In considering what exactly was “Bavarian Ale” in the mid-19th century, it is useful to examine citations from before 1864, when Hallett & Abbey use the term in Brighton to brand a prime beer of the house.*
First, I found no earlier use of the term by a British brewery. Should same exist we are all ears, of course.
Second, the term does appear earlier, in literary treatments where it is used vaguely to mean beer connected to Germany in some way. But there are also technical treatments. This one, from William Loftus in his 1857 brewing text The Brewer, will illustrate.
There are one or two others of similar stripe, here is a second, earlier, by George William Francis in his (1853) Dictionary of Practical Receipts.**
(Note his comments on the lambic-like fermentation method. By this I refer to the cooler serving as fermentation vessel, not the yeast, which presumably was a pitched bottom yeast, unless the beer was naturally fermented, in which case it would be a true ale (top yeast). Whether such beers (using wild yeast) were actually fermented in Bavaria in the mid-1800s I cannot say, I would have thought not).
Each seems clearly a recipe for lager given the temperature of fermentation – 45-50 F. – the length of time to complete the fermentation (weeks), and the behaviour of the yeast. It looks a kind of bock beer, made in the winter says one of the writers.
Could Hallett’s have followed this method, at least for its star performer, Bavarian Ale? Again, I don’t rule it out although it seems unlikely. Rather, standard ale brewing was probably done, with some tweaking to give a German character, maybe even from imported hops.
The term also appears erratically in the U.S., in a way to suggest loosely beer of German type, but not more (that I found).
This doesn’t solve anything, but does suggest to me, given Loftus especially who was a well-known brewery writer, that a lager process may have been employed commercially by Hallet’s. If so that would be most noteworthy, but until its brewing records pop up, it seems unlikely much progress can be made.
I’m getting ahead of myself, but in 1954 Charrington bought out Hallett’s, by then called Kemp Town Brewery. So the records may still exist, wherever Charrington’s papers reside.
Our Part III follows.
*See my Part I, here.
**I’ve tracked earlier editions at least to 1848.