Current Tastings of Pilsner Urquell, Old Tomorrow Canadian Pale Ale, Two Belgian Whites From “Batch”

IMG_20160804_184637

 

This may be the first bottled Urquell I’ve had which hasn’t any, even a hint, of off-taste from light damage. This is down to the brown bottle which replaced the green one some years ago, and also the freshness of this bottle. It was packaged about 6 weeks ago, about as fresh as it can come realistically for an export.

This one had a soft taste and seemed a touch undercarbonated, which I’m good with anyway. I’ve been a devotee of the can for a long time but might switch if this quality keeps up.

 

IMG_20160804_173842

 

This is Old Tomorrow Canadian Pale Ale, an Ontario craft product now well-established here. The draft seems better than the can with extra nuances.

This kind of beer is a cross between IPA as it’s currently understood and traditional pale ale. It drinks better in 20 ounce pints than 14 (or 18), and the older glasses are getting harder to find in Toronto. Will some agree with me the old English pint is the perfect measure for certain beers?

 

IMG_20160731_174955

 

These two were bought from the fridge at Batch, the Molson-Coors brewpub on Victoria Street in Toronto. I like some of the draft beers there, especially the pale ale and the Creemore-brewed Hops & Bolts India Pale Lager, but was disappointed in the beers shown. They have the advertised flavours, but I got strong Belgian yeast notes (clovey, raisins) in both.

I’m not a fan of that taste as it tends, as here, to overwhelm other qualities in the beer. But also, I’ve always thought that the Belgian white style (wit) uses a more neutral yeast to highlight the subtleties of the wheat, barley malt, hops, and coriander or other flavourings in the beer.

For example, the well-known Blanche de Chambly doesn’t have that taste, nor Hoegaarden as far as I know. I don’t even think Blue Moon does.

The collaboration was similar to the regular Batch Witbier but bigger in all respects.

Walter B. Leonard and The American Barroom (Part II)

Part I discussed a 1932 news article by an aged ex-showman, Walter B. Leonard. He recalled the family tavern operated in the 1870s in the hamlet of Morley in northern New York State.

Leonard lived from 1860-1949. A year before he died, a much-expanded version of his article appeared in the Commercial Advertiser of Potsdam, New York, in not less than six parts. The first instalment appeared in the last week of February, and the next five all in March following.*

The series had an evocative title: A North Country Tavern – An Early Recounting of a Small Village Hostelry. These parts feature the warm, down-home style evident in the 1932 recollections.

Considerable extra detail is recounted of the bar and the town, its churches, businesses and social life, part of which I’ll discuss here.

While Leonard was born at the start of the Civil War, in essence his account could appear today, in many ways not so much has changed.

In the 1870s Morley it was a thriving town of 400 inhabitants with a tannery, wagon-maker, boot-maker, grocery, clothier, mill, and cider-press. And one lawyer

There were two churches, Episcopal and Methodist. Morley had an Orange fraternal organization and there was an Orangeman march on July 12 in each year. Perhaps the town was founded by those of Scotch-Irish descent, the Ulster emigrants to America of the 1700s.

The tavern had been operated by Leonard’s grandfather. His father took it over when the Civil War ended and built it up. He had a good trade, both locally and from Canton, Potsdam, and Lisbon, surrounding larger towns.

Despite a promising start the business ultimately foundered. Leonard doesn’t explain why. The tenor of the article, reflecting Leonard’s personality, was to look at the positive side of life. Sadness is tinged with a wistful quality and doesn’t linger, so we don’t learn why an apparently thriving enterprise soon stopped short.

The tavern was a two-and-a-half floor building with a “piazza” (veranda), al painted in white. In an annex light meals were served including hot biscuits, ham, cakes, “thick pies”, pickles, preserves, cole slaw, and cookies.

The last two items were brought, incidentally, to America by the New York Dutch. Maybe some migrated from the Hudson Valley to the edges of New York State. Well, one way or another, some of their food ended in Morley.

