1938 Beer Tasting by California Epicures. Part IV.

1938 Beer Tasting and BBQ, Cont’d.

Having set out Classes V and VI in Part III, here are the remaining classes for the 1938 beer tasting of the (former) Los Angeles Wine and Food Society:



The Big California Guns

In the California section are names that proved solid sellers through the Thirties and beyond including Aztec, Rainier, Los Angeles Brewing, and Maier. A full discussion of their history and brands, or of other breweries in the program, is beyond my scope here, but a good way to appreciate their relative market position is from this chart, in The American Brewer in 1939 (via Hagley Digital Archives):



Remarks on Selected Breweries

A Tavern Trove page confirms that Regal Brewery in San Francisco, which had pre-Prohibition roots, endured until 1960. A YouTube clip features a late-era, of-its-period commercial, a last gasp.

I discussed Golden Glow Beer of Golden West Brewery in this post. It is an interesting case of a brewery that shed its pre-Prohibition steam beer persona for a pale lager future, by the 1930s “the” beer of America.

The famed Czech Pilsner Urquell was available on draft, and in bottle, in California in the 1930s, an impressive export achievement. While Urquell had long been exported to distant places, the West Coast then was still an emerging region, one whose climate did not always favour a “heavy” European brew, but still Urquell made its way to the Pacific coast.

Certainly on the East Coast, and in beer circles generally, Urquell had an unconquerable reputation, as still today. Author and critic Henry L. Mencken rendered a supercharged tribute in his 1920s Book of Preferences. Sample quote: “stupendously grateful to the palate”.

The condition of draft Pilsner Urquell in hot southern California, so far from its home in Central Europe, is impossible to know at this stage, but presumably it delivered something of the authentic experience, meaning rich malt and flowery, resinous hops.

In Los Angeles PIlsner Urquell was four times more expensive than standard California lager. This was due, first, to the inherent quality. Second, the long shipping distance. Third, a customs duty of $1.00/gal. was applied in that period, quite heavy. Finally a $500 license charge was required of firms importing beer to California.

Stylistic Variety

Most California beers at the tasting were blonde lagers but Los Angeles Brewing also featured an ale. A 1930s Eastside ale label may be seen in this collector’s webpage. The typical American ale of that period was a lager-like, palish brew, made to please the palate of a nation that had taken to heart the light, international style of pilsner.

Perhaps the neither fish nor fowl nature of these ales condemned them to relative insignificance in the U.S. beer market after Prohibition, except in pockets where ale still enjoyed its historic reputation, mainly on the East Coast.

Although, Rainier Ale was a hearty drink then, and would remain so for decades after World War II. It had something of a connoisseur’s image, in fact. Those who appreciated, say, Bass Ale from Britain, available at the Wallace gala, might buy Rainier Ale as a local option.

Draft Rainier was at the 1938 event but this was not the ale, it seems. A late postwar incarnation of Rainier ale may be seen in “bomber” form in this site, devoted to the “malt liquor” style. While a Rainier Beer (pale lager) is still sold – Pabst owns the label – no Rainier-branded ale is currently marketed, to my knowledge.

Humboldt Brewery, Eureka

Reader Arnold Moodenbaugh, in a comment yesterday to Part III, noted (see his source) that in 1933-1934 sizeable Los Angeles Brewing, which made Eastside Beer, was “aka” Humboldt Brewery. I had noted that Humboldt’s Brown Derby beer, seemingly of high repute, was absent from the 1938 tasting, and we discussed why that might be.

Eureka is a small town well north even of the Bay Area albeit a port city, hence with shipping facilities. An excerpt of a 1915 history of Humboldt County, via Online Biographies, shows that the same family owned both breweries, the Zobeleins.

A story on June 24, 1933 in the Blue Lake Advocate stated Humboldt signed an agreement with Safeway and affiliated stores to supply 75,000 bbl of beer annually. Clearly supply from Eureka was not a problem once the brewery was up and running, but as the press item noted, the plant had to be upgraded for the commitment.

A June 16, 1933 story in the Oakland Tribune forecast the first delivery on August 1 that year. In 2011 in KCET, a content channel of Public Media Group of Southern California, Nathan Masters sketched history of both Los Angeles Brewing and its rival Maier Brewing. He stated the former had beer ready on April 7, 1933, when 3.2% abw beer was newly legalized.

Even if Humboldt’s projected first delivery date was met, there was a gap before it could supply its important new customer, Safeway. This likely explains why Los Angeles Brewery assumed the persona of Humboldt in 1933-1934, to make Brown Derby for Safeway until its affiliate was fully operational.

The connection between the two is at any rate clearer, although still one wonders why Brown Derby was not at the tasting. Maybe Safeway demurred, not wanting to see a beer for which it planned wide distribution possibly not show well against beers in the classes judged it viewed as lesser.

