Core Draught Innis & Gunn Brands to be Brewed in Toronto

As confirmed in Canadian Beer News this morning, Innis & Gunn, the Scottish-based independent brewer, and Brunswick Bierworks of East York, Toronto announced that Brunswick will brew core I&G draught brands for the local market.

The parties state this will enable the draft, all currently imported, to be shipped to local accounts faster and fresher. I&G’s famous barrel-aging will be followed for brands that receive such treatment including I&G’s marquee, The Original.

Brands covered by the arrangement include Gunpowder IPA and Lager. The deal is expected to further brewing collaborations between I&G and Brunswick; there were a couple in the past for the Canadian market, but more should follow.

As someone who regularly tries I&G products and has studied their innovations with barrel aging, I welcome the announcement.

Today a beer can find a new home and taste like it does at the originating brewery. It’s not like 30 years ago when international, or indeed any, contract brewing was a more chancy proposition.

In 2019, technical ability and global logistics are such that given the will and investment, a beer can (almost always) be recreated in a distant location with great fidelity. I&G and Brunswick have pledged their utmost to ensure this result. Given the sophistication of the Brunswick Bierworks, which I have toured, I don’t doubt this will happen.

Certainly the closer a bar is to source of supply, the better off the consumer. One reason: it’s less likely the beer will be pasteurized, tightly filtered, or processed in a way that extends shelf life but may diminish flavour.

We enjoy the core I&G products and look forward to trying them in their “Toronto” iteration.


Weiss Beer in Truman’s America

Drive-ins, Marilyn, Pedal-pushers. And Wheat Beer?


British and German brewing since the 1700s has significantly relied on barley malt, with the British later adopting sugar and other malt substitutes for a relatively small part of the mash. Germany has maintained the tradition of all-malt for bottom-fermented beer, at least sold domestically, but allows malt adjuncts for some top-fermented beer including porter.

Germany has a long tradition of top-fermented wheat beers. In recent times the Bavarian or weizen style, a blend of barley malt and wheat malt, dominates in that category, itself quite small in the total picture. Weiss beer in the Berlin style has survived even less well but craft breweries have given it a fillip (as for the Bavarian style). Weiss also relies on those two malts but usually in different proportions. Weiss also uses a lactic acid ferment in conjunction with top-yeast, which Bavarian wheat beer does not.

Other German styles that use wheat in the mash and are related to weiss beer have continued such as Pinkus Münster Alt, or been revived again by craft brewers. The term wheat beer at least outside Germany generally connotes the Berlin or Bavarian type. Belgian wit, an often-spiced wheat style that employs barley malt and, frequently, unmalted wheat, is not relevant to our topic but we mention it for completeness. The case of lambic and its unique spontaneous fermentation is not dissimilar – related but too distant for present purposes.

Below we discuss some under the radar weiss history in the U.S. especially after Prohibition, with glances further back as well.

Hampden Brewery’s Surprising Entrée Into Weiss Brewing

It is often assumed that after 1933 no weiss or wheat beer issued in America until 1984 when Anchor Brewery in San Francisco introduced its Summer Wheat Beer (as now termed). Evidently this is not so. In a post a few days ago I mentioned that the Hampden Brewery in Willimansett, in south-central Massachusetts, released a “Weiss beer” in 1949, as did a brewery in Albany, NY, Weber Star Bottling, in 1933. I referenced this splashy newspaper ad from Hampden in the Greenfield Recorder-Gazette in December 1949:

Numerous similar ads appeared in 1949-1950. Of particular interest is this full page ad which explains how weiss quality was maintained in the scientific brewing age. The ad appeared in the same Greenfield Recorder-Gazette, in June 1950.

Before WW 1 most weiss beer was unfiltered (see Wahl & Henius cited below) and almost certainly unpasteurized as a result. The beer had notably a gassy reputation which we think was assisted by continuing maturation in bottle.

In the ad above Hampden explains that an engineering firm in St. Louis helped it perfect pasteurization, evidently for the two brands pictured, one of which is the weiss. This separate ad is even more specific on the value of the process viz. the weiss brand. The concern was probably to ensure all residual yeast in the bottle was rendered inactive while preserving the delicate flavour of a wheat-based beer.

Now, pasteurization was not new in 1950 including for beer. But the ad explains that the process was improved via a method of quickly cooling the beer after heating, a feature claimed as unique. This probably enabled modern weiss to be pasteurized yet retain its pre-Prohibition taste qualities.

Amazingly – or to us it is – the company that developed the system still exists, under the same name, in St. Louis: Barry-Wehmiller. Now a multi-billion dollar concern, it is run by the son of the man who bought the company from the owner in the period discussed (see website for this background). In fact we think it likely the Hampden weiss beer recipe resides somewhere in Barry-Wehmiller records.

Hampden Brewery according to a couple of reliable brewery timelines, e.g., this one from Old Breweries, started as William Brierly Brewery in 1878. It was revived after Prohibition and merged later with Harvard Brewery in Massachusetts and Piels Brewery in New York, closing forever in 1975. Hence the current CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, who joined the company in 1969, may well have dealt with the successor of the c.1950 Hampden. You knowing the saying, from an (aptly 1951) novel by William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”.

Very little attention has been focused on this early post-Pro weiss beer. The only other reference I’m aware of is Tavern Trove’s commendable listing of the brand and reproduction of a label, see here and here. Tavern Trove has the weiss in the market from 1950-1956, but clearly it was first sold in 1949.

Weiss Beer Before Prohibition

Wahl & Henius’ c.1900 American Handy-book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades, at pp. 817-820 , covers American weiss beer and then the Berlin form. The authors seem to consider American weiss an emulation of the Berlin style, not the Bavarian style, albeit Wahl & Henius do not mention the lactic acid bacteria signature of Berliner Weisse. However, it was likely too early as science was only just learning the composition of the mixed Berlin ferments.