Beer at the bar was supplied by Greenway. This was (beer historians know) a sizeable brewery in Syracuse, New York well-known for its ale and porter. It had been established by two brothers from England.

Leonard says peppermint, wintergreen, and other flavourings for drinks were kept in bottles closed with a goose quill cork. Leonard doesn’t say but these clearly were bitters, to flavour whiskey and cocktails. Powdered sugar and ground nutmeg are mentioned as well. The bar clearly offered a range of cocktails with the whisky and beer.

Leonard describes special events like Quadrilles, when people danced until the early hours. The odour of the mens’ hair oil, and their clove-scented breath, stayed with him for 70 years. He recites a list of mostly obscure dances (or obscure to me!). He says most in town could dance them, too. He describes in detail the mens’ and ladies’ clothes and footwear – he must have been an unusually observant child. Mens’ boots were made from fine French calfskin. In general, town life is painted as prosperous and happy.

Unlike the relatively short piece in 1932 there is more detail on the customers. This time, Leonard is more frank about men who had trouble with alcohol. Some of the cases are quite sad. There was a prosperous farmer who ended spending most of his time with the bottle.

A son accompanied him to the pub to keep him under control but ultimately ended in liquor too. A double tragedy.

One drinker was able to abstain for periods but then had a binge. After such episodes he could not resume normal living without medical help.

Hence, in 1948 when he was almost 90, Leonard was more candid on the darker side of the bar trade. I wonder if perhaps his father finally had no stomach for the business, and that’s why it ended.

But all in all, life in mid-1800s upstate New York is painted as idyllic, both natural surroundings and town life. Leonard’s description of icy winter sleigh rides is captivating. The riders were swatched in buffalo robes lined with a colourful flannel edged with cloth of a contrasting colour.

Finally, two references to Canada appear. The first is when the cashbox was emptied after Quadrille dancing and supper. The till might disgorge a few Canadian pennies, but if it caused any annoyance Leonard doesn’t say. The other reference concerns Ira Morgan, a favoured customer. He was from “Canada” with town or province unmentioned. Morgan was the overseer at a local tannery. Leonard said he was “fond” of liquor but only “occasionally” over-indulged.

I’ll conclude with an extract from the series, but to get the full flavour, do read all six parts.

Around the Leonard Tavern all was hustle and bustle! Father was down in the liquor cellar tapping a fresh barrel of “Greenway Ale”. He is being assisted by his right-hand man, Oliver Hedden, who is fairly capable, and always willing to assist especially if fluid refreshments were in evidence. Father has a hammer and is driving the bung into the barrel, while Oliver stands ready to place the faucet into the hole in the head of the barrel. This requires considerable skill. As the bung is driven through, Oliver who is a trifle slow, does not locate the bunghole until a stream of highly-charged liquid shoots out and into the face of Oliver, blinding him for a minute. Father believing this delay was uncalled for grabs the faucet, places it in the bunghole hole and pushes Oliver, who falls over a keg of gin, while father, to relieve his pentup emotions, hands Oliver a rapid fire of nouns and adjectives, the recounting of which would not look well in print; therefore, I assume the liberty of eliminating them. After the faucet is properly adjusted, and my parent’s tempest had subsided, several glass decanters are filled with “White Wheat”, rye and bourbon whisky, gin, rum, brandy, and taken up into the barroom and placed in a glass case on shelves just back of the long serving counter. In this rather artistic receptacle are some small bottles with goose quills through the corks, which contain pepper-sauce, extract of peppermint, wintergreen, and some dark fluid called “stoughton”.

……………………

*In the link given five of six parts appear. The missing one is here (March 2, 1948). All parts, including the 1932 article discussed in my Part I, are as archived in NYS Historic Newspapers.

 

Walter B. Leonard and the American Barroom (Part I)

Morley

 

The history of beverage alcohol in America and Canada has a considerable literature. Many aspects – technological, business, consumer, Temperance/Prohibition, and sociological have been addressed.

