Van Olinda on the American Tavern. Part I.

Edgar S. Van Olinda was a long-lived journalist for the Times-Union in Albany, New York. His regular beat was arts and culture, covering especially music and film. From the 1940s his city column increasingly looked back, to old Albany in diverse ways: its Dutch roots (seemingly his own), Limerick-Irish history, German heritage, distinctive architecture and more.

Breweries and beer seemed a particular interest of his, as they recur regularly in his work.  I have not been able to determine his birth year and date of passing, but he was still writing for the paper in 1970. By that time he had to be about 85, judging also by archival photos.

In his column of March 29, 1943 he chronicled the passing of the free lunch at a local hostelry, Kalkbrenner’s. The bar had been set up by the current owner’s father ca. 1900, and was called originally Schlitz – perhaps financed by the famous brewer although this is uncertain.

 

 

The permit system of buying food mandated by the war finally put paid to a rare, post-Prohibition survival of the free saloon lunch.

While that survival was notable in itself, Van Olinda’s commentary gains further interest for its insight into the city’s German-American tavern culture:

Although the “free lunch” counter is now one of many cherished memories, there still is food to be had [at Kalkbrenner] even if a slight tariff is placed on the check; delicacies such as ham hockies and sauerkraut, roast fresh ham, corned and smoked beef, great big frankfurters, bologna, pickled lambs’ tongues, home baked beans, Liederkranz cheese and pickled limes. And for the piece de resistance a great, shining roast turkey for sandwiches, and the carcass for delicious turkey soup. Of course, if you insist, the waiter will take your order for some of the draught bock beer which is seasonable at this time of the year.

Further:

Charlie’s place is one of the last of the old hotels with the real Bavarian atmosphere. Even the architecture on the front of the building—great spaces of stippled stucco, criss-crossed with solid, weather-beaten timbers, crowned by a peaked roof—carries out the simulation.

The same issue of the paper, bare inches from Van Olinda’s column, contains war news of great import, including how permanently to disarm Germany and end its militarism after the anticipated victory.

The disjunction is notable: a benign, comforting picture is offered of German ethnicity via its transplanted food and beer, only lightly Americanized (the turkey, beans), while the country at the same time was in a civilizational struggle with the ruthless Nazi regime then in power.

Van Olinda makes no effort to reconcile these two visions, it is almost as if they are separate things. In many ways they were though, or at least, by World War II the country was able to view them as such.

World War I was different, the German immigrations of the 19th century were more recent, and there was a cultural divide. It was exemplified by the writing of journalist and author H.L. Mencken who challenged the justice of America entering a European war.

In a famous jibe Mencken called war proponents “Anglomaniacs”. While there was certainly a pro-Nazi element in German ethnic America in the 1930s, it was largely silenced or neutralized once the war started. Mencken himself, not pro-Nazi but against American involvement in another European war, withdrew from active involvement at the Baltimore Sun.

If there was lingering resentment nationally of German-American culture by the early 1940s, it was kept out of the public eye in the form of news and opinion coverage.

We can conclude, or so I view it, that by 1943 Kalkbrenner’s and its like had become American institutions. Their hallmarks of food, beer, and architecture might suggest otherwise, but note Van Olinda’s term “simulation”.

Kalkbrenner’s old saloon, when Pearl Harbor brought America into the war, was an echo of the German nation in America, not its reality. Remember its formal name, finally, as Van Olinda memorialized it: the American Tavern.

 

 

The Beer Pony

Two years ago the New York-based beverage writer Joshua Bernstein wrote a good article in SevenFiftyDaily on a seeming trend in craft beer: the eight-ounce can. The logic makes perfect sense, which I needn’t elaborate on as it’s well-explained in the article, and evident I think to anyone familiar with the craft scene.

After decades of infatuation with the glass bottle finally craft brewing embraced the can, and the 16-oz format became almost standard. Yet in many ways, the old mass market 12-oz format* suited better India Pale Ale and the other impactful styles in efflorescence. This was due to their strength, especially the stronger stouts, and/or their distinctive flavours.

Many like myself might like to try a sour style, say, but don’t wish to power through 16 ounces. Yes, and as I’ve argued before, you can just put the can in the fridge and drink the rest later. Many don’t like to do this though, and the beer is always affected to a degree.

In my view, the 16-oz. can is best suited to medium- or low-strength beer. The format in this context is not a new idea. Rusty Cans’ history timeline has Schlitz issuing one in 1954. The ubiquitous shaker glass, or U.S. 16-oz. pint, seems to have grown in use over the same period.

Well before the craft beer era again, marketers were also thinking in the opposite direction: to sell beer in smaller than twelve ounces. This occurred both in America and in Britain, where the self-explanatory “nip” was long-used for strong beer including imperial stout.

Marketers perceived some people did not want more than seven or eight ounces of beer. Likely in their sights were women, increasingly a focus of beer advertising after World War II. I cited an instance recently via the consulting work of the Vienna-trained psychologist Dr. Ernest Dichter.

Below we see Rolling Rock in Latrobe, Pennsylvania advertising its pony bottle in 1952 (Washington, D.C. Evening Star), note the didactic tone:

 

 

A similar bottle had appeared in the 1930s for Michigan’s Albert Brewing as a former eBay listing shows. The term pony had emerged yet earlier to describe a measure for beer, in 1877, as shown by a lawyer’s argument for the State of Pennsylvania in a murder case.

Evincing some surprise which suggests the practice was new, the counsel explained that a wholesale liquor merchant opened a pint bottle of porter and served four “pony” measures. As he dealt in spirits, plausibly once again the idea was borrowed from cocktails usage.