As we saw too, Humboldt/Safeway had publicized in California their own taste test three years earlier, but the tasters shown were oldsters with pre-Prohibition, old-school tastes.  A post-1933 modern audience might not appreciate a full-flavoured, Czech-type beer as much as old-time drinkers,

To his credit Frank Vitale, director of the tasting, set Acme beer, the marquee product of his Bohemian Distributing Company, against the competition. Unfortunately it seems a tabulation of the voting results does not survive.

Final Thoughts

The 1938 event reflected its time in that light blonde lager represented the great majority of beers tasted. Still, we must remember in that period breweries had greater individuality than by the 1970s, when consolidation and mass production had rendered most American beer similarly pale in colour and blandish in taste.*

In the 1930s East Side Beer likely tasted different to Lucky Lager, say, and both likely were quite different to a premium lager such as Michelob or Miller High Life.

On top of this, a few ales and stouts were included in the 1938 tasting and at least one dark lager, Rio Grande Bavarian. Images of the Rio Grande appear in Keith Kerschner’s article on Albuquerque Brewery (from the webpage of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America).

The label detail shown makes it clear this was a rich, old-time Bavarian beer, possibly even a bock. The Ballantine listed in Class V almost certainly was an ale, possibly the famous, in advised circles again, Ballantine India Pale Ale.

Taking all with all the 1938 tasting event was a full-scale attempt to glean the palate of contemporary domestic and imported beers. It preceded similar tastings by the New York branch of the International Food and Wine Society, which I chronicled earlier, by some four or five years.

I doubt any consumer tasting was as comprehensive possibly anywhere. And the Los Angeles epicureans did not give up on beer after the tasting at the Wallace estate. They would re-visit the subject regularly, in years to come, for the next twenty years.

This series will continue to show examples.

Part V follows.

Note re copyright: menu extract is copyright of the Wine and Food Society of Southern California, reproduced with its kind permission. No further reproduction or use is authorized without its prior written consent. Source of second image is identified and linked in text, with all intellectual property therein belonging solely to lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes, all feedback welcomed.


*The craft revival ongoing since the late 1970s has introduced a high degree of choice and variety to the market, returning it to something like the status quo in 1900 and then some.













1938 Beer Tasting by California Epicures. Part III.

Early Beer Tasting and Pit Barbecue

On February 7, 1935 The Wine and Food Society of Los Angeles, today the Wine and Food Society of Southern California (WFSSC), debuted its programs with a dinner at Victor Hugo, a luxury French restaurant in Beverly Hills. By 1939 the Society had conducted a wide range of dinners and wine tastings.

An early key member of the Society, Dr. Marcus Crahan, wrote an early (1957) history/compilation, The Wine and Food Society of Southern California: A History, etc. He mentioned the 1938 beer tasting I will discuss, stating the categories of beer judged but did not note individual brands, or discuss the rather off-piste meal event.

The full menu, for both beer and food, has been generously shared with me by George Ronay of the WFSSC. It lists all beers in each of six classes, 40 in all. It also sets out the scoring system used, and full details of the banquet served.

The event, held at Walter J. Wallace’s estate in the Alhambra section of Los Angeles, was titled “A Tasting of Domestic and Imported Beers Together with an Old-Time Spanish-California Pit Barbecue”. The tasting was conducted “under the personal direction of Mr. Frank J. Vitale” with “Barbecue by Mr. Don Adams”.



Given the number of beers served and nature of a traditional California barbecue, with guests, the event probably attracted a couple of hundred attendees or more. This tasting event was more informal, or “down-home”, than most sorties of the group at the time, typically held in upscale restaurants or private clubs.

While the group was comprised to a good degree of a well-off Southern Californian coterie, Dr. Crahan also noted:

.. . [we are not] mere monied socialites who… banded together in fashionable snobbery; [our] hard core was a nucleus of high-minded, temperate advocates of haute cuisine as the highest expression of civilization and culture… united to learn and in turn to teach a better way of life.

The guests therefore did not attend at the Wallace estate just to socialize with aid of pleasant things to eat and drink, but also to appraise and judge. It was not just a “beer and barbecue” night, in other words; it remained in essence a gastronomic event.

It seems there were two stages: a beer tasting proper, although few probably got through all the beers, and then the eating. Theretofore focused on wine, now at any rate the Society included beer in its syllabus.

The Beer Rating Method

Scoring ran this way:

Members and guests are requested to rate beers on this sheet and leave it, when completed, with the Secretary or the Steward. Beers should be rated in their classes and not as against beers in other classes. It will be remembered that 0 is “Bad”; 25 is “Fair”; 50 is “Good”; 75 is “excellent”; and 100 is “Superb”. You need not sign this!

The six classes were: Class I California Beers on Draught, Class II Other Domestic Beers on Draught, Class III Imported Beers on Draught, Class IV California Beers in Package, Class V Other Domestic Beers, Ales and Stouts in Package, and Class VI Imported Beers, Ales and Stouts.

Below in the menu we see Classes V and VI.



Most beers of any class were blonde, pilsener-style but some classes included ale and stout, or ale and lager. The term “beer” in the listings meant blonde pilsener type usually, but there was the odd Munich, or dark lager, as well, Rio Grande Bavarian was one (a grand name indeed).

