Dow Brewery and Albert Edward Cloutier

Golden-Hued Montreal Through a Golden Beverage

I have canvassed many aspects of the history of Dow Brewery in Montreal. The brand was finally absorbed, in 1989, into what is now Molson-Coors Beverage Co. It suffered a punishing blow in the 1960s due to an additives scandal, and never recovered.

But in 1955 the brand was at its apogee in the Province of Quebec, by then part of Toronto-based E.P. Taylor’s Canadian Breweries Ltd. A few years earlier Canadian Breweries had absorbed National Breweries Ltd. which comprised the subsisting functioning breweries of Quebec, including Dow in Montreal, except for Molson Breweries.

In 1955 Canadian Breweries, through its renamed Quebec unit Dow Brewery, issued a stunning commemorative booklet, “La Brasserie Dow 1808-1955”. It must have been issued in English as well but I have not been able to trace such a version.

 

 

The French one is catalogued in a number of Quebec libraries, and was reproduced in the Exploration Urbaine website, a group of intrepid urban explorers who comb and document what they find in disused urban properties.

It appears in their section devoted to Dow Brewery in Montreal, whence the grabs herein were sourced. The booklet is a smooth, corporate sales-piece that surveys the history of Dow, taking in also other breweries that joined National Breweries with Dow in 1909.

The brochure is illustrated by well-executed drawings, idealized renderings of a 1950s Montreal in full efflorescence (this despite the growing French-English tensions that would, in my view, soon foreclose the city’s full potential).

Beer et Seq claims some knowledge of many diverse fields, from beer to British rock, from food to French. Art is not one of them, including commercial art. Not from lack of interest, but there is only so much time…

Still, even I gazing at these Montreal panoramas – I was five years old in 1955 and newly registered at school – know they were executed with great skill. I think they are watercolours.

 

 

In one of them, one detects the flowing script “Cloutier”, whence literally two keystrokes produced the artist’s full name: Albert Edward Cloutier (1902-1965). A short bio is offered in the Ask Art website which states:

Albert Cloutier was a painter, commercial artist and muralist who was born in Leominster, Massachusetts and grew up in Montreal.  He also lived in Ottawa and during his time as a war artist was posted in several locations in eastern Canada.  He moved to Saint-Hilaire, Quebec in 1959 where he lived the rest of his life.  His mediums were primarily oils and graphics.  His subjects landscapes, commercial art and (during the war) military.  His style was expressionist and greatly influenced by the Group of Seven.

 

For further information see Albert Cloutier’s detailed biography in Wikipedia, which lists numerous other of his commercial commissions. These included the interior of Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Cloutier was also a noted war artist, with the Canadian Army during World War II, and taught at Montreal’s Ecole des beaux-arts.

(While born in the U.S. in the French-Canadian enclave of a factory town, his Canadian-born parents moved the family to Quebec when Albert was a child).

For the beer and brewing side, he drew a striking picture of the Dow brands of the period: Dow Ale, Kingsbeer (a lager), Dow Cream Porter, and Champlain Cream Porter. The text makes clear the last two were the same beer. The Champlain was directed to the Quebec market, the other to Ontario’s.

The use of pastels in commercial art was a trend internationally at the time, as, say, some European beer posters show, or those dreamy pink, blue and yellow posters advertising holidays on the Riviera.

Cloutier rendered a Platonic picture of 1950s Montreal, one rather removed, as I suppose for any city, from the reality in street and district, whether rich, poor or otherwise for that matter. (We were entre les deux chaises).

When I think back, it is his Montreal I will remember, family apart.

Below you see an ad for Dow Ale in this period from Le Guide, a newspaper in Sainte-Marie de Beauce, Quebec, which today is called Sainte-Marie, tout court.

 

 

Note re images: source of each image is identified and 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.

 

 

 

 

Passing of Retired Brewmaster William M. Moeller

In 2017 I wrote a post on Brooklyn Lager, an iconic beer of the craft beer renaissance made by Brooklyn Brewery in New York.

I quoted language from the website of Brooklyn Brewery explaining how William M. Moeller, a former head brewer at Schmidt Brewery in Philadelphia, was commissioned by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter of then-fledgling Brooklyn Brewery to brew Brooklyn Lager at a brewery in Utica, NY.

Mr. Moeller was inspired by brewing logs of his grandfather, also a brewer who had brewed in Brooklyn ca.1900.

Recently I was contacted by Mr. Stephen L. Avery, son-in-law of Mr. Moeller, who informed me Mr. Moeller, then a resident of Valley Forge, PA, sadly passed away recently at 95. Mr. Avery suggested readers of this blog might be interested to read the Obituary of Mr. Moeller, to which I readily agreed.

