Herr Chevalier Visits Canada

The Henninger beer brand is still sold in Ontario, at the Beer Store, and has a typical German Helles taste. Sales can’t be very high as it is just one of hundreds of imported beers here, but its quiet presence on the shelves hides a much longer history in Ontario, via licensed arrangements.

In 1972 the Frankfurt brewery – now demolished with production elsewhere in Germany, I think Dortmund – granted a license to a local venture in Hamilton, ON headed by Edward (Ted) Dunal, a former Carling sales executive. It was financed in part by an Ontario public offering of shares and debentures. In effect, this was a joint venture of Frankfurt’s Henninger-Brau and local interests.

The brewery was the old Peller, Brading/Carling plant that now in part houses Collective Arts craft brewery in Hamilton. It was started up again by Dunal after a dozen years of use for harbour warehousing.

As numerous Canadian beer histories have chronicled, Henninger was brewed here from 1972 to 1981 when Amstel of Holland bought the brewery. Amstel continued to make the beer (two brands, Export and Meister Pils) along with a Canadianised Amstel and other brands. Amstel brewed here until 1991 when it gave up on its Canadian investment; the brewery was subsequently sold to Bill Sharpe’s Lakeport Brewing and another storied history followed, outside our scope here.

Finally, the pioneering Brick Brewery in Waterloo, ON, now Waterloo Brewery, picked up the Henninger brands. I think by 1997 all production of the Henninger had ceased. Still, it had a run of almost 25 years in Canada, spanning the pre- and post-microbrewery eras.

Under Brick the beers were restored to German Pure Beer Law requirements. During the Amstel period, as related in a 1991 Toronto Star news story (I can’t link it due to paywall), the Henninger beers were not all-malt, but they were when Ted Dunal directed brewing with Henninger, 1972-1981.

The last beer I brewed in collaboration with Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewery, a recreation of an 1870 English pale ale recipe, used Chevalier malt, which existed in 1870, to lend a heritage touch.

What does that have to do with the Henninger lager story in Ontario? Ostensibly nothing, but there is a link of a kind. In 1975, a series of ads in the Toronto Star advertised the use by Henninger in Hamilton of Chevalier. From a July 11, 1975 issue of the Toronto Star:

… it’s [i.e., the Meister Pils] made here in Canada in our small independent brewery in a particular way from very particular ingredients. We use only two row Chevalier barley….

But most important , we use the same yeast that we use in Germany. Not similar yeast, the same yeast. We actually jet it over from our Frankfurt brewery.

Chevalier barley traditionally was associated with English ale brewing and had largely disappeared in maltings by the 1930s. It was revived about 10 years ago from a few seeds stored in a barley seed bank. I refer to the story and much else in regard to Chevalier in an earlier blogpost, see here.

Ron Pattinson set out characteristics of typical 1970s German malting barleys in a blogpost of 2015, see here, but none is called “Chevalier”.

What explains this use of Chevalier malt in 1970s Canadian Henninger? It seems this was German malt as Henninger’s ads in the 1970s Toronto press stress the use of imported ingredients. Indeed a September 9, 1980 story in the Toronto Star on a German trade fair here stated:

Henninger in Canada is made with strict quality control to produce an identical product to that sold in Germany. In fact, hops, malt and yeast are all imported from there to assure consistent taste with the product brewed in Frankfurt.

The many Henninger ads in the Toronto Star in the 1970s insist on the same taste as the German original, e.g., as shown by blind taste tests using the German and Canadian Henningers, but technical details were sparse. The most specific was for the German yeast, as seen above. Still, some ads stated plainly, “We even import malt from Germany”.

Perhaps this did not mean 100% of the malt was German-sourced, but only that enough German malt was blended with some Canadian or other malt – the Chevalier? – to get the desired profile. Or, perhaps the 1970s Frankfurt brewery used a malt it called Chevalier and sent it to Canada, the ads, taken together, seem to state that.