Pony as a serving measure for beer was known in Victorian Britain. See in Notes & Queries, 1896 (“pony of bitter”). Australian beer culture was long known for its 5-oz pony glass, in some cities that is.

An Australian beer glass template states further details. It is tempting to think in a time before air conditioning a five-ounce beer glass was popular as keeping the beer colder, yet this appears not so judging by the table and other evidence I’ve seen.

Many Australian cities used larger formats, in other words, up to the pint – 20 oz. in the British Anglosphere. This works against the idea the pony was meant to keep the beer cold until consumed.

Possibly local legislation affected this, or any of a hundred other factors not immediately obvious, or perhaps not knowable at all. As to why we don’t see more small cans and bottles in Ontario, I am not sure either.

The situation is is complicated by listing requirements of our monopoly liquor distribution system, controlled by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, a Crown corporation. Apart that matrix, there is some flexibility, e.g. bottle shops of breweries can sell beer in non-standard containers.

But investing in new or modified apparatus to can or bottle beer in small measures can be problematic, especially in straitened times as currently with Covid-19.

Returning finally to the Rolling Rock example, the pony format continues in the mass beer market.** Coronita, the small bottle of Corona (7 oz.), is well-known internationally, ideal for the “bucket” presentation.

In the market too for some years here is Molson Canadian Cold Shot, in 7.5 oz. bottles. Note the beer is 6%, against the standard 5% abv for regular “Canadian”, so Molson-Coors is selling a stronger brew partly on the basis the consumer will down a smaller measure.

All of Nothing Brewery in Oakville, Ontario issued a 10-ounce “mini” can some years ago. LeftField Brewery in Toronto tends to focus on the 12-oz can (355 ml.), see here, a positive sign in itself. Other breweries do similar now, Godspeed Brewery in Toronto, also Indie Ale House.

There are other examples of can “downsizing”, but widespread adoption of an eight- or seven-ounce format would boost the industry further, in my view.

*I use Imperial measure in this post but the metric equivalent is known by most or easily calculated.

**Additional reference added in Comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacques Straub: Straight Whiskey Advocate

[The post below is a revised and extended version of an earlier post on Jacques Straub].

Jacques Straub was an American wine steward and bar manager who in 1913 authored Straub’s Manual of Mixed Drinks. Biographical information, see WikiTender, indicates he managed the wine and spirits department of the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. It is pictured further below in 1912 (source: Wikipedia as linked).

Earlier he ran the bar at the famed Pendennis Club in Kentucky, for some 20 years.  On May 11, 1913 the Washington Herald gave Straub column space to explain “what is whiskey”, this even though regulators and finally President Taft had settled the question a few years earlier.

Straub was of the clan that believed a straight whiskey, meaning a grain mash distilled at a low proof and aged in new charred barrels, was the only true whiskey. He argued that highly rectified spirits – a kind of vodka – with added colour and essences, sometimes mixed with a little real whiskey, was at best an imitation.

Taft had decided that provided it was distilled from a grain mash, spirit could be called whiskey even though distilled to near neutrality by reduction notably of its fusel oils. Distillers had to indicate the type of whiskey it was though, say “grain neutral spirits”.

Therefore, makers of the older or straight whiskey type, distilled to a lower proof and containing extra character from the fusel oils (various acids, aldehydes, etc.), could not claim a monopoly on use of the term whiskey. Straub was really upholding their view of the matter from the standpoint of what to buy.

A similar result occurred in Britain in the same period, allowing near-neutral “column spirit” or, as commonly termed, “patent whisky” to be labeled as whisky. Makers of the older single malt whisky, ever popular today, lost the labeling battle just as straight whiskey makers did in the U.S.

(I should add, the convention is to omit the “e” in “whisky” for British and Canadian whisky. American and Irish whiskeys generally take the “e”).

 

 

Since by 1913 the American regulatory and labelling issue had been decided, and especially with temperance sentiment peaking, it was odd to see a newspaper devote so much (friendly) time to whiskey. True, the article was framed as advice to wine stewards, but the average reader would take it as a suggestion to buy “the real thing”.

Straub identified this more specifically as bonded whiskey. Bonded whiskey was straight whiskey from a warehouse under federal control guaranteed as aged four years, the produce of one distillery, made in one season, by one distiller.

The bonding law, passed in the closing years of the 1800s, did not guarantee high quality as such, but rather that the product was not blended or compounded, in particular with neutral grain spirits. A green stamp on the bottle in practice assured buyers of a pure article, even though blended or compounded whiskey was sold widely, some with good reputations.

Straub quoted distiller Col. E.H. Taylor, Jr. of Kentucky on the merits of, in their view, real whiskey. I spoke earlier of Col. Taylor, an ardent proponent of straight whiskey who fought the good fight against rectifiers and blenders. Indeed he played a large role in getting the bonding law passed.

No less interesting than Straub’s 1913 print sally is that he was a teetotaler. Yes, a non-drinker. So was E.H. Taylor, his tutor to learn the grammar of whiskey.

When one  contemplates the sizeable book Straub wrote on drinks, this comes as a slight shock. He worked by sense of smell and colour alone. Can someone understand a subject as intricate and sensory-driven as beverage alcohol and still master the subject?

Perhaps. Many in the hospitality field abjure alcohol, some former imbibers who took the interest too far. Whether Straub started off by drinking and then left off, I am not aware.

Either way, to give detailed procedures and ingredients for hundreds of drinks with nary a taste seems like teaching how to drive while never taking the wheel. Yet, as noted E.H. Taylor never drank his whiskey either, which had no impact on a highly successful career as distiller and whiskey expert.

