New England Charms the Big Apple

Welcome to the Hotel Pennsylvania

A vintage menu of the New York Gourmet Society, dating from 1936, points to the future of American dining and wine culture.

The menu is archived here, in the invaluable collection of Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. It was typed and mimeographed for the diners, and presents today a charming aspect.

Pioneering radio journalist and speaker Mary McBride spoke at the dinner, a notable figure of her time. She is pictured below with Eleanor Roosevelt (via link just noted).

 

 

The Gourmet Society was a heterogenous group of New Yorkers from different backgrounds: publishing, hospitality, industry, journalism, advertising and the professions. While the food and drink were always primary hosting speakers enabled diners were keep up on and engage in debates of the day. The looming war in Europe was one, increasingly intruding on an isolationist nation.

The Society had an expansive approach to dining, foraging not just the European larder but, say, that of regional China, even ahead of World War II. It might hold dinners based on the products of one state, New Jersey, say. The Society’s modernes did world cuisine long before the notion was popularized in the early 2000s.

The group was helmed by J. George Frederick, an advertising executive turned food author. He explored Mennonite cuisine for example, he had issued from a Mennonite background in fact. His wife was the home economist Christine Frederick, who is probably better remember today.

The Society was active from 1933 until about 1960, hence contemporary to the early New York Wine and Food Society, founded in 1934, which still goes strong.

The 1936 event was held at Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan across from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. Then comparatively new, the hotel remains a New York fixture although its mid-century glamour is faded.

But in the 1930s the hotel provided an ideal setting to mount a creative dinner of “cosmopolites”, as Frederick also termed his band. The menu that night was meant to represent coastal and interior New England eating. Offerings included turkey pie, oysters casino, stuffed potatoes, and squash pie.

Different states’ names were attached to each dish but this was largely a flourish, e.g. Vermont turkey pie. Turkey is hardly peculiar to Vermont need I say, or the pie preparation.

The dishes served have more than a British tinge. Oysters, pie of poultry, winter vegetables. The rum similarly, although long habituated to the New England environment. It was viewed I suspect here with nostalgia, as the rum trade had largely ended and newer drinks, whiskey, gin, held fashion.

It is doubtful Medford rum would have been served at a formal dinner before Prohibition – too raffish. By the late 1930s the product was viewed in a different light, perhaps since people realized the industry had almost disappeared.

The Anglophile flavour of the dinner reflects the early British settlement in the Northeast, and much of Maritimes Canada for that matter. Frederick would write notes for each dish, sometimes including the recipe.

 

 

The “Sauterne”, a generic label from a restored (post-Prohibition) California winery, was a brave choice. It took imagination for prewar epicureans to browse offerings from a barely revived domestic wine industry over established European marques.

1936 is just three years after Prohibition ended, which had dismantled a wine industry in full ascension prior to World War I. But the Gourmet Society was willing to investigate the industry’s 1930s phoenix, and assist the re-establishment we now take for granted.

The Hotel Pennsylvania dinner was a construct, a cultural sortie, not just tonight’s dinner or even a rousing regional event. Urbanites, our hipsters if you will, were viewing food as other than simply sustenance or tradition.

George Frederick and other leading figures of New York’s post-Prohibition, interwar food scene presaged many luminaries to come: the James Beards, Graham Kerrs, Rachel Rays, Ruth Reichls, Bobby Flays, Jehane Benoits, and so many more.

They forecast our food trucks, food halls, baking competitions, and Zoom dinners. And much else that constitutes today’s culinary world.

Frederick’s culinary world, finally, was modern, if not moderne.

 

 

Enchanted Forest

Brewery and Boudoir

Perfume and beer are ostensibly unrelated subjects, yet connections exist as will be seen below. (True, a brain inflamed by a heady brew will lyricize its scent, but metaphor is at work here).

Memel oak is a form of “Quercus robur”, or common European oak. There were vast stands in Russia and Poland. In past generations in Britain it was considered “the” wood for brewers’ casks, among many other uses in industry.

Memel was the Prussian Baltic city now called Klaipėda, in Lithuania. It was an important port, among others, from which the eponymous oak was shipped. Regardless which port sent it, wood of the requisite quality was called Memel, or Crown Memel.

I’ve had numerous postings on Memel oak in British brewing. This one collected many of the points. In brief, until World War I Memel wood enjoyed near-universal use for British ale and porter barrels. Dublin-based Guinness in contrast adopted the tight-grained American white oak, “Quercus alba”, as did some minor porter brewers in England and Scotland.