Around 1900 as I documented in my earlier blogpost on Chevalier, the term was used loosely by British maltsters to include some European two-row barley that originated with the Chevalier seed. Danish Chevalier was apparently of this type, and Chilean. But some imported two-row barley was called Chevalier which may have originated with other types, perhaps even Hanna Moravian malt, ancestor genetically to many fine Central European malting barleys.

But the fact remains that a malt under trade description of Chevalier was used not long before the modern craft revival, a Victorian survival in the glam era.

Now as to taste: I am not sure I ever tasted the 1973-1981 all-malt Henninger. I may have in Montreal if I bought the beer in Prescott, ON or Ottawa before moving to Toronto in 1983. I think I must have, but don’t have a clear recollection.

I did buy the beer regularly in Toronto under Amstel and Brick. I recall the taste being “strong”, that grassy Helles taste with possible dimethyl sulphide (DMS) influence. C.1980 North American beer writers, Jim Robertson, say, or Michael Weiner, gave it top marks.

One can see that all the elements were in place for a mid-1970s beer revival in Canada. Henninger then was all-malt, made in a small plant with substantial local ownership, indeed “independent”, now the leitmotif of international craft brewing. The brewery even made a Henninger alcohol-free beer, under a process licensed from Birell in Switzerland. What is more of the moment than N.A. beer?

Yet Henninger never took more than a piece of a very small market. Something like 97% of the 1970s Ontario beer market was shared by the Big Three then: Molson, Labatt, Carling-O’Keefe. For the taste Henninger offered, Ontario consumers did not show enough interest, not in numbers big enough. Had Henninger grabbed 20% of the market, maybe craft breweries a la Anchor Brewing in San Francisco would have started up by 1975. In the event something similar only started 10 years later.

I think the taste of the locally-made Henninger wasn’t right for this market, even an incipient premium (or connoisseur) market. Not because it was different from the German Henninger: by credible evidence it was the same or virtually so, but the signature taste was too different. Had it been German Wurzburger, say, that was brewed in Hamilton it might have done much better, I think. Amstel, seeing what happened to Henninger, modified its recipe* for the Canadian market, yet that too never appealed in large-enough numbers.

Was Creemore Lager in objective terms a better beer than either of these? I don’t think so, but it sold enough to be successful for many years until being purchased by Molson-Coors. Maybe it was the name and advertising that made the difference, it’s hard to say. I don’t think it was price as Creemore was premium-priced. So was 1970s Henninger but only by a few pennies per bottle more, as its ads pointed out.

Note re image: the Henninger label shown above was sourced from the Beer Store listing linked in the text. All intellectual property in the image belongs solely to its lawful owner. Image used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*I meant for Amstel Bier, but in effect this applied to Henninger as well when Amstel brewed it in Hamilton. Also, in a Twitter exchange today with a Frankfurt-resident beer expert, he told me a German maltster is again malting Chevalier barley (also spelled Chevallier), so this is further evidence IMO that likely Henninger was using Chevalier malt in the 1970s.

Marian Engel’s Beer Essay

The Great Canadian Beer Book, ed. by Gerald Donaldson and Gerald Lampert, was published in 1975 by McLelland and Stewart, a premier Canadian publisher. Today M&S is an imprint of Random House/Bertlesmann. Lampert is long-deceased, while Donaldson, still active, carved a notable career in auto race journalism and biography.

Despite its irreverent, “scrapbook” design popular in the 70s, the book covers many angles: technical, historical, culinary, pictorial, and more. While a jocular note pervades the text, characteristic of beer discourse then, an underlying respect for beer comes through.

Once again, we see that modern beer culture, wound around the craft beer world, has a foundation – isn’t built ground up.

We learn some early Labatt history including the origins of its now-defunct I.P.A. We learn of the Olands, Carlings, the O’Keefes, all brewing notables. Recipes cover beer in the kitchen, buffalo-and-beer stew, say. There is a formula for “coffee beer”, years before craft beer thought of the idea.

The Calgary Red-Eye =the Brunswick Tavern in Toronto – the King Cole Room here (jazz) – Henninger Brewery in Hamilton, Ontario – it’s all here and more.

