted to learn more about Gaye LeBaron, given that her 1977 article was uncommonly good. Happily, I can state she is still with us and not only that, still on staff at The Press Democrat – she has been a writer there in fact for 56 years! Here is a sample column, from only yesterday. Ms. LeBaron is a noted historian of the area and has co-authored a two-volume history of Santa Rosa.*

Note re images: the first image above was sourced from Sonoma Heritage Collections as noted in the caption and hyperlink given. The second image was sourced from the invaluable Tavern Trove label collection, here. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owners. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*See my Comment below added January 19, 2019.

West Coast Hoppy Beers Before the 70s?

It is commonly thought the emphatically hoppy, I.P.A. (India Pale Ale) of craft brewingwas inaugurated by Liberty Ale (Anchor Brewing, San Francisco), Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Grant’s India Pale Ale (from Bert Grant). It is also understood that albeit diminished by the mid-1990s, Falstaff’s Ballantine India Pale Ale, which arose from an earlier ale tradition in the East, survived long enough to influence early American craft brewing. Pabst has since returned the beer to the marketplace.

But consider this quote in 1976 from the The Beer Can: A Complete Guide To Beer Can Collecting by The Beer Can Collectors of America, ed. by Larry Wright:

“[A] curious aspect of the brewing scene on the West Coast is the Happy Hops phenomenon. Although the brand bearing this name has been obsolete for quite some time, several of the other Grace Bros brands carried a Happy Hops emblem for many years thereafter. Other hoppy beers that have poured on the scene over the years include Hop Gold (Vancouver, Washington), Hopsburger (Oakland, California)…”.

The text goes on to mention certain east coast and Midwest beers which contained a reference to hops.

Now, it may be these beers used the term hops in a general way without meaning to suggest the beers had a dominating or special characteristic of hops. Still, it is interesting to review some history on these beers.

Grace Brothers were in Santa Rosa, CA. Russian River Brewing is famously located there now.

Grace Bros.’ labels advertised that the brewery used its own malt and hops. The brewery probably owned a hop field somewhere, as hops were raised in northern California well into the 1900s. Given this pride in the hops used, probably a Cluster type that grew particularly well in California, and given too the relatively large amount of hops in early post-Prohibition brewing, possibly Grace Bros.’ beer was full of hop character. The trait may have endured until the brand passed from the scene in late 1960s.

Perhaps there are still residents of Santa Rosa who remember the beer – someone might ask them. Russian River Brewery released a tribute to Happy Hops some years ago, a creditable move from the successor to a brewing tradition which started in the 1800s.

The same might apply to Hop Gold from Star Brewery in Vancouver, WA. 1930s ads indicate it came in both ale and lager versions. The label for ale claimed a “Burton” inspiration, meaning Burton pale ale – famous for its hoppy quality. Only the lager apparently continued after the 1930s, indeed into the 1950s under different ownership names, Enterprise was one.

I haven’t explored Oaklan’s Hopsburger – great name – as yet. The famous/infamous Rainier Ale from Rainier Brewery in Seattle, aka The Green Death, also may have been notably hoppy in its prime. Early labels for this brand also suggest a British influence on the beer.

At a minimum, Blitz-Weinhard’s Henry Weinhard Private Reserve, released about 1975 and which had a decided influence on the early craft breweries, may itself have been influenced by an indigenous, West Coast hoppy beer tradition as against, say, the first (Paul Revere) Liberty Ale released by Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, or imports from Europe. A local, hoppy beer tradition did not have to be extensive by the 1960s – it was enough that some brewers remembered it. Perhaps Bert Grant knew of such a tradition. Of course, only research in original brewing records could show what the hop bills were for the beers  mentioned.

The hop fields of California were replaced by those of Oregon, long active in the field, and Washington State. New varieties were developed from the 1960s in these regions especially the grapefruity Cascade, and then a raft of others. But the West Coast was always a hop growing area.  Local breweries – some of them – may have taken pride in releasing hoppy beers, as the beer names mentioned suggest. These beers may have been as impactful as early craft pale ales considering again of 1930s hopping levels which may have survived in pockets in America. And if they were going to survive anywhere, the West Coast in the small settlements, especially those near hop fields, was a likely place.

