Teddy Roosevelt’s Beer vs. Today’s Adjunct Lager

800px-Miss_Rheingold_-_PatIn Wahl & Henius’s American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades (1902), at p. 755, they give a sample fermentation for what seems a standard American lager (not a special European type). The OG on the Plato scale is 13.2 and FG is 4. (13.2% is maltose and other carbohydrate before fermentation, after fermentation and consumption by yeast of this material to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide, 4% is left).

This is equivalent to 1053 OG and 1016 FG. ABV is 4.96%, and apparent attenuation aka efficiency, 70%, that is, approximately 30% of the original solids, or extract as often called, remains to give the beer flavour and body.

At p. 751, they give tables showing how different materials, yeasts, temperatures produce different attenuations, anywhere from 51% to 81% but most are in the 60s or low 70s.

By way of comparison, I’ve read in Brewing Techniques by Peter Ensminger that Pilsner Urquell’s starting gravity is 12 P with final of 3.8 P, or 1048 OG and 1015 FG., and 4.4% abv.

The sample fermentation is somewhat higher in OG but also half a point higher in alcohol, so their relative sweetness is probably comparable except that with 1/3rd of the first beer corn or rice, its taste probably wasn’t as sweet. The reason: more alcohol in proportion to almost the same amount of unfermented carbohydrates.

But still, 1016 FG is a fairly rich beer for a regular lager, the modern commercial range I understand (non-craft, non-light) is 1008-1012 with many at the low end. Light beer properly speaking would go lower. Budweiser seemingly is 1008 based on some online clone recipes I’ve seen, none of them definitive of course, but see e.g. this one from Maltose Falcons. The clone gets almost the same alcohol from a lower OG which means the efficiency is higher, probably 75%, typical of modern American Adjunct lager.

Thus, in relative sweetness, I’d rank Pilsner Urquell first, Wahl & Henius’s beer second, the modern Bud last. Hopping differences and other factors affect sensory perception of sweetness and body of course but I feel broadly this result is correct.

Therefore, when looking at what people said about raw cereal malt substitutes before WW II, which I will soon, it is important to remember that American lager was still a fairly rich drink. Probably not as rich as an all-malt beer of the same gravity, but still substantial. In fact, before 1900, many American lagers, following German models, were under 70% attenuation which would produce yet richer beers although not again as sweet as all-malt originals. One can tell this I believe from Wahl & Henius’s discussion of alternate sample fermentations, and other sources*.

In terms of how sweet the c.1900 blond lagers were, some modern malt liquors might get at it, not the alcohol level but the sweet quality. And of course many craft beers.

Finally, from A.L. Nugey’s 1930s brewhouse formulas book I discussed here, his lager of 13 P finished at 4% abw, that is, 5% abv, very similar to the sample fermentation of 1902. His beers for somewhat lower OGs finish at correspondingly lower abv. A Canadian brewer who commented in that discussion was struck by the much higher finishing gravities of Nugey’s beers compared to today’s commercial norm.

So, pre-Pro or post-, lagers albeit using adjunct had fairly sweet profiles. Certainly they were hopped more than now, but in my view, sweetness is not cancelled by hoppiness. They are not independent values completely, but a 1016 FG adjunct lager, 5% abv, is a fairly sweet beer IMO. The one or two pre-Pro recreations I’ve had bear this out.

I think the change to more dryness came during the 1940s and after. One sees e.g. Rheingold advertising its “dry beer” then (not a technical “dry” of the 1980s and 90s). Other beers in ads of the 40s and 50s stress that they were not sweet, which implies a change from an earlier standard.

Note re image above: The image was sourced from Wikipedia, here, and is believed available for educational and historical purposes. All trademarks and other intellectual property therein belong to their owner or authorized licensees.  All feedback welcomed.


*Consider the tables in the first two pages, and after, here, a U.S. government compilation from 1887. There are many beers at 1017-1018 FG at approximately 5% abv…


A Canadian Brewer Addresses the 1911 International Brewers Convention

I thought these remarks of Lothair Reinhardt, Jr., of the Toronto lager brewery Reinhardt (1881-c. 1927), were of interest, from the 1911 Second International Brewers Congress. The Canadian participation at this event seemed modest, probably reflecting the Dominion’s small population and brewing industry at the time (although some individual breweries had very large production).

His remarks are noteworthy for the importance to Canadian brewing of the American brewing schools as well as the difficult issues facing the industry from the Temperance movement. The 2/5ths rule he referred to is rather interesting. At first blush it seems at odds with simple democracy, although as with most things connected to brewing and its history, the background is probably far from simple.

(The source is the Report of Proceedings Vol. 1 I have referenced before).

The image further below, from the Toronto Public Library archives, shows the Reinhardt brewery, by then converted into storage facilities, after a fire in the mid-1950s.