These casks were not lined on the interior, or “coated”, in cooperage vocabulary. American brewers used barrels made of their own, aforesaid white oak. In this case, the interiors were coated with brewers’ pitch, to prevent contact with the beer. Canadian brewers probably did the same, but I have not seen confirmation.

As a vestige of Memel’s former importance in brewing, the historic Traquair brewery in Scotland still uses fermentation vats made of Memel oak. See the images in the company’s website under “How the Beer is Brewed”.

In a posting in the blog Pat’s Pints, Traquair’s vats may be seen more clearly, including their natural russet tinge. The colour appears in freshly harvested Memel logs, as shown in my earlier post mentioned.

So important was Memel wood that the Russian Czars sought to bring the forests under their control, according to a 1936 story in the New York Post. The Post was concerned, not with beer though, but my other subject here, perfume.

It recounted that a Lorna Terry worked for a perfume and apothecary firm on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. She devised a scent for a Russian singer, Tamara (pictured), whose full name was Tamara Drasin Swann. She was well-known on the New York stage in the 1930s. Some accounts have her origins as Ukrainian.

Tamara often played an exotic or vamp, a stock figure on the American stage at the time. She died in a plane crash near Lisbon in 1943 while on tour with the United Service Organization. For more biographical detail, see her Wikipedia entry, here.

Many who never stepped near a perfume workshop know the complex formulas used often evoke the damp forest, greeny glade, or grotto. Terry wanted moreover to devise a scent that conjured associations with Tamara’s birth place.

The reporter wrote: “Miss Terry uses [oakmoss] as being redolent of the Memel Oak for which Russia has been famed for centuries”. Oakmoss, a lichen which grows on oak trees, was used to generate or enhance this effect. It is a venerable ingredient in perfumes, sourced in eastern Europe, not America – or not very easily in America: its oakmoss simply lacks the right stuff.

A wartime (1942) article in New York’s Malone Evening Telegram reported:

Sixteen American oakmosses have been found to date, only one of which can be used, and it is not as satisfactory as the imported lichen. This one, Evernia vulpina, came from Oregon. The Givaudianian, a perfumery journal, says this lichen would be usable as a war substitute provided it can be found somewhere in great abundance.

 

 

A further idea of oakmoss in perfume can be gained from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which in 1959 profiled Italian fashion designer Simonetta Colonna di Cesaro Visconti (1922-2011). A successful businesswoman of noble birth, she had launched her perfume brand Incanto some years earlier.

Incanto means, enchanted. The story artfully described her blend:

The fragrance is complex in character, although essentially floral-woodsy in type. The Sicilian jasmine and a rare woody oil provide an exquisite topnote, rose and mignonette from Northern Italy contribute their floral importance, and for sophistication there are accents of tabac and oakmoss.

Interestingly in our context, Duchess Simonetta had Russian blood, through her mother. See further on Simonetta by Cara Austine in the website, Celebrity Dressmaker.

The dark forest has an enduring resonance in many cultures, often with magical or mystical connotations. Perfumers drew on this mystique to create intoxicating scents, as did Lorna Terry for her femme fatale client, as did Duchess Simonetta for her upscale trade.

The actual scent of oakmass in perfume evokes the forest, earth, bark, and leather: a concise explanation is offered in the Byrdie website, by Catherine Helbig.

Today, the Balkans in south-east Europe sends its oakmoss crop to perfumeries around the world. Balkan oak is “Quercus frainetto”, another oak species, also called Hungarian or Italian oak. While differing in some respects from Memel oak, Hungarian oak was also extensively used in breweries. See e.g. in an American consular report from 1887. 

Some vats today made to age craft beer are fashioned from Italian oak, e.g. at the Scottish Brewdog’s Tower Hill location in London. (I was told this during a personal tour).

The image below, via Wikipedia, is the painting The Perfume Maker, by Rodolphe Ernst. It shows some of the ingredients and implements of old-time perfume-making.

 

 

Turning back to beer, might we infer Memel staves added an ineffable something to British beer? Even though all wood casks were well scoured before each use, the wood must have communicated some taste to the beer. Memel oak was known, by contrast with American oak, for its subtle effect on beer, that much is clear.

Maybe the taste complemented English hops, which can be arbour-like and, in current beer parlance, “twiggy”. It all connects in an odd kind of way, doesn’t it? To our mind it does.

Traquair in Scotland persisted with Memel vats because it had to give the beer something. Perhaps it was a lightly earthy note – see the discussion in Pat’s Pints. Other reviews of Traquair beer note something similar, but nothing approaching the vanillin blare of American oak.

