Guinness’s Shot Across the Bows

The Tipperary Rifle Barks

How was Guinness brewed in America in 1951? Well, three-quarters of the barley malt was from Ireland:

For a while the bottled mixture had been shipped from abroad, but finding that the stout shipped this way was not a good sailor, brewing was started in this country. Irish malt makes 75 percent of the malt used. Roasted barley, to give color, also comes from Ireland. A blend of American and English hops is preferred. Water, specially selected for purity and softness, and the special brand of Guinness yeast, flown specially from Dublin, are other ingredients used.

The quote is from a September 1951 story in the Brooklyn Eagle. It reported on the Guinness Extra Stout first brewed in 1949 in Long Island, NY by the otherwise resolutely Hibernian, Guinness Brewery.*

The 75% figure, and general context, suggest some American malt was used. Roasted barley by then – not roast malt, as before the 1930s – was also used, to lend the signature colour and burned taste. Perhaps there was no flaked (raw, unroasted) barley in the mash then, although it came soon enough.

The compound was presumably richer than today, when the standard Guinness seemingly has only 60% barley malt, see David Hughes’ analysis, here. 

The fermentation or attenuation limit has an effect too though. Likely it was fairly pronounced in the Long Island version, as 1930s Guinness ads in the U.S. and Canada mention its dry character. See my earlier essay referencing such ads.

That was in relation to the imported Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, stronger and more acidic than Extra Stout was by then. I doubt American Guinness was fashioned to be more malty, though, and the related ads support this. And certainly it was less tart, in keeping with Extra Stout as a domestic vs. export beer.

The old bottled Guinness, pasteurized or not, seemed to offer inconsistencies the brewery didn’t like. The prospect, too, to offer Guinness at something like half the import price was obviously attractive.

Still, American Guinness was likely impactful on the palate. Much of the Eagle article focuses on ways to blend it with, say, Champagne for a Black Velvet, or 7-Up to form a “Cincinnati”.

Guinness gathered food writers and trade magazine editors in an Astor Hotel salon to teach them about this new Yankee Guinness. Its publicists came up with old and newer ways to entice use of the black stuff.

Some of the mixtures are traditional including the grandly-named Tipperary Rifle, stout with gin. The Rifle is the old blackthorn cudgel, or shillelagh, used by Irish fighting factions of old – pre-Troubles, I might add.

London knew the mix as a dog’s nose, rather pacific an image in contrast, isn’t it. All this can be misleading, as Irish history attests only too well.

A stout and rum mixture was also handed round in the Astor. I just bought a Quebec porter infused with rum – plus ça change.

Good attention was given to pairings with food. A spread of cheeses and choice oysters – the local Peconic was one – was sampled and approved.

The event was also covered in the New York Times, which completists should read for its further detail. The Times account mentioned an interesting etymological variation on the beer shandy, a topic I discussed the other day. It is the Dandy, from South Africa, a mix of lemon soda and stout.

Really, when you think of Guinness (any form), its Velvet and other mixtures, apt foods such as the Astor offered, and the romance of beer’s history, it all brings to mind the modern beer or wine vernissage. Not too much has changed really, especially when well-heeled companies lay a spread.

Even though the consumer society was dawning in its full plenitude and the Korean War was raging, they knew how to do these things. The pre-craft era wasn’t all a rec room of thin lager, chips-and-dip, and pretzels.

Far from 1951 being the beer and culinary stone age, the Astor reception showed the sophisticated side, one that ranks with our best today.

Let’s organize a re-do and confirm. Diageo, give me a call. Speaking of Diageo, it should be noted Guinness is back – in the U.S.A., I mean. Its new brewery, the Open Gate Brewery and Taphouse, opened near Baltimore earlier this year. USA Today dished the details. I’ve written about it too, see here.

One difference is Guinness isn’t trying to brew stout again in America. The stout at Open Gate, except perhaps the odd small-batch experimental, is Irish-brewed and imported.

Today, Guinness is a good sailor.

N.B. For history on the shillelagh, or bata, see the excellent website Irish Culture and Customs, whence the image above is taken.


*For further information on the Long Island, NY brewery of 1949 – c.1952, see my post yesterday.