Maybe Wahl, Henius, Siebel Were Right About Adjuncts

Follow-up to my post earlier today on the virtually complete acceptance of grain adjuncts in American brewing in 1911. Concentrations used then ranged from 20-40% based on my reading with an average of 30%.

Jump ahead 105 years. Here is what Moosehead Brewery says about adjuncts in a commendably clear and full account on its website.

Some comments: the main reason for adjunct use, as I read this, is that it lightens the flavour and that’s what consumers want. But since you can lighten flavour through increasing attenuation of an all-malt beer, why not use just malt?

It’s not related to any higher cost of malt vs. corn syrup. The company is saying it pays the same for both. Nor is the syrup more fermentable since, as I read the explanation, the carbs profile in both (fermentable and non-) is similar: you can get syrups today with set concentrations of all the elements.

It’s because with syrups, you need a smaller plant to grind and mash barley malt. If you have to mash more, you need more capacity, which is more space, time, energy. More money, or rather less to the bottom line. Also, as explained in the account, adjunct use assists colloidal stability (inhibits the clouding I mentioned earlier), but I think the main reason is the former. Heineken, which is all-malt, doesn’t e.g., cloud today, brewers know how to ensure that today.

Speaking of Heineken, some whose memories go back long enough may remember when it made the switch from adjunct to all-malt. Many noted that the taste didn’t seem that different. I remember thinking the two were rather similar myself, but not identical. Small differences can matter to “connoisseurs”. The wider market? Not so much.

This logic makes perfect sense to me. But I don’t like a dry beer, I like a sweeter one. Most craft fans do, that’s the part of the market that’s growing. So why not use the syrups and drop the attenuation? (Increasing the hops will help too). In fact, this is the kind of beer that Henius, Wahl, Siebel knew. Attenuations were very low then, often 50-60% vs. at least 75% today. And they used much more hops c. 1900.

I once had a pre-Pro cream ale that used corn in New York, I think from Empire Brewing. It was excellent. Last night I combined DAB Dark (actually an alt or supposedly) with Coors Banquet, 2:1, to drop the adjunct and increase the hops. The dark malts helped too via Maillard. Excellent again.

So maybe the beer c. 1900 was really good and all those early scientists were right, provided not too much adjunct was used. And some people did worry about that. Siebel wrote an article in his Chemical News warning about making too much of a “good thing”. Interestingly, he didn’t knock the taste of the high-adjunct beer, he said it would encourage people to switch to wine.

That is, even with low attenuations, adjunct beer was drier or thinner than beer with less adjunct, probably because of the absence of dextrin* in the adjunct. But today you can fix that with the syrups that are available.

Lower-attenuated beer costs brewers more, since they get less yield. But as an answer to the mass market (flat), it may make sense to revert to c. 1900 brewing, it may be the sweet spot to address current consumer taste yet maximise efficiency. More sense, that is, than stress all-malt brewing through new products or craft brewery takeovers.

Any comments, maybe Ed?

*[Added August 30]. It’s probably not exact to say no dextrin, absence of dextrin, etc.  Different forms of adjunct can have different levels, some syrups are mostly glucose I understand and are almost completely fermentable as most brewing sugars are. What I mean is, typical North American adjuncts in my understanding have the effect of lowering overall protein content derived from malting barleys and lessen the impact of malt on flavour. They contribute some of their own flavour, corn more than rice, and the resultant profile is different (in my experience again) than an all-malt beer, generally lighter, drier.




The Distinctiveness of American Brewing Before WW I

Three mantras stand out in the 1911 Second International Brewers Congress. One is the use of adjuncts in brewing, generally rice or corn but sometimes sugar, syrups or starches. A second is pasteurization for bottled beer. The third is the triumph of bottom-fermentation. Robert Wahl estimated 90% of all beer produced in America then – approximately 60,000,000 bbl per annum – was lager, of which 95% was pale or “Bohemian” style – basically what is called American adjunct lager today.

Budweiser, Miller Genuine Draft, Molson Canadian, all the lights, would be examples of adjunct lager.

The 5% would have been Munich-style dark lager with perhaps some Vienna, or amber lager, in the mix, and some Export-style as well (a little stronger and darker than Bohemian).

All this was achieved in the last generation and no one questioned the changes, they were viewed as permanent. The American brewers who attended the event would be rather surprised to know that modern craft brewers have created an annex to their imposing edifice, one housing top-fermented beers such as IPA and porter which are generally unpasteurized even in the bottle.

Both John Siebel, of whom more below, and Robert Wahl made addresses dealing with adjuncts. Each basically said the same thing, that they were necessary to ensure pale and clear beers but also had the advantage of cost and consumer preference. By cost, it was meant, not so much that corn or rice was cheaper to buy than barley although often they were, but that their yield in fermentable sugar was greater than for barley malt. The consumer was said to prefer adjunct beer as being less sweet and lighter than all-malt beers.