What of the social life of the saloon? Quirks of customers, beverages favoured, peculiarities of barkeeps? Some has been chronicled, of course, in journalism and essay-writing certainly. One thinks of Joseph Mitchell’s 1940s writing on McSorley’s tavern in New York.

There is of course the anti-saloon tract, a genre of anti-drink literature. Lurid essays, often by ex-drinkers or ex-barkeepers, discourse on the evils of liquor. Far from me to dismiss these wholesale: the saloon did its share of damage. Still, it provided a service people wanted, and will find one way or another. America’s National Prohibition (1919-1933) showed that only too clearly.

Indeed, too the bar meant something positive, worth studying. Christine Sismondo’s excellent recent America Walks Into A Bar, chronicles aspects of bar history related, for example, to core political notions like liberty.

But praise of the saloon 60, 90, and more years ago, on any account, was not that common. Lauding the watering hole offended the existing moral narrative, then. The bar was considered a lawful business (outside the Prohibition periods), but hardly one holding an honoured place in society.

But an exception is provided by an article of July, 1932 by Walter Brown Leonard. In that year the end of Prohibition was nigh. The Republican-Journal in Ogdensburg, New York felt encouraged to publish the article, which cast a nostalgic, warm glow on the family bar Leonard recalled from his boyhood.

The period goes back to the 1870s. Leonard was born in 1860, and as a boy helped his father run a bar and hotel in Morley, New York. Leonard describes it in the context of village life – American, small town life that is, just after the Civil War.

In the 1930s he was a sometime journalist and music teacher. In his mid-years he enjoyed a colourful career on the road, as a “showman”.

His words are full of human interest, and perceptive. He vivid paints portraits of personalities he remembers. One is the skinflint for whom parting with a “shinplaster” took a real act of will. The fellow never bought a drink for another, and occasionally skipped paying Leonard’s father, claiming to have forgotten his money.

The pub still indulged him, as a regular: the omissions were overlooked. Another story: two “sons of Erin” came in once a week, got drunk, fought good-naturedly (I guess that’s possible) and walked home singing Irish songs.

Leonard wrote that he never saw a village youth drink alcohol, just lemonade. Allowing for some gilding of the lily, the impression is of a business sanely run, that supplied a social need and was accepted by the community as part of daily life.

Beer was dispensed by a “silver tap” from the edge of the bar. Customers would serve themselves if staff was absent. A cask of bock was available in springtime.

Lager was new in upstate New York then. Old-timers stuck to their “ale” and “beer” (the beer may have been dark porter). Leonard says lager was ordered initially by a younger set, but gradually caught on with all comers.

Whiskey was served by the drink. Bottle sales were not permitted in bars, that was the preserve of the pharmacy. But Leonard implies his father sometimes sold a bottle to customers, perhaps because the village was small and isolated. The nearest town of any size, Canton, was some miles away.

Morley today has almost disappeared, it is not much more than a crossroads. In its heyday it throve as a riverside hamlet in St. Lawrence County, New York, a stone’s throw from Canada – which never figures in the account.

A bit now on Leonard’s show background: After some training in the performing arts, still in his teens he went on the road. He “trouped”, playing in an orchestra, or appearing in theatrical productions and circus shows. He wrote and produced for the stage. Later he contributed articles to Billboard magazine and the press in upstate New York.

His work brought him throughout the United States, and to British Columbia. Yet, growing up so close to Canada, he apparently never visited Ontario or Quebec. In those days, the U.S. and Canada could be rather hermetic, but that was not always so, e.g. during the Loyalist period.

An obituary of Leonard appeared in 1949 in the Commercial Advertiser of Potsdam Junction, NY. (Some of details above are drawn from that account). It stated aptly of him, “He had a long life, his life was filled with incidents of interest, he made it so”.