It seems price was the main determinant to fashion these classes, which is not the system used today for classifying beers in a tasting context at least. Therefore, the judging results also differed from those seen today, certainly in professional judging competitions.

Nonetheless the 1938 categories have an appealing simplicity, and in truth are not without a certain logic. Class II were draft Budweiser, Michelob, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Schlitz, all “Eastern” beers in the California terminology of the day. Moreover each was premium-class, pale lager, hence of a feather even though Michelob was all-barley malt and the others were not.

Treating beers served on draft together made sense in that American draft beer then was unpasteurized, while almost all bottled and canned beer was pasteurized. Draft might be expected to differ in taste from bottled or canned for that reason alone.

“Imported” with its price range was considered enough of a unifier to rate together, say, Bass Ale and Heineken. In one sense not so illogical, as some people buy by price, so this class comprised a representative group.

Beer Tutor

Enter now Frank Vitale. He was a member of the Society’s Wine Committee and a co-principal of L.A.-based Bohemian Distributing Company, which wholesaled a range of beers, wine, and liquors. The business evolved out of a grocery store founded by J.S. Foto in the early 1920s. Vitale became his long-time partner in Bohemian Distributing.

Bohemian was associated closely with San Francisco-based Acme Brewery, in particular its Los Angeles plant built in 1935. For a good history of Acme, see this page in the Brewery Gems site.  As the tasting was under Vitale’s personal direction, one can assume he instructed the members on beer fine points.

Before examining further the beer, a word on the food.

The Food

The dinner was described in the menu with engaging simplicity as follows:

Beef – Beans – Bread And What-Not

One should not think a random Southern or Southwestern barbecue method was chosen, paired with any old beans. It was anything but, as an “Old-Time Spanish-California Pit Barbecue” denoted something quite specific, and still does, deep-pit cooking, although the genre is rare on, or rather in, the ground today.

The method had been used for centuries in the Southwest and was derived from Indigenous cultures. It evolved over time including the use finally of choice cuts of cattle raised on Spanish, later Mexican, finally California ranches, seasoned to European taste.

A variant emerged called Santa Maria-style, which today is the commonly understood, traditional form of California barbecue. However, the California pit system that preceded it differed in important respects. A Wikipedia essay neatly explains the arc:

Santa Maria-style barbecue originated in the mid-19th century when local ranchers hosted Spanish-style feasts each spring for their vaqueros. They barbecued meat over earthen pits filled with hot coals of local coast live oak. The meal was served with pinquitos, small pink beans that are considered indigenous to the Santa Maria Valley.[4]

According to local barbecue historian R. H. Tesene, “The Santa Maria Barbecue grew out of this tradition and achieved its ‘style’ when local residents began to string cuts of beef on skewers or rods and cook the meat over the hot coals of a red oak fire.” …. [5]

The original cut was top sirloin. Then, as today, the meat was rolled in a mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic salt before being barbecued over the red oak coals, which contribute a smoky, hearty flavor.

In the 1950s, a local butcher named Bob Schutz (Santa Maria Market) perfected the tri-tip, a triangular bottom sirloin cut that quickly joined top sirloin as a staple of Santa Maria-style barbecue.[5]


The pit method involved building a fire of coastal oak in a deep hole using hundreds of pounds of wood. As recreated in 2007 by the Culinary Historians of Southern California, the meat, marinated top round and clods of shoulder, was wrapped in cotton and burlap. The packages were placed on the superheated embers. The pit was then covered with earth, and the meat left to cook and soften overnight, an ancient method in use long before Europeans arrived.

A webpage of the Culinary Historians of Southern California describes the recreation. The embedded blogpost of “Professor Salt” is essential reading to understand the steps in true pit BBQ. Images are included of the apparatus used and cooked results, capped by a toothsome taste report.

The group was guided by its president Charles Perry, an internationally known food historian. The blogpost states in part:

The Culinary Historians of Southern California recently threw a picnic for their members at the Palomares Adobe in Pomona that recreated the mostly lost art of earth pit cooking. Californios brought this technique from northern Mexico, where it is still practiced today, but in America, it’s a rarity to see people cooking this way. Charles Perry, the Historians’ President and an LA Times food writer, invited me to help tend the fire the night before the picnic.

The Wallace evening barbeque would have been similar to the 2007 recreation. The beans for the 1938 event were almost certainly the pinquito variety, which is native to California. It is a cross between a pink bean and common white bean. The pinquito is commonly served as a side-dish for modern barbecues and other meals.

Pinquito is prepared in a wide variety of styles, some involving chiles but not all. Tomato, vinegar, herbs, sugar, and more often figure. The Wallace BBQ may have presented any one or more of these styles.

The nonchalant “whatnot” was probably salad, desserts, and maybe other simple fixings. But clearly beef, beans, beer, and bread were the main event.