 

 

Canadian authors and artists pen contributions including Al Purdy, David Helwig, and Marian Engel. Engel (1933-1985) was a Toronto-born novelist, book reviewer, critic, and feminist. Her birth surname was Passmore but she went professionally by Marian Engel, her married name.

Engel won high honours including a Governor-General’s Award and membership in the Order of Canada. She is remembered as well for spearheading a national campaign for authors to receive a greater share of compensation from their published work.

In her memory jointly with the late Timothy Finley, $25,000 is awarded each year to a deserving Canadian author in mid-career. Author Margaret Atwood was one of the first to endow the fund.

Engel contributed 1000 words on beer. She described growing up in a Temperance family, finally acceding at 21 to “half a draft”, to make it easier to get dates, she writes. She toured “German” taverns in Ontario’s Mennonite country including in Neustadt, recalling “plates of pigs’ tails” and “lots of beer”.

She drank beer at “Paddy Greene’s” in Hamilton and up in Manitoulin Island. She taught for a while at a girls’ school in Montreal and drank beer on Saturdays with the games mistress, “quarts of Molson”.

After graduate work she landed a job in Missoula, Montana, probably at the university there, finally earning a M.A. in literature from McGill University in Montreal.

 

 

She describes from her Montana stint the Oxford, and Chicken Inn, two bars. One beer came “in plaid cans”, she drank it on tap with pizza: “Schooners of Scotchguard”, she called it. She couldn’t recall the brewery 20 years later but it was Highlander Brewery, which closed in 1964.

The American beer writer and editor Kate Bernot mentioned on Twitter that the Highlander name has been restored, so I looked it up. Indeed a brewpub not connected to the original brewery brews under that name. It sells a pilsner that might be close to the “Scotchguard” Engel recalled.

The original Highlander was never a “Scotch ale” properly speaking (dark, strong, rich). The term appeared to designate a Montana hill resident, not a beer type. But in time the brewery employed Scottish iconography to help sell the beer. Branding for the modern namesake does something similar, it appears.

It turns out that true Scottish-style beer is popular today in Montana. I think the reason ultimately is due to the “Scotchguard” label Engel recalled. Some things adhere in the folk memory and show up later in unpredictable ways. The memory of the plaid can encouraged, in other words, (I think) the idea Montanans would be partial to a rich Scotch ale.

Kate Bernot has noted an early craft brand, Cold Smoke, had a role in making Scotch ale a thing in Montana, so perhaps it’s “all of the above” .

Engel wrote that after returning to Canada from a long European trip:

… we decided that since we’d always drunk the wine of the country, we’d drink beer. The only way to entertain is to put a case in the middle of the living room floor, bring out the opener, and some cheese and get on with it. I drink out of the bottle; some boyfriend’s father taught me to gargle it right down. Cold, it goes down, down, down.

Later in life she liked whisky, sometimes, foregoing the beer. She explained it became too much trouble to lug cases home from Brewer’s Retail, the semi-public beer retail chain in Ontario.

I don’t think Engel enjoyed her Montana sojourn much. Would she feel differently now? Presumably she’d be pleased to see her “Scotchguard” still in the market, and perhaps too many more beer types no one could have imagined in the 1950s.

She isn’t here to write anything more on beer, or further novels. She died, too young, over a generation ago.

Note re images: the first image above, of Marian Engel, was sourced from this German book site. The image above of a vintage Highlander beer was sourced at www.Picclick.com, here. All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owners, as applicable. Images used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

#Flagship Friday #3 – Ringwood Ale

For the June #Flagship Friday, on tap is Ringwood Ale from Toronto- and Halifax-based Granite Brewery. Made since the early 1990s it’s a blonde ale, medium-strength, and a draft staple of the house. Ringwood is generally served chilled and fizzy, or “keg” style.