The other day I noticed a half bottle (PET-type) of Canada Dry ginger ale in the fridge. I had a can of beer partly-filled from a couple of days earlier, it was Amsterdam Autumn Hop Harvest Ale, but I’d have used any IPA or pale ale available for what follows.

(The Amsterdam beer, a wet hop seasonal release, isn’t labelled IPA as such, some have called it American pale ale, but I think it has an IPA character).

It’s been hot in Toronto again, earlier this week I mean. And after a long walk, I mixed the two. It’s shandy-gaff, sometimes called simply shandy, or beer-shandy.

It’s one of the family of beers mixed with a gaseous or other non-alcohol drink in varying proportions, e.g., Radler, bitter tops, clara, Diesel, etc. Tasting it I was reminded how good it can be.

The Canada Dry, while not as assertive as ginger beer, still has a good smack and had the telling flavour in the mix. The beer was not hidden though, especially the hops which gathered round the edges.

The etymology of shandy-gaff is very obscure. I won’t rehearse the different theories except to note they range from a nonsense term to a corruption of a certain blacksmith’s favourite drink (sang de Goff) and yet more. Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang (ed. Jonathan Green) offers up two other theories, one related to a sense of “shanty” as a quart, or quart of drink.*

1853 for the compound word, and 1888 for the unadorned shandy, have been cited as first appearances, but searching ’round in Google Books I found this 1846 reference to the full expression. It’s in Charles Dickens’ magazine Bentley’s Miscellany. This is the earliest citation to date, as far as I know.

Bentley’s defines the drink quite precisely as a mixture of ale and ginger beer. Scotch ale was used in that instance which would have produced a quite sweet and still strong mix if 50-50 was used at any rate.

The one I made was only 3% ABV if that, and I think shandy should be not too strong, it is of its nature.

I tend to stay away anyway from strong beer. I still try them but usually add sparkling water to reduce them to 5% or less. It’s surprising how much character is retained in the original drink.

A shandy in Canada to many would mean mixing beer with 7 Up or another lemon soda. You don’t see it as often as years ago. Certainly it was a golf clubhouse or summer fixture at one time.

Brewers have plumbed the depths of the Radler mixture and should launch into shandy. The possibilities are endless and different flavours and strengths can result.

I think an Imperial stout mixed with ginger beer should be very good, an analogue to a Dark and Stormy, the rum and ginger beer mix. The ginger beer would pick up the dryness of much porter as it’s now brewed, too.


*See my additional remark in the Comments below.







Prima Lagers Encountered in 2018

The following are the best lagers I encountered in Toronto this year, to date of course.

Amsterdam 2018 Traditional Pilsner

This beer was a seasonal lager release of Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewery at the start of this year. It featured clean, rich malt with lots of flavour from Czech Saaz hops and the German Mandarina Bavaria variety. There was no obvious New World “citrus” from the partial Cascade heritage of the latter hop.

The total effect was traditional European in a very full, crafted interpretation.

Side Launch Mountain Lager

Side Launch in Collingwood, ON is known for its authentic, German-style wheat beer but our pick of the range is Mountain Lager. It’s a familiar sight in the blue can in Toronto beer stores and is available on draft in many bars.

It has a unique profile, as I guess all excellent beers do. It reminds me of some “super-premium” lager of the 70s-80s, especially Michelob of that era, but with a fuller, more natural flavour. Despite lots of taste it is fermented out thoroughly and ends fairly dry on the palate.

Some Munich-style lager has an “eggy” note, a sulphide of some kind in action; this beer generally does not, a plus in our view. (None of the beers in this post exhibit that trait, or not that we can detect, which adds to their quality in our view again).

Ace Hill Pilsener

Contract-brewed at Brunswick Bierworks in Toronto, and the lightest of the beers canvassed here. Its palate and branding seem designed for the urban aspirational class but the quality is there, especially on draft, which seems deeper in taste than the canned version.

To have a quality product, a “big” taste is not always needed; a good taste is the thing. Conversely, a big taste can be coarse and unappealing…

German pils, a favourite style in the north half of Germany, is often dry and light on the palate, too. Ace Hill is in that tradition but without a pronounced German character vs., say, a Jever pils.