A Western “Beefsteak”

The Wallace pit barbecue is reminiscent in its essentials of the Eastern “beefsteak” tradition I discussed in an earlier series, see e.g. here. That communal meal involved mainly beef, beer, and bread, although the cuts of beef and cooking method for the typical “beefsteak” differed certainly from pit barbecue.

There is some irony here as the Society held a Beefsteak dinner so termed, in Laurel Canyon in 1939. A deluxe dinner it was but in the generic, modern American way with steak.

The Wallace barbecue, in contrast, resembled more the literal American beefsteak event given the resolute focus of both on meat, a starch, and beer (vs. the select wines served in Laurel Canyon).

Beers Tasted and Omitted

In the next post I will discuss some of the beers tasted, but a word here on some California beers not included. There was no steam beer, one of America’s few indigenous beer styles and certainly a California original, one revived in our current craft culture.

I discussed steam beer in-depth in my Steaming Into the Thirties series. Suffice to say by the 1930s the style had withered in California, in favour of the ubiquitous pale lager.

By 1938, my research suggests only tiny Anchor Brewery in San Francisco was left among the steam beer producers. It made, at that time, only draft beer.

Steam beer then was “live” in the keg from residual yeast. Perhaps such beer was felt too unstable to ship down south.

In the mid-1930s California counted over 30 breweries. This tasting, encompassing as it did other American beers, and imports, could not in any case cover all the Californian brewers. Still, nine or 10 made an appearance, not a bad showing.

Another California beer absent from the event, with an excellent reputation to boot, was Brown Derby, distributed by Safeway stores. As confirmed by a Tavern Trove webpage, the beer was made by a small brewery in Eureka, Humboldt Malt and Brewing Co.

A charming ad in 1935 in the San Pedro News Pilot attested to seeming high quality. It is difficult to know why it, at any rate, didn’t appear at the Wallace estate for the Society’s event. It may be that all the breweries participating donated  the beers.

The term “shown”, now disused in promotions and hospitality practice, suggests this. Small breweries like Anchor and Humboldt may not have been in a position to donate beer.

All non-draft California lager at the tasting was listed at $1.95 per case. Probably guests could order, even take home in their Ford “woodies” or car trunks, beer from the event.

Hence probably the reason to list prices, which could range significantly. Pilsener Urquell, famed for quality then as now, was the most expensive, at $8.00 per case. In the next post I will explore the reasons for the large disparity, apart the obvious one of extra shipment and handling costs.

Part IV follows, setting out the remaining beer classes.

Note re copyright: menu extracts are copyright of the Wine and Food Society of Southern California, reproduced with its kind permission. No further reproduction or use is authorized without its prior written consent. Source of the last image above, linked in the text, is California Digital Newspapers, and all intellectual property therein belongs solely to lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes, all feedback welcomed.










Early Beer Tasting by California Epicures. Part II.

In this Part, I will discuss the public attitude to wine tasting events in the 1930s. Part III will discuss in detail the 1938 beer tasting held by the Wine and Food Society of Los Angeles.

Food and wine tasting by members of gastronomic societies, or citizens buying tickets to events organized by these groups, was seen as something new.

News reports on both sides of the continent commented, often mordantly, on the novelty.

What had characterized professional circles, including judging at exhibitions of wines, beer, and spirits, was simply being transferred to the public at large, a process that has only accelerated since the 1930s.

But at the time, it puzzled many, even clever journalists seemingly – i.e., some probably appreciated the exercise for its inherent value but knew a good story when they saw it. Newspapers have to sell, after all.

An October 1936 item in the Healdsburg Tribune described an event of the Wine and Food Society of San Francisco in slightly bemused tone:

Connoisseurs and socialites of northern California will gather for three hours next Thursday afternoon, October 15, at a new kind of social function —a “wine tasting”—at which they are expected to taste some 100 kinds of fancy California wine without swallowing a drop.

The “tasting” is sponsored jointly by the Wine and Food Society, an exclusive organization of winelovers and gourmets, and the Wine Institute, organization of California wine producers. It will be held in the Palm Court of the Palace hotel.

Approximately two thousand epicures, including many leading social figures as well as amateur and professional wine experts, will attend the function. It will last three hours, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., during which time the guests are expected to sample most or all of the fancy vintages submitted for their approval by the wine producers of the state.

Note how the term wine tasting is placed in quotation marks, and called “a new kind of social function”. It was new because the tasting was not incidental to another occasion: a speech, entertainment, business or civic function, or the like.

The event occurred so people could learn about the products being sampled, to be sure in a relaxing social setting, but primarily to learn. The fact that 2,000 were expected shows the impressive scale these events attained even before World War II.

Some branches of the Wine and Food Society, including the New York chapter, sold tickets. I would think this was the case for the San Francisco event, given the attendance mentioned.

Not all branches operated in this fashion, but still news reports of this nature are helpful as revealing the general public attitude to such events.

Another example is a report of June 6, 1937 in the San Bernardino Sun by Harry Ferguson of the United Press. The story appeared in newspapers across the United States and probably originated on the East Coast.