Many accounts attest to the character of U.S. weiss which I would summarize as, low alcohol* if not sometimes actually a soft drink; gassy; sharp and refreshing. The drink had a lower social status than lager, somewhat akin to early steam beer in California.

It seems doubtful that no American brewer before Prohibition made a Bavarian-style wheat beer, but the dominant form of wheat beer was probably the Berlin style. Here you see an early example in 1865 in San Francisco, CA. It is actually called “Berliener weiss beer” but clearly a domestic product. This is not to say genuine Berlin weisse was not imported. In 1897 a dealer carried it in Ohio, see here.

Wahl & Henius state that sometimes American weiss employed malted wheat in addition to barley malt, but more often corn grits was used in lieu of the wheat. They state too American brewers often modified Berlin’s mashing and fermentation regimes. As always there were likely different qualities in the market.

In fact, if you want to know, a weiss beer from Chicago was awarded first prize at an “international weiss beer contest” held in Berlin, heartland of the style, in 1890. A Paterson, NJ paper, the Daily Guardian, reported the details. This is akin to the famous victory of California wines tasted blind with top French wines by Paris experts in 1976, but never heralded.

An 1888 news story in the New York Herald described drinking practices in Rockaway, entitled “Where They Drank Weiss Beer”. The writer considered weiss hardly different from lager in the large beer hall he described. We infer this type was the cheaper corn form mentioned by Wahl & Henius. The scribe writes:

… at the terminus of the Eighth avenue elevated road there exists several popular resorts. First to be found was the Atalanta Casino, which stands beside the 165th street station of the west side elevated system, which was yesterday afternoon and until midnight thronged with people. They sat at the three hundred tables and drank something that looked very like lager beer, and it tasted very like lager, but as everybody asked for weiss beer and numerous signs displayed on the walls an­nounced that only weiss beer could be obtained, of course weiss beer it must have been.

Whatever it was the well dressed and orderly crowd sipped their amber beverage and listened to music… Now and then the programmes were varied by xylophone and cornet solos, or songs, the latter rendered by a young woman who never seemed to grow tired and evidently expected the tumultuous encores which greeted her.

The waiters were kept busy supplying the demands of their guests and as fast as a hundred or two left the hall and departed in search of amusement elsewhere, their places were promptly taken by the steady tide of newcomers. Although the Casino has a seating capacity of over two thousand, it was unable to accommodate all who came, so the superabundant crowd went to Kessel’s Manhattan Park, a few doors away. Here were seats and tables for nearly one thousand per­sons, and, like the Casino they were all occupied as the visitors came and went during the day and evening.

But the most interesting feature of these concert halls was the picturesque audiences, who not only were well dressed, but behaved well. Not a single intoxicated person was to be seen in either place and, as the sexes were about evenly divided, perfect order and decorum prevailed…

Monday Monday So Good to Me

Weiss beer abounds in the late 1800s but by 1906 there is steep decline. The Paterson Morning Call noted that year:

WEISSBEER LITTLE DRUNK. Weissbeer, once a popular drink In New York, especially among the Plattdeutsch population, has almost entirely disappeared. Here and there in a German neighborhood may be found a saloon which keeps weiss beer on sale, but those who call for it are less numerous each year, says the New York Sun.

Weissbeer is a thin lager beer, produced by rapid fermentation. Lager beer is produced by slow fermentation. Both are flavored with hops, but while the saccharine properties of lager beer are developed through the process of manufacture, weissbeer is astringent and it has long been a theory that it is non-intoxicating except when taken in very large quantities.

Weissbeer has been known to have a sobering effect, and for that reason has been called Montag beer, or Monday beer…

It disappears after Prohibition except – thus far to our knowledge – for Weber Star Bottling’s sales in Albany, NY in 1933 and Hampden’s in the 1950s. In the craft era Anchor Brewery finally revives the style from 1984.

Anchor Brewing’s Wheat Beer

Anchor’s revival is a light interpretation, more a wheat ale, without a lactic Berlin or Bavarian clovey-bubble gum character. This page from Anchor Brewery’s website explains the make-up and character.

Anchor’s version served as spur to countless craft breweries to make authentic versions of Berlin or Bavarian wheat beer. Today, all these types proliferate in the market with many flavoured and other variations.

Avant la Lettre

The drinking public in Truman’s America was probably bemused by Hampden’s reintroduction of an oddball style of beer. It is hard to say at this remove if it was Berlin-style or Bavarian, I incline to the former. To all appearances it made no ripple in the sea of blonde U.S. lager. The country was just not ready. Maybe success would have come had a New York City brewer tried, or one in Chicago, former strongholds of the style, but this is far from clear.

What might have turned the ship was an influential beer writer, someone performing the role Michael Jackson et al. later did. In the 1950s he or she was nowhere to be found, indeed consumer beer writing as a genre did not exist. This is not to say weiss beer was unknown in pre-Jackson, 1960s and 1970s America. It was, as an import. I’ll return to this.


Speaking of le petit maître, as one obituary termed Michael Jackson for his stylistic innovations, if you want a primer on wheat beer Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion (Duncan Baird, 1993) is the premier place to start.

Note re images: the first two images above are sourced from Fulton Historical newspapers as identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*Between 2 and 3% alcohol, probably by volume not by weight, accordingly to analyses performed on seized goods in 1917. This is consistent with Canadian parliamentary testimony at the end of the 1800s, see here.


Amsterdam 1870 AK Bitter – Mark II Release

Last night the 2019 version of 1870 AK Bitter was released at Amsterdam BrewHouse on Laird Dr. in Toronto. This is the second year of a collaboration between me and Amsterdam Brewery, a pioneering Toronto craft breweries. The recipe is based on a recipe in an 1870 issue of English Mechanic and World of Science, see here.

