Every Man His Own Bartender
In 1894 Stuttgart afforded ratepayers the chance to have beer piped to their home as for water or other utilities. According to this issue of the Evening Bulletin in Maysville, KY in that year:
The Wine and Spirit Gazette says the city of Stuttgart, in Germany, is supplied with beer on a very novel plan. The beer is carried through the city like
water by a system of pipes. The customer pays his beer rate, as he would his gas or water rate. The pipes are of lead, lined with a thin layer of wood pulp to
prevent the contact of the beer with the lead pipes. The pipes are air tight, and the beer when drawn at the home of a customer, is as fresh and sparkling as
when taken from a bottle. Two large breweries have secured a monopoly in this pipe line over the whole city. Stuttgart must be a German paradise.
Talk about eliminating the middleman.
Did it really happen? A story in another source, the Mining and Scientific Press, is to the same effect, adding just a detail or two.
No mentions were made of brand preference. Perhaps there was a Pils tap next to a Dunkel tap?
I don’t think so. Various sources suggest Stuttgart’s beer didn’t, um, rate that highly, e.g., here in 1874 from Charles Fulton (“not inviting”), or here in Donahue’s magazine from 1882 (“inferior”). To get the good stuff massive amounts were imported from Bavaria, Pilsen, and elsewhere.
It wouldn’t be a boon to local industry to pour beer from imported casks into a cistern and piping system even if it was possible technically, i.e., without losing CO2 or freshness.
No, the two breweries that had the monopoly for the beer piping system clearly sent their own beer into the conduits straight from the tanks. It may not have been the best beer, but it was convenient like heck.
This beer piping idea of course could only have arisen in the kingdom of beer, Germany, although we see at the same time not every German region made great beer. But great thirst there was – the mother of invention.
Bruges did something a few years ago that sounds similar but isn’t quite the same, as reported in the Guardian by Jennifer Rankin. This involved piping beer underground from the brewery to a bottling plant outside the city, not the citizen’s gullet direct.
What happened the municipally rated, if not reputed, bier of Stuttgart? Maybe it didn’t survive WW I.
Clearly there were many advantages: turn the tap and you have beer. No casks or bottles to fuss with. Pay once at the end of the month. And lower cost since no retail distribution system is needed.
One would have to make sure junior, or oft-visiting uncles in reduced circumstances, didn’t get near the taps, but presumably the good burghers had that sorted, or they did after the first bill from the municipality, anyway.
In terms of application today, could Stuttgart’s plan recommend itself anywhere in the world? Sounds like just another pipe dream…
N.B. See Part II to this post, here.