He described a tasting of Virgin Islands rum by the Broadway producer Crosby Gaige. Gaige was a key early figure in the New York Wine and Food Society. It was formed, as the other branches I’ve mentioned, in the wake of Andre Simon’s crusading visit to America in 1934.

Gaige had poured rum neat into a jigger, then emptied it. The story continued:

“Now,” he said, “I hold the empty glass in my hand. That warms it, and I am able to attain the basic smell – the odor of the essential oils without the smell of alcohol.”

He smelled it, and droned.

“A bit light,” he said.

He poured a half inch of rum into the jigger, filling it up with lukewarm water. He said ice water kills the taste of liquor and that the rum is too strong to take straight. At last came the breathless moment when he tasted.

“A little young.” he said, “but a pretty clean product. They used to make a supreme rum up in Medford, Mass.” Another sip. “Never could understand why they stopped making it.” Sip. “I certainly would like this better if they had kept the old Danish formula instead of veering toward the Jamaica.” Sip. “Times change, I suppose.”

While no doubt amusing to readers thumbing the paper with their morning coffee, the short exchange shows Gaige knew his onions. By “essential oils”, he was looking for distillery character, produced by distilling the spirit within a certain range (generally under 160 proof, or 80% abv).

As he found the rum light, it was probably distilled at much higher than that, close to neutrality, possibly.

By referring to Medford rum, Gaige showed his appreciation for the hearty rum of this historic American rum appellation, in Massachusetts. I discussed Medford rum in this post.

His reference to Denmark referred to the era when Saint Croix was a Danish possession. It was sold with other islands to the United States in 1916. Clearly he found the rum, when distilled under Danish auspices, of better quality.

The rum he was tasting was called Government House, although not stated in the story. It was an unusual product, in that it resulted from a financial investment made by the U.S. government in the Virgin Islands to stimulate sugar production and rum manufacture, which had suffered in the Depression.

A group of images in the United States Library of Congress contains pictures of distillery activities in 1941.

Manufacture commenced in 1934, so the rum Gaige drank was three years old. A good account of the government’s rum venture, with evocative images, may be had in the blogpost “New Deal Rum” from the blog, New Deal of the Day.

Today, public opinion is more advanced, or nuanced, as to the value of tasting spirits, wine, and beer or indeed any comestible or drink. Tasting, that is, with discrimination, to learn something, as well as enjoy the experience of amity and relaxation.

The pioneering work of the nascent 1930s gastronomic societies helped make it so.

Part III follows.









Early Beer Tasting by California Epicures. Part I.

Introduction to Series

In earlier writing, I described tasting events held from the 1930s through the 1970s by the International Wine and Food Society (IWFS).

The IWFS was co-founded in London in 1933 by a French-born, London-based wine merchant, Andre Simon. Today, there are branches all over the world.

Some branches have considered beer a serious beverage, worthy of evaluation. I discussed for example a large-scale, indeed historic beer tasting organized in 1942 by the New York Wine and Food Society.

In other posts, I examined innovative cheese and wine-tastings, e.g. the event of the same chapter held at the Pierre Hotel in New York in 1945. These societies or clubs – another was the Gourmet Society in New York helmed by George Frederick –  engaged in sophisticated early wine and food forays.

Occasionally they tasted non-wine beverages such as beer, spirits, or tea. In my view, their activities and interests proved influential on the larger culture, helping to form the food and wine world of today.

The Wine and Food Society of Los Angeles, known today as the Wine and Food Society of Southern California, was another early implant of IWFS in America. Earlier, I discussed its first two decades, as documented in a book issued in 1957 by a founder of the branch, Dr. Marcus Crahan.

The book mentioned an elaborate beer tasting conducted by the group in 1938. At the time, I, and no doubt many reading, wished they could see the list of beers tasted and judging method used.

Against long odds, I now have that information, kindly supplied to me by George Ronay, a member of the WFSSC and in his words its unofficial historian.

In posts to follow, I will discuss this and other menus he shared with me. They mainly deal with beer and accompanying food served, but also other topics, such as a 1942 English dinner held at a pub in Los Angeles.

In 2010 the L.A. chapter held its 500th dinner. George Ronay authored for the occasion an essay on the branch’s history. Among his remarks he stated:

It was February 7, 1935 when the first dinner of the newly-organized Wine and Food Society of Los Angeles was held at the Victor Hugo Restaurant in Beverly Hills. Prohibition, the “Noble Experiment,” had formally ended in December 1933, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average had risen from its Depression-era low of 41.22 in February 1932 to close at 101 that afternoon. Andre Simon, born in Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris’ 6th Arrondissement and having worked in London as the Agent for Pommery Champagne, had subsequently joined with his friend A.J. A. Symons to form the Wine and Food Society and establish branches throughout the world.