Of course, the American tang is appreciated for bourbon whiskey, and Chardonnay wine, but these are different drinks. It must be said some craft beer is stored, today, in uncoated American oak. The taste familiar in whiskey and wine is appreciated by some in beer, too.

Perfume makers seem still to prefer oakmoss from Europe, so the equation for Europe as I’ve limned it is lacking Stateside, where modern craft brewing began.

It is pleasing to note Lorna Terry’s employer Caswell-Massey is still in business, selling fine fragrances and soaps from its New York base. All details in its website.

The firm remains American-owned, and is one of the oldest continuing businesses in the United States. Maybe a file deep in storage lists the formula for Tamara’s perfume, which conjured the bowers and glades of a Czar’s domains.

As for Incanto, a perfume of that name is marketed today, by Salvatore Ferragamo.

Note re images: the images above are identified with source linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Third Case of Bass

No ones wins them all, and Bass was no exception. Some trade mark lawsuits, taken to protect the widely-known triangle symbol for Bass Pale Ale, were rejected in the courts.

I’ll choose an instance that continues the theme in my last two posts, viz. if type of beer defendant sold made a difference. We saw once that it did, and once it did not.

Henry Zeltner Brewing Co. was in many ways the obverse of Bass. A small brewer in Bronx, New York, an 1878 league table of lager brewers in the New York Sun had it near the bottom. Nonetheless the brewery lasted from 1860 to about 1910.

In those years, you could make a nice living for your family serving a local market, and Henry did.

This timeline at the Tavern Trobe website is helpful, with photos and label depictions. The founder, Bavarian-born Henry Zeltner, ran the business for 38 years, until his death in 1898.

Bass Ratcliff by contrast was a major international firm, and litigious to the max. The vigilance was well-displayed in the United States where agents and bottlers were active to distribute Bass nation-wide.

A short obituary in American Brewers’ Review states that Henry died on June 9, 1898, of pneumonia, a common scythe in the days before antibiotic drugs. At the time of his death, litigation with Bass over a Zeltner trade mark was unresolved. Henry had won before Justice Townsend of the New York District Court, but Bass appealed.

Henry was vindicated by the appellate decision in 1899, but fate had robbed him of satisfaction to see the final result.

The appeal judges simply affirmed the decision “below”, of Justice Townsend, who dismissed Bass’s argument in a single, well-drawn paragraph.

Henry’s trade mark looked this way in one depiction (image via Tavern Trove):

 

 

As a reminder, Bass’s classic mark looked like this (image via Brewery History Wiki):

 

Judge Townsend felt the marks were quite distinguishable. He laid emphasis too on Henry’s product: lager, not ale, a “different class”. See the decision, here.

The judge considered that “the shape, color and collocation of symbols and letters” in Henry’s trade mark did not mimic those in the Bass label. Further, the colour of Zeltner’s bottles, and his cork and closure, differed from those of Bass.

This Zeltner tray, at an antiques website, lends credence to the judge’s decision. It shows the term “Old Fashioned Lager Beer” over the trade mark, the outer circular band in bright blue, and a white background offsetting the red triangle – the red, white, and blue of America, Henry’s adopted homeland.

Still, the triangle is there, in red. In a previous case, a triangle alone, even uncoloured, did the defendant in.

Are court cases to be completely rationalized? No, that is what jurists of the “realist” school think anyway. Then too, it’s always down to the specific case. On this outing Bass lost.

One wonders if the stress of the court battle led to Henry’s passing at only 67, not a young age for the time, but still … I think it not unlikely.

Henry was a stalwart of all-malt brewing, old-school all the way. While lager had eclipsed ale in the New York market, Henry’s kind of lager was going out, in favour of “Bohemian” cereal adjunct brewing.

Being a small player, probably the road ahead was hard enough, but the Bass fight could not have helped. Court battles can be sapping, even when you win.

Henry’s family continued the business for some years, but by 1910 was no longer brewing at 190th St. and 3rd Ave., Bronx, New York.

Ale and art

Brewers’ Initiative Post-War

An innovative public-private partnership, ahead of its time by decades, was “Ale and Art”, introduced in 1946. It was a joint effort of the Central Institute for Art and Design and four brewers in London.

The idea was to give commissions to notable London artists to produce original works to brighten the brewers’ pubs. Many were still getting on their feet again after the war.

The storyvia the Associated Press, was reprinted in numerous Australian newspapers. The program was launched at a pub popular with Antipodes airmen during the war, which explains I think the Australian angle.