The Toronto Granite has been in business since 1991 and is owned and operated by Ron Keefe, a former corporate executive. With brother Kevin in Halifax they created a brewpub offering traditional, British-style ales and stout, many cask-conditioned. In recent years popular craft styles have been added to the range, among them Darkside, a Black IPA, Galactic Pale Ale, zesty with New World hops, and recently #1 Brand New Day, a New England-style IPA. There are continual one-offs and seasonal releases, everything from a molasses-laced Colonial porter to the Lady Macbeth Scotch Ale.

Increasingly, the family is involved in operations, and daughter Mary Beth now directs the brewing.

The sister brewery in Halifax is run by Ron’s elder brother Kevin. Kevin established the Halifax Granite after a few years mastering the bar business in the city. He studied craft brewing in England at the legendary Ringwood teaching brewery of Peter Austin. Ringwood was the cradle of many an early brewpub and craft brewery around the world including, say, Shipyard in the U.S.

The Granite’s flat-bottom, open-fermentation system and Ringwood yeast both derive from the Ringwood training. A departure is a new closed fermenter in Toronto, the ubiquitous cylindro-conical type. #1 Brand New Day NEIPA is the first output, and mighty good it is. If you blended a fruity Tiki cocktail and a West Coast IPA, that gives you an idea.

Due to recently losing its Halifax lease the Nova Scotia Granite is supplying area restaurants and bars with Granite beers made at the original Propeller brewery in Halifax (there is now a second location). A search is ongoing for a new site to restore the longstanding Granite retail business.

Ringwood Ale was not brewed when the Granite opened, it arrived a few years after. Ron explained to me how it came about. He had installed a Creemore Lager tap early on, the only beer not brewed on site, as an option for the many customers then who wanted a familiar mass-market brand. While offering more character than the typical Canadian beer then, customers could at least relate it to their usual brand preference. Soon the Creemore was taking a good part of the sales and it was decided to replace it with a similar but in-house alternative.

Enter Ringwood Ale. The name was taken from the house yeast. The beer did not derive from Kevin’s stint at Ringwood, Ron and Kevin hit on the formula using a variety of influences including the “Gold” taste popular at the time in craft brewing. The new beer took off and remains to this day a steady seller.

Ringwood Ale goes great with the Granite’s pub-oriented menu. It goes great on its own when you want something cold and light-bodied. Think lightly malty, fruity, with a mineral-like tang from yeast. While top-fermented, it does evoke lager to a degree – a secret to its success no doubt. The pale-coloured base malt and moderate hopping play a role here, but the beer has a character of its own.

Ringwood Ale is a classic Ontario flagship ale. The Granite itself is a flagship of the vibrant Ontario craft brewing scene. Try the beer if you pass by, it’s a taste that has endured and may meet your own.

The Drive-in, Tail fins, and … the Pub (Part I)

“The Local”, Streamliner-style

I’ve discussed how the notion of “English pub”, aka English tavern or English inn, persists in the American social pattern. The terms were and remain mixed in the American mind, without much regard to the original distinctions, quite real at one time.

Each way of saying it connotes the same ideas: hospitality, relaxation, benignity of spirit.

The appeal has endured since the start of the American project, despite the rift with Britain over Independence.

The British origins of the pub were masked by the ambiguous term “Colonial”, hence Colonial tavern, Colonial punch bowl, Colonial nog, etc. As memories of the Revolution and 1812 War faded, the British character was made more manifest. Building style, food items, and types of beer served all showed this through the 19th century, of which I’ve given numerous examples.

To be sure the saloon, which assumed a Germanic form in many places, had a distinct character, but the “alehouse” idea was still strong. Many examples existed in the Northeast and elsewhere.

(Canada was essentially similar, but the present context is the United States).

The Eisenhower and Space Age 1950s seem least propitious for its continuing appeal, though. After all, Prohibition had ended 20 years before. America had re-established a legalized drinking culture via the newly built corner bar, roadhouse, and cocktail lounge. These took increasingly American forms and didn’t need fresh inspiration from overseas.

But while the new culture was still forming, the English inn remained a reassuring model. And some new bars borrowed its imagery and iconography. A bit of the old culture even survived in the way lager beer was marketed.