Muddy York Gaslight Helles Lager

The Cranfield Road, Toronto craft brewer Muddy York excels in a broad range of styles. Gaslight Helles has a rich but clean taste powered by Bohemian malts, fine hops, and a distinctive yeast strain. This beer drinks great iced, cellar temp, or tepid. One of the best of the style I’ve had anywhere.

Bellwoods Brewery Bellweiser

Not five years old, the Bellwoods outfit has always impressed by its quality and innovative spirit. I tend to associate ales and other top-fermentation styles with Bellwoods but this blonde lager, Bellweiser, wowed by its good taste and rich floral quality.

If anything the website description undersells the beer.

We encountered it on draft in Guelph recently but intend to drop by the Ossington Street location to pick up some in bottles.

Pilsner Urquell

The Czech classic comes into Toronto warehouses super-fast from its homeland and the quality shows. This beer has always set the standard for blonde lager with its deep floral quality from generous Saaz hopping, and honeyed Bohemian malts.

I had the iteration in London, England this year sold at the Draft House in the City which is the “tank” version, unpasteurized but filtered. This is the best version in my view and avoids the somewhat yeasty top note of unfiltered Urquell you can taste in Pilsen.

But in any form it’s a classic and the draft version we get in Toronto is fine too, although not necessarily better than a very fresh can.

Summing Up

Obviously there are many more blonde lagers available in Ontario than those above. I don’t taste them all, or regularly, few of us can, so there may be a great one I missed. For those I have tried the ones above were my pick for 2018.

A new beer I had high hopes for and just tasted, Creemore Springs Whole Hopped Lager, disappointed by lacking a “middle”. The expected quality from the whole flower hops is there, and I liked the more restrained yeast background (seemingly) than Creemore in any iteration usually presents, but the malt seemed lacking.

Perhaps it’s meant for a demographic that feels the standard Creemore Lager is too rich-tasting. If so, fair enough but to me it’s neither fish nor fowl.

Also, there are dozens of good solid beers one can drink day in day out that are perfectly satisfying while not, IMO, at the level of those above. Czechvar lager from the Czech Republic, say, or the excellent Slovakian Golden Pheasant, Ontario’s Muskoka Lager, or Purity Pilsener from Walkerville, ON, and many others.

The year is not out, if I encounter a new sensation before December 31 I’ll post an update.





Where the Turf Meets the Surf

It’s all About the Beef, Plus 1

A food history topic of no little interest and complexity is the euphonious “surf and turf”. Like many corners of cuisine or gastronomy, it is rich in socio-cultural detail. A book could easily be written on the subject, in fact.

Any dish that merits this learned assessment (from Wikipedia) justifies in-depth consideration:

Surf and turf was often considered to symbolize the middle-class “Continental cuisine” of the 1960s and 1970s,[7] with (frozen) lobster and steak as ersatz status foodstuffs for the middle class.[8]

The name has been reappropriated by more recent chefs such as Thomas Keller.[9]

I’ll consider two issues. When does “surf and turf” first appear in print? And does the term denote not just the dish but a genre of restaurant? 



First Appearance of the Dish

10 years ago well-credentialed, New York-based food blogger Barry Popik, who is also an amateur etymologist, wrote an entry on the origin-year issue. His account is still valid today. He cites two Los Angeles-area sources from 1961, as follows:


13 August 1961, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. N7:
The “Turf and Surf” is an interesting combination: lobster tail and small beef tenderloin.

17 December 1961, Los Angeles (CA) Times, calendar section, pg. 18 ad:
Surf & Turf
Australian Lobster Tail & Choice Top Sirloin Steak
(Happy Hollow on Silver Lake Blvd.—ed.)

“Turf and Surf” is an alternate usage that occasionally appears in the early years of the dish. In the second reference of 1961, Surf and Turf is the term used. The sources for the two descriptions were evidently different as the cuts of beef are not the same.