From the account:

During the next 80 weeks, as he sits in his favourite pub, the Englishman will gaze at the work of over 30 artists, many of whose pictures are well known in the London art galleries. And the pictures are not just “extra-special” advertisements of public houses, quite the contrary. Although the brewers financed the scheme and made some suggestions as to subjects, the artists had a more-or-less free hand. They ranged far and wide through London and the Home Counties, painting churches and villages, hop fields and country market places, maltings and the River Thames.

In the concise, even tone typical of British journalism then, the public spirit of the gesture was made clear: the art was not expected to promote beer and breweries, as such.

Augustus John was the leading artist, quoted in the story. He quipped that brewers should support art because artists are some of their best customers.

Brave London, which had fought hard against the Nazis, was grey, half-destroyed, and exhausted. And still to be on rations for years. In this environment the government and brewing executives had the foresight to boost post-war pub trade by providing paid work to artists, who can usually use it.

Art and Ale would have cost relatively little, and was an inspired example of government and private cooperation. The brightening came in a heightened experience for pub patrons and cash in artists’ pockets.

 

The Cogers pub profiled is, I believe, today’s St. Brides Tavern. See here, at the Pub History site, for more information, source of above image. Cogers was – still is – the name of a storied debating society. The term came from cogitate, not codger a la old geezer.

Cogers club used to meet at or near this pub, it may have been a pub behind called the White Hart.

Both were located in a stylish 1930s Edward Luteyns block. Originally the pubs were separate buildings, elements of which were retained by Luteyns. The club met in one but I think it was St. Brides, which faces Salisbury Square. The other pub is now site of an airy City restaurant, appropriately called Luteyns.

One wonders what became of John’s paintings for the scheme. Maybe some still hang in St. Brides.

John’s name appropriately named a pub in Hampshire, in the village where he lived (perhaps still, but we are not sure).

The art plan would seem ideal for right now, as pubs re-open in the UK and around the world under loosened Covid 19 restrictions. They could all use a fillip.

Some craft breweries pre-Covid encouraged artists in different ways, but it might be done on a wider, organized scale, to help pubs reset after a highly unusual year.

While no one would (or should) compare Covid to WW II, this art plan of the late 1940s would suit our conditions right now.

Note re image: image above was sourced from the Pub History site linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Image used educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

A Second Case of Bass

This follows on our first post today, a Case of Bass.

Another day, another case, another defendant’s beer. Another dollar too, or pound, depending how the scales of justice tip.

In the English Chancery case In Re Worthington & Co.’s Trade Mark heard in 1879, Bass took action against another brewer,  Worthington & Co., seeking to register a triangular symbol to promote its beer.

(Worthington & Co. had not yet merged with Bass, that came later). Worthington had bought a brewery called Beccles, in Suffolk. Worthington devised a trade mark that showed the charming Beccles church enclosed by a double-bordered triangle.

No colour was claimed, this was not possible for some reason. The decision reproduced examples of each label. To me they looked quite different, but Bass won again.

The reason: the label might be printed in red or another colour, and the church would be obscured, with a greater likelihood of resemblance resulting.

It being an appellate case heard by a panel, one judge dissented. He argued it was not proper to assume Worthington might print its design in a dishonest way, to mislead consumers. Rather, one should assume it would use the label in black and white, as registered, on its face quite different to Bass’s design.

The judge, Mr. Justice Cotton, in this case distinguished between beer types, something his American counterpart refused to do 20 years later. Bass had argued that the market knew its beer as the “triangle ale”, a fact the American court of 1899 accepted.

Lordship Cotton, showing an impressive grasp of beer knowledge, quickly dismissed this. He stated triangle ale simply meant Bass Pale Ale as against Bass’s Burton ale, which used a lozenge (diamond) symbol. He wrote that triangle ale was written in trade orders to ensure Burton ale was not shipped, and the term had no further significance.

Via Wikipedia Commons:

 

 

For mystified readers, since both beers were brewed at Bass in Burton, Burton ale was another type: darker and stronger than Bass Pale Ale. In fact, Burton ale was the type historically associated with Burton and region, but was eclipsed from the early 19th century by pale ale.

Beer writer Michael Jackson, after citing a poem lauding “Old Burton”, brought out the difference in The World Guide to Beer (1977):

Even in the 1750s, the brewers of the Trent Valley had already been famous for at least 100 years, and had been mentioned in the writings of Defoe, but the emergence of pale ale as a new style gave them the chance to sparkle.

Mr. Justice Cotton was sympa, whether from personal proclivity or evidence in the record, is hard to say.

And so, nothing is absolute, distinctions among beer types in a general class shouldn’t matter in larger society, until they do.