It describes the impressive career of Mr. Moeller and his many accomplishments in American brewing over almost 70 years. American brewing history has clearly been enriched by his long and fruitful career as brewmaster, brewery executive, and consulting brewmaster.

My sincere condolences to Mr. Avery, his wife Mary Ann Avery, and their family upon the passing of Mr. Moeller as noted.

 

OBITUARY- William M. “BILL” MOELLER

 

William Moeller age 95 a resident of Shannondell at Valley Forge for 12 years passed away peacefully Wednesday, January 26th, 2022. Mr. Moeller was born at home, in Easton PA on April 2nd, 1926 and was one of the last of the WW II brew masters.

 

By virtue of his antecedents, he pursued one of the oldest and noblest professions-Brewing. He was a 4th generation brewmaster whose paternal great grandfather, grandfather, father and two uncles were all brewmasters. His grandfather started the Moeller tradition of brewing in America after migrating from Germany in 1887 to the New York area where he brewed for various breweries there, and later in Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania. Along the way he collected various patents, including one in 1910 on beer processing during fermentation and cellaring operations. He was also one of Max Hassel’s (Reading’s notorious bootlegger during Prohibition) lead brewmasters.

 

Mr. William M. Moeller served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during and after WWII, sailing in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and south Pacific war zones. After attending the University of Cincinnati and in keeping with German tradition, he apprenticed for three years in 1950 under his brewmaster uncle, and subsequently attended the U.S Brewer’s Academy in New York state. Thus began a brewing career which spanned almost 7 decades. In 1953 with a freshly minted brewing school-diploma he was hired by the Reading Brewery as a foreman/supervisor in the brewing department, eventually assuming the duties of quality control manager. After which he took a position as Assistant Brewmaster and Director of Quality Control at the Horlacher Brewing Company in Allentown, gradually assuming more management responsibilities. Eventually he was hired as Brewmaster by the Ortlieb Brewing Company in Philadelphia. While at Ortlieb’s he brewed interesting and imaginative beers like Neuweilers, McSorley’s (for the famous ale house in lower Manhattan) and Old English 800, the high-powered malt liquor. As his career moved forward so did his management responsibilities, joining Schmidt’s of Philadelphia as Brewmaster of special products. In this role, he applied his artisan brewing skills to special beers like Prior Double Dark, Tiger Ale and Birell (a non-alcoholic beer) brewed under license for the Hurlimann Brewery of Switzerland. After leaving Schmidt’s he became Consulting Brewmaster for Brooklyn and Dock Street Breweries and many other craft breweries. Mr. Moeller played an important role in the early development of the craft brewing industry in New York, Philadelphia and south eastern Pennsylvania from the mid-1980s until the late 2010s.

 

He quickly realized that craft brewers took their beer seriously, and their goals were to make world class beers. By leading with his experience and knowledge he helped them formulate and develop the beer styles they so passionately desired – mentoring them along the way. Aside from Brooklyn and Dock Street, Mr. Moeller was Consulting Brewmaster for: Tun Tavern, Hoboken, Poor Henry’s, Sunnybrook Brewery and other familiar brand names. His beers medaled nationally and internationally, and his Brooklyn Lager has been a consistent favorite of “Consumer Reports” over the years. Mr. Moeller also wrote and lectured on scientific requirements and a diverse array of disciplines required in brewing.

 

Mr. Moeller was well known for his “formal 6 course sit-down beer dinners,” staged at various area restaurants in which he matched appropriate real beer styles with each course while doing a running commentary on the marriage of real beer and food and the sensual pleasures derived from cooking with beer; emphasizing the right kind of beer to compliment or replace water, stock or milk. He also enjoyed roaming about the German and Austrian countryside with colleagues, talking to and engaging German brewers on the subject of beer, brewing, cooking with beer and German history. He was an avid collector of German Mettlach Steins and late 18th and early 19th century American antique furniture and ceramics.

 

Bill was very active in civic affairs and had board associations with the Berks County Community Foundation, Reading Symphony, Reading Museum, Boyertown Museum of Historical Vehicles (charter member), Boyertown Historical Society (charter member), Boyertown Library, Boyertown Municipal Employees Pension Fund, Boyertown Rotary and was a Mason and member of Lodge #741 Boyertown for over 65 years. Finally, along with his four stepsons, he started the Margaret B. Moeller Memorial Fund for Alzheimer’s Home Care Companions.