Early versions of surf and turf across the country are as described above, a lobster tail married with a piece of beef. The beef could be various cuts including tenderloin, filet, sirloin, and prime rib. The spiny or rock lobster tail was, by numerous accounts, e.g., Calvin W. Schwabe’s in 1979, regularly sourced from South Africa after WW II. Food historian Jan Whittaker’s useful account of surf and turf offers good detail in particular on the frozen lobster tail history.

An early advertisement for lobster tails that were probably South African-origin appeared in 1951 in a box ad in Sarataga, NY, see here.  The ad mentions other dishes including “steak rolls” which is usually rolled flank or another type of thin steak. Unlike for the other dishes the steak rolls is shown adjacent the lobster tails separated by a widely-spaced dash. We believe this was not a combined dish, however, but two separate dishes.

Brazil sometimes supplied the toothsome morsel, or Australia as above in 1961 or in this Rochester, NY ad (1966). This store ad in Syracuse, NY from 1942 advertised rock lobster tails and identified the source as Cuban.

Many news ads in different parts of the United States can be cited for surf and turf after 1961 as the dish went national early, but there is no sense to multiply them here as Barry Popik has identified the earliest to appear; at least by our research this appears so.

The surf and turf dish may therefore originate on the West Coast, perhaps in the Happy Hollow restaurant, Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, but this is unclear.

Food and drink phenomena, as I discussed earlier in the context of “wine and cheese”, often appear early on both coasts. Then, as now, a “bi-coastal culture” existed in various manifestations from food to drink to television, and politics. This is due to the large numbers of arts and “chattering” classes in these sections, and the frequent travel and other interchanges between them.

It would be satisfying to know that Silver Lake Blvd. runs along or near to the Pacific Ocean, but it does not. Still, the name suggests it lies by a body of water, and it does: Silver Lake Reservoir. The lake is to the northwest of central Los Angeles and at least today the area is a hipster and restaurant hub.

Could surf and turf been given a semi-ironic name in Silver Lake, CA due to the propinquity of such “surf”? This seems possible.

Examples of Restaurants, or Menus, Called Surf and Turf

Early on the term surf and turf also meant a restaurant, or menu, that mainly featured steak and seafood. This 1967 article from the Press in Binghampton, NY in south-central New York is illustrative. It described a restaurant in West Endicott, NY called Surf ‘n Turf and its menu. The image above is drawn from the story. In 1973, a restaurant called Turf and Surf Steak and Seafood House, in Niagara Falls, ON, similarly advertised steak and seafood offerings. The Ontario restaurant pitched to an American audience given the proximity to the border.

Surf and turf as a dish was surely offered on each menu but could not have been the only item sold; there would have been a selection of steaks and seafood or other fish.

Also in 1973 in New Paltz, NY a restaurant called Surf and Turf Steak and Seafood House advertised a menu, evidently again of various steak and seafood items.

In 2018 a Brooklyn, NY restaurant called Surf and Turf operated a dining hall and catering service, with a menu type suggested by the name, see its website here.

Jen Miller in her 2011 book on the foods of the Jersey shore used the term surf and turf on the same page to describe both the dish, a variant involving crab cake, and a type of menu.

In general, in my personal experience dining in various parts of the northeast since the 1970s “surf and turf” means a type of cuisine, not just a dish of that name.

Examples of Restaurants or Dishes Similarly Named

There were alternate names, without quite the snappy sound of Surf and Turf, for the type of restaurant that offered a steak and seafood menu, and/or for the dish itself.

The Rib ‘n Reef is a luxury steakhouse in Montreal that has operated continuously since 1960. The extracts above are from its 1963 menu (source: the McCord Museum’s archive of historic Montreal restaurant menus).

The menu has two main rubrics, “From The Charcoal Pit” and “From the Sea”, with numerous selections under each. None of the dishes combines steak and seafood, although on today’s Rib ‘n Reef menu you can find surf and turf, by that name, indeed in three variations. Of course prices have changed!

“Beef and Reef” is a variant term that titled a restaurant in Cazenovia, NY in 1979. It was also the name of a dish of broiled lobster and steak in Huntington Station, NY in 1972.

Hy’s Steakhouse in Toronto currently offers its “Steak and Lobster”, a filet mignon and Atlantic lobster tail combination; however in its case it eschews the term Surf & Turf or a similar metaphorical term.