American 4 and 6 row barleys, derived from a type termed at the Congress Manchurian, had a high protein content (albuminoids) which resulted in hazy beer. Rice and corn had only tiny amounts so their use diluted the protein in the malt sufficiently to ensure clear beer. Some 2 row low-protein barley was grown, e.g. in Montana and California. However, the variety at the time could not successfully be grown “east of the Rockies”.

With adjuncts too came greater stability. All-malt beers especially if shipped cold might cloud, adjunct beers would remain clear.

Adjunct was advised to a maximum of 30% of the mash. I believe Budweiser uses that percentage, of rice, today. It would be interesting to know what the adjunct/malt ratio is for Coors Banquet or Coors Light, say. I bought Banquet recently and a corn taste seemed quite evident to me. The 1911 brewers claimed that if corn was processed to exclude the germ in which resides the oil, no corn taste would be apparent. Flaked corn was said to have this quality, for example.

But I feel I can taste corn in many adjunct lagers today. Perhaps it is a relative issue, this matter of corn taste. Rice was claimed to impart little taste (no oil) but I think it has some, one indeed comparable to the sake flavour.

The legendary Chicago brewing scientist John Siebel was a pioneer of advocating adjunct use in American brewing and also numerous other advances.

A quick word on him. He was born in 1845 in Germany, Dusseldorf. He immigrated to Chicago when about 20. He had advanced degrees in science and had mastered not just chemistry but physics and hydraulics. Siebel was the first to establish a “scientific station”, or research laboratory in Chicago. He also set up an early school, Chicago’s first, to teach brewing to students intending to enter the brewing industry. He did this as a venture with a Chicago brewer, Michael Brand.

As John Siebel explained in a presentation at the 1911 Congress, the demand for brewing studies wasn’t sufficiently great in Chicago then, so the school was discontinued after a few years. He focused on his lab work, not just for the brewing industry but also e.g., sugar and food manufacturers. Meanwhile, Henius and Wahl had developed their own analytical lab from the back of their drugstore in the city (1886). Finally they set up their own brewing academy, in 1891. As part of the 1911 Congress, their 25th anniversary was celebrated.  They had graduated about 1000 brewers by this time, with about 1200 in total by the time the school closed during WW I.

John Siebel with his sons incorporated a company and set up a brewing school in 1901, so by 1911 there were two competing schools in Chicago. There was a handful elsewhere in America, notably in New York and Milwaukee.

So, Siebel set up the first school, it last only a few years, Wahl & Henius’s more permanent school followed in 1886 and in 1901 Siebel with his sons re-established his own school – that is how I glean the history.

The Siebel Institute continues to this day and is internationally recognized in the beer and brewing world. A form of Wahl & Henius’s school came back after Prohibition and may have continued for a time after Henius’s death in 1935, but clearly the Siebel Institute ended by trumping its old competitor.

John Siebel participated in the 1911 Congress, indeed he was listed as a Patron. But given the Congress was organized by Max Henius who was its Secretary, and given too that the silver anniversary of Wahl & Henius’s school was being celebrated concurrently with the Congress, it was Wahl & Henius’s night so to speak. John Siebel spoke at the event but there was no special recognition accorded him from what I can see.

Siebel died in 1919. In 1933, an aged Max Henius rendered him and another American brewing science pioneer, Anton Schwarz, significant homage in a book written by John P. Arnold on the history of brewing and its scientific advances. Any old rivalry was put aside, perhaps the passage of the years made it easier. I’ll return to that book in a further post.

Regarding a consumer preference for adjunct beer, this was asserted regularly at the time in American brewing, seemingly without dissent. I have doubts whether such preference ever really existed. The fact is, to make beer clear which everyone wanted, you had to use high protein barley – there wasn’t enough 2 row barley, and it wasn’t close enough to the market. This required corn or rice to lower the protein level.

I think perhaps the industry convinced itself the consumer preferred this new lighter beer because it assisted to explain why American practice differed from the practice in Bavaria, heartland of lager beer.

The fact is, you can use all-malt but have a relatively dry beer, Heineken is an example. This is done by increasing the attenuation rate, you leave less fermentable sugar in the brew. Adjustments in mashing temperature also can be made to produce a balanced, clean beer. Try a Bud and Heineken side by side, I doubt many would think Heineken is heavier. It has more hops, but if you factor that out, is one really heavier than the other? I don’t think so. They do taste different though, the Heineken lacks the dry, starchy edge of the other.

Today, I understand 2 row barley has largely supplanted 4 and 6 row in the North American market yet mass market beer still uses adjunct…

Earlier, in regard to the style of beer and places to drink it, I suggested European and not least German influence continued to play a strong role in American brewing in 1911. However, that influence did not apply to the issue of adjunct. Anton Schwarz, John Siebel, I believe Robert Wahl, and many others working in American brewing or consulting were of German heritage. Max Henius was Danish-born but had studied at doctoral level in Marburg, Hesse.