Straub died in 1920, having lost his job when Prohibition closed the bars. He had became ill before the law came into effect, and one wonders if its prospect harmed his health. In my researches, many figures associated with the alcohol trade died around the time Prohibition came into force. That some were struck down literally by the law seems undoubted; Straub may have been one.

A few lines from Straub’s article pinpoints the preference for straight whiskey (typically today in North America, bourbon or straight rye whiskey. Some whisky sold in Canada is made on these lines as well):

Prior to the revenue raising period of the civil war, before the urgent need of federal finance conferred upon the rectifier the anomalous prerogative to counterfeit whisky, all brands of whisky came from an actual whiskey distillery. Goods were sold according to their true age and maturity. This genuine whisky has always had a distinctive character both when it leaves the still, new and white in color, and again after it has aged in a charred oak barrel and acquired an indicative color varying from a light straw shade in the early days of maturation until, later along, it deepens to a reddish brown. Now this color becomes an index of age.

The “distinctive character” is sometimes called today “distillery character”, which can be a grainy, often chemical-like note. It derives from fractions of the spirits distilled at a low proof, traditionally in the age-old pot still or alembic, but steam distillation in the newer column apparatus can achieve a similar result. (The reverse is not the case, in practice).

When aged, the feisty taste of new spirit meant for straight whiskey is partly modified by slow oxidation – the breathing of the barrel. This alters the chemistry of the spirit. The spirit absorbs as well tannins and other flavours from the barrel frame, wood gums in an older terminology.

In contrast, blended whisky, which constitutes the bulk of the typical bottle of Canadian whisky (the rest being a straight type), is fairly neutral in taste when new, like or close to vodka. In Canada, all components of the blend are aged at least three years, which emulates traditional whisky to a degree. Still, aged straight whisky and aged grain neutral spirits, blended or not, never taste the same.

The American definition of vodka changed recently but the base of all vodka must still be “grain neutral spirits”, or GNS. GNS as defined today must be distilled at or above 190 proof, or 95% alcohol (when new that is, not diluted for bottling).

This spirit, while often not quite tasteless, has a substantially neutral character compared to straight whiskey when new. It’s top distillation limit is 160 proof or 80% alcohol, and in practice usually less.

The greater amount of water in the latter carries more of the by-products of distillation that give the whiskey flavour and body, ditto for Scottish single malt and Irish pure pot still whiskey.

That said, even a spirit distilled, say, at U.S. 180 U.S. proof or 90% pure alcohol, while technically whiskey, cannot be used to produce straight whiskey, viz. the traditional bourbon or straight rye, as it too lacks enough character by comparison to the spirit needed for a “straight”.

Some whisky in Canada is touted as made from all-rye. This means the grain mash in the still is from rye and no other grain is used such as corn, wheat or barley. Where, as usually the case, the rye mash is distilled at a high proof – at or near the alcohol percentage to make vodka – the rye element loses significance as its character has been “stripped out” in the distillation.

A spirit distilled as thoroughly from a corn or wheat mash will taste very similar, for practical purposes anyway. Certainly this is so in my experience, and is asserted by many specialists.

Pre-Prohibition drinks expert albeit non-drinker Jacques Straub touted the older form, straight whiskey, as superior to these others. Whether he was right or not is a matter of taste, one’s pocketbook, and whether whisk(e)y is preferred neat or in mixed form.*

….

*The merits of straight whiskey vs. blended are less evident when mixed with six ounces, say, of seltzer or ginger ale.

 

 

 

Red Alert

Examples of Irish Red Ale

Spearhead Brewing Co. in the old Loyalist town of Kingston, Ontario is a standard-bearer for all that is best in craft brewing. Its CEO Josh Hayter, whom I have met, is as committed as they come. Heading their brewing team is Czech-trained veteran Tomas Schmidt, styled Brewmaster while Jacob Schmidt is the Head Brewer.

That they love hops, as evidently Josh and the team, is made clear in their recent Amber of the North, an Irish red type. The terms “Amber” and “British red ale” appear on the label and really this could be a British pale ale or English bitter style too.

 

 

The Cashmere hop provides an insistent skein of bitterness on a malty caramelized base. You can read more about Cashmere at Yakima Chief in this link, but as used by Spearhead there is no evident citric or tropical effect, no grapefruit either despite the Cascade lineage.

I suspect the Cashmere was used here more for bitterness than aroma or flavour, which would accentuate the steely alpha note. The effect therefore is as in many British beers where an emphatic but neutral bitter plays off a malty base.

Numerous malts are used, so is roasted barley, perhaps a trademark of “Irish red” if trademark there be. Malty sweetness abounds but the hops have more of a say as the beer goes down.

The beer drinks cold to perfection, vs. some actual Irish and British ale that benefit from a warmer serving temperature due to a lower hop rate. Generally too these offshore beers are lower in gravity, which suits a lower hop profile.

Even most craft fans want beer cold here and fizzy too, which means hops and malt accents need gain so to speak to ensure the right palate impact.

Here is an actual Irish Red Ale, from Carlow Brewing in Carlow, Ireland, a long-established craft brewer in the Emerald Isle:

 

 

It too is excellent but its gravity is lower than Spearhead’s and a warmer temperature shows the beer to best advantage. A straight cellar temperature – temperature of a cool room – is good.

O’Hara’s Red has a fairly neutral bitterness like the other beer, so again no strong flavours such as woodsy, geranial or tropical fruit. O’Hara’s uses, see its website, Mt. Hood hops in a late addition to the boil. Mt. Hood is a Washington State hop but its German ancestry (Hallertau) prevents any obvious American character.

The malt base is lightly sweet with caramel notes as the Spearhead has, a hallmark of the Red style. O’Hara’s is somewhat darker but both are in the range for Irish red as understood today.