 

 

 

A Case of Bass

An 1899 American court decision handed a victory to U.K.-based Bass Brewery, an injunction against Christian Feigenspan in New Jersey. Feigenspan had sought to use a triangle symbol to label two forms of beer: a pale ale, and half-and-half – pale ale and brown stout blended, in this case.

See from p. 207, a decision of the New Jersey Circuit Court.

From Jess Kidden’s Google Beer pages, we have a good idea what Feigenspan’s labels looked like, in a period card or poster.

Bass famously labelled its draft and bottled beers with a red equilateral triangle. Wholesalers bought in bulk from Bass in Burton-on-Trent, England and re-sold to retailers world-wide, both bottled and draft forms.

Feigenspan was using red, too, to colour its (isosceles) triangle although its trade mark registration disclaimed any particular colour. Bass, as the case explained, sometimes used alternate colours to its brand its pale ale, white was one. Red was typical though, especially for bottled Bass, and actually preceded any other colour, according to evidence taken.

Feigenspan was not on strong ground. The decision is well-worded and smartly paced. Mr. Feigenspan as a witness did not, as well, strike the court as honest and guileless.

One point I’d like to bring out here is, Feigenspan argued his half-and-half could not violate Bass’s rights because, in essence, it wasn’t (India) pale ale, the type for which Bass was famous. As a mixture of beers and with a different colour than pale ale typically had, Feigenspan was trying to argue half and half was a separate product.

The court made quick work of this argument, holding both forms of beer were “malt liquor”, and “courts should not be astute to recognize fine distinctions” where the products were of a general class.

Here we see the limits of beer style, the thing near and dear to the heart of the beer enthusiast.

The defendant’s argument was never very strong anyway, as a mix of beers is still much closer to either component than, say, a box of paper tissue. But whatever force the argument had was quickly deflated by judicial logic and, I’d add, common sense.

Reading the case, I was reminded of the reaction of a friend of the family who could never be persuaded to like beer. Try this, I’d say, try that, this has fruit in it, that has nutmeg.

“It’s still beer”, he intoned. And so it is. From a certain point of view – but one rather widespread among, we might call them, non-initiates.

Feigenspan continued to market its brands under other labels. It came back fairly strong after Prohibition ended (1933). 10 years later though, Ballantine Brewery in the same state bought its share capital.

If you would a second case of Bass, see here.

 

 

 

Tomson & Wotton: Classic Seaside Brewery

Of Ramsgate, I knew it to be in Kent and by the sea, but little more. Making inquiries online, the following magically appeared, under “People ask”:

Of the three towns on Kent’s Isle of Thanet, Ramsgate is often seen as the underdog: somewhat over-shadowed by the time-warped charms of genteel Broadstairs or the gaudy glory of artsy Margate. … By reputation, it’s a bit rough, a bit run-down, but Ramsgate used to be posh.

The term rough, and “posh” for that matter, are not used this side of the Atlantic in quite the same way, but we get the meaning.

The anonymous response forms an apt introduction to Ramsgate. The town had its glory days in the 19th century but was well-frequented in the last, as well. Londoners sapped by the heat took refuge there, into the postwar period.

The travel tome All About Ramsgate and Broadstairs (1864) offered a social grading of the Kent resorts. Ramsgate was typed as a refuge for Russell Square, Broadstairs, for Cadogan Place, while Margate earned the Kennington and Camden Town trade. This complements the primer from the ether.

For a Dickens-like description of a hot London summer, read the page before the one linked. Its cinematic clarity derives from a time when the written word meant everything to convey experience to people.

So hot was it, “warm fingers made marks on the new novel”. And, bitter ale was “iced” in London. (Beer always “warm” over there? Not).

Ramsgate in its Victorian salad days (via Wikipedia):

 

 

The Kent resorts were boosted by the burgeoning South England rail system through the 1800s.

Recently, I mentioned that “seaside” breweries were known for particular trading features. These are brought out in an article on Tomson & Wotton Brewery in a1962 issue of The Brewing Trade Review.

The article described two high seasons for this type of brewery, Christmas and summer, with summer the main peak. It noted that the brewery’s equipment reflected this pattern. Three aluminum, and one steel, glass-lined fermenter supplemented the main stock of Kauri wood fermenters.

We learn that most Tomson & Wotton draught was naturally-conditioned, placed in wood casks for the trade. A little was “keg” beer, the filtered, fizzier form often served chilled. Keg became popular in the ’60s and ’70s, until the rise of lager.

Two bottled “pale ales” were brewed, these would have been Allbright and the stronger Cavalier mentioned in the article.