But when it came to brewing technology, these gentlemen were resolutely of the new world. In this sense, American brewing as it developed to that point (1911) was in good measure a local phenomenon, a product of American conditions and genius. It was the purpose of the 1911 Congress to highlight that achievement and it succeeded by all measure.


Pictures of the 1911 Second International Brewers Congress

From an issue of the American Brewers Review later in the year, photos of the 1911 Second International Brewers Congress in Chicago.

The first is the main hall with its equipment displays, the second, a miniature American brewery, the third, a model in papier-mache of a German brewery c. 1800, and the last, the Banquet held in the Gold Room of the Congress Hotel. (Double-click for good resolution).

The sign of Union Fibre Co. is visible in the first. Union fibre is an industrial product, a combination of fibres to form brushes for cleaning. It is still used, see e.g., here.





A Klatch of Brewers Descend on Chicago

s-l1600-2In 1911 as I’ve mentioned before, a stunning exposition of brewers was held at the Coliseum in Chicago, the formal name was Second International Brewers Congress.

Dr. Max Henius of the Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology and Henry E. O. Heinemann, editor of the American Brewers Review, were the organizers. I’d guess the indefatigable Henius took the lion’s part given the fulsome tribute the Congress gave him.

There is a tendency today to view brewing 100 years ago as some kind of toddling, artisan industry with a few large brewers here and there but all operating in silos which were suitable (finally) for the geographic, wide-screen treatment inaugurated by Michael Jackson in his landmark The World Guide To Beer (1977).

Nothing could be more untrue. The industry was highly sophisticated in all aspects: the plant science behind hop and grain cultivation; the sciences of fermentation and brewing; the design and variety of brewing equipment; the legal organization and financing of medium and larger companies; packaging, sales and distribution.  In addition, brewing and to a degree brewery ownership or financing were significantly international, a trend that has increased since but was well underway.

The origins, design and activities of the Congress were carefully recorded in another fat volume of Henius’s partial authorship,  called Report of the Proceedings, Volume 1. A Volume 2 clearly was planned although I don’t think it emerged, perhaps the onset of WW I precluded this.

The list of patrons, attendees, and those who sent regrets reads like a Who’s Who of the international brewing world at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s. Names like Sedlmayr, Whitbread, Tetley, Busch, Barclay, Schaefer, Ruppert, Rainhardt (Toronto), Lindner, appear in those lists and that’s nine names out of many hundreds. Everyone who was anyone was there or had been invited. No doubt the extensive network of contacts developed from Wahl & Henius’s graduating classes was essential to this endeavour. They had graduated 1200 brewers before looming Prohibition shut the school down in 1915.

The Congress accordingly had three official languages, English, French, German. Some presentations were also rendered in Spanish. Many of the speeches, not to mention the technical papers, are well worth reading for anecdotal interest and detailed information on hops, malting barleys and brewing equipment and technologies from around the world. A competition had been arranged for hops and barleys and they were judged and graded in ways still interesting today.

The public had access to the halls and the bier stubbe I discussed earlier, and were charged 50 cents admission. Thousands went through the Coliseum during the conclave.

The droll or witty style of many of the speakers speaks to an era I hope not lost. Businessmen and scientists knew their way around English or I presume one of the other official languages. Sample from Mr. William Walters Butler* from England (paraphrase): The only thing I dread more than a trans-Atlantic journey is giving a speech to a distinguished group on short notice. He proceeded to render a speech which today would probably require an M.A. in English.

As Henius stated in the event’s commemorative volume, it was a ringing success both as attested by friends and non-friends of the industry. One sees in that remark, as in many aspects of the Congress proceedings, the shadow of the Temperance campaigners.

There is no better way to indicate what the Congress was all about than to include extracts from the book. (It appears out of copyright and the pages are transferable as PDFs from the HathiTrust digital copies, here). The tremendous amount of work that went into its conception, design, and realization are well-explained in the pages that follow.

I’ll include further extracts in the next post.











Note re images: the first image, of the Chicago Coliseum before WW I, was sourced from Ebay here and is believed available for educational and historical purposes. The extracts from the Report of Proceedings of the 1911 Second International Brewers Congress held in Chicago were sourced from HathiTrust at the link given above. All intellectual property of or in the images belong to their lawful owners or authorized licensees. All feedback welcomed.


*An earlier version incorrectly stated the surname as Tetley, however I believe a Tetley was also in attendance from the U.K. Some information on Sir William: https://birminghamhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?threads/sir-william-waters-butler-bart.14229/

The Pub Of The Future

s-l1600 (2)


In 1911, a great brewers’ congress was held at the Coliseum in Chicago. The event was described in some detail in the October 31, 1911 issue of the Buffalo Courier. (See 5347.pdf).