By contrast to both these, the locus classicus for Irish Red, Smithwick’s Ale from the giant Guinness-Diageo, has a woodsy/flowery note of (probably) English Fuggles, or Fuggles + Golding. I like that taste in the Smithwick’s, and would enjoy a craft example that boosts the effect.

 

 

The beeriness in general of Smithwick’s is fairly restrained, but its many fans like it that way, evidently.

A good Irish Red tasting would be, in this order, Smithwick’s, O’Hara’s, and Spearhead. Readers can suggest the music and cheese to go with it.

 

Old Whiskey, Old Money

[A version of this appeared earlier but am re-posting as it is substantially revised].

A news story published in distant Williamstown, Victoria in 1898 concerned an American country lawyer, Henry Sherwood. A young counsellor just getting started, Sherwood took a fee in whiskey. Not just any whiskey, but prime Kentucky bourbon.

The story reaches back to the 1850s in Corning, Steuben County, New York. North of the county line, more or less in parallel, are the storied Finger Lakes with a portion of Keuka Lake peeking into Steuben.

Many readers will know of Steuben Glass, formerly a prime production of Corning. The factory closed about ten years ago but the Corning Glass Museum continues the tradition via its exhibitions and educational mission.

Below Corning is shown in 1852, rendered by an unknown artist (source: Wikipedia Commons).

 

Having received a barrel of Kentucky whiskey for this efforts Sherwood, an abstemious man himself, rolled it into in his basement, where it stayed for five years. At a euchre game in the local courthouse – after hours – with Judge Constant Cook, the subject of whiskey came up.

Hearing the justice slag the whiskey made in Corning, Sherwood fetched two gallons from his barrel for the judge. It was a courtesy easy for Sherwood to do, but it never hurts of course to curry favour with the man sitting in judgment against your clients!

The judge evidently was highly pleased with the gift and promised young Sherwood a “lift”, a help or advantage in other words. In time this materialized when Judge Constant included Sherwood in lucrative coal and railway contracts.

But how did Sherwood come to receive such an unusual emolument? His client was a wandering youth, a ne’er do well who got in a fix in Sherwood’s quarter of New York. Sherwood took the case without fee just for the experience, but the lad promised if he made it home to Kentucky his father, a prosperous distiller, would ship fine whiskey to the lawyer in payment.

Sherwood deployed enough skill that his client was acquitted. Some time later, when the lawyer had forgotten about the case, the Corning station agent notified him a cask of old Kentucky bourbon lay in the rail yard for him. He needed just to take delivery.

As numerous bourbon histories tell us and my own research confirms, bourbon was already nationally known in the 1850s. It was not always called bourbon, sometimes just whiskey, or Kentucky whiskey. It was distilled by different apparatus, and aged for varying periods, but it was the darkened, corn-based bourbon we know today.

In a colourful phrase especially before the Civil War the term “red cretur” was used to describe it. The phrase is an importation, as partly the whiskey tradition itself, from Scotland. Cretur is a Scots (and maybe Ulster) dialectical term for “creature” and has long been applied to whiskey. Maybe people who took too much whiskey dubbed it so for its baleful effects.

The press account doesn’t say how old was the whiskey sent to Sherwood. Bourbon was available in a variety of ages before the Civil War. Likely I think Sherwood’s whiskey was one or two years old when he received it. Two years then certainly could mean old, because it took some colour from the barrel, and had some flavour from the wood gums.

At six or seven years aged in his cellar it would be just right if stored, as likely it was, in new charred oak. But if he received it at five years and it was ten when laving a parched judge’s lips, the further years would have done no harm.

And on to about 12-15 years, depending what you think of old whiskey.

So particular are names and details in the article that it seems unlikely the Sherwood whiskey story was made up. Indeed a Constant Cook did exist, tied to land and railway development in New York, see a reference in this biographical sketch from the Fall Brook Railway historical site.

A passage in an official New York State history confirms that a Sherwood practiced law in Steuben County and was involved in similar investments to Cook, in the right period. It all has the smack of real people and events. There is no reason to discount the whiskey part of it.

Given how his land investments worked out Sherwood’s barrel proved finally of $1,000,000 value at the time. That was a lot of money then, today adjusted for inflation it is about $30,000,000.

Today too, prime old bourbon, say 12-20 years old – if you can find it – goes for good money, although not the millions, not yet anyway. In Sherwood’s basement, to one indifferent to liquor prime or otherwise, Kentucky whiskey had little value. But to someone who valued liquor differently it meant much more.

In turn this translated finally to immense riches for an abstemious country lawyer. Of course it is all a question of time and place. I was there – Kentucky too, many times – when the whiskey renaissance took root about 20 years ago.

And then, you could buy old whiskey for a song, practically. I speak here of American whiskey, not Scotch or Irish whiskey but that too went for much less than nowadays.

Of course, old whiskey is not necessarily better than younger, but as ever carries the imprimatur of fashion. So if you want it old today, be prepared to open that wallet, real or electronic.

 

Hops of Galicia, Beer of Lopatyn

The post that follows in effect is the second part of my previous post, “Pictures From a Brewery”.

Hops in the Austrian Empire

Hop-growing in the former Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia was an established but relatively small-scale business up to World War I. Prior to 1850 one source, Penny Cyclopedia (1838), states “a few hops” were grown, so a cottage industry at best.

By 1879 hop-growing is on a more solid footing. The Journal of the Society of Arts was particularly approving of quality, stating at their best Galician hops could hardly be distinguished from classic Bohemian Saaz.