There were also (per the article) two brown ales, a barley wine, and a stout. The brewery also bottled Guinness, brought by tanker from London where Guinness had a second brewery at the time, at Park Royal.

No lager is mentioned, although the brewery’s pubs in town probably carried a well-known brand or two. Tomson & Wotton had a spirits and wine division, which perhaps distributed some lager. The ability to offer such drinks must have been extra-useful in a summer resort.

This image is via the Brewery History Society Wiki:

 

 

The Brewery History Society Wiki contains a good label selection, from different periods. With draught mild not mentioned in the article, maybe it wasn’t brewed by this time, but I can’t be sure.

Mild ales, regular and strong, were certainly brewed in earlier years. A public bar price list in the Brewery History Society Wiki page shows this.

The brewery did its own malting, as well.

I mentioned Kauri wood. Kauri pine was once favoured around the world for brewery fermentation vessels. It had workability, durability, and resisted decay despite the constant humidity. It came from New Zealand and other parts of the Antipodes, and New Guinea.

A southern conifer, Kauri was extensively felled for construction and industry uses. Although protected today, some is still sold in New Zealand, under controlled conditions.

A few more points, on the brewing. It combined, as many British breweries then, Victorian and modern features. An early-1800s malt mill was still in use although in course of being replaced.

The kettle to boil wort and hops was open to the atmosphere, direct-fired by coal. Not many breweries do open boiling now, even craft breweries. Tomson & Wotton liked the results from its kettle, pictured in the article.

Barley for malt mainly came from nearby Kent fields, as did hops. We call that terroir today.

Fragrant Kent hops were, and are, some of the best in the world. Beer drinkers in Ramsgate had a world-class product in front of them, in those salt-sprayed pubs, but how many knew it?

Tomson & Wotton was a classic regional brewery of particular type, selling largely in its own territory, using old-fashioned methods, with materials mainly locally sourced.*

People in British towns often “drank local” then. To a degree craft brewing brought this back; the circle comes round.

Sadly for Tomson & Wotton trends in beer were moving in the opposite direction. The smart thing increasingly was keg brands and finally lager, abetted by the kind of blanket advertising only large brewers could afford.

Starting in 1957 Tomson & Wotton had an “association” with London giant Whitbread Brewery. That meant Whitbread probably had a stake in the business, of some kind.

Soon Whitbread would buy out Tomson & Wotton lock, stock, and barrel (!), in 1968. The brewery gate forever shut a few months later. If the old copper kettle did its good work after, it was somewhere else.

But in 1962, when things still seemed hopeful, eighth and ninth generation Tomsons presided over the business. The family ran the brewery all the way from 1680 until the year The Beatles’ White Album came out. A pretty fine record, most would agree.

*By this time, most U.K. breweries used some sugar in the process to supplement the malt. Probably Tomson & Wotton did as well although sugar is not mentioned in the Review‘s account.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carling Brewery, Toronto, 1962

A volume of the U.K.-based Brewing Trade Review in 1962 provides rich content for beer historians.

In the volume, we learn Guinness in Ireland built a new ship, The Lady Patricia, to export beer in refrigerated steel-and-aluminum tanks (p. 1064). The article notes that shipment in wood casks is almost of the past.

Britain’s then-oldest brewery, Tomson & Wotton of Ramsgate is profiled at p. 840. It was later bought out and closed by Whitbread. Sound familiar … ?

Guinness’s recent launch of Harp lager is covered, with details of its dedicated, rebuilt brewery at Dundalk, p. 592. Information on the Harp launch is available elsewhere, but there is always a new twist.

Brewing Trade Review writer John Levett profiled Carling beer in the United States but in fact, mostly described a just-built, $12,000,000 Carling brewery in Toronto. See from p. 922. The plant continues, as Molson-Coors Beverage Co.’s main Canadian brewery.

The tall, oblong-shape central building of dark brick remains a leitmotif of the plant, on Carlingview Rd. in Etobicoke, Toronto, despite alterations since.

(Image below is courtesy Canadian Brewing News).

 

 

The 1962 article offers many facts and figures, showing how a bustling Toronto – quite a different city it was, then – was selected as showcase for the Carling Division of E.P. Taylor’s Canadian Breweries Ltd.

(Canadian Breweries Ltd. merged with The Molson Companies in 1989. Molson later joined Coors of Colorado).

Of the many technical points covered, my favourite is the malt mill discussion. So intricate and hushed was the mechanism that a coin placed on its edge atop the machine would not fall as it purred away.

1,000,000 bottles a day were produced, 365,000,000 per year if ran continuously.