A star attraction was the “Public House of the Future”, a concept of the pub intended to respond to the ever-growing Prohibition forces. The innocuous-sounding “public house” – the term saloon was anathema – reflected ideas Dr. Max Henius, a main organizer of the Exposition, advocated with other leading figures of the brewing industry.

Here is an extract from the Courier’s story, it indicates the kind of drinking Henius and his colleagues thought proper for America, an engineering that would would keep America healthy and moral but preserve their industry:

…. The feature that drew the largest crowds and excited the greatest interest seemed to be the “bier stube” and here the visitors gathered and had explained to them “The Public House of the Future,” as Dr. Max Henius, secretary of the exposition calls it, “having no bar, no tips, no solicitation, no whiskey, gin, wine or strong beverages of kind”, “and where only beer and soft drinks were served with refreshments.”

“One object of this exposition”, explained Rudolph Brand, president of the exposition, in his opening remarks, “is to teach the American people how to drink beer properly and how to abolish the saloon bar, how to abolish the tipping evil and how to solve the so-called problem of the “drink evil.” The “bier stube” is his solution of all these problems.

Secretary Wilson, honorary president of the exposition, whose acceptance caused severe criticism, is not yet in the city. He will address the convention next Wednesday.



Another article, in the Chicago Daily Tribune (see pg. 7), underlined a main purpose of the Exposition: to lobby for a form of  alcohol which would protect the public from the dangers of drink yet save the industry.

The Trib’s journalist duly reported these views, observing dryly that they read like a Temperance tract.

This attitude of brewers was a complex mix of motives and psychology.

In part, it represented a simple defensive trade move.

But also, the brewers IMO had partly internalized the hostility to liquor of the saloon-busting Carrie Nations. An unconscious psychology developed: maybe they are too strong, let’s join them. Today some might call it the Stockholm Syndrome.

Third, I think the conversation between the brewing industry and Americans reflected an underlying cultural tension.

The brewers seemed to display an attitude of condescension toward their adopted country.* Dr. Henius comes across as not a little superior, as does Rudolf Brand in his comments above. British-born but Belgian-resident George Johnson, editor of a Belgian brewery journal, took a swipe at both the American bar and English pub, regarding them as of a piece. The not-subtle message: We will teach America how to drink. Rule 1, drink only beer. Rule 2, drink this kind of beer. Rule 3, drink it where we tell you.

The dispensers of this noblesse oblige spoke in the name of a superior European ethos. The idea was, Americans were clueless about drinking, getting smashed all the time on whiskey, gin, and mixed drinks or if they drank beer, gulping it too cold and then darting out for their next appointment. The bars were too loud and nourished violence or other vice. The Europeans, guardians of an age-old civilisation, would teach the Yankees how to deal with alcohol and save the land from total Prohibition.

This was 1911, only three years before the Europe of old graces and measured behaviour would plunge into a maelstrom of war and catastrophe the like of which had never been seen.

Do you see the irony of Americans being lectured? By comparison, the brass knuckles of the saloon, or for that matter the bovver boys of the English alehouse the saloon descends from, were a two-bit sideshow.

The brewers were out of line telling Americans how to conduct themselves. Contemporary news accounts reflect this resentment but only mildly, given the Weltanschauung so to speak.

In defense of Henius and his colleagues, one might say their normal instincts were overwhelmed by the alcohol frenzy created by anti-drink propaganda. It was the crusade of the day, similar in intensity and occasional unreality to the modern climate change movement.

An index of the mania was taking knocks at Agricultural Secretary James Wilson for agreeing to appear at the convention. The atmosphere in which that could happen was expressed in an apothegm in one of Henius’s books. He said brewing was not viewed as lawful, but rather something not unlawful. The nuance explains the presumption of those who opposed the appearance of an agriculture secretary at an event whose participants supported the American farmer.

Doctor Max and his colleagues would have been better off standing up four-square to the bluenoses. It might have staved off Volstead and would have signalled moral clarity.

It was not to be, and in a few years an iron curtain clanged shut on one bourbon, one Scotch, one beer or any of them. It lasted half a generation, with repercussions the country lives with to this day.

Note re images: the images above were sourced from listings of postcards on Ebay here and here. They are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property of or in the images belong solely to their lawful owners or authorized licensees. All feedback welcomed.

*By adopted, I intend reference to the fact that American brewing in 1911 was significantly dominated by Americans of relatively recent German, Austrian, Alsatian, or other northern European ancestry. Henius was Danish-born and raised, for example. 95% of the beer brewed in that year was lager, introduced to America by people mostly of German background.The German influence on American brewing was still strong before WW I. I apprehend as well that a related sociological influence, i.e., in the matter of drinking habits and the effects of drinking and bars, was as profound.



