Data is available on Genesee’s pre-Prohibition Liebotschaner beer – the brewery has performed a service to historians by tweeting it in 2018. See details here.
As stated in the label the data derived from a Professor Lattimore’s study. He had been engaged in 1884 by a number of Rochester breweries to analyze their beers to parry the suggestion that improper additives were used.
What Genesee’s label adds is that its data applied to Liebotschaner, not another lager brewed by Genesee. The news accounts of the assays mention only lager, no brand names.
This is an extract from the Geneva story:
Genesee, and the others, used all-malt, no surprise given the early date and claimed inspiration of a reputed beer of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Genesee’s alcohol was over 5% ABV (volume, not weight as shown in the study). I suspect this was higher than Liebotschaner Brewery’s Lager-Bier sold domestically, but possibly similar to the Export version likely shipped overseas.
A Libotschan brewing, sent to the 1889 Paris Exposition, rated at what in volume terms is just over 4% abv. The table appears in other words to state alcohol by weight, although some resultant values seem anomalous.
The Pilsen beer in the table would translate to 4.2% abv, which seems about right if it was Urquell’s or anyone’s in fact. However, if the table shows values by volume, the Libotschan sample seems unusually weak, not necessarily for local sale but for export to America.
Sending Liebotschaner to exhibit among reputed brands attests to contemporary, international favour for the beer, albeit it never enjoyed the renown of Pilsen’s or Budweis’ beers.
In the 1884 Genesee analysis, look at the final gravity. 1015 FG, making for a beer with good body. 1015 or that neighborhood was typical then for many central European lagers, as I discussed earlier for assays performed on imports in America.
Many pils-type beers of craft brewing one encounters day-in, day-out could use more extract post-fermentation. The old school knew its knitting.
There is not too much about hops in the Genesee label, but other indices can help here. Genesee’s Liebotschaner was probably well-hopped, with a possible question mark for Anheuser-Busch’s version in 1889, described as “delicate”.
In 1892, an advertisement in New Haven, Connecticut touted Genesee Liebotschaner as made from “German hops” and “Canada malt”. The hops could have been Czech Saaz, given German culture permeated Libotschan at the time. Canadian malt, likely from the Bay of Quinte in Ontario, was considered a choice product of the time.
A similar 1894 ad shows a line drawing of Genesee Liebotschaner.
By the time Louis Wehle is an employed brewer at Genesee in the second decade of the 20th century, did the brewery use rice adjunct, or corn for its Liebotschaner? We know it used rice in 1935, under Louis’ stewardship as owner.
Louis in 1938 then reverts to all-malt – possibly what he brewed himself at Genesee before Prohibition. The all-malt initiative did not succeed though. By late 1939 Genesee goes back to adjunct, which it has retained ever since, apart special brewings at its Rochester Brew House.
Genesee, in the 2018 Twitter thread, stated it brewed an all-malt pilsener in the Brew House that probably resembled the 1884 beer, for its 140th anniversary. I would like to have have tasted that.
Was there anything else the 1884 Rochester beer featured that was distinctive of the Libotschan original? Maybe yeast type, maybe something else, short of reviewing a brewing record we cannot know.
Mashing regime, boiling, hop schedule, fermentation, water: any one or more might have been distinctive of Libotschan brewing, at the time, and adopted in America, at least by some brewers.
Even factoring what we don’t know, we have seen the arc in this series of a peculiarly American style of beer, yet one inspired by a European original, with both unjustly neglected (until now) by brewing studies.
Liebotschaner in America seems to have been a pale quencher, setting aside one dark version, a bock, and a cream ale, albeit all bottom-fermenting.
Further historical investigation, especially in Europe, may uncover the Libotschan “secret” that Genesee and other American breweries sought to emulate.
ln our world today, when many brewers are avid to recreate the styles of the past, Liebotschaner beer, both European parent and American progeny, deserve a respectful attention.