He made it so. He lived the life he wanted to.

For Part II of this article, see here.

Note re image: the image above of Morley, NY is from the Canton Free Library. One of the buildings shown may have housed Leonard’s Tavern and Hotel. Image used  for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.

Cause Beer Year Round Gonna Do It

If the lager that emerged in the United States by 1870 had been memorialized in song, it might have gone like this:

 

Ballad of the New Lager (with apologies to Mars and Ronson)

I’m Too Good
Not Long-Aged and People Swoon
I’m Too Good
Nine Month Beer is His-tory
I’m Too Good
Machines that Chill, Powder that cures
I’m Too Good
Cause Beer Year Round Gonna Do It
Yah!
Beer Year Round Gonna Do It
Yah!
It’s Saturday night and lager is king!

 

Initially in the United States, lager as in Europe was a long-aged summer specialty. It emerged from the need to have a drinkable beer in warm weather. Before mechanical refrigeration or heavy use of natural ice, brewing could only reliably take place in cool weather and even then ideally only in certain months. In Britain, October and March were considered the best seasons.

Beer was consumed “mild” or new from either brewing but also laid down to keep a year or more.

This keeping was done both to have beer in a season it could not be brewed and because some felt aging improved it. The story with lager is similar.

Beer brewed from December to February could be consumed new, this was the schenk or pot beer, but some of it was extra-hopped and made stronger. It was laid away to be consumed eight or nine months later. Lager was fermented colder than ale and porter, and initially available where natural cold, in Alpine caves or via ice added, would ensure a near-freezing environment.

New_York_Ice_trade_colour

The intense cold ensured, said many writers in the 1800s, that acetic acid and lactic acid would be suppressed. The chill and lager yeast, somewhat different in shape and characteristics from ale yeast, would produce a slow secondary conditioning: carbonation would be imparted and the palate refined. Once again this took the better part of a year.

Yet, this long-aged and presumably fine beer disappeared almost without a trace by the 1870s in America. What replaced it was bottom-fermented beer drunk fairly new, or “new lager”. Since ice and, later, refrigeration equipment could produce beer year round, there was no reason to lock up beer and capital for many months.

Lager reverted to schenk beer, essentially.

Was the long-aged beer better, though? Many assumed it was, as some English brewers did for ale and porter. New beer can have “green” flavours which are said to lift off with time, although how this occurred in sealed wood casks is not immediately evident. Still, in 1946, a time when scientific analysis had gained sophistication, the well-credentialled B. Jellinek argued in a reputed English journal that aging improved the taste of lager.

Long aging also reduced the bitterness of beer. Porter-brewers had observed this, and given most people don’t like very bitter tastes, lager-brewers too may have liked the natural reduction of bitterness which would occur from a long spell in storage.

But if the long-aged lager was so good, why did American breweries abandon it, something that happened in Europe too albeit later? Did they sacrifice the best quality for commercial convenience and profit? Why did they not sell some long-aged lager as a specialty?  Most consumer products have different grades.

In fact, there is reason to think well-matured lager was never that much more than an expedient.

With better science and even practical experience, people found ways to parry each advantage of long keeping. Various substances could be added, isinglass or gelatine, say, to clarify beer within a few hours, not months.  As I showed yesterday, American brewers were adding (or many of them) bicarbonate of soda to reduce the risk of acidity from sourish clarifying agents.

I now think too the old German foreman was right when he said the soda also lessened hop bitterness. For beer kept a month or so, the soda did what even eight or nine months could not do sufficiently, reduce hop impact. (In time too of course, hop content was lowered and a beer not meant for aging tended to use fewer hops anyway).

Yeasts could be selected, or the new beer otherwise manipulated, to ensure expelling of green flavours.

And fresh fermenting beer could be added to flat, fermented-out beer to impart the necessary fizz, and finally CO2 injection was used.