If IPA Is a “Fiery Drug” Whither Imperial Stout?

In March 1933, in preparation for the anticipated passage of the 21st Amendment to repeal Prohibition, the federal government changed the Volstead Act to allow 3.2% beer to be sold. This meant 3.2% by weight of alcohol, equal exactly to 4% by volume. Measuring alcohol by volume, or the Gay-Lussac method, is the usual method today.

4% abv is the strength of light beer today, although the “3.2” of FDR’s era had more body, and hops. 4% abv was fairly light on alcohol ,though. Still, beer was back.

In December 1933 the 21st Amendment was passed and full-strength beer could be sold, but 3.2 hung on in some states. It still exists vestigially to this day. This was due to alcohol regulation being restored to the states. This meant some states for many years prohibited beverage alcohol completely.


As we saw yesterday in a news article from 1932 brewing scientist Dr. Max Henius advocated 3% abw beer as the right type of beer. He must have been fairly certain beer would return since he accepted in that year his first new brewing class since 1915.

While necessarily out of the alcohol consulting business during the Roaring Twenties Henius never really left the field. He wrote books advocating a form of Prohibition, in fact, but defended beer of moderate alcohol.

A year later, in March 1933, the Schenectady Gazette discussed the new beer.

The perfect beer is the 3:2 per cent brew that America is about to consume. The authority for this assertion today is Dr. Max Henius who for 50 years has devoted his study, as a chemist, to the analysis and synthesis of the foam collared beverage. He is head of the Wahl-Henius Institute of Brewing and consulting chemist to many European brewers. Here’s the connoisseur’s stamp of approval on the beer the federal government has legalised and which will wet palates after midnight April 6. 

“Beer of 3.2 alcoholic content is the perfect beer,” said Dr. Henius.

“Americans should demand nothing more. It would satisfy the popular demand for beer without in the least endangering temperance and sobriety. It is very palatable”.

“Anyway, the alcohol in beer is merely an incident in its enjoyment, it adds greatly to its taste and refreshing quality and preserves the delicate flavor”.

“When people want beer they want a refreshing drink, not a fiery drug”.

Up to four pints he explained, it will act as a nourishing food. Drink more and—well, start looking for an easy chair, or better, a bed. Merely a sedative if quaffed indiscreetly, said Dr. Henius. There are right and wrong ways to drink beer, too, Dr. Henius said. Surroundings are important factors. Beer gardens, of course, are the perfect places for stein swinging.

He predicted use once more for the vacant lots that formerly were miniature golf courses. If you must drink your beer indoors, said Dr. Henius, do it at a table, not a bar.

Even knowing what I do about German and American lager in the 1800s, what the Doktor was saying seemed hard to square with reality. It might be one thing if he advised people to drink one glass of 3.2 beer, or maybe two, but he had no trouble approving four pints, or even more. This was 16 oz pints (American not English pint), but still that’s almost five and a half glasses of beer (5 x 12 oz. + 4 oz).

143123332Surely the average person would feel rather drunk after drinking not far short of a sixer of Coors Light or Miller Lite. And some drinking more might start to rave a bit. Dr. Max’s idea that after four pints you peacefully fall to sleep is simplistic.

Where was he going here? A doctor of chemistry surely would understand that strong drinks can be equated to so many standard units. It is all a question of the alcohol taken in (net amount), not the ethanol level of one drink vs. another. A couple of 12 oz bottles of strong Trappist Ale or Imperial Stout are equivalent to his four pints of 3.2 beer.

Could Dr. Henius have been underplaying the significance of 3.2 beer not to throw a spanner in the works of Repeal? Or maybe he really believed what he was saying, it is hard to know.

Perhaps he would retort, as he explained to the Schenectady Gazette, that much depends too where you drink. He was probably thinking of the sylvan beer gardens in Denmark and in Marburg, Hesse where he studied as a doctoral student. In a verdant beer garden, hours are whiled slowly sipping, sometimes with family (Sundays), and usually food is consumed, too. Getting legless is not the idea. (There is some testimony in the 1800s to qualify this rosy-hued view, I may discuss it later).

3063_1Whereas Dr. Henius seems to have bought in completely to the stereotyped image of the saloon as the quintessence of evil.

The hard drinking image of the saloon was linked more to whiskey than beer, yet whiskey was coming back with Repeal, everyone knew that. With whiskey in the picture, did it make sense to inveigh against beers stronger than 3.2% abw?

Possibly there was a class factor at work: Henius was a well-off businessman whose father had owned a distillery, perhaps he felt the segments of society normally given to beer had to be protected by limiting its alcohol. The governing class who drank whiskey at the club or their hotels presumably didn’t need supervision.