The stainless Pfaudler lauter tun from Rochester, New York was claimed as largest in the world. Automated controls are mentioned more than once – the thrall of hi-tech was never more potent, all notions of craft lost ostensibly to gleaming metal and diktat of electronic command.

It is interesting to compare output then to today’s. A recent Toronto Star report, addressing a current lockout at the plant, pegs annual production at 880,000,000 bottles.

That is more than double the output of 1962. The Ontario population in 1962 was about 6,000,000. Now, it is about 14,000,000. The Carling plant would have served mostly Ontario then, with perhaps some shipments to Quebec.

Carling had other plants in Ontario though. It had Brading’s in Ottawa, and a second plant in Toronto, O’Keefe Brewery. According to Levett there were also operating plants in both Waterloo and Windsor, Ontario.

Carling was in midst of a major U.S. expansion, but that was served by American production, as the article explains and is confirmed elsewhere. Indeed Carling, via Carling National Brewery, would be on a tear for some years in the U.S.

O’Keefe and Brading only closed later in the late 1960s, when all production was centralized on Carlingview Rd.

Today, as the Star noted, 20% of the output is a special line exported to the United States. It is evident, therefore, even excluding the O’Keefe and Brading production, that the contribution of the Carlingview plant to Ontario’s per capita consumption has fallen considerably since 1962.

Of course, the brewing landscape is vastly different today. Imports play a role undreamed of in 1962, not to mention the craft brewing sector. And wine consumption has grown a lot since then.

350 people were employed at Carlingview in 1962. Today, says the Star, the complement is 300, with more than twice the output of 1962. That tells a tale right there.

Daily bottlings equaled, said the 1962 article, 2,100 kegs. Using the hop consumption mentioned in the article, I get about 1/3rd lb. hops/bbl., which sounds about right for the time.

What did they produce? Lots of Carling! Perhaps, too, some ale brands. What does Carling taste like today, as produced at the same plant? See next post.

Note re image: source of image above is identified and linked in text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to lawful owner. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

Wood in the English Brewery, 1962

Mighty Oaks do Fall

In my last post, with the benefit of a 1962 issue of The Brewing Trade Review I spotlighted two historically significant breweries, E. Lacon in Great Yarmouth, England, noted for its Audit Ale, and D. Carnegie in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The 1962 Trade Review stands as a monument to the brewing past even as the 1960s are close to us in other ways. The Beatles retain their importance, but it goes well beyond that. Fashion, architecture, and myriad cultural issues of our time show the connection.

In 1962, two generations had elapsed since the issuance of E.R. Southby’s 1895 A Systematic Handbook of Practical Brewing. That influential tome was the subject of an extended commentary in the 1962 Trade Review by brewing scientist J.L. Shimwell.

I profiled this important and idiosyncratic figure in these notes. I had learned more about him than I recorded when I did the work, which comes in handy now. The author of the Southby parts is termed “Gypsum”, a pseudonym Shimwell used for his contributions to the Review.

(Gypsum is an additive to some brewing water but its use as a nom de plume also evokes practice in 19th century UK trade journals).

Shimwell/Gypsum offer up a clear explanation of Southby on important points, add other historical knowledge, and blend in contemporary brewing knowledge.

For vessels in which to mash malt, Southby felt English oak staves were best, with iron also suitable provided rust-free (today steel and aluminum do the job well). The reason was English oak resisted rot despite the effects of the heated grain mix.

“Foreign oak”, seemingly including the Baltic oak cherished by British brewers for beer casks, would not do for this purpose. For more detail see here (p. 782).

But again for beer casks, along with increasingly rare English oak, Memel and related oakwoods shipped from Baltic ports were indispensable. Shimwell writes at p. 784:

Southby lists some of the places from which [this] foreign oak could be obtained: Stettin, Memmel, Dantzic, Odessa, Blumeza, and Riga – today they seem like names from another age.

Hard pegs, or spiles, used to handle cask ale in the cellar, were often made of American oak, but this had a tiny influence if any on the beer. Apart from that, American white oak was disliked for ale of any kind and by most English porter brewers.

Some porter brewers in outlying districts including Scotland did use American oak casks as did Guinness in Dublin, famously, but in general American oak and British beer were never a twain.

By 1962, the subtext was, prized Baltic wood was unobtainable due to the effects of war and politics in Central and East Europe. Hence (this from my earlier work in this area), other materials were employed for beer casks. Initially American white oak was used, although usually it was lined inside to keep out the “cocoanut” (i.e., vanillin) taste, as one c. 1900 journal put it.