 

He is survived by a daughter Mary Ann Avery and her husband Stephen who reside in Indianapolis and a son Michael and his wife Kimberly who live in Gilbertsville, PA. His late wife of 33 years, Margaret B. Moeller predeceased him in 2004. He leaves 4 grandsons, Andrew and Skyler Avery, Peter and Alexander Moeller, 1 stepdaughter: Beth A. Webb and 4 stepsons: Daniel B. Boyer III, Geoffrey F. Boyer, Randolph W. Boyer and Henry K. Boyer and 12 step grandchildren. Contributions may be made to the “Margaret B. Moeller Fund for Alzheimer’s Home Care Companions”, c/o Berks County Community Foundation, 23 S. Reading Avenue, Boyertown, PA 19512. In addition, contributions can be made to Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area Chapter, 8180 Greensboro Drive, Suite 400, McLean, VA 22102.

 

 

 

 

Newcastle Brown Yankee-Style

I put some notes on Twitter (with image) commenting on the American-brewed Newcastle Brown Ale.

The English original is still brewed in Britain, at John Smith’s in Tadcaster, Yorkshire.  We get that one in Ontario. I taste it occasionally and always want to like it more than I do.

A similar version is brewed in the Netherlands by the brand owner, Heineken. I have not tried this one. The American one replaced the import some years ago, i.e., for the U.S. market. Heineken’s subsidiary Lagunitas Brewery brews the beer at its Petaluma, CA facility, with some made in Chicago as well.

The American brew is all-malt and uses U.S. hop varieties, see Kyle Swartz’ discussion in Beverage Dynamics in 2019. While not an assertive brew, it has a pleasing flavour especially when drunk at cellar temperature. A hard chill will remove much of the taste it started with.

The American Newcastle is a clear improvement on the British one as currently brewed. Newcastle Brown started off in the 1920s as an emulation, per its ads at the time, of audit ale, a strongish, traditional English type associated to the Oxbridge colleges.

The Northern Culture site in 2013 reproduced a 1927 ad that mentions the audit ale association. Over the years the beer lost some abv – currently 4.7% – and probably some character. In my own memory, Newcastle in pint bottles was a good drop 40 years ago, pubbing say in Camden Lock, London.

Carrying the glass bottle for “necking” was an accepted pub swagger, an option to a pint pour – in plastic glasses in those corner music pubs, which tells you something.

This is not nostalgic suggestibility; I remember the malty-sweetish taste well. The current English one seems rather dull in comparison. The American version, even as shaded by U.S. hop flavour, brought to mind more how Newcastle Brown used to taste.

Perhaps that is a capsule of the craft story, or one part of it – it simply restored a dimension of brewing Britain always had.

There is an odd aptness to “Newkie Brown” being brewed in California, accidental though the association is (Lagunitas happens to be there). Due to the film and music industries and despite the great distance, there have always been close connections between rainy Britain and brilliant southern California.

Rock royalty of both countries congregated in L.A. especially in the 70s and 80s – Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Alice Cooper, it just goes on. To refresh the British side in music and film circles, liquor retailers offered plenty of British goodies.

In 1983 craft beer was an infant development even in northern California, where it started. In L.A., imports was where it was at for beer time. The Desert Sun in Palm Springs that year had a splashy ad for all things bibulous and Britannic (via California Digital Newspaper Connection):

 

 

The bobbies and the Guards… international symbols of Britain (but are they still?). Note how the “Commonwealth” was lumped in, including Canada, N.Z., and Australia – fair enough for the time – but Scotland?  Got to love those blithe Americans. It’s all good, man.*

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

*Belhaven beer is from Scotland. Scotland was part of the English Commonwealth in the republican period, but that ended with the Restoration in 1660. Perhaps the copywriter was being playful though. Check out how “wines from the Colonies” are handled. And for what it’s worth I do love Americans.

 

 

Halo Brewery Sarsaparilla Foreign Stout

This Toronto brewery seems, to craft fans in the know, a fixture of the Toronto craft scene, but is in business barely five years, co-founded by former homebrewers Callum Hay and Eric Portelance.

The brewery has tended to specialize in flavoured beers, often using mixed fermentation and barrel aging. Sours are part of the scene as well. This palette generally does not appeal to us (the genres, I mean), although we sample it regularly to keep up on trends and style barometers.

Lately we noticed a fairly atypical beer in Halo range’s, a 6% abv Event Horizon sarsaparilla stout, subtitled foreign export. The brewery page on the beer, impressively detailed, shows a fairly trad approach was followed. A complex grain bill comes down to pale English malt, a few unmalted grains, one roasted, and carafa and other roasted malts.

As the page also explains, the recipe has evolved over time. I never tasted earlier versions, and find this current one superlative. The body is rich – look at the gravities – and accented with the aforesaid sarsaparilla.