At the launch the beer was served on both nitro dispense (a la draft Guinness) and regular, carbonated keg. No cask-conditioning was done this year. We did some “cask” last year and elected to try nitro’s soft carbonation as an alternative for Mark II.

This year we used Chevallier malt from Crisp in England, and whole leaf Kent Golding hops from Charles Faram there. Both varieties existed in 1870. In contrast, last year we used Maris Otter malt, Whitbread Goldings, and Fuggles hops. None of these existed in 1870 but are all of traditional U.K. type. This year, an English yeast (Wyeast 1099) was used, last year, a California one.

Last year, the idea was to use the hops in amounts close to the 1870 directions and basically showcase the English ingredients. This year, the same, but we went deeper to choose barley and hops in place in 1870, as far as can be done, that is.

In 1870 pale malt was kilned by direct-fired ovens using anthracite coal or coke for fuel. This gave malt a slightly “cooked” taste, but modern malt uses clean indirect heat. Read this page in full from English brewing scientist Charles Graham in 1874 to understand this historical taste and his contrast with air-dried malt, from a series of lectures he gave, the Cantor Lectures. This is just one example of many inevitable differences between Victorian brewing and modern brewing, as no malt today is kilned with coal to our knowledge!

But that doesn’t mean we can’t get close to what they did back then. It’s certainly worth trying, not to mention being a stimulating and educational experience.

In both year’s version of 1870 AK Bitter only one malt was used as required by the 1870 directions, which is atypical today for English bitter, a descendant of 1800s AK and IPA. Modern English bitter and IPA often use pale malt with caramel malt, and sometimes sugar, too. We used no caramel malt or sugar as the recipe didn’t call for it, and in fact caramel malt did not exist then at least not in commercial form.

The taste of 2019 AK Bitter is very pure, with a honeyed quality and perfumed (rosewater?) herbal intensity from the hops, especially if you drink it half-chilled at best. Some tasters gave an analogy of black tea. It’s what I call rosewater, some Orange Pekoe tea, or other tea, has it.

The beer is sweetish (1014 FG) in a different way than modern bitter though. The lack of a caramel or fudgy note is the main factor due to absence of caramel malt. And the absence of sugar means a fuller malt taste.

Craft pale ales can have similar malt properties but almost none in North America use similar hops AFAIK, especially leaf hops! Very few bitters that I tasted at the Great British Beer Festival last August had this degree of hop taste, in fact, which I put down to the quantity of hops used, mainly.

Some specs:

Original Gravity: 12.5 P. (1050)

Final gravity: 3.7 P. (1014) vs. target of 3.5 P. Some homebrewers report similar slightly higher attenuations with Chevallier.

Target alcohol: 4.9 ABV. Final ABV: 4.7

IBUs: 40 vs. mid-30s last year.

Goldings Alpha Acids: 2.8%, quite low. We used equivalent of 2 lbs/bbl, + 1 lb/bbl dry hopping but there is no great aroma. We forecast that as all the boil hops went in at start of boil per the recipe which states to add the hops “as soon as possible”. Not all bitter or pale ale has to have pungent aroma, and not all did in the past.

We felt 2 lbs/bbl fresh hops would equate to 3 lbs/bbl (minimum) per 1870 recipe as author stated to blend fresh and aged hops, a common practice at the time (but not invariable).

Burtonization with calcium sulphate.

Single rest infusion mash.

All beer as last year, except for the cask portion last year, centrifuged for keg and cans (a rough filtration). Last year when tasting cask and carbonated keg side by side at equal temperatures I couldn’t detect much difference, FWIW. I think temperature of consumption is the main factor in palate intensity.

In sum, an excellent “A/B” to explore facets of the historical pale ale taste.





Silentium – Bieryunge!

The history of the German beer contests or beer duels among student societies, or Studentenverbindung, is complex and recondite. While offering no model to emulate today, they have interest for the student of beer’s past.

Despite the foreign subject matter, the U.S. press introduced the topic in colourful accounts in the last decade of the 1800s. I’ll review a couple of these presently.

The beer duel was connected to another tradition of German (and beyond) student societies, duelling by sword. The latter has evolved as “academic” fencing, from a fixed position with no winner declared.

The beer duel, or bieryunge, was a drinking contest spurred by a slight or insult. The offended party would demand a duel of the mugs, or it might be ordered by a club superior to settle a dispute between junior members.

If there was anything to be said for it, the drink gotten down was generally minimal –  just one beer unless some point of procedure was not followed, in which case more might be required. This was not, therefore, the perilous form of duel where dozens of glasses disappeared in stomachs although some students engaged in that too, as detailed below.

In the bieryunge, two men drank down a mug as fast as they could. He who finished first sang out in triumph bieryunge! A referee declared the winner. The exclamation meant the loser was a “beer youth” – a tyro at the malt. Sometimes another word was mandated for the victory shout, often a nonsensical term.

A participant who spilled too much would be ruled the loser for “bleeding”. Here we see an implied analogy to sword duelling. Indeed it seems beer duelling grew as an alternative to that more dangerous practice.

YouTube has a number of clips showing the bierjunge. Certainly they get across the speed and nonchalance of the sorties, see this example.

The bierjunge formed part of a complex ritual or code of beer drinking adopted by most student societies. Each group had a particular orientation: sporting, drinking as such, study-philosophical, religious, artistic, etc. Members of societies grouped as The Corps were aristocratic, the most elite among the societies. Even in this constellation the groups differed, reflecting an intricate social hierarchy.

Despite their great number the student societies were always a minority of the total student body. The majority could not afford the dues and other costs to participate. Incidentally the societies continue to this day but the competitive sword play, and we assume the beer glass duels and related codes, are of the past.

