Ale of Zywiec, Poland. Part II.

Sala on the Burton – Burton on the Sola

In Part I, I queried whether Zywiec’s ale was a strong type such as Burton ale, or an English pale ale, drier, less strong, from Burton but a later implant.

I reviewed rare Zywiec ale labels from the late 1800s and for the 1920s-1930s. All these state “ale”, using the English word, with no further description except “March”, for the earliest.

A 1912 print advertisement for Zywiec takes the matter somewhat further. The ad is from the Jan Goetz-Okocim brewery archive, maintained at National Archives in Krakow (NAIK).

It is among 16 exhibits set out in an historical page of the website for Wyborcza, the Polish newspaper. The ad could suggest (or in my opinion) the ale was a rich Burton-type, not a pale ale.

First, there is no doubt Burton ale had a vibrant trade in Poland in the 1700s. Numerous sources attest to it, in that century and the next. For my purposes here, ample evidence is provided by the 1864 essay-collection of George Augustus Sala, After Breakfast.

He noted that Russia, Poland, and the Danubian provinces “were great consumers of the sweet strong ale of Burton” in the reign of George II.

The goods were sent to St. Petersburg initially, and as we saw earlier the middle and upper classes formed the main market. The brewer Benjamin Wilson of Burton is associated in particular with expanding the trade in Poland after the introduction of tariffs foreclosed the Russian market.

Examining the advert – see in the second row of thumbnails – both porter and ale are mentioned (and other beers). The ad was likely placed by Ludwig Lazar named in the ad, an agent for Zywiec in Krakow.

Here is a detail from the ad (source: Wyborcza page linked and NAIK):



Google translation renders the ale wording as:

Excellent Like English sweet and very restorative at a price like a porter.

Not quite grammatical, but the sense seems much like Sala’s beer. Pale ale, particularly as exported, generally was not sweet due to prolonged maturation and heavy hopping.

Pale ale was famously a “tonic”: bitter, dryish, bracing, not restorative really. The alcohol content itself is not stated in the ad. Restorative, if it meant strength, seems more consistent with an English Burton (barley wine) strength, not a pale ale.

At the same time, a piece of evidence seems to lie against.  In 1991 a supplement to a newspaper in Zywiec, entitled Echo Browaru, reviewed Zywiec brewery history. It stated the porter was introduced in 1881, which is confirmed by other sources, and the ale, 10 years later.

The account then described the latter as “pale ale”, without further details.  The sweet and restorative description that appeared some 20 years after Zywiec introduced its ale seems at odds with a pale ale designation, yet presumably the 1991 account relied on reliable information.

It may be that in the 1890s the beer wasn’t a pale ale, but became one after WW I, during the interwar period mentioned in my Part I.

Only brewing records, or further relevant information, can ultimately answer these questions. I would add that whatever style this ale was, or in specific periods, it should not be viewed as unrelated to the vogue for British ale in the country in the early 1800s and 1700s.

True, the 1991 account also suggests the ale and porter were introduced for “export” purposes. But we know porter remained a popular niche style in Poland through the 20th century.

This itself is connected, as commonly understood, to the early popularity of British porter in the country. The same must be true for the more attenuated ale tradition.

Zywiec continued making ale into the 1930s, but to all appearances as an outlier: this style of Polish brewing, such as it was, had practically disappeared.

Porter by contrast remained an item of the Polish brewing inventory. Indeed Zywiec still makes a porter, as noted in this description from its American site.

It seems doubtful Zywiec made ale in Communist Poland post-WW II, but I do not have details in this regard, for that period.

The other 15 exhibits from the Okocim archive are also of good interest. Most pertain to Okocim brewery itself, from the late 1800s-early 1900s, but some pertain to other breweries. These show cooperage works, line shaft power transmission, the exterior of buildings, offices and more, in excellent resolution.

Below, for some general atmosphere, is a modern image (source: Wikipedia) of the Sola river, where it is dammed about 12 miles upriver from Zywiec.



N.B. The Zywiec porter description somewhat defeated me, even with Google translation. I think it states the medical profession approved the product for their prescriptions.

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






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