Indian sarsaparilla is used, a type that imparts a flavour sufficiently associated to the true (smilax) sarsaparilla yet avoiding safrole, the agent in smilax varieties and sassafras grass that has been associated with cancer in animal testing.

So the Indian sort obviates any such issue in that regard. To me the taste, well-explained in the brewery page (e.g. “wintergreen”), is akin to that of root beer with an earthy note. The hop used is Amarillo, a New World type that in our view leans toward the U.K. in its flavour characteristics – a good thing in this context.

While generally I do not like flavouring in porter, I give slack, quite happily, for Indian sarsaparilla as employed by Halo. In other porters or stouts I like occasionally a kiss of ginger, orange flavouring (dried peel, coriander, etc.), mint or spearmint and… not too much else.

Licorice I almost never like. The taste ends usually as discordant, just not grateful to the palate. But now my perhaps widening horizon for flavoured porter makes room for sarsaparilla in the way, again, Halo does it.

This means make a porter that is traditional (U.K.-styled) to begin with, which Callum Hay did here. Then, see where you can go from there. He has carved a successful path with the current version of Event Horizon, certainly.

Below you see me enjoying one today on a space-heated, open-to-the-elements patio downtown in Toronto, at King Taps.

This results from the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown in Ontario that has shut bars and restaurants except for patios designed to admit open air. The exemption is problematic – nearly bootless – in a Canadian January, even with (expensive) propane heating as King Taps uses.

Still, sitting with a beer there today was quite acceptable. I commend the owner’s spirit to try to keep open in such difficult circumstances.

This will be academic from next Monday when the regime changes to permit indoor dining at 50% capacity. It can’t come soon enough. The province has – the people – reached their tether with total restaurant (and other business) lockdowns.

Whatever one’s views on the cost-benefit analysis, we can’t keep opening and closing vulnerable businesses in yo-yo fashion. This won’t fly (I believe, or predict) any longer, not with the bulk of the people.

We must move on, as unfortunately we don’t have all the choices – never did. And as many have observed, but was evident to me from the start of this pandemic, we are not all in this together. Politicians, during their tenure, and most bureaucrats in practical terms during their career, have guaranteed paychecks.

To keep imposing severe burdens on private business, big or small, palliated only to a degree and for a time by public benefit schemes, cannot continue for much longer as it will be impossible to afford.

Those chary to venture out to a restaurant have the choice to stay home until the time they feel secure enough to patronize hospitality on-premises.

 

New Journal Writing by Gary Gillman on George Killian’s Bière Rousse

Beer and Food Writing

In addition to my extensive blog writing (1,409 blog posts to date) on beer, food, spirits and travel, many in series, I contribute regularly to journals and newsletters.

New Article on George Killian’s

I’m pleased to announce that my new article, “Roots of George Killian’s Bière Rousse”, was just published in No. 186, Spring issue, of the U.K.-based journal Brewery History.

The brand first appeared in France in 1975. Taking a deep dive, the article explains the goals and strategy of Pelforth Brewery in France when developing the brand, and the true origins of the “George Killian’s” brand name.*

I also express my view that the Bière Rousse represented well the red ale tradition of the Irish Lett family.

Brewery History is available in print-only format for three years from publication (except book reviews). To obtain a single copy of, or subscribe to, the journal, contact the journal at: books@breweryhistory.com

*Added February 6, 2022: since it was mentioned in a recent Twitter discussion concerning my article, I’ll add here that the Killian name, according to evidence I marshal in the article, originated with Lille-based Pelforth Brewery, which had researched the names of early Irish religious figures to help finalize a brand name. “Killian”, in other words, was not part of Bill Lett’s name, as commonly assumed by beer writers prior to my article appearing (beer writing in English, at any rate). Bill Lett had done the deal with Pelforth for the creation of George Killian’s Bière Rousse in the early 1970s.

 

 

 

My LCBO Wish List. Part II.

In Part I I enumerated beers I would like to see sold in Ontario. Two or three have been available here for relatively short periods, vs. continuously as a private system could ensure.

In this post I will explain my reasons for listing these beers. I stress they are not intended to suggest each beer is a world classic, although many are. In some cases my interest reflects a personal history or predilection.

Everyone has their reason for exercising consumer choice, after all, and should be allowed to in a free-market system, subject to reasonable regulation and, inevitably, taxes and so forth.

San Miguel Cerveza Negra (Dark Beer) (Philippines)

This beer was mentioned as superlative in early writing of foundational beer writer Michael Jackson (1942-2007). I tasted it about 20 years ago, my last opportunity, on the U.S. East Coast.