Persian oak was tried, and many other sorts. Finally metal casks came in, and were steadily on the rise when Shimwell was writing. Guinness Brewery in Dublin was Exhibit A.

Metal casks have remained an industry staple while so much else has changed in brewing. Yet, even this redoubt may crumble. Plastic materials have already found a limited role. A Bloomberg report covered Carlsberg’s adoption of plastic kegs in 2018.

Certainly though in 1962 there were plenty of wood casks still in use in Britain’s beer industry. Some were old Memel wood still serviceable, some used other woods (American, Persian, etc.) as substitute. An industry still existed, the coopers a part of it, to maintain these casks and perhaps build a few new ones.

In the 1962 volume, Vincent Murphy & Co. of Liverpool placed an advert as follows:

 

 

Their phone number was Bootle 1055. Nothing sounds more stereotypically English, down to the likely pun of 1055 (beer historian in-joke). Bootle is a locality in Sefton, Merseyside. Liverpool and its great docks were a landing point for vast shipments of staves from Memel, now Klaipeda in Lithuania, and other Baltic ports. Hence the timber merchant trade once characteristic of Liverpool.

With the postwar slide in shipping commerce the associated merchants closed, or mostly. Certainly Vincent Murphy did, in 1982. They were sold to Timbmet of Stanford-in-Vale, Oxford, a report had it that year in the Oxford Mail.

Timbmet, for its part, still goes strong. Alas, wood casks in British breweries do not. There are still a few around, mostly made of the American oak British brewers once rejected, in the great majority.

Today, many people like the effect of unlined American oak on beer, an innovation introduced by craft brewers, particularly Innis & Gunn of Scotland. It features in bourbon barrel Imperial Stout as well, and some other styles. I am less enamoured of the taste than many, and hold with the old British learning.

Whatever kind of wood is used now by UK breweries, it’s nothing to what it used to be, like lots of things in life. A detail of the Victorian beer palate, the one Southby knew, therefore is mostly lost: the subtle effect of oak tannin in the beer. Oak moss-like, you might say, at least where the classic Memel oak was used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnegie Porter. Part III.

Courtesy a volume of The Brewing Trade Review, we have portraits in 1962 of two breweries of good historical interest: D. Carnegie in Gothenburg, Sweden and E. Lacon in Great Yarmouth, England.

John Levett wrote the Carnegie piece, starting p. 868. He included images of the brew kettle, enclosed in a brick-lined well, and a floor of the maltings, built, as I documented in Part I, in 1939.

He discussed regulatory control of alcohol strength, the always-present Swedish temperance sentiment, and then-importance of Carnegie Porter in the Swedish beer market. The beer was nationally distributed including by some competitors.

Much is devoted to Pripps, the major brewer that also originated in Gothenburg, and by 1962 was the parent company of Carnegie. Pripps is now in the fold of Danish Carlsberg.

 

 

The Lacon’s story (from p. 706), uncredited in authorship, is a good complement to the 1957 commercial film circulated on Twitter today by Tim Holt, editor of Brewery History. It is a reminder how some regional breweries were seen still to have good prospects.

The brewery was publicly-traded but still family-controlled. It shared with other “seaside breweries” particularities of the trade, patterns of sales unique to them. Such charming details of British family brewing are now firmly of the past.

The detail of WW II damage from bombing and re-building is of particular interest.

E. Lacon was bought up by the London giant Whitbread’s in 1965, only three years after the hopeful portrait in the Review.

There is much else of interest in the volume linked.

John Levett also authored impactful pieces on Kirin in Japan and Carling’s U.S. expansion. I don’t know Levett’s name in British brewing or trade publishing, but he showed good knowledge of international brewing in this period.*

There is a good bit on a Watney’s demonstration unit, a vehicle meant to do “whistle stops” to market its Red Barrel (non-real ale) draught beer. The suave description of the interior, eg. “figured dark oak with contrasting walls”, is matchless.

“Gypsum”, a nom de plume likely of J.L. Shimwell, a British brewing scientist I profiled earlier, had a series on the Victorian brewing author Southby. He both extracts and comments on chapters from Southby’s influential brewing text.

It shows the respect Shimwell had for Victorian brewing but also the great diversity of brewing methods and equipment then. Although Shimwell was as sophisticated as brewing scientists came in 1962, he knew how much had been lost to British brewing.

His asides provide rich detail, eg. on the Irish practice of “worting” casks with unfermented beer to ensure condition.

You may read at your leisure, to learn more.

…..

*If anyone tells me I’ll buy you a pint – in Toronto, when the bars open.