The bulk of the culture was in the eastern section of the purple area shown, comprising the Lvov, Tarnopol, and Stanislawow districts, viz. Eastern Galicia.

 

(Image attribution: Kai Kotzian, year of creation: 2005. Source: Wikipedia Commons at this link).

To the north is Volhynia, then in the Russian Empire, also known for hops historically as I discussed earlier. Although Galician hop quality could be good as noted, as in other parts of Austro-Hungary, occasionally the crop failed or was seriously reduced.

In 1897 production for Galicia was about 1,000,000 lbs. Bohemia, long the star for production and topmost quality, outpaced it more than tenfold. See in Hops: in their Botanical, Agricultural, and Technical Aspect and as an Article of Commerce by Emanuel Gross (1900), whence this table is taken:

 

 

In 1911 the American Daily and Consular Trade Reports reported hop output of Galicia about on par with ten years earlier, although swings in annual production could be quite variable, reflecting weather and hop culture factors.

Hops and Galicia After World War I

In 1921, hence just after World War I, the Journal of the Institute of Brewing reported the hop fields of Galicia were “completely devastated” due to the war. I am not clear if there was revival in the interwar years, perhaps there was on a small scale.

In recent years hop culture exists in numerous parts of Ukraine, of limited scale. Eastern Galicia though, which is part of modern Ukraine, appears to raise no or little hops. It is not listed (that I could see) in the 2018 study Beer and Hop Branches of Ukraine: Conjuncture and Integration by T. Pryimachuk, A. Protsenko, R. Rudyk, and T. Shtanko.

While around 1900 Galicia did about as well in hop culture as Styria including for yield, Styria became a recognized hop production area especially for the Styrian Fuggle variety. At least on paper similar promise attended early hop culture in Galicia, but the end result differed.

Terroir

The novelist Asher Barash memorialized small-scale Galician brewing in his book Pictures From a Brewery (1929 in Hebrew, 1971 in English). I have little doubt the beer he describes had the stamp of terroir. That beer was made in “L.”, signifying likely Lopatyn, the village in Eastern Galicia where Barash grew up.

The beer of L. as the book describes resulted from barley sourced from local agriculture, malted onsite at the brewery. Hops too were sourced from local growers. No matter the attempted replication of the Bohemian gold standard, Eastern Galician hops had to demonstrate local qualities, terroir if you will.

This is the pattern of hop growing world-wide except to a degree where intensive cultivation including irrigation can produce a relatively consistent product, as in Washington State in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Lopatyn’s Beer

Barash also wrote that the beer of L. was commended for its quality by visitors from the “Halperin” brewery in Brody, the chief town of the district: see on map above, Lopatyn is a few miles distant.

We know that Halperin’s brewery existed, the modern Polish historian Gregory Gembala mentions it as a leased undertaking in his paper The Role of Jews in the Polish Beer Industry. He describes it this way:

  • Brody Stare (Aleksander Heilpern)

Gembala does not mention Lopatyn, but other sources state brewing took place there ahead of World War I and apparently into the 1930s. A 1907-1913 Galician business directory shows the names of Lopatyn residents engaged in brewing, the spirits trade, and propination, or rights granted by a noble landowner to brew, distill or sell alcohol.

See in top-left (the name Lopatyn appears on the previous page where the entry starts):

 

 

The names, e.g. Leon Friedmann for brewing, do not correspond to those in Barash’s novel. The brewery of L. was managed by his heroine Hanna Aberdam, who signed the brewery lease according to the book. No similar name appears in the directory for Lopatyn at least for 1907-1913.

It is possible by this period she was no longer involved in brewing, but I doubt in any case he would have used her real name.

Note however the hop trade is mentioned, via the name Distenfeld. This was one of the founding families of Jewish Lopatyn. The patriarch came from Volhynia, as described in a history of Lopatyn Jewry included in the memorial website Jewish Generations.

The account includes a hand-drawn map of the town. The key shows the location of the brewery and distillery (item 11). The oblong shown was perhaps the pond, or “lake” in the book, along which both lay. I included in my previous post an image of what may be that water today, where a distillery still operates.

For those interested, which I hope are all reading, the Jewish Generations page sets out in graphic, sadly disturbing detail what became of Lopatyn’s Jews after the start of World War II.

I think it likely Asher Barash plumbed both his creative process and diverse sources for his story, not excluding the Lopatyn brewery; how could it be otherwise? That he drew the general lines of small-scale, manorial brewing in Austrian Galicia I have no doubt.

For their part, the beer of Lopatyn, and the beer of Brody, had to have a regional stamp. They are a taste forever lost, as are the Jewish communities that produced them, in those places, at that time.

Note re images: source of each image is linked in text. Images are used for historical and research purposes. All intellectual property in the source belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Pictures From a Brewery” by Asher Barash

In 1929 in the British Mandate of Palestine Asher Barash (1889-1952) was one of an emerging generation of writers. He wrote mainly short stories and novels, including to memorialize Jewish life in the Galicia he had left behind, in 1914 when he emigrated to pre-Mandate, or Ottoman, Palestine.

In this regard he was similar to S.Y. Agnon, a better-known writer and Nobel laureate (1966), who came to Palestine some years before him from the same part of Europe. Barash is considered a highly realistic writer, seeking to portray Galician life and its characters in all their rich variety when the territory was still ruled by Austro-Hungary.

He wrote the novel Pictures From a Brewery in Hebrew starting in 1915. The book was completed and published in its entirety in Palestine in 1929. Many chapters are portrayals of characters in his drama, and can stand on their own. An instance is the sharp portrait of a German-Jewish brewer, always called “Herr Lieber”, or the accountant, “Reb Simha”.