It was great with sweet, cocoa-toned malt. Traditional Munich in style despite being brewed so far afield (reflecting early German influence across the world in this respect). I want to try it again.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Ireland)

I have written extensively on Guinness including as catalogued here. This beer is 7.5% abv and more flavourful than standard iterations of Guinness. It descends from a type intended for export to distant climes and was given a unique character in consequence. The current version still does reflect this history.

The beer was re-introduced to American markets about a decade ago and inexplicably has not been made available in Ontario. 

Klosterbrauerei Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel (Germany)

A classic rich German strong bock brewed at a venerable Benedictine priory in Andechs, Germany. Brewing there reflects an old tradition formerly long associated with many monastic and other spiritual communities across northern Europe.

I last had it in bottle as exported to Florida, ostensibly an incongruous environment in which to enjoy it, but believe me I did. Malty-rich, a touch winy, layered in palate. Before that I had it on draft in a German restaurant in New York.

I recall discussing it with the German-born server. Gazing at me evenly after my (perhaps overlong) laudation, he rejoindered simply, “We love it too”.

Kernel Export Stout London 1890 (England)

Had this once, either in UK or as a one-off LCBO import here, possibly both. A hearty traditional taste of old London brewing, everything true and right.

Adnams Tally Ho Barley Wine (England)

A generous, rounded, stronger iteration of traditional English ale. Last tasted in U.K. within last five years. Would like to re-visit.

New Albion Ale (and Porter) (U.S., Scotland)

Iconic to the craft beer movement. Brewed initially 1976-1982, Sonoma, CA, the true “first” craft brewery. Brand revived some years ago by founder Jack McAuliffe’s daughter Renée M. DeLuca. Currently brewed for her company by Brewdog U.S.A (ale in Ohio) and Brewdog Scotland (porter).

I had missed these beers the first time around, wasn’t in California at right time or with right awareness. Enjoyed Boston Beer Company (Jim Koch’s) recreation/valentine some years ago. New Albion Ale establishes the mid-point between old-school American adjunct lager and where craft is today, and very satisfactory it is, apart the history lesson.

 

 

McDouglas Scotch Ale (Belgium)

Produced by John Martin’s in Belgium. Strong, all-malt ale fashioned to honour Scottish brewing, or rather one part of it. Encountered the style, this brand and others similar, when first visiting France and Belgium decades ago. Complex, winey, heady. While not bobbing on craft beer’s wilder shores, it may be better for it.

Carnegie Porter (Sweden)

I have written my appreciation of this famous Swedish porter elsewhere in these pages. To find, see my porter and stout index linked above (under Guinness Foreign Extra Stout).

Sinebrychoff Porter (Finland)

Another raven-hued Scandinavian achievement in the beer annals, known by many simply as “Koff” porter. See in rating site Beer Advocate for a sampling of opinion. Put it this way: 93/100.

Anchor Porter (U.S.)

The first modern craft porter from a brewery often described as a bridge to the modern craft movement. A tiny San Francisco steam brewery, founded 1890s, was refashioned into a craft hero by the legendary Fritz Maytag, scion of the washing machine fortune.

Now owned by Sapporo of Japan. Good malt, good English-style hopping – no citric New Age hops at work here. As important for its influence as its inherent quality.

Ridgeway Oxfordshire IPA (England)

Made by a small English independent brewery, their line, or many that I have tasted, uphold the best in native traditions. Malt and hops of Britain used in generous quantities contribute to the star quality.

Cristal Alken lager (Belgium)

I am not sure I ever had this. Lauded in beer writer Michael Jackson’s early books as exemplary of Belgian lager brewing. Then independent Cristal of Alken, Belgium, through acquisition and merger, is now part of Heineken N.V. Still accorded good respect by tasters. See in Beer Advocate again.

Traquair House Ale (Scotland)

Another proto-craft, an old estate brewery brought to renewed life in the 1960s by the laird and today run by his daughter. Heady, malty, oak-toned Scottish beer, it’s just the season for it now. We used to get occasionally the coriander-flavoured, Jacobite version. The regular house ale is superior, in my estimation.

Worthington White Shield (England)

Considerable information is available online for this yeasty pride of Burton, U.K. For the lowdown, you won’t do better than the dean of world beer writers, U.K.-based Roger Protz. See here. 

Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout (U.S.)

We get a nitrogenated imperial stout from Left Hand currently, at some 10% abv, rather strong. And you have to buy the pack. I want the original milk stout, not nitrogenated (it comes in regular carbonation and “nitro”).