Drinking at the polished mahogany of a saloon vs. the honest grainy table of home seems to me six of one half a dozen of another (no pun intended). Perhaps he meant that in home conditions the abuse of drink was less likely than secreted in the saloon with its temptations of music, ruby liquids glowing in cut glass, perhaps dancing girls. Hard to say again.

395a31d18eb9d7eac78c68f773658467In the end, I think the gray-haired doctor was wistful for the drinking style of his youth, of Europa whence he issued. While known for his resolute Americanism, I think the old impulses of home still animated Max Henius.

The soothing beer gartens of memory, the all-malt beers supped in picturesque Marburg (it still is)*, may have seemed benign by comparison with the “next viskey bar” of America, painted in lurid tones in the classic song written for Berthold Brecht. Written, indeed, in the same era the Schenectady Gazette was chatting up the doctor.

At bottom, alcohol is alcohol, and his reasoning here was somewhat suspect. Some people like a St. Bernardus or three (say). And some a few Silver Bullets. Same difference, sure as shootin’.


Note re images: The first image above is from this restaurant’s site in Marburg. The second is of students in Marburg drinking beer, a Getty image from here.  The third is from this label collection site, here. The fourth, from Pinterest, is from here. All are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All images or intellectual property therein belong to their lawful owners or authorized users. All feedback welcomed.


*Only a few German cities escaped heavy Allied bombing during the war. Marburg was one, and it was due to being a hospital city for wounded troops.


Max Henius, Star of American Brewing Science


It’s Chicago, November 16, 1935, a Saturday. Daily Trib on the table. Paging through leisurely – it’s a weekend – the obituaries appear. A compact article, with photo, announces the death of Dr. Max Henius, at 76. He died on a visit to Denmark, his homeland. He had lived in America since his early 20s and had a notable career there. Once past 40 he took an increasing interest in the country of his birth. He did much to foster Danish-American relations. With others, he bought land and deeded it to the Danish government. Save during the two world wars, a celebration is held there each 4th of July to commemorate the amity of Denmark and America.

Max Henius was probably America’s greatest brewing scientist, in any era. Yet he is virtually unknown to most beer and brewing fans, even those with some historical knowledge.

He co-authored in 1902 the American Handy-Book of the Brewing, Malting, and Auxiliary Trades. The other writer was Dr. Robert Wahl, an American Henius had studied with in Marburg, Germany. The book was a stupendous achievement, a fat tome of 1200 pages covering every conceivable aspect of brewing operations. Many questions of science and theory were addressed but in a way accessible to practical brewing people.

Henius had studied under Professor Emil Hansen, a legend in world brewing science for his work on pure yeast cultures. Henius extended the work of Hansen in America.


Anyone who investigates American brewing history runs into the book sooner or later. The modern beer writer, Michael Jackson, who developed the basic stylistic schema of craft brewing, almost certainly read the book. Jackson’s basic classification seems based on Wahl & Henius’ work, not just the “ur” distinction between bottom-fermentation, top-fermentation, and spontaneous fermentation but the main beer types under each of those heads.

Even with Wahl’s participation, Henius must have written a good part of the book himself, and the English is always impeccable. English was perhaps Henius’ third language, after Danish and German, and maybe his fourth or fifth. European scientists then could easily work in four or five languages. I’d guess he knew French as well, for example.

But who really was Max Henius?  How did he get to the United States? The obituaries I’ve been able to find are relatively short and don’t hint at his background. The Wikipedia entry on Max Henius has proved more helpful.

He was born in Aalborg, Denmark of a Jewish family originally from Poland. Beeretseq finds this of interest as there were relatively few Jews in the various branches of brewing, and this despite the German and Czech “brewing star” which looks rather like the Star of David, I may discuss that topic soon. Brewing and its auxiliary areas were a German and Anglo-Saxon business, for the most part. (Distilling is a different story, at least in North America).

But there are always exceptions, and at least one noted brewery in Alsace was Jewish-owned. There was a prominent one in Vienna too (Ottakringer), and one or two in Germany. In the U.S., the Rheingold brand of the Jewish Liebmann family in Brooklyn, NY was renowned for decades.

Henius Sr. had moved to Denmark in the 1830s and established an acquavits business, now owned by Pernod-Ricard. After acquiring a doctorate in chemistry from Germany, Max emigrated to the U.S. I’d assume the family funded the move since his father sold the distillery around this time. Max’s brother stayed in Denmark and later headed up an export trade association.

Max took up residence in Chicago. At first he owned a drugstore, you see him in the image above on the left. The other figure is probably Wahl. They are the picture of the young ambitious entrepreneurs.

Later, Max founded with Wahl a brewing school. It was called by different names in different periods, one was the Wahl-Henius Institute of Fermentology. With the Siebel Institute of Brewing established earlier in Chicago, and the Brewing Academy in New York, the Wahl-Henius Institute was a premier, pioneering centre for brewing studies, indeed internationally.

