English Beer With a German Accent
The Anglo-Bavarian Brewery of Shepton Mallet, Somersetshire, so-named from 1872, was set up in 1864 as a pale ale brewery. It did not manufacture lager during its fairly long run, even from 1872.
At least, that seems the critical consensus. Rather, Anglo-Bavarian fermented by usual English means a conventional group of ales that in some fashion resembled lager.
Period sources speak of its “imitation” lager (per Edward Willoughby’s 1890s Handbook of Public Health and Demography). A principal, William Garton, had evolved an invert sugar to use in brewing.
Not very Bavarian as Willoughby noted, but this probably assisted an unusually clear drink. Together with water adjustment, a moderate strength, and fizzy body, his darkish ale might have resembled a Vienna, or some Munich beer.
Possibly, too, the vats and casks were lined with a resin or enamel in the fashion of Continental lager to impart a taste noted by some British tasters then.
Further supporting the no-lager case is a statement in Brewers’ Guardian in 1878 quoting a taster’s comment at the recent Paris Exposition:
… “where is the Bavarian style implied by the name of the firm?”
As to the first true U.K. lager, while trials occurred earlier in the 1800s, regular commercial production seems to have started with London-based Austro-Bavarian Brewing Company, in 1881 or 1882.
See this confirmation in Modern Refrigeration, 1951, which has interest due to mentioning the owners: not Germans, although some Germans did staff and consult to the company, but a family called Evans.
There followed shortly after in Wrexham, as well-known to brewing historians, an eponymous lager brewery. I discussed it in 2017 in this post, notably for an early, Michael Jackson-style taste note in the Wrexham Advertiser in 1890 that attested to a pale-coloured beer with a Champagne effervescence.
Returning to Anglo-Bavarian, the local history site Sotonopedia states that William Garton arrived in Southampton in the late 1860s. Garton helped refashion the Shepton Mallet brewery to one making lager-style beer after he bought the site at bailiff’s sale in 1871.
But his original Southhampton business that brewed beer with his new sugar styled the beers Anglo-Bavarian even before that. In his essay M. Cornell cites an 1869 advertisement in a Hampshire newspaper styling the ales “Anglo-Bavarian”. The compound name, apparently the formal name of the Southampton business, was later bestowed on the brewery in Shepton Mallet purchased to concentrate on this line.
William was brother to Charles Garton, who brewed in Bath and later Bristol where first trials with inverted sugar occurred. The Gartons in time became known for their line of brewing sugars, manufactured in premises separate from the brewing.
The year 1869 was the earliest I knew for a British brewery to sell beer monikered to suggest German influence, until I found an older one recently. In Folthorp’s Directory for Brighton, etc., “corrected to July 1864”, Hallett and Abbey of Brighton include in a handsome ad their Bavarian Ale:
It was billed as “extra quality (XXX)”, at 18d./gal., clearly among the top-priced offerings. A strong ale of this type did not emulate, clearly, a typical Bavarian lager of moderate gravity. These rarely reached beyond 5% ABV.*
But perhaps the model was a strong bock beer, there were of course such specialties of high ABV then, as still today. Ron Pattinson, citing Wahl & Henius (1902), mentioned a Kulmbacher Actien in 1880 at over 7% ABV, and another of the era even stronger.
Hallett & Abbey’s English ale à la Bavaria may have been 7-8% ABV. Later, in 1881, the same business directory, now titled Page’s, has an ad for the same ale, called here Bavarian Strong Ale. It now carries a slightly higher price, 19d./gal., fetching more than the I.P.A.
By this year the era of regular commercial production of (true) lager finds its legs. Yet, would-be’s were in the market earlier, with some success evidently; Hallett and Abbey seem to have been the first.
This brewery is of good interest, little explored to date; I will revisit it in a further part. I love, don’t you, its homely fish logo. No sleek herring, or gastronomic star like sole was chosen, but an ungainly spiny looking thing.
To all appearances it seems a gurnard; a face only a fish-mom could love!
It’s that kind of humble touch we love about the history of brewing. In many cases in the old days superlatives were avoided due to natural modesty, or a quiet pride. The graphic symbols and copywriting made an impact through understatement, you see.
N.B. As in the case of Anglo-Bavarian, it seems doubtful Hallett & Abbey made true lager. But I can’t rule it out, either. The fact that the term Bavarian appeared foursquare in the logo mentioned shows, atypically for the period, some pride was taken in this foreign-sounding beer.
See here for Part II of this study.
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*(Added December 19, 2020). By the mid-1880s Hallett & Abbey’s Bavarian Ale was styled Brighton Lager Ale. See our post today, on this point.