This classic of the milk stout genre is on a par with an American-brewed version of Mackeson Milk Stout (which latter improves on the English original, imo) but is still different. Black satin and silk in the palate, hence sustaining malt with subdued but supportive hops. Blows down those wintry blues, to adapt a lyric of Beatle George Harrison.

Newcastle Brown Ale (U.S.-brewed version)

The famous Newkie Brown of U.K. is now brewed elsewhere as well, in the Netherlands, and by former craft brewery Lagunitas in California, also now in Heineken hands.

The U.S. recipe differs from the others, by early reports anyway. See some detail in a 2019 Beverage Dynamics story.

We do get at LCBO the English-brewed one but it is rather pallid these days, imo. I want to give the Cal version a whirl, both for a comparative and because the state has contributed so much to the beer landscape.

Actually I’m reminded a friend has some and promised me a bottle, so a review seems likely – maybe this weekend.

The Sand Porter of Montreal (Part IV)

Digging Deeper

In a three-part series in 2020, commencing here, I explored an 1880s-1890s usage of the term “sand porter” by two Montreal-area breweries, one the Montreal Brewery, the other Dawes Brewery. Dawes was then in Lachine, a separate municipality at the time.

Today Lachine is part of the Montreal conurbation, in the southwest section of Montreal island, on the St. Lawrence River.

To summarize the posts in a short compass, I considered successively whether the term meant porter filtered through sand – there was contemporary evidence some beer was treated this way – or whether it meant porter stored in vats topped with a fine layer of sand.

I located evidence Guinness of Dublin had done the latter in the late 1800s. Guinness of course, a or the premier porter brewer at the time, can be expected to have influenced many brewers of the black stuff around the world.

I linked to a discussion on Twitter where other beer writers or observers pitched in. One suggested bottled porter might have been immersed in a layer of sand to keep it cool at a steady temperature – yet another possibility.

Until recently I felt the sand-topped lid idea made the most sense (some English brewers still practiced it into the next centuries, using “marl”, a similar idea).

However, in studying recently the history of a Minnesota brewery, Fleckenstein, I now have a further idea what sand porter meant. First, a compressed outline of Fleckenstein: two German brothers of the name founded a brewery in St. Paul in 1855. In 1857 they relocated to Faribault in the state, on the Straight River, but in a few years went their separate ways.

Brother Gottfried continued to operate the first Faribault brewery, which son Louis later took over. This brewery ended its days in 1907. Another brewery was established by brother Ernst after the split, south of Faribault on a sandstone bluff along the river, and it proved longer-lasting.

This brewery endured until Prohibition. It survived making non-beer beverage during the Volstead period. It re-opened after Repeal, and pursued a local and southern Minnesota market until closing in 1964.

An excellent short film limns the history of these breweries, produced by Logan Ledman and Samuel Temple of the 1855 History Team.

As the film and other sources show, Ernst Fleckenstein, whose brands were often called Fleck’s, often advertised his beer as “Cave Aged”  – not itself unusual in brewing, indeed to this day. Many such labels also stated “In Wood Vats” and “In Sandrock”.

Sample labels may be seen this in this Bing link. We think it likely that when these labels appeared, interwar or early postwar, the beers were not literally fermented and aged in the caves in old-fashioned wood vessels.

The use of quotation marks for the last two phrases seems to reinforce this.

Probably filled kegs were stored in the caves to justify the cave-aged claim, with a marketing rationale for the 19th century methods of fermenting and lagering depicted atmospherically on the labels. A sample label (per the Bing link noted):

 

 

Similar images may be seen by summary online searches, including for the brewery’s bock beer and strong beer.

Fleckenstein caves, built originally to ferment and lager beer, were used for cheese maturation (affinage) starting in the 1930s. See in this link, Caves of Faribault. The even temperature and draining characteristic of sandstone facilitated this operation, as no doubt the original use for brewing itself.

Dawes Brewery in Lachine (it later moved to more expansive premises in Montreal proper) had cellars under its storehouse, or entrepôt, where beer was aged. In fact, the permanent exhibition on Dawes history I discussed in 2016 is housed in part of this cellar, called the Vaults.

A partial view may be seen in this link to the online version of the exhibition, whence the grab below is taken.

 

 

The cellar as shown appears lined in masonry of stone and vaulted ceiling brick. Of course to permit its present use the area clearly has been modified. Even prior to the exhibition likely it was altered from its 19th century form. Whether sandstone is behind or part of the structure in some way I cannot say.

However, sandstone formations are characteristic of southeastern Canadian geography, from the Ottawa Valley through the St. Lawrence Lowland and on to the Maritime provinces.

The type of sandstone, per a Wikipedia entry, is “Potsdam, after the town in New York where it was first identified. Martyn Cornell in the Twitter discussion stated he found a “sand porter” in 1879 from Carling brewery in Ottawa.