And so, newly-made beer replaced old. Of course, it happened to ale and porter too. Long aging of the English stuff though had a fault – the beer tended to go sour or at least tart. Blending old and new beer partly alleviated the problem, but once new fresh beer was regularly available to the market, that’s what people wanted, and the old “vatted” or aged beer died out.

Since stability was said to be a hallmark of the old lager and it was exempt from the action of lactic and acetic acid bacteria, you might think the “fresh beer” logic didn’t apply to it, at least in the sense that brewers would have still offered some long-aged beer as a specialty. They didn’t. Today, Pilsner Urquell, the queen of blonde lagers, is aged about four weeks based on my research…

Few detailed taste notes on beer survive from the 1800s, and almost none which compare lagers of different ages. One can find analyses of beer in which acids are sometimes mentioned, and in general, acid content was higher than today, for all beers. Did nine month lager have the potential to taste sour? Yes it did.

Proof is available via this detailed 1877 article on lager-brewing in New York, from the New York Times. In that article, it was said, twice, that the old lager tended in the public estimation to be sour or “hard”, and also (still) too bitter. Hard was a term used in the alcohol industries then to mean sour. The term survives in the expression hard cider, which indeed can approach sourness in palate.

The writer said that use of soda carbonate in young beer, combined with ice-assisted, year round brewing ensured fresh product and this was preferred by the market to the supposedly better beer aged much longer earlier. It noted that Schaefer and another brewer tried to re-introduce a seven month-aged beer; people didn’t want to know.

Could it be that Americans never mastered the art of making well-aged lager as well as their German forbears did? I doubt it. And if that old beer was so good it should have survived as a speciality in the market, fetching a high price. We have old whiskey, old port, old Bordeaux, why not old beer? Apart from a few craft producers, no one makes it, and where the craft people do, it is generally for stout or strong ale. I can’t recall seeing many old lagers in the market.

Maybe, despite the theory, it was never that good, here or in Europe, especially in an age of wood vessels and non-sterile plants.

An alternate explanation is, once reliable fresh schenk was available year round, the market wouldn’t pay for fine lager considering especially that beer is the drink of the people. But again, usually there is a market for quality, any product. And laying away a few metal barrels or vats to age seven, eight, nine months should be no trouble for a nice extra margin.

But there is no extra-aged Carlsberg, or Spaten Helles, or Pilsner Urquell, or Creemore, or Sam Adams.

Those experienced with the beer palate know that fresh beer is best. Maybe it always was.

 

“Notes From A Brewery”

Prosit, Mein Herr

2002_1_3205_JacobRuppertBarTray_img1_0In New York in February, 1891, The Sun’s man visited a local brewery. It was a lager brewery, not named. Perhaps Schaefer, perhaps George Ehret’s, or Jacob Ruppert’s, Rheingold.

Although nearing the period when Prohibition sentiment was at its peak, the paper didn’t cavil from giving a full page to this topic, with pen and ink illustrations to boot.

In this period, the Sun and other New York papers carried brewery advertising and occasionally (not this time) featured articles on the industry in a kind of special issue, where for two or three pages lavish brewery ads would appear with articles on different aspects of the business.

The Sun’s 1891 article was more human-focused and with a humorous edge. Still, numerous technical details emerge of interest including some I’ve not heard before.

The focal point was the German foreman, whose “curious” mixture of English and German the writer found amusing. There is a recurring punch line in the story, but I’ll let you read it for yourself to get the full impact.

The quantities consumed by workers at the brewery every day almost beggar belief. 20 or 30 beers are downed and they couldn’t have been small measures, a large wooden mug is pictured at the men’s bar in the courtyard. The foreman sometimes pulled a beer into “glasses” strategically placed throughout the plant to the amusement of the visitor, perhaps these were smaller in size.