Something that has always struck me about beer is how short memories really are. What seems new often isn’t at all but people forget in a fast-paced society what was available only a few years ago. I have never read accounts from ordinary people in Dublin on the character of naturally-conditioned Guinness vs. the nitrogen version that replaced it in the 1960s. There have to be numerous older citizens who can talk about this, even today, but who thinks to ask them?

For some background with illustrative labels on the Star Brewery, see here.

For some great labels for Happy Hops of Santa Rosa, see here.






Blending At Home









Blending of beers is an area which has gained interest in recent years, All About Beer has an article on it in the current issue, and many breweries are barrel-aging and blending. It’s just the return of very old practices, both as practiced by brewers but also pub-goers who would mix beers to their taste. Famously that is how porter got its start.

Anyone can do this at home but as I’ve mentioned in an earlier posting, blending raises all kinds of hackles, even amongst the Faculty so to speak. This is silly really, for many reasons which I’ll detail in a future post. But here I just want to point out that, following some simple steps used by many brewers historically and still employed here and there in Belgium and England, I came up with a beer that (IMO) is easily the equal of, say Liefmans Goudenband or one of Rodenbach’s beers. These are renowned beers from Belgium which have a lactic or sourish edge from both yeast selection but also careful blending from different stocks and ages of the beer.

AAB magazine very usefully explains the recent commercial expansion of these older blending techniques in the States, as well as development of “house” techniques to blend – and why not, that’s what innovation and change are all about.

I had some Chimay Blue Cap, the Trappist ale icon which I must say in the last 15 years or so seems reduced from its prior self as all the Chimay line seem to me. The beer is characterized by a huge, typically Belgian corky/raisiny taste – mostly from the yeast surely – and the rest seems rather subdued (malt, hops). I poured about 10 ounces in a wine bottle and part of a bottle of McEwan’s Scotch Ale. Really I wanted to dilute down the big yeast hit of the Chimay while keeping in the same colour and ABV territory. I left it there (cupboard, room temperature) for some months, closed with a bourbon stopper cork.

It came out a touch too lactic I thought, so I poured in some Terrestrial Brown Ale, a malty-hoppy brown ale which is an occasional release from Wellington Brewery in Guelph, ON. Laid it down for a couple of months more. The Terrestrial is about 6.5% ABV – close enough to the Chimay. It has more hops than the others, or more I can taste, so I thought its use would be salutary.

Now it is actually much as it was when I first opened it as continued fermentation has dried it down again but there is a malty body – malty but not sweet – that is very pleasant.  The Chimay yeast is so big you can still taste it, chalky and spicy-like, but it’s balanced by these other characteristics with some of the Terrestrial’s hops in evidence. There is no “barnyard” brettanomyces (wild yeast) taste – a good thing IMO, somehow the original yeasts have elbowed out any air-borne interlopers.

In a way, I think I can see if I aged the Chimay telle quelle for 5 years or 10, it might taste like this, but anyway the blending is really good. It would be a great beer to accompany a good meal.

I can also use it to cut with a rich mild brown ale, say the Terrestrial again, or almost any rich hoppy beer, 1:3 or 1:1.  This is so easy I’m amazed more people don’t try it at home. Or if any of you do, pray tell us of the results.







We Never Found Mart Ackerman’s, but it was Still a Find

Gary: “Hey, guys, we were talking about a beer downtown before the game”.

Steve R.: “Right, so Gary, where? You know all the places”.

Gary: “Well, I just read about a place I didn’t know called Mart Ackerman, I saw their menu on the Internet when looking for something else. I was looking quickly but it looked good, a kind of retro concept – a “saloon” they call it, kind of cool. The beer looks good, some British imports too, and the food is chops and that kind of thing, retro again”.

Steve R.: “Mort Ackman’s you say…? I don’t know it, must be new”.

Gary: “No Steve, Mart Ack-er-man, a ‘saloon’ on Wellington St.”.