In 1898 Northeast U.S. newspapers including in Atlantic City, NJ reported one bierjunge in arch, amusing terms. The story conveyed well the fabulist and whimsical elements of the ritual. For example, the rules enacted a different measurement of time. Three beer minutes, say, was equal to four normal minutes. Members would be subjected to humorous or absurd edicts from the society president or a “beer tribunal”. From the story:

“Silentium, for a beer contest between the beer honourable fellows Schulze and Muller.”

The referee takes up the weapons brought in and by sipping carefully sees that the columns of beer are at the same level in each mug. He then announces:

“The weapons are good and equal. Silentium. The beer duel begins.” ….

Schulze pours his beer with evident satisfaction down his throat, but Muller prefers to spill the stuff with impartiality over his shirt front and waistcoat as well. Schulze shouts in triumph:


Whereupon the referee announces icily, ”Muller has shed blood and must be considered second in the race.”

Muller’s defeat irritates him. He appeals instantly to a beer court, which, after consuming a number of eggnogs, rejects his appeal, condemns him to pay for the drinks and orders him to deliver within three beer minutes a beer speech on the text, “The immortality of June bugs and their importance in the outcome of the Greco-Turkish war.”

Reports by English or American travellers in the period also describe the clubs and their customs. This news report, in 1892 in Philadelphia, gives that perspective. The story noted that the standard bieryunge was usually, but not always, benign, and students engaged in other competitive beer drinking, too.

The quantities consumed here rivalled or exceeded what two brewers accomplished in Union Hill, New Jersey (see my previous post) – it’s all hard to believe but apparently true. Unusually in such accounts, the brand of beer was mentioned, here Schiefferdecker. The founder was a Bavarian who had relocated to northern Germany, near Konigsberg, now called Kalingrad.

There he built one of the largest breweries in the north. It suggests to me the local market was inclining away from North German top-fermented beer, in favour of lager, a trend that finally dominated brewing world-wide. See this German account of the brewery, and this one in English.

It seems the beer clubs mostly sang songs. Perhaps at this remove one gets a distorted view of them, as university life couldn’t have been one long carouse. After all Germany was far from unsophisticated in the arts and sciences.

The mug must have been left behind so students could graduate and pursue their chosen calling. The last account hints at this when it refers to senior students who had departed their club to write examinations.

Some reading will think of fraternity life in North America. I’m not that knowledgeable on frats so can’t suggest a comparison; I suspect there were more differences than similarities.

Note re image: The image above is from a painting by Georg Mühlberg and is believed in the public domain. It was sourced from this Wikipedia entry on the Bierjunge. All intellectual property in the image belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Image used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



From Weiss to Wasted

With so many subjects and limited time, a number of topics for the usual space today.

Weiss Beer After WW I

It is common currency in American brewing history that weiss beer disappeared after Prohibition. That is to say, the old top-fermented wheat beer, widely available before WW I (even though not always made with wheat), was not revived by brewers after Repeal. As one former customer in Buffalo mused (1938), “whatever became of weiss beer”?

Yet it was not for a lack of trying. With a new brewing landscape in 1933 Weber Star Bottling, connected to a venerable weiss producer in Albany, NY, advertises tentatively. The ad copy is not 100% clear but it seems the weiss was being sold again. For background on the pre-Prohibition Geo. Weber, see Gravina and McLeod, here.

In 1949 Hampden Brewing in Willamansett, MA issues a splashy three-quarter page ad for its weiss beer made with wheat and Saaz hops. Hampden lasted into the 1970s, the wheat beer did not. A pity as the bubbly prose offered much promise:

… Weiss Beer [is] … so delicious and refreshing — with such clean, clear taste and satisfying tang— early Europeans described the beer as, “Suffigkeit”. Meaning — “it invites to have another glass”.

Somehow, in the passing of years, the art of making Weiss Beer disappeared. With it went the deep pleasure of this rare brew.

Now, the Hampden Brewing Company has revived the precious art of making Weiss Beer — took time and patience to perfect it for American tastes. So here is Weiss Beer at last with all its full-bodied character.

Fresh Hop Beer 

In this post I documented the use of green or wet hops in early English brewing. This was centuries before Sierra Nevada and other craft innovators introduced their wet hop beers a few years ago.

Recently I found a page on Jess Kidden’s site about Tempo Beer from Blatz, mid-1950s. Blatz touted the beer as not made with the usual dried hops but rather fresh hops. Reading the account carefully, this was probably a steam-distilled hop oil, not wet hops as we understand it today. Ballantine Brewery in New Jersey used something similar after Prohibition. As early as 1871 an American patented a method to distill hop oil for use in brewing.

While not the same as wet hop brewing Blatz deserves marks for giving hop oil, or likely it was that, commercial application; and for marketing it as an innovation. Blatz was trying to stand out in a challenging market for regional brewers. Yet, the product to our knowledge was a damp squib; as for weiss beer, postwar America didn’t want to know.

Craft Beer

Discussions continue endlessly online on the meaning of craft (beer) past, present, future, I saw at least three this month. In this recent post I drew attention to Michael Jackson’s pioneering use of the term “craft brewery” in 1982 in reference to an old family brewery in England. Due to his elucidation of the phrase and the way American writers later used it, it acquired a connotation of small-scale, limited distribution, high quality.

But as I stated myself in the Comments, “craft” is used in discussions of brewing much earlier. In 1909 Heileman Brewery of Chicago described its beers as “the triumph of the brewer’s craft”. Its lagers were almost certainly made with grain adjunct, in an up-to-date plant. By 1902 Heileman was no upstart, it had operated for decades and was brewing upwards of 200,000 bbl per year.

There are continual references to the term brewer’s craft in the 1800s, e.g. here in Britain in connection with a German brewing school, and indeed stretching back to Henry V’s time in 1421. It’s a hop and skip from that to “craft beer”, “crafted beer”, “an honoured craft”, etc.

