All-Malt Beers Return To Pre-Prohibition United States

pic1The extract of the article below is in relation to something said to be new in America since corn and rice became standard in mash recipes: all-malt beer. In this January-February, 1918 article, Dr. Theo Sedlmayer explains that war measures had three main effects.

These were:

i) practical unavailability of corn adjuncts and sugars,

ii) mandatory reduction by 30% of materials used in brewing, and

iii) limitation of alcohol percentage to 2.75% abw, or 3.48% abv.

The author notes the alcohol ceiling is rather close to the norm of many pre-WW I Munich and Pilsen beers, 3% abw or 3.8% abv. Given the starting gravity of these which he said was c. 12 B, their finishing gravity was very high, about 1020 – very sweet. These beers were the sustaining and “nourishing” lagers of 1800s Europa.

(John P. Arnold and Frank Penman in their 1933 History Of The Brewing Industry And Brewing Science in America state that the 2.75% abw limitation did not apply to “ale and porter”, then a tiny part of the beer market. They added that considerable amounts of the 2.75% beer were produced).

And so, a couple of things. It can be easily seen no one confronted with an emulation of European lager in which 30% was corn was going to complain. The unmalted cereal would somewhat lighten in heft and body what was already a very rich beer – but that lightened version was itself still rather sweet, even at the somewhat lower gravities of the late 1800s. The range was 1012-1018 FG as we saw earlier from tables in a U.S. government study.


But was adjunct needed for this purpose, to lighten the taste? I apprehend not. First, there was no need to start as high as original gravity of 12 P even though Sedlmayer doesn’t say.

Also, as he does say, you could use a high-dried malt which produced just enough maltose to make the alcohol needed: the implication is the excess sweetness which would result from lower-dried malt was avoided.

Sedlmayer said a “very high grade glass of beer” could be produced from all-malt under the new restrictions. We are very far here from the ersatz or makeshift.

Perhaps Dr. Sedlmayer’s beer was somewhat like the all-malt Amstel Light, see some interesting comments in this online discussion.

Is there any evidence the new “war beer” was disdained by the population except for having a lesser jolt? Unlikely. As a result of an unusual intersection of circumstances, a greater quality may have resulted, alcohol level apart of course. Sedlmayer implies this by his reference to a “very high grade glass of beer”.

It appears the first Budweiser was all-malt. There should be no surprise at this, but it is salutary to mention it. The c. 1876 label above suggests all-malt as it refers simply to Saaz hops and “Bohemian malt” – no reference to rice, which was added later. (The main label continued to use at least some German until those references were removed during WW I, see this detailed account from 2006 of the Budweiser label history by Bill Lockhart and others).

History returned under altered circumstances in 1918.

Sadly, the ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919, heralding national Prohibition, soon rendered moot all questions of mashbill and related quality.

Note re images: the Budweiser label image above was sourced from this labelling siteThe second image is from this Wikipedia site, here. The last, below, is via HathiTrust, here. All are believed available for educational and cultural purposes. All trade marks and other intellectual property shown belong solely to their lawful owners and authorized licensees. All feedback welcomed.