Steve R. “Must be one of those suit-type bars, fancy import beers but nothing really local”.

Gary: “Well, yes and no”.

Steve R. “What kind of beers do they have?”.

Gary: “English pale ale, Irish stout, a ‘Burton’ – that’s strong English ale – and some stuff too from a local brewery I haven’t heard of. There are so many new ones, hard to keep up”.

Steve R.: “What’s the new brewery called?”.

Gary: “Bains & Thompson, they supply an ale but also a cider too, makes sense since cider is in now”.

Steve R.: “Bains & Thompson?  Never heard of it”.

Gary: “Well I looked into it, I didn’t have much time but it’s in a book on Toronto breweries. Let’s just walk down Wellington Street past the Fashion District, it’s obviously in that part, we’ll find it. Don’t check online, it’s more fun just to happen upon a new place”.

Steve R. “Alright, we’ll go there, I’ll tell the others. We’ll meet at 6:00 p.m. at University and King and walk from there, the weather’s still good”.

The group met after work at University and King and ambled westerly and south along Wellington. It’s busy on the streets too, must be all the young condo-buyers, they stay downtown after work now, no mass heading north like in our day. No Mart Ackerman’s though, where is it? They reach the end of Wellington St., no Mart Ackerman. Gary checks his Blackberry again, “Gosh, guys. This is crazy, but Mart Ackerman was an 1856 bar in Toronto. It probably hasn’t existed for over 100 years! I must have read too quickly”.

Steve R.: “Oh wonderful, but what’s all that about Bains & Thompson?”. (Exasperation, which the good-humoured Steve rarely shows).

Gary: “Er, sorry, Steve, of course, I see now, it’s from the same era. I’m looking at an online account now. It explains the brewery became part of Cosgrove, well-known in Toronto for a long time and later absorbed into E.P. Taylor’s group in the 1930s, and later into O’Keefe”.

Steve R.: “Fascinating Gary, thanks. Hey [to another in the group], Ron, do you know a good bar around here, I mean a bar that exists today?”. And so the group found its way finally to a decent place for a drink before the game, for which they were late. Gary was thinking how the beers there, from Molson-Coors, were kind of a link back to Cosgrove and B&T via O’Keefe’s merger with Molson in 1989, etc. He made some some comments about it but the others harrumphed and didn’t want to know.

Later, at home, chastened but intrigued by this old Toronto bar, Gary checked further, taking time now to get the facts right. He found the saloon menu again, which you can read, here.

Just as he gleaned the first time, it offered English Pale Ale, Younger’s Ale (Scottish), Burton Ale, which was probably English too, and local ale and cider from B&T – well, they were local at one time. They were at Queen St. and Niagara St., just a hop and skip from Mart Ackerman’s, probably. He found striking early photographs of Toronto in the 1850s, hardly more than 30,000 souls then, see this link.

In the group of pictures is a photo of Wellington Street, and a map from the time showing that Garrison Creek wasn’t buried then, and ran by the brewery.  So that’s where they got the water for the beer and to cool the fermented wort, it all makes sense. He wondered if Mart Ackerman’s Saloon was in one of those buildings shown on Wellington St., maybe it was further west though, it’s hard to say. It says something, though, doesn’t it, to gaze at the actual street Mart Ackerman’s was on in the very same decade the menu was from.

He put this together and sent it by e-mail to the guys who had been so cruelly (but innocently) misled. “See guys, this is amazing, this must be one of the very early bars in Toronto, they had fancy imported beer and Champagne and oysters too, for the ancestors of the bright young things at Bay and King. Don’t you see…?”.

One answered back, not Steve R. (he actually gets a lot of this stuff) but another one, who said: “Gary, next time, I’m choosing where to meet before the game, got it”?

I got it, yes, but a lot more than he meant.


Cocktail Ad Lib


Just once in a while I “build” a cocktail, and these days tend to start with an established formula and add to it. In this case, I started with a Sazerac formula – whiskey, bitters, absinthe-type cordial – and made additions until it tasted right. A teaspoon Eastern Ontario maple syrup, sourced at Kingston’s charming market a year ago, helped raise the foundation, but the structure was completed by a burble of  Rose’s Grenadine. The latter must be 10 years old and was stored in the most indifferent circumstances, but the taste never changes, a testimony to the soundness of an old recipe but also – I suspect – modern food science.