This image is drawn from a page for the book at Biblio.com:

 

 

The book was re-published with his other works in Israel in the 1950s. Only in 1971 did it appear in English (translation by Katie Kaplan), issued by Bobbs-Merrill in New York. The plot concerns a brewery in a town only described as “L.”. This is surely a cipher for Barash’s birthplace of Lopatyn, in the Brody district in eastern Galicia, now in Republic of Ukraine.

Lopatyn was and is a small town, today about 3,200 people, surrounded by fields and forests. Most residents even before World War I were of Ukrainian stock. The town then comprised about 10% Jews, who were mainly Hassidim following either the Husiatyn or Belzer lines (each a particular rabbinical dynasty).

While pious in a life dominated by ritual and learned study, the Jews of (historical) Lopaytn, by my research again, were engaged in normal commercial activities. Some were farmers, some shopkeepers and peddlers, some traded in grain or hops or animal stock. The town also had a brewery and distillery. Similar background appears for the town of L. in the Barash book as well.

The heroine of the book is Hanna Aberdam, called Mrs. Aberdam or in the Polish honorific Pani Aberdam. The period described is not made explicit but seems to be the first years of the 1900s, by which time she has run the brewery for 30 years, under lease from a Polish grandee called Count or Graf (the German form) Stefan Molodetzky.

Molodetzky in turn is described as a scion of the Zamoiski nobility, often spelled today Zamoyski. While based to the west in Poland this undoubted historical family** also held estates in Lopatyn, although Molodetzky himself appears a fictional personage.

Mrs. Aberdam is described as a kindly person, born of a well-to-do merchant family. When her first husband, a pious scholar, dies young, she re-marries a shopkeeper of no great business ability and decides to enter business herself to provide for her family.

She leases the town brewery, which previously had gone bankrupt. It overlooked a body of water called in the book “the lake”, fed by underground springs.  At this she proves a signal success, the result of her good memory, facility with figures, and good knowledge of Polish.

A theme in the book is how the successful Jewish businesses in these small towns were an organic part of their community, helping to support townspeople through employment, and co-religionists with charity. For example, Aberdam would lead a drive to provide a dowry for an indigent bride, or help Jews who lost their homes in a fire.

She is depicted as an ethically motivated employer who charged a reasonable price for her beer. The beer was generally well-regarded including by owners of larger breweries in nearby towns. (Sometimes it was “too bitter” though!).

The town of L. also counted Polish gentry, the local canon certainly, the postmaster, the forester, and others who helped run the town. Its structure was semi-feudal in nature, in a pattern derived from a much older history beyond my scope here.

The Count was represented locally by his agent Pan Grabinski who, with his wife Pani Yuzia and children, are described with great warmth by Barash. He had to know or know of persons similar to them to write the way he does, and similarly of Pan Yashinski, the forester who assisted the Count and Grabinski for that part of estate management.

These officials are described as courteous and fair in their dealings with Mrs. Aberdam and her family. They harbour none of the hostility to Jews which Jewish history in that part of the world amply demonstrates, and which appears in the book in other contexts.

The book focuses on people, explaining their strengths and foibles, both Jews and others. Themes include the varying attitudes to Jews among Poles and Ukrainians as mentioned, the impact of modernity on Jewish piety and ethics, and not least for my purposes, how a small Galician brewery operated in those last years of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

The brewery was small, similar no doubt to the smallest, or “agricultural” breweries I discussed in my recent series on Jewish-owned or -operated breweries of that period. I’ll summarize some of its salient features as described by Barash, but encourage all interested in beer (or Jewish) history of that period and place to read the book.

The beer is described as “light”, selling to a willing market both in and beyond the town. Usually it was of good quality, due to Herr Lieber’s efforts. It is not called a lager but evidently was one, as the role of ice in production is stressed. The ice was cut in “greenish” blocks from the lake.

The wort was cooled in open vats. The “wirze“, a misspelling of the German word for wort, was sold to people as a beverage and given to the poor for free, so (my take on it) a kind of kvass.* Jews in Lopatyn used a concentrated form to sweeten babies’ food.

A “vintage” version of the beer, not otherwise explained, was donated by Mrs. Aberdam for religious celebrations, in particular an annual event where the two Hassidic sects joined as one in communal celebration.

Barash writes that in Galician breweries the rule was to engage a German brewer. Lieber, while Jewish, is portrayed as Germanized, both in character and deportment. He was known for example to order lunch from a “Christian” restaurant! His religious observance was minimal compared to the others but he was respected for his devotion to his work.

He spoke little of his work except when brewery experts visited, then he would become loquacious, birds of a feather again. An unvarying topic of conversation with him was that “beer is bread”, evidently something he learned early in Germany.

He was a bachelor who made an attempt at marriage but it ended badly, in a tragi-comic episode related by Barash.

Hops were sourced from growers in the area, mainly Jewish at the time according to Barash. This product was also purchased by Czech brewers when hop culture failed in Bohemia, in which case the price climbed, but Mrs. Aberdam bought a full year’s supply in advance, and was vouchsafed this risk.

The beer was evidently all-malt, as apart Lieber’s German brewing background, for which this is a desideratum, the all-important barley is mentioned numerous times. The brewery had its own maltings underground, as existed for some other breweries in Central and East Europe, as I described earlier for the Teitel brewery.

Numerous personalities of the brewery are described colourfully, e.g. the worker Vanka who for years had the job of pulling bungs from returned empty barrels. He dreamed of rising to stoker, to fuel the wood-fired boiler, and finally reached his goal when an assistant’s position opened in the brewery.