The “Steak and Seafood” Menu and its American Character

These restaurants placed, and still do, an strong focus on steak and seafood. Other dishes might be offered, say, chicken, lamb, or ham. But in the main the “steak and seafood” menu offered a choice of beef or seafood with each category given equal prominence on the menu.

It appears this menu emerged in the 1940s-1950s as a peculiarly American innovation, one that spread to Canada early. Hy’s Steakhouse mentioned above began in the 1950s in western Canada, for example (see its website mentioned). We think American inspiration was inevitable.

In countries other than these two, a beef house might offer a fish dish or two (main course). See for example the menu of Simpson’s-on-the-Strand in London in 1963. This is not a “steak and seafood” (or other fish) menu in the North American conception.

The concept did arrive in Britain finally, from American inspiration in my view, and whether steak and seafood or just steak as such. See for example the historical discussion on the website of the Guinea Grill, part of the well-known Guinea Pub in Mayfair, London.

As early as 1952 the Guinea’s tenant, described simply as Alastair, had the idea to offer the kind of steak American visitors wanted. It was thin on the ground in Britain then, or probably anytime before the steak chains finally took root. The Angus Steakhouse is one, and its early-1960s origins have been described as American-inspired.

It is bootless to argue that the American steakhouse is ultimately British to begin with – the chophouse, beefsteak clubs, and similar. This is unquestioned, and the culture transplanted here with early British arrivals. But that is a long time ago. The Stateside steak restaurant evolved in its own way, including often with seafood or fish as a prominent feature, with an effect finally that rebounded in the old country, like a boomerang.

The case of India Pale Ale, now a craft sensation in international beer circles, is similar. “I.P.A” is of English origin, a beer type sent to India in the later 1700s whose high hopping rate was meant to preserve the beer on the journey. The style was given a twist by modern American craft brewers and their interpretation rebounded and has been adopted in the U.K. (which still makes the original type too but often under a different name, Best Bitter, say).

The 1950s American Steak and Seafood House

In New York in 1950, the Red Coach Grill offered an early but classically recognizable steak and seafood menu.

Each rubric has the same prominence with numerous choices under each. Lobster and swordfish, say, are offered in the seafood section. No dish combines meat and seafood. 10 years later similar restaurants exist (and still do), but are now offering the mixed form of dish.

It may be noted from its menu that Red Coach Grill was a chain, comprising in 1950 eight establishments on the East Coast down to Miami.

Here is another example, from 1958, also in New York State and near Binghampton again: the Vestal Steak House menu. This menu featured broiled lobster tails, probably imported from South Africa or another exporting country later associated with the surf and turf dish, but surf and turf does not appear on the Vestal menu. It is too early, as for the Red Coach and 1963 version of the Rib ‘n Reef, and  O’Henry mentioned below.

This menu of O. Henry, a restaurant which operated in Greenwich Village, NY, is undated but apparently from the late 1950s: note the telephone exchange format. (“CH” means Chelsea: these went out by the early 1960s). The menu offers among the seafood selections “imported rock lobster tail”, but no surf and turf.

This menu of 1940 from Shevlin’s New Chop House in Cincinnati, via New York Public Library’s menu archive, is instructive to show the roots of the 1950s and later steak and seafood restaurant. The name evokes the 19th-century, or older, English chop house. After 1945 the chop house name was viewed as old-fashioned and is less commonly encountered.

Still, the Shevlin menu, although cluttered by more dishes than the later steak and seafood house offered, has its main elements: lobsters, shrimp, and other seafood on one side, steaks and chops on the other. Pre-WW II menus tend to offer many more items than in the post-war era, so the slimming down of menus in general may have assisted the emergence of the classic steak and seafood menu.

Of the countless restaurants that existed in the U.S.A. or Canada with such menus, did not one before 1961 combine steak and seafood as a surf and turf, or turf and surf? This seems likely but no example is documented to date. If such a dish did exist, perhaps it was a “customer” special, bearing his name ad hoc, or another (or no) name.

A dish we can document in 1967 akin to surf and turf was called the Coach. This suggests perhaps that surf and turf existed under a different name(s) before 1961. Still, we are not aware that such a dish has been documented.