So what we get is a lightly-sweet yet bitter whiskey cocktail with a cherryish aftertaste.

Most of the whiskey was Jack Daniels Single Barrel and the rest was a dash each of Old Overholt Straight Rye and Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon. Why the mix? I find blending two or three whiskeys adds complexity and gets a better taste.

I think next time I’ll eschew the Tennessee classic as the base. Jack has a slightly earthy note, even in the mix, which doesn’t quite mesh with the other parts. But I’ve got a good thing going here and will try again with another straight whiskey(s), not tonight though. One of these is enough.

I wonder if this formula is something to be found in an old cocktails text with a name like, say, the Red Rocket, or Hogtown Hoo-Hah. Who knows? Given there are only so many ingredients to blend for cocktails, I’d think something similar must be inscribed in Jerry Thomas‘ or another classic work. But if not, that’s okay, cocktails by definition is a do-it-yourself endeavour.

The image above is shaded in grey and ebon but autumn is nigh upon us, plus it is just about sundown, so it suits the moment actually encountered.


California Wines Gain Currency In The American Imagination

Shanley's Wine List 1917

This one-page wine list from Shanley’s on 42nd Street in New York hails from 1917.*

Shanley’s appears to have been a solid mid-town restaurant, much above a diner and that sort but not a society or epicurean haunt. The food menu shows a range of dishes likely to appeal to the prosperous middle class of different ethnicities, including the old stock of New York, out for a show or other entertainment.

In a compact page, a variety of drinks groups is covered. Notable attention is given to “California wines”.  As far as I know, this is one of the first menus to feature such wines under that description and not part of a general “American” category which could include, for example, New York State sparkling wines and the native-grape Catawba type. Indeed many earlier menus simply avoided American wines; this started to change about this period, and gained in speed from the 1950’s on after the interruptions of Prohibition.

While still described by reference to European original types (Moselle, Burgundy, St-Julien (Bordeaux), etc.), these California productions clearly found favour with people, as they did on Rector’s higher-end menus of about the same period. Americans were starting to take pride in their own. Cresta Blanca produced numerous of the wines featured by Shanley’s. This property still exists and is now owned by the well-known Wente house, it is used as a special event locale and I believe grapes are still grown on the property.

On the beer side, one sees the usual suspects as bottled imports and Budweiser offered as a premium domestic beer. Another beer from Anheuser-Busch is available as a draft beer, probably the same brand. Budweiser then was probably a very good beer and perhaps tasted more like a modern Czech lager than the present Bud – but who knows. A Beverwyck beer was the other draft selection. Beverwyck was an old house from the State capital, Albany, up the Hudson.  Likely it was an ale. Beverwyck lasted into the early 1970’s but had been purchased by Schaefer in the 50’s, whence the bell started to toll.

Fetching its ale from upriver showed that Shanley was intent on presenting something different from the beers of Manhattan, boroughs and Jersey, but still “Empire State”.

Shanley’s looked like a fun place, probably offering excellent quality without pretension, qualities valued no less today – when you can find them.


*The full menu is at and is from the New York Public Library’s ( archive collection of historic menus.





IPA Classique From Brasseurs Illimites in Quebec


This brewery in Saint-Eustache, QC essays a “classic” style IPA, ce qui veut dire that a darker colour is wanted than for current (American) IPA, and presumably a hop taste different from the typically grapefruit salad palate of Stateside IPA.

The colour is close to modern English pale ales but a little darker I think than most of those.  The malt taste is sweet and shows the likely addition of crystal malt, again following modern English practice. Ironically, the all-pale malt American IPA is likely closer in colour and perhaps malt taste to many 19th century – or truly classic – English pale ales/IPAs, but let’s set that aside.

The hop taste is complex, showing the mix of five hops advertised on the label. The types are not indicated, but I’d eat my hat if one of them isn’t Saphir.