58195_GeorgeEhretsHellGateBrewery_0The beer was probably 4% abv, similar to a modern light beer (in alcohol), maybe a bit stronger. Accounting for some foam, maybe the men netted 12 ounces of “solid” beer (a term used in the article) with each drink. 20 glasses of 4% beer is 15-16 beers at 5% abv. Some workers, including the foreman, could hit 30. That’s like a two-four down at The Beer Store. It seems hard to believe people could work like this, but the article says there was no obvious intoxication.

Two technical points stood out for me. The first was that “natron” was added to the kegs, this is a white, chalk-like substance, a carbonate of soda. In an explanation both familiar and odd-sounding, the foreman told the writer it was added to keep the beer “mild” and take out the bitterness.

The mild part makes sense. Natron is an alkali, and would tend to minimize acidity in the beer. Sourness could result from unpasteurized draft beer going off. But also, new beer being kegged might have been a little sour due to isinglass being added, which was typically dissolved with cream of tartar then or another sourish agent. Perhaps the natron neutralized the acidity from this source.

But the part about lessening bitterness doesn’t tally IMO. If you want less bitterness, just use less hops. Indeed that’s just what happened by mid-20th century.

I think the foreman’s explanation was a bit muddled, maybe drinking a case a day can do that.

The writer had the presence of mind to ensure he tasted the beer without the natron to see if it made any difference. Unfortunately, he failed to report on any difference in taste, if noted.

85468d_FreshCoolLagerBeer_CurrierIves_0The other tech matter of interest: the brewery took pains to ensure no iron, nails and similar, would enter with the hops as they were loaded into the wort. The chutes delivering the hops were equipped with strong magnets to catch all such debris. The foreman explained it like this:

If metal got in it could ruin the beer or even cause an explosion. I am not sure what this is referring to. Maybe as whole hops went into the strained mash – there were no hop pellets or fluid extracts then – sparks from metal fragments could set off a fire (the dust). I’ve never heard of this being done though, if anyone knows about it do say something.

The men’s wives and other female relations brought them lunch during their break. The women would share the meal with them and all drank from yet another keg brought in for the crowd. The spell with the family makes sense given the long day, 6:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (Later, a strike in New York ensured it was cut back).

I find it interesting that the brewery’s name wasn’t mentioned. Maybe the piece was viewed as what we call today generic advertising, and the space paid for by multiple breweries. Hard to say.

The recurring punch line in the story reminded me of a comedy sketch when the great Jonathan Winters appeared on Johnny Carson’s famous late-night show. Winters was riffing on his youth, probably spontaneously, and described the family Christmas after the family had lost its money in the 1930s. Winters: “Johnny, that was when the toys became wooden, a broomstick with a face carved. And in the stocking bag it was always walnuts. I put my hand in and pulled out a walnut. And then another one, and another one, and anoth…”. (See from 8:00-10:11 in the link given).

Note re images: The images above were sourced from the website of the New York Historical Society, here. The Society mounted a well-received exhibition on New York brewing history in 2012. All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images are used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

New York Magazine Does Beer

New_York,_New_York_1977_(1)1971 was five years before the first true “craft brewery”: Jack McAuliffe’s New Albion Brewery in Sonoma, CA. In 1971 McAuliffe was still posted with the U.S. Navy in Great Britain, learning about fine beer.

Washing machine scion Fritz Maytag in San Francisco had owned the venerable Anchor Brewery (founded 1899) since the mid-1960s and was well underway to restore the integrity of its Anchor Steam Beer. Anchor’s Liberty Ale and Anchor Porter, important, influential beers in the early craft history, were designed later in the 70s by the savvy, prophetic Maytag.

But what was the beer scene like in New York in 1971? Despite post-war industry consolidation and considerable levelling of the palate there were still breweries in or around New York, and lots of imports in the stores.

With consumerism in full march for decades attention was turning to wine, and slowly beer, as suitable subjects of gastronomic attention. The change, which started in small influential circles (wine groups, culinary societies), took time due to long-lasting Prohibition attitudes shaped by the 19th century Protestant ethic. Growing popular interest in wine and beer, increased travel, and a loosening of social attitudes finally caused a larger revolution in how beer and wine were viewed, commencing in the late 1960s.