The influential Jackson charted a path that led finally to the Brewer’s Association conception of craft brewery. But given the wider history and continual evolution of technology and scale I’d regard any well-made, full-flavoured beer as “craft”. Pilsner Urquell is a craft beer because the recipe and process result in – are crafted to produce – a high quality product.

Small brewers have unquestionably formed the vanguard of quality brewing since the 1980s but came to notice by virtue of making distinctive, quality products, not by being small and feisty as such. Some small brewers make products styled to the mass market, for example, and some of them would disavow the term craft or are indifferent to it.

Beer Bust

19th century literature affords countless examples of uninhibited beer drinking, mostly in Germany.* The quantities gotten down often seem staggering. This was partly due to German beer having lower average alcohol than today, but maybe too men were built differently. An interesting example appears in the U.S. press in 1898. Two brewers were working for the same firm (not stated) in Union Hill, NJ. They were of German origin or the older one was, Mathias Sommermann, 50. They vied in a contest for biggest beer bibber.

The winner was Mathias. He got down 88 glasses of beer, specified as half-pint measure or eight U.S. oz. His much younger opponent, George Bertrand, stopped at 82 but also ate a huge amount of food. Given that Mathias had almost 30 years on Bertrand he was dispensed from eating, clearly.

Even if some foam is allowed, and even taking the beer at 4% ABV, that is an amazing amount of beer. It’s the equivalent of a couple of two-fours (58 beers @12 oz., 5% ABV. Take off 20% for 4% ABV, hence about 48 bottles). There is a note of pathos in the account as the winner’s wife did not approve Matthias’ involvement in the contest. Piteously, she tried to drag him away, without success.

Looking at who brewed in town in 1898 and for how long I’d think the brewery was William Peter. Compare the drawing of Sommermann in this related account to the men in the William Peter staff photo in Jay Brook’s account of the brewery. Is Sommermann in the second row, second from last to the right? Or if not, is he in the top row holding (appropriately) a glass of beer? It is one of them I think, probably the former.

The staff picture seems 1880s era judging by William Peter’s appearance. In 1898 Sommermann had worked in the brewery for 20 years, and William Peter started brewing before 1878, so it kind of fits.

Young contestant Bertrand ended on the sickbed from the caper but seems to have survived. He blamed the cigars and beef, natch. And Mathias? Fit as a fiddle, and not apparently drunk (?). Certainly he seemed hale in the drawing mentioned. A little zaftig, but nothing that would stand out. How did he do it?

Note re image: the image above is from the HathiTrust digital library as linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*See eg. this travel report of reckless student drinking at 256-257.


American Oak Over There

But There’s no Rum-tumming

My coverage of the kind of oak British brewing used for casks in the 1900s, see an example here, has been extensive, yet the war years 1939-1945 were missing.  This discussion fills that gap, from a 1946 Brewers Journal. See p. 910 but also pp. 172, 311, 875, and 915.

The view was clear: the traditional dislike for American oak continued. The problem was the “tang” or “taint” the wood imparted to beer. Earlier articles describe it as tasting vanillin or “cocoanut”. Think buttery Chardonnay wine, or bourbon whiskey.

But war exigencies required use of this wood. The traditional Russian Memel oak, more neutral on the beer and easier to work in the shop, had not been available since at least 1939.

So British brewers did use American wood for barrels but if possible lined them with enamel to counter the ill effects. The writer, the charmingly pseudonymous “Brettanomyces”, also states that with beer short in the war, the ill taste may not have been noticed even where unlined barrels were used.

First, the pubs needed the beer so fast the ale would stay in barrel hardly more than a day: this was not enough time for the taint to develop. Second, people simply took what they could get. It was not like before the war when a pint with that taste would be promptly returned by the drinker.

With the prospect of normal business conditions resuming the cask question had to be addressed. Given the continued absence of Russian wood, what to do? Different solutions were proposed.

Laminated casks with a veneer of suitable wood (it could be British oak) on the interior was one answer. Continued use of lined American casks, another. And finally, use of stainless steel. In the result steel and then aluminium became the norm, by the 1960s.

It may be that use of metal casks in U.K. brewing was hastened due to this perceived problem with American wood. If Russian Memel wood had been available after WW II British producers of cask-conditioned ale, at least, might have persisted with it rather than give themselves over to metal.

On p. 865 in the journal, an extract from the Manchester Guardian was included:

An Anglo-Soviet alliance of British beer and Russian oak appears to be the only satisfactory solution.

It was not to be.

Given today’s fashion for “barrel-aged” beers irony abounds. Most barrel-aged stuff, bourbon barrel or other, sits in barrels made from American oak.

Taste is relative to time, place, indeed person. There is no right and wrong here. But it’s another example of the arbitrary nature of taste. And the power of a catchy slogan.

N.B. Imagine that in a still war-straitened country, with a looming atomic age to add further worry, a national newspaper would devote space to the right type of wood for beer casks. So important is beer to the British psyche!




Victoria Loved Them All

The Cream of Copenhagen Rises in Edwardian Victoria

One of the great porters of the pre-craft era, Carnegie Porter, was a valued import in parts of North America before World War I. By the mid-1900s it was of average or even below-average strength due to Nordic temperance campaigning, but retained the richness associated with Imperial, Double or Export Stout.

An existing porter brewery was purchased early in the 1800s by David Carnegie, Jr., a Scot wishing to capitalize on the Baltic taste for export strong London porter.

The brewery was acquired on the way by a sizeable competitor, Pripps, and is now in the Carlsberg stable. The beer is still made, and is as good as ever, but Carlsberg, despite its large presence in Ontario, has never seen fit to send it here. (Brooklyn Brewery and Carlsberg have a created a small brewery that makes a range of craft beers including a strong stout in the Imperial tradition).

