Historical Polish Beer Resource

In recent posts I have referenced Polish and other East European websites and blogs that contain labels, historical reprints, bottles, commentary, and more – a great deal of useful information on the brewing past of these regions.

A further resource is the blog of Lukasz Czajka, based in Poland. According to his site, he started by collecting miniature bottles of liquors but has extended his ambit to a broad range of alcohol drinks and subjects.

He covers many aspects, modern and past, of vodka, whisky, other spirits, liqueurs, wines, beer, and some non-alcohol drinks.

He has provided an excellent service to beer historical studies by his postings in that area. Many are listed on this page, but others may be found by searching through the site.

I enjoyed the Drozdowo brewing items, referring to the brewery founded in 1862 by Franciszek Lutosławski, an estate owner of noble birth.* Drozdowo was (is) near Lomza, in the north-east.

The brewery is seen at this source: Museum of Nature – Lutosławski Manor in Drozdowo), likely after enlargement in the late 1870s.

An image in Polska-Org., which compiles historical images of Poland, shows the elegant lines of the brewery as it likely appeared on completion in 1862.

Lukasz Czajka posted two historical articles describing the brewery and its beers, from 1880 and 1909.

He also posted an 1874 analysis of the brewery’s March beer, a specialty for which it was famous, sold in a triangular, “Russian” bottle. The data is set out in a table analyzing 21 Polish beers. Most are Bavarian-type, showing the prominence the style had achieved in Poland.

There are other styles (no porter though) including the March beer of Lutoslawski. Most beers, like that one, were from the Polish heartland – the Congress as it was known during the Russian Empire. One was from Galicia, which I may revisit.

The Lutoslawski March beer was 7.6% abv. From the extract percentage stated, I get FG of 1.036 and OG of 1.095, a rich beer indeed. Many beers in the table had a rich character, the pilsener did clearly.

The taste note states the beer was not too bitter and had just a touch of tar – likely a reference to pitched casks used on the Continent then.

The two articles establish clearly the March beer was top-fermented. It was said to keep well, a sample proved sound at four years of age. The March beer was compared to English ale for quality, no surprise at this point.

(Again, I’d have to think Zywiec’s 1890s-era March ale, discussed in my earlier posts, was similar in character).

In a website devoted to Lomza’s past, Henryk Sierzputowski posted in 2009 a compact history of the Lutoslawski brewery. Sadly it declined in the wake of WW I. An attempt was made to revive brewing –  on the same site –  in the early 1990s but it didn’t succeed.

In its heyday the brewery made an assortment of brews, including an Extra Imperial Stout. See the fine display in Polish Beer Labels (look under “Drozdowo”).

Returning to Czajka’s pages, I also enjoyed reading

  • an article on the history of English beer and brewing in Poland by Marian Kiwerski, based on a presentation he gave in 1936 to a technicians’ gathering
  • 1931 article on the operations of a “warehouse”, or distributor’s facility. The firm, A. Domanski, carried five beers: a Grodziskie, Barclay Perkins’ porter, Pschorr from Munich, Anstadt from Lodz, and Czech Pilsener. Each was stored for varying periods and temperatures in a dedicated warehouse
  • 1931 article on Grodziskie beer, with excellent historical detail. Eg. while in 1931 the beer was 100% smoked wheat malt, in earlier times it could be made from a blend of barley and wheat malts, and even just barley malt, when wheat was short. It was 1.7% abv in the 1930s
  • an article from 1937 on a Shanghai cocktail bar

There are good images throughout that enhance the text.

Marian Kiwerski, who was a professional engineer, authored a book on world and Polish beer history. It was based on articles in an interwar brewers’ trade journal.

A digital version can be obtained from Lukasz Czajka for a reasonable price. Details in the first link above.

………

*The distinguished 20th century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski was a direct descendant.

 

 

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