This advertisement by the Windmill Tavern in Brooklyn, N.Y., 1933, guilelessly offered “ye olde golden lager”…

But the Fifties was the rocket age: how did “olde English” fit now?

Indeed the chrome, circular-chaired, Naugahyde lounge suggested, nowhere. Icy dry Martinis in the latter – refined during the previous 50 years to ultimate Americanness – were the perfect antidote to Atomic Age anxiety. It attracted among others men and women who had served in WW II. The veterans were unlikely, now, to pine for the cramped comfort and warmish beer of mid-40s memory.

Yet, English-style taverns continued at least in cosmopolitan centres. In the West, where the whiskey saloon was brought to maximum American pitch, the idea endured as well. The Cock and Bull tavern on the Sunset Strip, L.A., where the Moscow Mule was invented around 1946, is an example.

This 1987 Los Angeles Times article described it as a “mock English tavern”.

In sum, the English tavern has never gone away in the last 200 years. From 1965 until recently, it arguably had its apogee. The chain English and Irish beer bars and many independent versions are the proof.

The “craft beer bar” assumed its own form, often minimalist in design, and (yikes) even spread to the U.K. But the English pub idea is far from snuffed out, it’s anchored in the North American folk memory.

Let’s look now at a frank 1950s manifestation.

In 1954 Union Pacific Railroad placed new locomotives and consists (the related cars and equipment) on its Chicago-Denver run. Featured as the club-lounge was “The Pub, a sleek affair meant to suggest a country English tavern. This went against the prevailing ethic of shiny cocktail bar and high circular chairs.

What beers did it serve? America (and Canada) had virtually abandoned the “heavy” 19th-century India Pale, stock, and still ales, descended from U.K. tradition. The core ale and porter – the very things that fuelled the British pub and gave it much of its character – had ended as items of commerce in America.

So that was gone, the odd import ale on a menu, perhaps, apart.

But a cozy, wood-clad comfort remained, stylized to be sure, but suggestive still of the real thing. An ex-airman strolling through the train, remembering the pubs of Luton, say, might have a gladdened feeling.

Hopefully the bar list for The Pub will emerge. The Norman Rockwell-style image below, from a Union Pacific postcard, gives an idea what he saw.

 

 

Strapwork, casements, boarded walls, Toby jugs – all check out. The Day-Glo upholstery does kind of jar, a contemporary rendering of the chintz or crushed velvet associated with the Victorian pub.

And so, even in the space age, the pub remained as cultural touchstone Stateside.

Note: the image above, identified as in the public domain, was sourced from the informative Wikipedia account of the City of Denver, the train service mentioned.

 

 

 

 

G. Selmer Fougner’s Landmark 1938 American Dinner

G. Selmer Fougner (1885-1941), the American food and drinks writer whom I have been chronicling here, was invited frequently to hundreds of dinners, tastings, and other gastronomic events in and outside New York where he was based, albeit he could attend only a comparative few.

On some occasions he created or at least inspired a dinner, and the most memorable I know is the historic All-American Dinner given at the University Club of New York on April 5, 1938. (The image below is sourced from Wikipedia’s article on the Club, see here).

In articles that appeared earlier in his “Along the Wine Trail” column in the New York Sun, Fougner described the genesis and planning for the event. His Sun column of March 15, 1938 explained the purpose of the dinner and the important role of the hosting venue:

The University Club, in undertaking to stage this event, is performing a distinguished service which will be appreciated by all those who have at heart the fine old traditions of American life. Coming as it does on the heels of a long series of so-called gourmet functions … the all-American dinner at the University Club will set a new mark for hotels and restaurants all over the land.

At readers’ insistence, he finally reproduced the menu in his column. The menu is notable for its resolutely American content. It fulfilled too Fougner’s wish that it be written in standard English, without the French flourishes commonly seen in high-toned menus then. He also wanted dishes that one might encounter in hotels and other frequent resorts – good food, not junk certainly, but avoiding in other words obscure or unduly costly specialties, and all prepared to a high standard, with American wines only to accompany.