Michael Jackson (1942-2007), the greatest beer personage to dip pen in ink, lauded the inky Carnegie in early writings. This established it as a template, with a couple of other strong stouts he promoted, for “Imperial” or “Russian” stout, now an international craft standby.

Contrary to intuition or at least mine, on the eve of WW I Carnegie Porter was available in remote Vancouver Island as a quality import. It was only 30 years earlier that the edge of the continent in Canada had been opened to settlement by a rail link with the east.

Yet the cream of European beer was now available, at least to the carriage trade and naval officers at the Esquimalt tender base.

It is surprising how sophisticated Victoria’s beer market was. Reputed brands from the U.K. were available (e.g., Bass, Meux, Barclay Perkins, Whitbread, McEwan), from Germany (heard of Humbser? Well-known to Victoria’s beer mavens), the United States, from the Alberta granary, from Labatt in Ontario, and finally the clutch of local breweries I mentioned earlier.

All this for a greater metropolitan area not exceeding 50,000 people. Imported beer was another legacy of The Last Spike albeit not the most consequential (painful as it is to allow).

Carnegie Porter is initially advertised, as expected, as Swedish. After all, David Carnegie first brewed it in Gothenburg, Sweden. See for example here (the colour shading reflects the search terms):


But by 1913, the beer is advertised as from Copenhagen:


At first I thought the Copenhagen Carnegie was an imitation, or knock off in modern vernacular. But no, it was carried by the same importer, a high end liquor and wines dealer called Pither & Leiser. And some ads in Victoria mention that the beer is both Swedish and from Copenhagen, as above. Evidently the Copenhagen version was genuine Carnegie as far as that went.

This is curious, as beer historical studies at least in English has not chronicled a Danish connection.

The Leiser in Pither & Leiser was Max Leiser, a Jewish German who emigrated in the late 1800s with his brothers to trade in British Colombia. The business prospered to the point it was purchased in 1910 by no less than Guinness Brewery according to a University of Victoria historical précis.

From this source:

The 1st business venture of Max [Leiser] here was the purchase of ½ share in the liquor business of Urquhart and Pither, and for several years it was operated under the name of Pither and Leiser. In 1906 they built the 6-storey liquor warehouse overlooking Victoria Harbour. Pither and Leiser prospered until about 1910, when the English brewing family of Guiness [sic] became interested in the wholesale possibilities in this field. They negotiated for the purchase of Pither and Leiser, finally paying more than one million in cash for the business.

Hence in the period we are considering Guinness was doing the advertising. Presumably the agency carried Guinness’ beers too, but anyway Guinness can be presumed to have known and had high regard for Carnegie.

Did Carnegie Brewery establish a branch in Denmark? Or did a Danish brewery, perhaps Carlsberg, obtain a license to brew it for export and the Danish market? The modern connection to Carlsberg perhaps dates back to before WW I. Was Guinness even mixed up somehow in this?

Neither a Swedish nor Danish origin was evidently held to devalue the brand’s appeal, by comparison that is to London or Dublin porter. In fact Carnegie Brewery is described in some ads as “famous”. The fact that it was porter from Europe was warrant enough even though made far from the Georgian Thameside whence porter’s international reputation arose.

Porter in other words was a European by-word for quality in beer as late as the Edwardian period. Ales had gained considerably on porter in Britain, as did lager in North America, but once established in the collective memory a product and reputation can long endure. Pither & Leiser made hay of this. Probably too the British sound of the Carnegie name helped.

Finally, the coincidence of a prominent American, Andrew Carnegie, sharing the same name as the beer cannot have hurt. In fact, I suspect it’s one of the reasons Carnegie Porter had cachet in North America. Few people in the U.S. or Canada, even in obscure Vancouver Island, had not heard the name Carnegie, if only from the lending libraries he established internationally.

A final ad, from 1911, shows Carnegie Porter in context with some of the competition:



Note re images: images above are sourced from the historical newspapers respectively linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.






Rallying Against British Stout

In three parts all referenced here, I discussed an advertising campaign in Victoria, B.C. in the Daily Colonist for stout from Barclay Perkins, a venerable London brewer. These ran from 1909 to about 1917. Some ads were sizeable and focused only on Barclay Perkins, which suggested perhaps some support from the brewer, as this example from 1910.

Ads ran in other local papers for Barclay Perkins but the Daily Colonist had the most lavish ones.

In a comment to Part III in the series I referenced a 2008 article by the Victoria journalist and writer Ross Crockford that described a sophisticated local brewing scene. Although not mentioned, one of the brewers was Esquimalt Brewery. It was located in the harbour town of Esquimalt a few kilometres to the west of Victoria.

Esquimalt had hosted the Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet from 1865, when it had re-located from Chile, but by 1910 the newly-established Royal Canadian Navy took control of the installations. Esquimalt and Victoria nonetheless retained their British character for generations. This was due in part to the earlier history but also later connections with Britain, for example U.K. retirees moving there.

The expression “to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” is not as applicable in business as in physics, but it conveys an essential truth. Local brewers were not going to let foreign brewers beguile the Victoria beer trade without some replique.

We see an example in 1915 in the form of this ad in The Week, another journal of the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

Esquimalt Brewing operated on Viewfield Road, having taken over a business of similar name earlier, see some details here.

The reference to “Genuine British Labour” is interesting. The ad states that the brewer was a Briton working in Canada, and perhaps some other staff were. This would have reassured readers on the authenticity of the beers. The denigrating references to Germans, Austrians and lager are due to the prevailing war, evidently.

The statement that the beers were “Local Products” meant their purchase would support the local economy.