Withal one has a taste of dark sweet tea, rosewater and dank green herbs.  I’m good with it, whether classic in style or not.  This is another room temperature tasting, and while I’m jiggy with that too, I can see this beer going great well-chilled with a cold weather tourtière or similar hearty old dish. Santé!

Further Thoughts on Descriptions For Lager, Ale And Porter

Regarding my post of yesterday, I am not suggesting the term “lager” was not used by American brewers and brewing writers from, say, 1875-1975 to describe bottom-fermented beer produced at cold temperatures: of course it was. Similarly, the brewing industry always knew the sub-distinction between mild ale – ale not stored, meant for immediate consumption – and beers proper such as porter, stout and pale ale, stored for a time and with a higher hop rate than mild ale. However, based on my reading, the American brewing industry often used the term beer to mean specifically lager. That is, for day-to-day purposes including production, sales and marketing, “beer” was lager – usually a blonde lager in the light American style, but not ale or porter/stout.

One sees evidence in numerous references in A.L. Nugey’s mid-1930’s brewing manual, for example. I’d have to think Nugey was repeating something familiar to the pre-Prohibition brewhouse given the halt in production from 1919-1933. And this usage was paralleled in the market at large which included finally some restaurant menus as we saw in the early Rector’s example.

Did the usage begin in the market and filter back to the brewhouse and distribution channels? Entirely possible. It is interesting that Rector’s did not include the term lager in its listing of bottled and draft lager beers – “bottled lager” would have been a more correct heading to use to contrast with the bottled ales, but this wasn’t done. I believe as well that most beer labels at the time, i.e., later 1800’s until about Prohibition, didn’t use the term lager. In the colour plate section entitled “Pre-Prohibition Breweriana Advertising” contained in Michael Weiner’s The Taster’s Guide To Beer (1977), one sees e.g., Miller High Life Beer, Seipp’s Extra Pale Beer, Providence Brewing Co.’s Bohemian Beer, National Lager Beer, Moerschel’s Sedalia Beer, Wiener Blatz, Falk’s Export Beer, Feigenspan Bock Beer, Busch Beer, and so on.

As always, there is the exception: H. Clausen on its label advertised Export Lager Beer. The West End Brewing Company in Utica, NY, still going strong under a different name, advertised its Pilsener and Wuerzburger brands on a beer tray. That is not the same thing as using the term lager – beer was often described, indeed internationally, by reference to a town or area of origin. In about forty-five ads in Weiner’s book “lager” was only used on a couple of labels. Not a scientific sample, but still.

Only much later did lager, as a term to describe the main American beer type, enter the general market and in advertising. In a word, it had lost its foreign connotation and strangeness by then.

It may be noted that this uniquely American usage of “beer” was the obverse in the same period of British usage: there beer meant porter/stout, pale ale/bitter and (finally) the mild ale which in the 1800’s had been considered apart. Lager was the term used to describe the Continental blond beer, served cold and fizzy, which was a relative newcomer to the British scene until finally there too all forms of malt beverage could be called, or by most, beer.

Once again I don’t for a minute say that some people in the Anglo-Saxon world weren’t always pleased to call any form of malt-based alcoholic beverage beer, of course they were, but it is also true that for a long time in common and trade parlance, the term beer meant something more specific.


Lager And Ale, Redux

img988e                     (Image courtesy The Henry Voigt Collection of American Menus).

Above is a page from a circa-1900 wine list of Rector’s, a storied restaurant in New York in the early 1900’s. I spotted it when reading Henry Voigt’s masterful blog entry here on the history of the Rector’s establishments.

In an earlier blog entry, I discussed lager and ale in their current signification.  In this “redux”, I go back 110 years to point up the different terminology these terms then had in America. That meaning was well-established intramurally in breweries in the later 1800’s, but the menu is an early illustration that the same understanding was being gained by the public generally. This is not to say that beer didn’t always, in North America, connote any form of malt beverage, but in brewers’, retailers’, and restaurant and bar circles a particular meaning became established as the 20th century gained pace.