New York tended to be open-minded in such matters anyway. The history of speakeasies during Prohibition is testament to that alone. And before Volstead the New York press regularly covered matters of interest to the beer drinker, as I’ve covered here earlier. And so this tradition broadened after Prohibition and especially after WW II.

As an example of loosening attitudes the pathbreaking Consumer Reports featured a beer-rating article in 1949. To do that in, say, Philadelphia in the 1950s-60s would have seemed impossible. In contrast, by 1971 beer in hip New York was cool, and warranted a closer look by a food-oriented consumer magazine.

New York magazine was founded a few years earlier by Milton Glaser and Clay Felker. It is the progenitor for the urban lifestyle magazines found around world today. The magazine’s short but illuminating beer article can be read here. It was titled, a little grandly but no doubt with New York irony, The Underground Gourmet’s 1971 Beer Olympics. 

One is pleased to learn – it’s 45 years ago – that Milton Glaser at 87 is still active in the graphic design field. It is he who invented the “I Love New York” slogan and logo in 1977. Just the other day the New York Times interviewed him in this story. I wonder if Glaser still likes beer. Presumably yes, as he also designed another well-known logo, for New York’s Brooklyn Brewery, a craft brewing pioneer.

The Underground Gourmet’s ratings are interesting to consider. Many beers that did well are still available and probably taste quite similar. Of the beers one would expect to do well that did not, Dinkelacker from Germany, say, or Ballantine India Pale Ale, perhaps the bottles were too old, and the article mentioned the risk of over-age.

A hook for the tasting was to divide the panel into Blue Collar and White Collar. As the tallies showed though, the judges on either side largely agreed on their findings. Glaser and co-writer Jerome Snyder wrote that social and psychological factors probably influenced the results but were not “measured”. They may have meant that a taster with, say, an Italian background might be less likely to dismiss a beer coming from Italy.  But all in all, the two Collars viewed the beers similarly. The men wearing ties perhaps liked dark beers a bit better.

Each panel agreed that a dark German Wurzburger earned the No. 1 place. The brand had a long import history in the States, which would explain in part the excellent quality.

The Dutch Heineken did well, New York was its first market in North America after Prohibition was repealed, so it was probably fresh and certainly familiar to Gothamites.

Watney’s Red Barrel, the bane of 1970s English “real ale” pioneers, did well too. Americans always liked Red Barrel. Next to the American lager norm it cut a swath, in any case.

Presidente from Dominican Republic was a top-scorer and indeed was an excellent beer then – I remember it – malty, with a vibrant, appealing flavour. Peroni from Italy did well, and is fashionable today – justly so when in good condition.

As mentioned earlier Ballantine India Pale Ale scored unusually now. How odd considering that I.P.A. is the toast of American brewing in 2019, the quality end anyway. Too much time had passed since the days of well-hopped, old-fashioned ales, one presumes.

old-bohemian-bock-104-15-fNo American beer ranked as Excellent except for a bock beer, Old Bohemian. Clearly it was an outlier since it wasn’t from a generally reputed source, to our knowledge. Beer can be like that, unpredictable.

The tabulated results seem to err at least once. The score for Prior Dark shows that each panel gave it 4 1/4, yet it’s listed in the Fair group. Prior was a small seller but a topmost quality beer: it couldn’t get a break.

Labatt Blue Pilsener from Canada made it into the Excellent category, though. I think “Blue” was better at the time, but that is speculative.

Someone should hold the same tasting again, and why not New York magazine? Collect all the beers still available in the market and substitute similar ones for beers no longer made. Send me an invitation, will you?

Note re images: The image of Times Square in 1977 was sourced at Wikipedia here and is by Derzsi Elekes Andor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. The image of Old Bohemian Bock is from this breweriana websiteAll intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images are used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.