Note how the ad suggests the long journey from Europe would have made the imported beers excessively acid. Sourness in those times, for these beers of English tradition, was regarded as a fault except in some old ales. Esquimalt Brewery here was referring not just to Barclay Perkins’ porters but to stout from Bass of Burton, Meux of London, and Carnegie porter (from Denmark or Sweden as I discussed earlier), all of which were advertised in the same period.

So Esquimalt is saying, our “London Stout” is made locally and has no undue acidity, hence is superior in quality.

There is therefore a passive-aggressive quality to the ad. It is not quite “native son” in that it appeals to the British quality of its products, but refers to local manufacture and lack of acidity to help sales.

Victoria’s water is notably soft, which favours porter production. Esquimalt Brewing probably made a good version of London porter but as good as imported stout? That must remain an open question.

The detail given on Esquimalt’s ales is commendable. The nomenclature uses X designations in connection with pale ale or India pale ale. This reminds me of a similar, 19th century practice in Syracuse, New York. I cannot find the source quickly but will add it to the comments later today.

I think the ales were probably two grades of pale ale or bitter beer, but in different strengths. The stronger one was longer-aged and fermented out further, hence drier than the staple pale ale. The same distinction was expressed in 19th century British beer ads in different ways, IPA vs. EIPA, say, or pale ale vs. IPA. Possibly though the XXXX here was not a pale ale but rather in the style of a regional U.K. strong ale, and well-aged.

By 1915, eastern ale breweries were losing interest in such refinements of classic Victorian ale. They were developing and perfecting their sparkling ales: medium gravity, filtered, and finally pasteurized. These were beers meant to be consumed cold a la lager.

Yet, way out in Victoria in 1915 Esquimalt Brewery was still working in the habits of a generation earlier. This makes sense given the distance from the east coast where the money and market existed to capitalize on recent innovations. Perhaps too as Esquimalt’s population was still a British rump local brewers wanted to work in a vernacular familiar to them, this is possible.

Note re images: the first image above was sourced from this 1910 issue of the Daily Colonist. The second was sourced from this 1915 issue of The WeekAll intellectual property in the sources belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.



Dr. Johnson’s Stout Waters a Distant Shore, Part III

Without having access to company records and pursuing a detailed study of British brewing economics in 1900-1914, it seemed unlikely I could make further progress in this series. Yet I can, due to the happenstance that an issue of International Brewers’ Journal, No. 45 is available full-view in Google Books and covers 1909.* This is approximately when Barclay Perkins starts to advertise prominently its stout and ale in Victoria, British Columbia (see my Part I and Part II).

All my earlier conclusions are borne out, I’m happy to say, except the idea that Victoria was intended as a depôt to supply Asian or coastal U.S. markets, which is not substantiated to date.

First, take the travails of the industry in general, for which I cited some secondary authority. The journal makes very clear that the years 1901-1909 were continually loss-making for British brewing except for one year’s rally, in 1907. See the discussion at p. 2 of the link above. Barrel “shrinkage” in the eight years was “enormous”.

Regarding Barclay Perkins itself, indeed it had overvalued and written down freehold purchases for pub locations, and the company failed as well that year to declare a common share dividend. Both are confirmed in a Barclay Perkins communication reproduced in the journal, even as the company remained bullish on its general prospects, as companies will. Clearly though the industry and company picture were not encouraging when far-away Victoria beckoned as a new market. See p. 418.

I speculated Victoria appealed due to its strong Britannic character. This is borne out by a research study summarized in the journal that examined the prospects of the Canadian market for British brewing. The message: imported British beer is generally too expensive in Canada at a shilling a bottle, or “a quarter”, and hence only “Englishmen” here can be counted on to buy it. The account does not state Barclay Perkins commissioned the study,  but it is unlikely it didn’t know about it, if only to read it in this issue. See p. 103.

The study was by a H.J. Rodgers, apparently published in Canada. It would be very interesting to put one’s fingers on it; if anyone can, I’ll stand you a pint in Toronto.

Hence, the company was following this advice, or at least was acting consistent with it. Perhaps Barclay Perkins made a similar effort in Newfoundland and other places retaining a strong U.K. character here, but so far I have not found the evidence.

The journal notes at p.176 that beer exports to British North America were 7,729 barrels for the year ended December 31, 1908 (so Canada and Newfoundland), while the U.S. got 66,387 barrels, consistent with its greater population. Clearly Barclay Perkins wanted to increase its share of sales to “BNA” and possibly shore up total North American sales, as the journal notes total industry sales to the U.S. were down, as for British India.

Now, to oatmeal in beer. Remember I stated some of the Barclay Perkins ads touted “two flavours” of stout, one being “oatmeal”?

A correspondent wrote in to ask the journal if approximately 7% oats in the mash would entitle him to call his stout “oatmeal stout”. See p. 130. The journal replied that 7% was the range used by some producers who called their stout just that, hence he might, too. Indeed the journal estimated that 15% would be a “high” rate.

Beer historian Ron Pattinson has examined aspects of this area, see e.g., a blog post from 2016, here. It seems the London porter brewers whose records he examined did not exceed 1%, and 3% was high generally in U.K. brewing with some exceptions such as Maclay Oatmeal Stout (30%).

Nonetheless the journal’s advice in 1909 that 7% oats in the mash tun was typical of oatmeal stout so-labeled is noteworthy given the source, which regularly advised brewers on many kinds of technical issues.

Whatever Barclay Perkins’ oatmeal stout in 1909 held by way of oats, evidently the quantity was thought enough to affect the flavour. Unless the advertising was puffery, which is possible. 

See our next post for one response by a Victoria brewer to the pitch made (sorry) by Barclay Perkins in Victoria.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from this 1910 issue of the Victoria Daily Colonist. All intellectual property in the source belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Image used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*See Ron Pattinson’s Comment which notes that the journal title is actually Brewers’ Journal. For some reason Google Books includes “International” in the catalogue title.