“Beer” meant lager beer, which at the time could be dark or light, and in its American form generally used rice, corn or some type of sugar addition to bulk out the malted barley base. Ale meant what it does today, but also comprised porter and stout. Bracketing ale with porter and stout was not correct in historical terms but for a long time in America, anything that wasn’t beer was ale, and Rector’s menu shows this by including Guinness Stout in the ale category.

Lager, which in German means something stored (think of “locker”), is fermented at cold temperatures with single-cell lager yeast. The American form, as well as say Labatt Blue in Canada or Molson Canadian, all derive from the lagers which German and Bohemian brewers commercialized industrially from the mid-1800’s. These in turn were inspired by the beers which, for hundreds of years, brewers in Alpine areas had stored in cold mountain caves to preserve from winter to summer. Traditionally, brewing had to cease in later spring since warm weather would render the new brews highly unstable. Brewers in areas where natural cold was available stored the winter brews into the summer and perceived the yeast sank slowly to the bottom of the vats. This yeast acquired the characteristics which assisted the cold fermentation and preservation of the next brew, and so on. In general, lager was cleaner and rounder than ale. With the benefit of mechanical refrigeration and better science in the 1800’s, brewers in the German lands developed methodically the same kind of lager beer. Initially most lager was dark but later the blonder style associated with the first Pilsener lager, Pilsner Urquell (1842), became the standard for international lager beer.

“Ale”, in contrast, pre-dated all these forms. It is a beer fermented at ambient or at least warmer temperatures than lager and the yeast tended to gather at the top of the brew before it was skimmed off. Ale in general had a more fruity taste than lager and sometimes a tart one. Some Belgian beers to this day retain that old sour edge, and indeed have inspired the current craft fashion for “sours”, but in general people didn’t want it: clean, round-tasting lager took up the part of the market ale couldn’t satisfy.

Thus, all beer was ale originally – top-fermented at warm temperature – including on the Continent. But lager took over almost everywhere and finally even in the United Kingdom, where nonetheless top-fermented beers refused to die and enjoy a minority share of the market today. Indeed those beers largely formed the inspiration for the craft brewing revival in North America.

English and other British settlers in America, as well as early Dutch incomers to New York, brought this older, top-fermentation tradition.  It held sway until German immigrant brewers started to implant the taste for lager.  Still, in 1900 and even at the dawn of the craft brewing revival in the 1970’s, ale in North America had never quite left the scene. Certainly many characterful ales were still being made in America, not just the U.K., when Rector’s was going strong, including the ale from C. H. Evans mentioned on the menu. Evans was a Hudson Valley concern which followed the old English ways, as appears from this excellent short history.

In menus I have seen from before 1900, beers are generally included in one group without any attempt to classify them by style. This practice held on for the draft section of the Rector’s menu: ales and beers are combined under the one heading of beer. But Rector’s innovated by showing the kind of distinction we now take for granted for its premium bottled beer selection. (It may be too that draft was itself regarded as a kind of category apart).

Thus remained the schema until about 30 years ago. Starting then, the previous opinion that beer was lager and the other kinds of malt beverage were ale, started to die.  (For simplicity, I’ll leave out the special case of Colt 45 and other “malt liquor”). Today, it is all “beer” and sub-classifications, which are often very learned, abound such as BJCP’s. Arguments continue of course whether these classifications are correct. These debates are likely never to end since taste is subjective and brewing technology constantly evolves, which are the main factors impinging on any classification system.

But in 1900 anyway, Rector’s took care, with some novelty in my view, to set out a brewer’s and wholesalers’ distinction for its chic clientele. Certainly, the enviably large beer selection would have been a draw for any beer buff, well-classified or not. But as Henry has shown so well in his piece, Rector’s was initially a society haunt and later attracted other crowds, from parvenus to show people to pre-Jazz Age hot dancers. None of these were probably students of beer, shall we say. The carefully drawn beer menu probably elicited few second thoughts. But across the ages, we can open what Stan Hieronymus has referred to as a time capsule, and apply our knowledge to understand the significance of what Rector’s was doing.