Fougner was fostering here the creation of a sane national American cuisine, parallel and of equal value to the French cuisine then still daily presented for the Manhattan elite in top restaurants and hotels.

The University Club was a good place to test the idea. To be sure it was and still is an upscale, private social club but its membership went beyond the confines of the social register, for example. A college degree was the main prerequisite to join.

Approximately 250 people sat down for the dinner and by all reports it was a great success.

The service of all-American wines – indeed even one at a formal dining event – is notable for 1938, a bare five years after National Prohibition (1920-1933) ended. For decades to come indeed, epicurean societies would routinely (but not invariably) overlook American wines in favour of time-honoured European names. That has all changed and it is the vision of people like Fougner and the University Club organizing committee who helped make it so.

Below is the menu, from G. Selmer Fougner’s May 9, 1938 New York Sun column. See again the committee’s notes at the conclusion, and of course Fougner’s own commentary.

While the menu is largely self-explanatory, we might note the “Half-way Home”, which initially confounded us, was a serving of apple brandy, this was stated by Fougner in a July Sun column the same year on the famous (and still going strong!) Laird Distillery of New Jersey. In effect it was an American stab at the trou Normand, the serving of Calvados (Norman apple brandy) mid-meal to make a “hole” in digestion to allow the rest of the meal to be savoured.

As to the wines served, Fougner had a policy of not stating or recommending specific brands, especially for domestic products; hence the use of generic terms such as ” California Chablis”.

MENU

of the All-American dinner held at the University Club and Sponsored by ‘the Trail’.

Cocktails: Manhattan, Martini.

American Appetizers

Cape Cod Oysters on the Half Shell

American Sherry.

Celery, Carrots, Nuts,

Long Island Clam Broth

Parker House Rolls

Indiana Corn Sticks

Planked Shad and Roe – Delaware

California Chablis.

‘Half-Way Home’ 

Breast of Chicken—Maryland

Candied Yams-Louisiana

California Asparagus Tips, Butter Sauce

California Claret.

Boston Lettuce—Florida Avocado

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

American Champagne.

Sweet Catawba.

Coffee

American Cordials.

Description of Dishes…“.

One can see that inspiration was drawn from different parts of the country. The concept behind this menu did in fact have a precedent or two before Prohibition, nonetheless it represents with those events a milestone on the path to today’s heterogeneous, “food without borders” culture.

Today, not just American but non-French European, Asian, and other world cuisines are regularly featured in our eating places of high repute. They are valued as much or more so, today, than haute cuisine and French provincial dishes.

Indeed attempts are constantly made to mix and match the elements, fusion as it is known. Fougner may not have envisioned that but would be thoroughly happy, I think, with today’s culinary scene had he been aware of its intervening stages.

I’ll conclude by quoting, as he did to open the column enclosing the menu, a Trailer’s somewhat obtuse remarks. “Trailers” were followers of Fougner’s column. They often wrote him for advice, or to provide their own. It shows the stance, the idée reçue, to which the University Club dinner constituted a cultural response.

The reader’s thinking was widespread in the West at the time and it took many years for those attitudes to change, decades in fact.

“Recently you referred to the much heralded All-American dinner that was held at the University Club, and I had been awaiting with much interest the menu and wine list,” writes an East Eighth Street Trailer. “Being one of those benighted individuals who never eats anything, if it can be avoided, excepting what is prepared ‘a la Francaise,’ and drinks nothing but French wines (dinner without wine would not be worthy of the name to me) it would be interesting to read the menu and the wine list, both of which I had been looking forward to seeing in your column.”

Fougner’s determination to value American cuisine, to view it as more than a casual interest or daily fuelling, was lent weight by having lived in France and acquired French wine and culinary expertise at the highest level. No one could accuse him of culinary nativism, in a word.

Note re above image: Believed in public domain, sourced from the Wikipedia entry on the University Club of New York linked in the text. All feedback welcomed.