Of the menus for branch events, George Ronay wrote:

Augmenting and documenting every dinner has been a printed menu listing each course and wine served. For the first decades through the 1960’s, the menus, printed by Grant Dahlstrom at the Castle Press, tended to be straightforward folded menus roughly 6 by 9 inches. In the 1970’s under the stewardship of Grafton Tanquary (a member for over 50 years), we entered the “Golden Age” of Society menus with some stunning large-format and artistic menus, many of which are displayed tonight for our enjoyment.

I will examine soon the 1938 beer tasting held by Los Angeles epicureans. It is among the earliest sophisticated, modern-style beer tastings I know of in America or anywhere. By this I mean consumer tastings versus by professionals for judging organizations or exhibitions.

Part II follows.

Note re copyright: menu and essay extracts are copyright of the Wine and Food Society of Southern California, reproduced with its kind permission. No further reproduction or use is authorized without its prior written consent.

McLean’s Pub Peel Street

I’m now in McLean Pub, an old-time Montreal tavern of prewar origin as the walls, chairs, and ceiling attest.

It was probably built in the 1920s. In that decade, the urban tavern in Quebec, whose specialty was beer by the glass, was created essentially from whole cloth, by legislation.

This was one of the student hangouts I knew back around 1970.

Although, it had more a business vibe, but it was one of the resorts for us at end of week, or exams.

Labatt 50 ale was served then, and still. Tasting good today, almost wheaty-like, and perfumed.



La Porter, la Ville Natale

Quick trip to my home town, Montreal. I left a long time ago, but some small part of me is still here.

There is almost no time to shop for beer, so I brought a couple of cans.

Collective Arts, of Hamilton, Ontario, makes a fine porter, English-styled as the best are, imo.

The first swallow reminded me of the old Porter Champlain, sold in Quebec into the 1980s.

Actually I think Collective Arts’ is better, but is on the same vector, “le meme ordre d’idees”.

(Apologies for lack of diacritical symbols. Using my phone).


Brewing Supplies in Prewar Poland. Part III.

Whence Mammut?

In Part I, I discussed mammut, the resin to line beer barrels and for other brewery applications. I stated that as far as I knew, beer historical studies had not uncovered the maker’s name or place of manufacture.

I’ve since found an ad that answers the question. It appeared in a 1938 issue of the Polish brewing journal Przegląd Piwowarsko-Słodowniczy:



The ad states Richard Bosche Chemical Works in Marienfelde, Germany produced mammut, with various applications specified, e.g. to seal concrete.

A line suggests Richard Bosche was the only authorized producer. Perhaps the formula was devised by an inventor or firm that licensed it for production.

Hessenmuller is still representing mammut from his base in Bydgoszcz, Poland – part of Prussia before WW I. In older ads, the given name is Karol, not Karl as here. Presumably it was the same person, or a family relation.

The Longevity of Sinamar

Another ad, in the same journal in 1939, touted Sinamar.



Many similar ads appeared in the interwar Polish brewing press.

Due in part to the Weyermann name, known everywhere in brewing today for its specialty malts, I realized I had seen mention of Sinamar earlier.

It is a widely used aid to colour beers. Weyermann’s website explains what Sinamar is, and is not: it is a condensed beer, not a condensed wort like malt extract. An impressive range of modern beers use the product, as explained in the site.

Sinamar therefore is compliant with the current Reinheitsgebot in Germany, familiarly known as the Beer Purity Law, which originated in the 1500s. The law requires bottom-fermented beers brewed in Germany, to be made with malt, hops, yeast, and water.

The 1939 ad notes the product is lawful for production of bottom-fermented beers, an implied reference to this subject.

For a snapshot of the law’s history and current purport, see Jeff Alworth’s recent essay.

Sinamar, according to the historical outline in the website, was invented by Weyermann in 1902 in the historic brewing city of Bamberg, in Bavaria. Weyermann was founded in 1879 by the Johann Baptist mentioned in the ad.

He started as a supplier of coffee substitutes – grain and later malt were ground to emulate coffee. But the business soon pivoted to supplying breweries.

To expand production of Sinamar, in 1902 he set up a colour malt brewery in Potsdam, in the Berlin hinterlands in Prussia. This was to serve German Prussia as then constituted, Poland, and parts further east.

The Potsdam factory was damaged in 1945 and did not revive after the war. The vacuum boilers were moved to the main operation in Bamberg, where the company continues today, still family-owned.

A Weyermann representative explains in a YouTube video how Sinamar works, specifying the formula to achieve different colouring levels in the EBC and Lovibond scales.

Some craft and home brewers have used Sinamar to produce Black India Pale Ale, but it is used for other types of beers as well.

There cannot be many prewar industrial brands still vibrant in the market today; Sinamar is one. It shows, too, that a product designed for a very different beer world, when Hapsburg and Russian monarchs strode their parts of Europe, can still find relevance today.







Brewing Supplies in Prewar Poland. Part II.


I will consider ads in a December 1926 issue of Przemysł Piwowarski, or “Brewing Industry”. This journal preceded the other I’ve been discussing, it was shorter and more business-oriented.