I think it quite possible sand porter was short for porter aged in sandstone cellars – a cipher for cellar-aged beer. Of course, cellars for aging beer were routine then, typically excavated from stone and earth of various kinds.

But brewers are always looking for a marketing angle. Maybe this was one, short-lived by all appearances, not unnaturally given the vagueness of the term.

Anyway, I proffer it as something to ponder in the overall picture. Of the various explanations, this one or the Guinness sand-topped vat practice seems most plausible to me for the sand porter of Montreal (and Ottawa).

Note re images: source of each image above is as described and linked in text, with all intellectual property therein belonging solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

Guinness Vertical Tasting

There are many videos on YouTube by tasters investigating old beers, wines, and foods. I find many of them of good interest. In some cases the products taste almost unchanged, or rate better to today’s equivalent.

In others spoilage is evident.

Obviously anyone thinking to try this must exercise due caution. Personally I don’t think I would taste any food significantly out of date, with cans given more leeway perhaps.

I have tasted numerous old beers in my time, as beer cannot acquire, at least so I have read, pathogenic properties due to the ethanol, but even then due caution is needed.

I take a common sense approach: if a smell is offputting, leave it alone. Anyway, caveat emptor.

In a July 2021 video, a British taster on the Real Ale Craft Beer channel compares Guinness Extra Stout of 1955 to today’s version. His actual tasting starts at 8:25 in the film.

He is very descriptive in his analysis. It sounds like the beer has gone tart to a degree but he doesn’t mind it.

He finds too it has a bigger body than today’s beer. There is more: e.g. it leaves no sediment. Watch if so inclined.

 

My LCBO Wish List. Part I.

Our provincially-controlled liquor distribution system in Ontario affords us a sizeable choice of domestic and imported beer. Added to this is the selection of the privately-owned, but government-supervised Beer Store network.

Then there are the shops connected to Ontario breweries, many of which now deliver their product to the doorstep. And of course beer on draft, domestic and some imported.

While some may, and evidently our government masters do, consider this enough choice for the people, there are still countless beers many would like to see here, that aren’t. Thousands potentially. If the system was completely privatized, then each merchant would decide what to import, following the wishes of their clientele or own predilections.

This system of course exists in many countries world-wide. It exists for many American states, but not all – some are “control” states, as in Canada*

The desirability of privatization is self-evident to me. While I will devote another blog post, sooner or later, to that issue, one thing I want to say here is, people often say our beer is remarkably cheap, on average, compared to that of free-market jurisdictions.

Even if that is true, it is a complex question, as some beer will be cheaper, some the same, some more under privatization. What is often forgotten too is that quality and choice are additional components of a free market system, independent of price considerations.

 

 

In a nutshell, I may be willing to pay more to get what I want, and in a free market, should have that option. Put differently, it is not the function of the state to assure cheap beer for the people. Indeed this is so for a number of reasons, not just economic.

But anyway I’ll leave that discussion in its full amplitude for another day.

Here are 16 beers I’d like to see in Ontario.

  1. San Miguel Dark Beer (Philippines)
  2. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Ireland. And other Guinness line extensions never available here)
  3. Klosterbrauerei Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel (Germany. Ditto extensions)
  4. Kernel Export India Porter (England)
  5. Adnams Tally Ho Barley Wine (England)
  6. New Albion Ale (and Porter) (U.S.)
  7. McDouglas Scotch Ale (Belgium)
  8. Carnegie Porter (Sweden)
  9. Sinebrychoff Porter (Finland)
  10. Anchor Porter (U.S., + extensions)
  11. Ridgeway Oxfordshire IPA (England, + extensions)
  12. Cristal Alken lager (Belgium)
  13. Traquair House Ale (Scotland)
  14. Worthington White Shield (England)
  15. Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout (U.S. Plus extensions)
  16. Newcastle Brown Ale (U.S.-brewed version)

This is just a sampling. It could be another 16 as easily. It could be focused just on Canada outside Ontario. Or just on U.S., Germany, U.K., etc. It could be …

*Alberta is a special case, which I’ll discuss anon. Also, in this post I deal with beer but the logic applies to the other alcohol beverages, wine, spirits, etc.

 

 

 

Pensées. Vol. 1.

Introduction

There are things I wish to say in a shorter compass than the usual blog post or magazine/journal article, but longer than a Tweet. I intend to use this new format of pensées (thoughts or reflections) as a vehicle for these observations, musings, call them what you will.

They will cover beer, food, and spirits certainly. They may cover other topics: music, politics, languages, etymology, and more. So a real pot pourri, to stick with my French naming motif.