Steak and Seafood/Fish Together are not new

To be sure, dishes have always existed combining meat and seafood, famously in Asian cooking. The West features as well, e.g. the Spanish paella, or Catalan Mar i Muntanya. Carpetbag steak is beefsteak of some kind with a pouch to hold oysters or other shellfish. A form exists from Britain to North America to Australia.

A menu in 1900 offered “sirloin and oysters”. Steak and oyster pie, and various foods with anchovy, are old hat in Britain and elsewhere in the West.

But once again: the American steakhouse menu of the 1950s with its binary of steak and seafood was uniquely American. In part this was due to the Maine lobster whose size and excellence permitted featuring it as a main course item. As an example, see this 1954 New York Post restaurant review, where a basic steak menu was supplemented, especially on Friday, by a main course lobster plate noted for its size and quality.

Lobster tails of other countries are usually smaller, often not as tasty, and not as suitable for a main dish. Clearly, with the expansion of middle class eating they were resorted to for cost and availability reasons, but their comparative inferiority to the Maine lobster meant ultimately a combination with beef to kick it up a notch.

Non-Culinary Usages of the Term Surf and Turf

Since the 1940s the term surf and turf has also been applied to various types of clothing, sportswear usually, especially for use in boating or on beachside. See this example for women, from 1941. The term has also been applied to air-blown mattresses, and other paraphernalia associated with seaside living.

This is not unusual as the words surf and turf are respectively old usages for the sea and land. Their rhyming quality must have meant for an early coinage outside a food context.

In coastal Del Mar, CA surf and turf became a catchphrase in the form of “where the turf meets the surf”. This phrase and the term “surf and turf” were used to promote the racetrack and resort facilities built by entertainer Bing Crosby and partners in 1936 to attract Hollywood luminaries and other names.

Crosbly crooned the once-famous tune Where the Turf Meets the Surf (Crosby/Monaco/Burke), a signature song of his Turf Club in Del Mar. You can hear him sing it here.

Where the turf meets the surf
Down at old Del Mar
Take a plane
Take a train
Take a car.
There is a smile on every face
And a winner in each race
Where the turf meets the surf
At Del Mar.

In 1947 there was a Turf and Surf Hotel in Del Mar. In 1952 there was at least one Turf and Surf restaurant in town, perhaps in that hotel, per this California news squib.

The term surf and turf also had and may still retain a general sporting connotation extending to sports fishing and some land sports. The term appeared in this context, for example, in late-1960s advertisements relating to a “Sportacular” exhibition.

Did the ubiquity of the term surf and turf on the California coast and around Los Angeles in the 1940s and ’50s give rise finally to the dish of the same name? We think it probable, until further evidence may suggest an alternate origin.

Note re images: The sources of the images above are identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


Palm Ale – a Review

Palm Ale, a product of Palm Breweries in Steenhuffel, in north-central Belgium, is a “special”. This is a modern type of ale broadly comparable to the early 20th-century U.K. and North American sparkling, cream, and dinner ales, and evolved at the same time.

Hence, it pours clear and while top-fermented presents certain traits of lager beers: fizzy, often served cold, rounded in character.

The version pictured is the standard in the line, and newly imported in Ontario. The bottled and some draft have been available for a while.

Palm Breweries is owned by the Dutch brewers Bavaria, of the Swinkels family. Bavaria also owns the famous Belgian Flanders red ale producer, Rodenbach.

Unlike Rodenbach, Palm Ale is not lactic/acetic in character. To me it tastes like a bottled light ale of 1980s Britain. Quite light in palate, seemingly with a non-barley malt component in the mash. There is some sweetness from the toasted malts, trumpeted on the company website as a signature.

The yeast background, also bruited, is quite evident, clove-like in the Belgian way but more subtly than in many other Belgian brews.

All the traits of this beer are more restrained than I recall 10 and 30 years ago. The website claims the use of English Kent hops but they are used with discretion, almost not detectable.

Decades ago I recall a richer, flowery hop character and more of a malty note in the palate.

Perhaps other beers in the Palm range offer more character, the Royal sounds promising for example, but this beer was a disappointment.