Unfortunately he was given to excess in drink especially in the town tavern on Sunday. He would say indiscreet things including of the brewery foreman, Srael (contraction of Israel), but was always forgiven. The foreman, for his part, incurs some disapproval from Barash for his officious behavior, or so I interpreted the book.

The brewery operated year-round except that during Lent it brewed sporadically, and on holidays of both religions and Saturdays, “they lay off work altogether”.***

The story of Mrs. Aberdam and her family doesn’t end well. I’ll let you read the book to understand why, a product of perfidy both Gentile and Jewish as described in the book, but also perhaps fate, and the simple passage of time.

The book was reviewed in 1974 in Commentary magazine and those wishing to know more can start there.

N.B. In Lopatyn today a building described as a distillery appears in this image, by a small body of water. This may be the lake described in the book. The brewery of Lopatyn prior to WW I probably was up or down the waterside from where the distillery still lays.****

Whether that brewery formed the model for the one in the book I cannot say, but given Barash grew up in Lopatyn, I think elements of his story are probably drawn from its history.

Note: For a follow-up to this post, see Hops of Galicia, Beer of Lopatyn.

Note re image: source of image is linked in text. Image is used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property thereto belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. All feedback welcomed.

….

*Barash sometimes calls the wort “menthe“, a word whose origins I have not been able to determine.

**The distinguished British historian Adam Zamoyski is a direct descendant.

***The text is not clear whether Sunday was considered such a holiday, but from context in the book, I think it was.

****In my research I found a statement that this distillery was founded in the Austro-Hungarian period, hence why I link it to the one mentioned in the novel.

 

 

 

Dutch Lunch. Part II.

Part I includes numerous additional references. Although one can multiply these almost indefinitely, I consider that, with the text, the arc of the Dutch lunch has been explained.

Here, by way of postscript or summary, I focus on two images, one from John Goins’ book, the other from the magazine Table Talk, both from the additional references. The second shows a table service for Dutch lunch. The centrepiece is striking, a large stein filled with green hops from the vine.

One wonders where the average homemaker or even restaurateur was expected to fetch such a thing.  Presumably it was thought anyone thinking of hosting a Dutch lunch would find a way.

A restaurateur likely had access via brewery representatives constantly importuning for business.  A homemaker would have to inquire further, but there were a lot of breweries in America before World War I, at least in larger centres.

As noted in Part I, with the approach of the war, and increasing influence of temperance, traditional German accoutrements were adapted to coffee service. The result seems rather awkward – even a small stein was ill-suited to ferry coffee – but “awkward” describes well how the suit of temperance fit the frame of the American body politic and social.

When commenting on the table service image, Table Talk states that either coffee or beer is served, so its caption was more decorous. Note that caption explains the meal is gathered from “the side”, in keeping with the informal nature of a Dutch lunch.

John Goins, as seen below, was not quite enthused for the use of doilies in this context, seeming to prefer, well, a bare boards approach. He deferred finally to the wishes of “the American hostess”.

I have had countless meals in brewpubs. Never can I recall a stein or vase filled with hops on the table. True, the effect would be dampened with hop pellets (a processed form commonly used), but brewpubs often use the full flower form, or know how to get it certainly.

Even that would make a display if artfully arranged, where hops on the vine can’t be procured, that is. There is always a new angle, which sometimes proves to be rather old.

Brewpubs reading, hark. But let’s leave the doilies in the past.*

 

 

 

Postscript to the postcript, but for what it is worth, Wikipedia details the (truly) Dutch koffietafel, spelled in some accounts kaffietafel.

concludes this look.

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

*I claim no expertise but think the doily idea may also fetch from Germany, or perhaps Holland in this case.

 

Dutch Lunch. Part I.

Boon Companion to Lager Beer – Overview

Before broaching the Dutch lunch, I’ll start with the “free lunch”, a topic that acquired cultural dimensions in the U.S. far beyond simply a matter of tavern history. The term itself entered the lexicon as metaphor to signal something ostensibly but not truly free.

Of course, the saloon’s free lunch came at a price, the need to buy beer. The late Madelon Powers, who chaired the department of history at the University of New Orleans, authored in 1998 the impressive Faces Along the Bar: Lore and Order in the Workingman’s Saloon, 1870-1921 (University of Chicago Press).

A chapter in the book running some 20 pages describes the origins, diversity and fate of the free lunch as a national social institution of the pre-Volstead era.

The book makes clear, as do other sources, that while cheese, rye and other breads, cold cuts, and salted fish often formed centrepiece of the free lunch, it could take many forms. Sometimes regional location influenced this, chili say in the Southwest, sometimes the ethnic origin of the proprietor.

An Italian-American barkeep might offer spaghetti. Therefore, such offerings cut across the pre-1920 constellations of foods that characterized drinking lager on the one hand, and ale and porter on the other.

This understood, my studies suggest that in general, roast beef, steak, mutton, Welsh Rabbit, the lobster, and the oyster were classic foods for ale and porter.

In contrast, cold cuts, sliced Swiss and spreadable German cheeses, smoked and pickled fish including sardines and herring, and cooked dishes typical of mitteleuropa (goulash, sausages, boiled beef) often accompanied lager.

I discussed earlier Virginia Elliott’s book Quiet Drinking issued in late 1933 as Prohibition was ending. It has a chapter on foods suitable for beer. The traditions of pre-1920 end as completely mingled, supplemented by ideas of the author, a modern touch in itself.

In part I think this derived simply from the passage of time, but also ale became less defined after 1933 – more akin to the cold, sparkling lager that almost effaced it by 1919, while porter remained marginal, as even before World War I.

Only a few people, e.g. at Keen’s Chop House in New York, recalled in the 1930s that a glass of old-fashioned ale was best suited to the mutton chop, as I chronicled earlier.