Black Malt’s Centrality for Irish Porter

In a 1928 Guide to Guinness Brewery published by the brewery, which recently became available in full view on Google Books, this statement is made at p. 46:

The discovery of roasted malt as a flavouring material about the year 1800 was responsible for converting the “Brown Ale” previously manufactured into the “Porter” or “Stout” of today.

If one takes a literal approach to porter history, as one should who is concerned with the record and accuracy, this statement is inaccurate – as far as that goes.

Brown ale, and porter made from brown malt, are not the same thing and Guinness made both ale and London-style brown porter in the late 1700s. These data are well-known to students of beer history. The colour was certainly in many cases shared, but porter was more bitter and meant to keep longer. So roasted malt did not coincide with the development in Ireland, or anywhere, of porter.

Yet, something very similar to the above quotation was stated in the Irish Section of a Handbook prepared for the 1887 Royal Jubilee Exhibition in Manchester:

The discovery of patent or roasted malt as colouring and flavouring material had transformed the Irish trade chiefly into a porter trade.

Black malt is an almost carbonized form of malt patented in 1817 by Daniel Wheeler who used a coffee drum-type apparatus.

1887 is rather closer to porter’s origins than 1928. So what’s going on here? The Handbook’s statement follows its acknowledgment of “brown ale” as the historical Irish type. The statement is then made that before roast malt appeared London porter was still being imported to Dublin and Cork. It was competing with Guinness’s stab at the style.

Were the authors – in the first case, Guinness itself – just spinning a yarn of marketing blab, or were they driving at a larger point, that black malt really “made” Irish porter?

What they were driving at IMO is that the early use of roasted or black malt by Guinness was a keynote development for its beer that made it different from London-style porter. London’s porter, as many authorities state, used in the 1800s varying combinations of pale malt, brown or amber malt, and black malt.*

Some breweries in England by then did use only pale malt and black malt a la Guinness, or for some brews, but Guinness was pre-eminently associated with black malt usage. The author of a Guinness history, David Hughes, insists on the importance for Guinness of black malt, see his remarks in his 2006 study A Bottle of Guinness, under “Brewing From 1801”. He notes that porter production at St. James Gate relied very early on pale and black malt only, with some use of amber malt as well for keeping, superior, and foreign stout, not for the staple draught form in other words. Hughes speculates that the amber was used to assist stability, i.e., in beers kept long or exported, not (as I read him or his 1880s grist table) for the staple porter including town and country porter.

According to the American beer writer Kim Winship, writing originally in 1987 and citing Stan Corran’s A History of Brewing (1975), Guinness started to use black malt even before Daniel Wheeler patented it. He cites the year as 1815, which is “about the year 1800” for practical purposes. Know-how and practical innovation often develop simultaneously in different places and usually precede legal recognition in the form of patents and other intellectual property.

Use of roasted or black malt in the staple Irish beer to replace brown or amber malt had to lend a particular flavour as 1800s commentary noted, often a liquorice taste even without use of real liquorice.** The percentage of black malt or, today, perhaps roasted (unmalted) barley, will be relatively low in the mash but the “colouring” and acerbic taste conveyed are disproportionate in their effect.

Beers made in the earlier (1800s) London manner had, when fresh, a more caramelised or luscious taste than the Guinness style,*** as well as often being less intensely black. These early London beers were probably more smoky as well but this is difficult to pinpoint viz. the Irish competition at this juncture of time.

As an example of an essential distinction between the two types I recall Vaux Jubilee Porter as made by Fred Koch in Dunkirk, NY in the 1980s, a recipe supplied by the northern English brewer, Vaux, that owned Fred Koch. The beer was dark reddish-brown and of the taste I’ve noted for London style, quite different to Guinness.**** Many craft stouts, in contrast, hew to the Guinness model, probably under influence of that beer from the 1980s when craft brewing started to spread.

In this sense, the 1928 and 1887 statements are interesting. They seek credibly IMO to mark a dividing point between the older brown beers and the almost black, very roasty Guinness stout that appeared possibly even before Wheeler’s patent. Whether ale or brown porter, it was all brown stuff to the citizen reading the Guide or Handbook…

Had Guinness continued to make a copy of London porter as it started to do in the late 1700s before roasted malt was known, it would likely not have achieved the eminence it did, especially in England which after all was the home of porter.

In modern terms, we would call it brand differentiation, or such was the end result. That is what the guide and handbook writers were trying to explain to, need I stress, a non-technical audience.


*See Martyn Cornell’s Amber, Gold and Black, viz. continued use mid-1800s of brown malt in England while the Irish had given it up (or for practical, domestic purposes they did, and see later in the century, 1888, Frank Faulkner in England writing that in Dublin only pale malt and black malt are used in mashing (at 261)).

**See pg. 331 in Britannica.

*** See London, Vol. 4, viz the “balmy” character of a “crack” London porter vs. the “sub-acid” and “brisk” character of Guinness stout. This comparison was between extra stout sold in England, bottled there from casks shipped from Dublin, and mild London porter. To be fair, draught porter in Ireland had a milder character and probably resembled the best mild London porter more closely, but Guinness was always recognized by British commentators including technical ones for a distinctive product, e.g., Tizard in 1846. I attribute that in good measure to its mash bill, mainly reliant on pale and roast malt from 1815. The use of highly roasted black malt vs. still-smoky brown malt, in connection too with a correspondingly greater amount of pale malt, may have resulted in a milder, creamy pint, in particular.

****Per Howard Hillman’s 1983 Gourmet Guide to Beer: “A regional brew from Dunkirk, New York. Deep tea-brown tinged with orangy-red. Malty nose. Smooth bittersweet palate. Relatively thin-bodied, mellow and short-finished for a porter”.  Some porter is still made like this, I think most reading have had examples.