Henius married a fellow Dane who was related to notable figures in its history. Some of their distant progeny have distinguished themselves in a rather different endeavour: acting. Perhaps you have heard of Robert and Keith Carradine, their mother was a Henius. (Their late half-brother through the paternal line, David, was not a Henius descendant I believe)*.

The Siebel Institute is still going strong but Henius’s venture did not outlast Prohibition. It merged with a school of baking studies, as fermentation of course is vital both to bread and beer. Henius worked patiently in this allied field, but with the glimmer of Repeal in the bibulous skies of 1932, he opened classes again to brewing students. A newspaper account, somewhat arch in tone, describes the effort and shows a picture of grey-haired Henius at work again with younger men. Don’t worry, it told readers, your sons and daughters won’t be frosh in Max’s new classes. The curriculum was reserved for those intent on practical brewing post-Repeal – a different demographic, to use our vernacular.

Maybe the classes continued after beer came back but as Henius died in 1935, the school likely ended unless perhaps the family continued it for a time. Henius did have a son, Henry, later a brewmaster and executive with Lucky Lager in San Francisco. Perhaps he continued the teaching work for a while.Picture.aspxSomewhat improbably, Henius was something of a Prohibitionist. He wrote a number of works advocating tight controls on alcohol. Of course, he decried the t-total solution of the Volstead Act but certainly was firmly anti-saloon. The beer he taught his new students to brew in 1932 was maximum 3% abw, what we would call light beer today, or 4% abv.

In the 1902 Handy-Book, Henius described non-judgmentally beers which were much stronger than that, especially English types. But he plumped for relatively weak beer in his heart evidently, and argued for restricted distribution. German and American lager of the 1800s was generally 4-5% abv. Perhaps this struck him as the perfect form of beer. Even in England in this time, the German product achieved a strange power over brewing technologists although I think in part growing Prohibitionist sentiment was behind it, unconsciously in most cases. This may be the case too with Henius, as the best way to bring back beer was to reconcile with those who worried over strong potations.

The patrons in the pub paid no mind to all this, probably a good thing, else we’d have no double stout, or saison, or Burton Ale today.

In the 1932 article on restoration of Henius’ brewing classes (“dusting off old recipes”), Henius was quoted that beer should be sold in supermarkets and drugstores, no doubt recalling his youth of retailing liquor in a relatively controlled environment. He hoped the beer he was training his students to make would not appear in saloons with swinging doors, as he put it.

Well, the bars did return, with beer and yet harder stuff, if not quite the saloon in its old glory (?). You can’t have one without the other, really. But Henius’s idealism is understandable. Ever the international academic and man of affairs, he knew alcohol should be treated with caution. Probably he felt ambivalence about devoting his professional life to it. I think some professionals in the business today would be the same although few would acknowledge it publicly.

Note re images: The first image above is from this Danish website. The second, from this BeerBooks.com website. The third, from historicalimages com. All are believed available for educational and historical purposes. All images or intellectual property therein belong to their lawful owners or authorized users. All feedback welcomed.


*An earlier version of this post misstated the names of the Carradine acting descendants in part, I believe I have it correct now. Also, I stated earlier Keith had passed, that is not so, it is David who passed away some years ago. Apologies for the slip.




A Comic Opera and Brown October Beer

“For All My Days I’ll Sing The Praise of Brown October Ale”

A quick follow-up to my earlier post of today, discussing in part Haberle’s Brown October Ale, a production of Haberle Congress Brewery, Syracuse, NY (1933-1962).

Brown October Ale was a well-known song from the comic opera Robin Hood, an American light opera first staged in Chicago in 1890. It was revived there as recently as 2004. The music was by Reginald De Koven, and book and lyrics, Harry Smith, both Americans.  (A third man, of English origin, wrote the lyrics to another song in the opera but not Brown October Ale).

The opera interprets the Robin Hood legend. The gas lamp era was a time when medieval England had some hold on the public imagination. This can be seen for example in the suede tunics, long caps, and soft, pointed shoes of some stage actors of the day. Perhaps too the keynotes of the Art Nouveau movement, natural wood, foliage, etc., reflect the influence.

Brown October Ale, the song, had a long career in the American popular music repertoire, and was performed into the 1940s at least. Here is a 1944 performance by Earl Wrightson.

The lyrics to Brown October Ale can be read in this link. Wikipedia gives good background on the play, here.

At least two other breweries put out an October ale in the 1930s (see Jess Kidden’s pages again). The Robin Hood opera and its star tune may explain the interest of FDR-era breweries to make a beer of that name more than any beer lore guarded tenaciously since the early 1800s.

Nut brown ale as a meme goes far back in English literature, it’s in Oliver Goldsmith and other writers used it too. Americans of the gaslight era picked up on it and one distant result was probably the beer I spoke of earlier.