Browse the titles to choose what may interest, be it one, two or “all of the below”.

Beer bar Future

Max Morin wrote an article recently for The Growler exploring the future of the beer bar (meaning here not just any beer-dispensing bar, but one that chooses and serves beer with discernment). He works for Godspeed Brewery in Toronto (sales, communications) and does occasional journalism.

The point that most resonated with me was made by George Milbrandt, who has run the estimable C’est What on Front Street in Toronto for decades.

He noted that beer devotees will always want to congregate in person to drink, learn, and talk about their favourite beverage. Challenges there are, as he also noted, exacerbated by the lingering pandemic.

But the bar business has always gone through cycles of good and harder times, for a variety of reasons.  The beer bar existed before craft started 40 years ago – I have chronicled numerous examples in these pages. It is probably as old as beer itself.

Numerous beer bars proper, excluding that is brewery “taps” and brewpubs, continue in business in metro Toronto and beyond in Ontario, some for many years.  I needn’t recite the names, they are well-known to the Toronto beer crowd. Whether new ones will arise, only time can tell.

I will say, the true beer obsessive was never legion, in this country or any other. It is very much a quirky interest, catered to by a passel of often quirky bars – and breweries, to be sure. The beer specialty bar existed but was not fashionable when craft beer started. It became fashionable, to a degree, with time.

It may be less fashionable now, in part due to the very success of craft beer. With good beer ever-more-available outside the confines of the beer bar (see article cited), the beer specialty house ceases to be the prime focus for select beer.

Recede in the background it may – possibly – but the beer bar will always have an audience. It will be with us 10 years from now, 20, forever.

Dystopian Downtown

Walking through downtown Toronto as I have regularly since the pandemic began in March 2020, I am shocked by the changes wrought to life and living there. The many towers with their interconnected underground shopping complex, known as “the Path”, have been rendered virtually a ghost town.

When bars and restaurants were open, as periodically since start of the pandemic, things were more lively, but in a relative sense only.

The few people visible now downtown seem to comprise mainly private security personnel, construction and utilities workers, a few on-premises office workers, and homeless and derelict people. Sirens regularly sound through the “core”, as it is known.

It is not quite what I’ve read of parts of Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, but if something doesn’t change quickly it will get there. Very disturbing.

Only a full return to normal operating conditions can reverse this, in my view. It must come soon, as the future seems already compromised to a degree.

Pictured is my al fresco lunch today. The sunshine made eating in below zero temperature tolerable, for three minutes, I’d say.

 

 

Those Quebec Cheese Curds

Quebec makes cheese curds, fromage en grains, that are small pieces of young cheddar separated from their whey. Famously the curds “squeak” in the mouth, which is only when they are very fresh. I bought a couple of packs at a convenience store in Montreal’s Central Station when taking the train back to Toronto recently.

The packs are sold warm, on the counter, which may seem odd with a cheese product. The clerk told me they can be kept 24 hours that way but must be refrigerated after that. I can see why they are sold at room temp – the full flavour emerges that way.

 

 

This brand was particularly good. The taste was mild but delicious and for once with cheese, not too salty. One can see too how this is “the” cheese for poutine, the type originally used and still best for the concoction.

I’ve never found the same thing in Toronto but possibly it is available here (if anyone knows…). Presumably the U.K. must sell cheese curds – certainly in the past this was so as we know from ancestral nursery rhyme.

Since the British invented cheddar, still considered by some the best anywhere, their cheese curds must be, as they say, brilliant. But who knows?

Maple Sports Ale

This is another beer from Kingston, Ontario, a couple of hundred miles down icy Lake Ontario from where I write; there is quite a crop of breweries there now (apparently contracted in this case). The packaging is everyman-attuned. Sports are a mania here, as most places, especially the iconic hockey.

The firm like many crafts sprouted within the last five years, and the beer shown is their specialty. Very good it is! Barley-malt, hops, water, yeast – that’s it.

Promo released when the company started in 2017 stated the brew is an Anglo-Canadian hybrid, using English hops. This ties in to my taste impressions below.

Being all-malt no fancy doodads are added (not that anything is wrong with that, done right). And no pasteurization. Solid work, which almost certainly recalls the firm, flavourful Canadian ales of the mid-20th century, before blandified by adjuncts and low finishing gravity.

I also liked the fact that you can taste the estery notes contributed by the top-fermentation yeast. The website says red apple but I get more a soft fruit quality, not tropical but say peach, plum, grape.

So often beer people read or say that top-fermentation produces this effect but when was the last time you actually tasted it in an ale? Here you can.