Tangerine Flake Cream Steam Dream Ale
In Part I, I stated that finally, people will form their own idea of beer styles, and buy and judge beer accordingly. Primarily I was thinking of the consumer, main object after all – professionally the only object – of the brewer.
Brewers, for their part, are also affected by many factors: training and experience, the market, legal regulations, their sense of adventure or imagination.
Michael Hancock, aka “The Brewer” is a legend in Canadian craft brewing. His path-breaking Denison’s Brewpub on Victoria Street in Toronto will long be remembered. His trademark Hefeweizen, originally styled Weissbier, is now sold as Side Launch Wheat Beer by Side Launch Brewing in Collingwood, Ontario.
The “Wheat” has a long-established following in Ontario and was early recognized as one of the top examples anywhere, in fact. Other German-style brews Michael contributed to the Ontario larder are also now made by Side Launch Brewing.
Michael commented in Part I that marketing efforts or mixing of beer styles can sometimes lead to outlier results. It’s a perspective deserving of respect, as professional brewers spend years perfecting their craft and ensuring the public gets a high-quality, consistent product.
Clearly marketing can lead to questionable results in brewing. The “ice” and “dry” beer craze of 30 years ago is a good illustration in my view, where variant production techniques were trumpeted to create new styles of beer that seemed hardly to vary from the commercial norm.
More than anything else that development induced an ennui in beer drinkers that contributed to the success of the craft movement.
Marketing is always looking for a new sales angle, of course. The marketer is yet another player on the brewing stage, with their own set of motivations, influences, and opinions. Marketers, past a certain scale at any rate, are an essential element in the brewing business.
And truth be told, dry and ice beers are still with us, and move a lot of product. But maybe a rose by another name …
Even in Germany with its defined brewing code and impressive brewing heritage, brewing variants have emerged such as Weizenbock. This is a top-fermented, strong wheat beer with darkish caramel tones (usually).
Most bock is bottom-fermented of course, and quite different in taste due to being all-barley malt. Craft beer has contributed, say, Black IPA, an IPA-dominant beer with some influence from the roasted barley or black malt typically used in porter or stout.
Some of these variants succeed and become established, others are flash in the pan.
As an older example of this process, this ad in the Truckee Republican will illustrate, dated June 18, 1910:
Bock and steam beer are ostensibly rather opposite. Bock in that period in America meant usually a dark brew rich with caramelized malt, not the light Maibock or Helles type that later emerged.
Steam beer typically was sharp-tasting, yeasty from being sold with little aging. Steam beer certainly did not receive the prolonged aging bock did from being brewed in winter, often December, and sold March or April following.
Both were lagers, but steam beer was fermented closer to the range for ale, while bock is a classic lager fermented and aged cold.
Another Thomas ad, an advertorial-type piece on May 11, 1910, shows the product was newly released that year. May is rather late to issue a bock, even in the U.S. Maybe Thomas had unsold steam beer on hand, now aged some months, coloured it in some fashion, and sold it in May as bock.
It is hard to know, perhaps on the other hand it was a genuine lager, but the ads noted seemed to class it as steam beer.
Whether a weird and wonderful variant is accepted by the market, or ends as a gimmick, only time, and taste (or fashion), will tell.
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*A brewery I discuss, Mason, provides good evidence, at least, that “steam” meant still fermenting, highly carbonated beer, because juxtaposed with “flat”, or still ale, evidently kept for some time.