The Edward Lutz ad sheds further light on inputs used in Polish brewing in this period. With other sources, we also get a glimpse into contemporary Polish society and commerce

Edward Lutz – Firm and Products



Edward Lutz in Krakow advertised frequently in these journals from 1925 to 1939. In the ad above (p. 375), exterior coatings for barrels and vats are advertised. There were different colours: brown, yellow and gray are mentioned.

A worker is painting barrel ends. I’ll discuss presently the reasons, but first background on Edward Lutz. Lutz produced a well-known brand of paints, varnishes, and enamels.

As the ad shows, there were Lutz factories in other European cities including Budapest, Paris, and Prague. The Polish business was profiled in Tygodnik Illustrowany, or “Illustrated Weekly”, in 1930, see p. 454.

(This magazine, according to its Wikipedia profile, was a long-running, Warsaw-based publication. It covered a full range of arts, culture, scientific and business stories. Unusually, it remained apolitical).

Some points from the story: the factory in Krakow was founded in 1924 and quickly became known, producing annually 500,000 kg. of product by 1930. Until its founding Polish industry was not notable in the chemicals sector.

The factory, while Polish-owned, held licenses for the various Lutz brands, evidently Implak was one. Presumably these originated elsewhere, possibly Germany.

Numerous industries were serviced including hospitals, auto firms (varnishes and paints for cars), breweries, as well as private and military needs. The story noted that the products used by breweries had no impact on beer flavour.

To  Paint or not to Paint

Why would barrel heads be painted? For English practice, see Boak and Bailey’s notes in February, 2017. I commented there, as did others, raising further points.

I would summarize it this way: there were different reasons over time, and for different breweries. In England a brewery often did this to show that it owned the casks, to show “its colours”. This would make it easier for a publican to avoid error when returning empty casks, and for the brewer when handling inventory.

In an age before universal literacy, such devices helped distinguish and market a firm’s brands. In Ireland, Guinness painted different colours on barrel ends to show the different brands being barreled.

A painted cask is shown on the cover page of the 1970s beer guide Beers of Britain, by Warren Knock and Conal Gregory. Stave ends are red and the head, black with white lettering.



In 1906 F.F. Haldane’s article “Casks: Their Manufacture and Treatment” suggested brewers paint cask ends in a way to distinguish American and European oak types, where the former was used for porter, and the latter for pale ale. See at p. 69.

The context was most English brewers and probably most Irish ones, would not use vanillin-flavoured American wood to store pale or mild ale. But many had no objection to filling such casks with porter. Guinness is the best known case., it had no prejudice against the American cask.

Old-time Guinness must have hada  adsh of vanillin flavour, similar to some modern barrel-aged stouts. Perhaps in some cases, or for larger breweries, the paint schemes even distinguished among European oaks, depending on the brewery’s preferences and practice.

Yet another factor: depending how the cask head was produced, and especially if sawn vs. hand-fashioned, beer might leak through cut ends of capillaries. A thin coat of paint guarded against this and flavour was said not to be affected.

On this latter point, see the Jancis Robinson (wine writer) reference in my comment to the Boak and Bailey post.

Also in Przemysł Piwowarski

On the same page as the ads above, Karol Hessenmuller advertised a range of cooling solutions and fermentation and other tanks for smaller breweries in particular. We saw mention of him in my Part I.

Another supplier, in Warsaw, advertised gauges and other small tools, brass and other. A table of prevailing barley prices also appeared, a regular feature in the journal. Winnipeg, Canada mentioned sign of our early importance as a granary.

As well though, a substantial number of Galicians had emigrated to Western Canada to pursue farming opportunities, encouraged by the famous Sifton policy. This group was, I understand, mainly Ukrainian, but probably some Poles had joined the trek.

Part III follows.












Brewing Supplies in Prewar Poland. Part I.

The beer industry cannot exist with a secondary industry devoted to its input needs, everything from malt and hops to tanks, barrels, and cleansers. A page of trade ads in a 1925 issue of the Polish beer journal Przemysł Piwowarski, or “Brewing Industry”, sheds light on a period of technological advance.

Old and newer technologies jostle for attention in the journal, often in the same ad.



Mammut, an obscure topic even to beer historians, was a proprietary coating for the interior of vats and barrels. It was used not just in brewing but a broad range of food industry applications. The name is German for mammoth. Some ads included a drawing of the extinct mammal, so it is clear the name was a trade or coined term.

Traditionally, brewers on the Continent, and in the U.S. under their influence, coated barrel interiors, lagering vats, and other vessels with pitch, a concentrated, softened extract of conifer tree resin. It had uses as well in other industries.

Brewers heated and applied the resin so a barrier would form between the barrel frame and beer. The idea was mainly to keep a source of infection at bay, microbes that could lurk in hard-to-clean wood barrels. Another reason advanced was to prevent a woody taste in beer (something craft beer has been less concerned with).