Returning to pre-1920, in the lager constellation of foods we must rank the “Dutch lunch” at or near the top for eminence. And this clearly had a German origin, as many sources suggest. The word Dutch has to be a corruption of deutsch, meaning German.

The dish first appears in the late 1800s, our earliest spotting is 1872, see in additional references appended below. From a canvass of many sources it appears the Dutch lunch was originally, and remained in some degree, an essentially German collation.

Cold cuts such as ham and salami, and wursts liver and other, formed the basis with cold cheeses sliced or spread, rye and pumpernickel breads, and salted or smoked fish.

While a truly Dutch meal, koffietafel, can be similar in construction, despite New York’s undoubted Dutch heritage numerous indices point to a German inspiration for the American Dutch lunch.

In time but still early on, foods deemed lager-friendly but not specifically German might appear in the Dutch lunch. Pickled tripe, say, chili, or spaghetti. The animating idea was a meal that could be assembled quickly and served informally. Despite the moniker lunch, a Dutch lunch might be served any time of the day.

It became a socializing staple in general American society, served at everything from whist games to college suppers, club events to the post-theatre. As noted, in its classic form, and persisting yet through the decades, a Teutonic stamp was evident – which meant beer.

This is made express in this 1890s menu, reproduced in a journal devoted to the ice and refrigeration trade (no ethnic context surrounds the event, in other words):

 

 

Beer is mentioned, lager was a safe bet. The Dutch lunch remained popular for post-theatre despite some food writers warning its digestibility posed risks when eating so late.

The Dutch lunch survived into the 1930s and beyond, I found instances into the 1970s and later, usually from fraternal organizations or other clubs, but the name at any rate was on its last legs.

As further indication beer was a subtext, a 1909 Missouri Valley Times article described (an evident) collegiate dinner where “coffee in steins” substituted for:

…the proverbial beverage which usually accompanies the ingredients of a Dutch lunch.

This was an interesting event, as after various games the “senior boys” entertained the “senior girls” at midnight with the dinner, an inversion from the usual social pattern at the time.

True, the boys didn’t have to cook really, but still. There must be something (laudable) about Missouri.

But who remembers the Dutch lunch today, in our cellphone age? Almost no one. Below are further sources that support and enlarge on the above. Peruse at your will.

Additional References.

So far, the earliest Dutch Lunch we found was in January 1872 at what seemed a tavern (“Peep o’ Day House”), advertised in Delaware’s Wilmington Daily Commercial. In December 1881 in Kentucky, a Greek letter society hosted a Dutch lunch.

The menu appeared in The Scroll of Phi Delta Theta. vol. 5, Part 2 – vol. 7 (November 1880 – June 1883). Evidently German-based, with “lager beer” served, only minor elements were American, e.g. chow-chow. The Wilmington notice does not disclose the offerings.

These subsequent references illustrate chronologically salient points in the arc of the Dutch lunch.

  1. High-end menu from Bismarck Restaurant, Chicago, in (1899) The American Pure Food Cook Book and Household Economist. Note the hot dishes served, mostly Austro-German, and translation of German terms into English. See at p. 426. The Bismarck was said to have popularized the Dutch lunch, but this version, in any case, was atypically luxe.
  2. 1899 description of Dutch lunch event in the journal The Process Photogram, mentioning “several kegs of beer” were consumed. See p. 126.
  3. 1904 article in periodical Table Talk picturing a table service for Dutch lunch, see p. 481. German steins are shown with suggestion to hold coffee but an extra-large stein in centre is filled hops! Text goes further than caption, stating beer or coffee can fill steins.
  4. 1906 article in Ithaca Daily News also describes Dutch lunch in German terms, e.g. schweizer kase, kakao, pretzels, kafflekuchen, zwiebach, gurken and Haringssealat.
  5. 1907 letter to editor of journal What to Eat argues Dutch lunch is German in origin and beer goes with the meal. The writer had relations in Holland. See p. 35.
  6. John Goins’ manual (1908, 1914) The American Waiter includes a list of suggested dishes of both German and non-German character, see at 209-210. Goins makes clear American hospitality has enlarged the original German dimensions of the meal.
  7. Americanized 1916 Sears Roebuck Dutch lunch menu reproduced in (2010) Consumers’ Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920 by Kristin Hoganson. See p. 144
  8. In (1916) The American Jewish World, an advertisement in Minneapolis by a Jewish delicatessen advertises a Dutch lunch that includes kosher corned beef and wursts. Note two lager beer ads adjacent to delicatessen’s ad.
  9. 1917 issue of The Sun in New York advertises Bevo, a near-beer of Anheuser-Busch. Ad describes a further Americanized Dutch lunch, quite a pot pourri that incorporates lobster, spaghetti, sardines, swiss cheese, goulash, chile-con-carne, sausages, and more­. Bevo of course would have tasted somewhat like the brewery’s classic lagers.
  10. 1936 ad by Simon Pure Brewing in Binghampton, NY, pictures a Dutch Lunch and touts Simon Pure Beer and Old Abbey Ale to go with it. First ad we found that actually mentions ale for a Dutch lunch, but it’s probably not the first.
  11. In 1960, Dutch lunch is described and pictured in California’s Santa Cruz Sentinel, described as “old-fashioned”.
  12. Italian-American bar Gus’ Place in Pueblo, Colorado still offers a Dutch lunch (2021), for which it is reputed. See details and restaurant sign at Trip Advisor. Dish features cold cuts and cheese. See detailed description in 1992 study Old Ties, New Attachments: Italian-American Folklife in The West, ed. by David Taylor and John Williams.

Part II concludes this look.

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