The pitching process was tedious and cumbersome, as vessels had to be re-pitched regularly. There were problems with chipping and resin particles entering the beer. Conifer pitches also imparted some odour to beer. Some brewers made capital of this such as Anheuser-Busch in 1899, noting the “mild pitchy bouquet” of Budweiser,

Increasingly from 1900 the industry wanted to avoid side effects of pitching. Mammut was one answer, a proprietary organic compound. Its asserted value was as tight sealant that did not need re-application, and imparted no taste.

Before Prohibition ads appeared for mammut in American food industry journals, including for brewing. The origin was probably Germany – as noted mammut means mammoth in German. The 1925 ad does not use the Polish spelling, which is mamut.

The ad names as well a company representative with a German-sounding name in a city, Bydgoszcz, that was Prussian before World War I. Whether he was connected to the firm that originated mammut I cannot say.

The ad suggests the product dated from 1905 as it noted use by industry for 20 years. I have not found trade ads for mammut before 1905, at any rate. A useful description of mammut by the manufacturer’s American representative Paul Hassack in New Jersey appeared in 1917 in the Vinegar Bulletin., in effect an advertorial.

Coniferous brewer’s pitch nonetheless continued in use, at least until metal finally overtook wood for barrels. Metal also supplanted wood for aging vessels with newer materials also used, e.g. enamelled glass.

In the same journal we see an ad for both metal and wood barrels. Krupp of Germany made the metal type (beczki metalowe Kruppa), capitalizing on its long background in metallurgy. A handsome 1933 ad in the United States, archived in Period Paper, advertised this barrel, showing a sleek, well-tooled item.

Its stainless steel lining, “Silchrome”, made tree pitch and its substitutes redundant. The ad claimed no adverse impact on flavour, foam, or colour of the beer. These barrels were made in the U.S., evidently under license, by Ingersoll Steel.

Other ads in the Polish journal advertised cork and other closures and pure yeast cultures for bottom- and top-fermentation brewing.

Beer and brewing are always a combination of traditional and more recent technologies or methods, The pendulum swings back and forth, with marketing often playing a role when tradition is invoked.

The march of technology in other words is inexorable, at least for brewing of any scale. Few wood barrels and vats are in use today, for example, even factoring that some craft beer is aged or otherwise processed in wood vessels,

A surprisingly old technology, the crown cap, endures for the bottle, but the beer can has taken over much of that market. The can for beer use was devised about the same time the Krupp metal barrel was being touted in Poland and the United States.

Our Part II follows.


World Beer Production Between 1913 and 1934

Polish Interwar Brewing and Malt Review

I’ve been talking for a while of helpful articles in the interwar Polish brewing journal, Przegląd Piwowarsko-Słodowniczy, or Brewing and Malt Review.

Ron Pattinson has had a go at some of the data, and maybe others will too. I find the journal of particular interest for a number of reasons. Representing a smaller brewing country, developments elsewhere attracted local attention: scientific, technological, malt and hop production, beer production, excise systems.

There is a theoretical focus in the journal: lots of articles on fermentation, yeast science, hop characteristics, and other lab-based analyses or discussions.

A fairly austere tone prevails, in general. This reflects I think an old-school Continental approach, but perhaps also Polish academic conventions of the time.

British journals of the period seem more informal in tone, and American equally or more. American journals – some did continue during Prohibition – show a steady focus on the business of brewing.

Articles regularly appeared on how to save money, how especially to advertise, new product development, and other can-do strategies.

The Polish journal seems less focused on such areas although they are addressed implicitly by supplier advertisements. Equipment fabricators, hop suppliers, and dealers in enamels, cleansers, disinfectants and more trump their wares.

On the other hand, the Polish journal also carried historical pieces. The Journal of the Institute of Brewing in Britain occasionally did, but the American journals, rarely, by my canvass.

World Beer Production Between 1913 and 1934

So here is a useful table, from the September 1935 issue, dealing with beer production on a world scale for the years shown. A column is included for 1913, the year before the Great War, which makes it even more interesting.



Output is expressed in 1000s of hl.

One can see for Poland (Polska) in 1929, 2,786,000 hl which shows indeed, as I discussed the other day, that by 1937 production had fallen by half. The prewar and 1920 figures are omitted as Poland’s Second Republic hadn’t yet taken shape, and the data didn’t match up.

Just looking at the top three countries, U.S., Germany, Great Britain, significant fall-offs occurred between 1913 and 1934. Belgium is down somewhat, France actually up but not by a great deal.

And so on for each country, easy to see at a glance how they fared.

Whys and Wherefores of Decline

The toll of war and world economic slump was a big part of this story, yet in addition, changing consumption patterns had to play a role.

Beer increasingly had less of a place in industrialized, and industrializing, countries. This was due to changing habits of work and evolving conceptions of health, even fashion, e.g., slimness was increasingly valued.

This is a generalization: beer obviously gained a greater following in some countries, particularly where a beer tradition was not prevalent. Parts of southern Europe come to mind, and the Soviet Union.

A methodical study of this issue on a global basis would be a rewarding study.