Pre-Prohibition I.P.A and its Culinary World

Dwelling Together in Unity

I examined the legend of New Jersey’s Ballantine India Pale Ale earlier, a very important beer in American and now craft brewing history. As related there an attempt was made some years ago to revive the brand, but it did not “take”.

I hope the brand owner, Pabst, will try again, as there is great potential there, surely.

In these notes I consider a striking ad for the brand from 1910, printed in the Newark Evening News (via Chronicling America). This was at or near the peak of pre-First World War American brewing, at least for states that had no intention to adopt prohibition (locally) until federal law mandated it from 1919.

New Jersey was a stalwart, and retained its breweries and vibrant beer market up to the start of national prohibition (1919-1933).

 

 

The size and position of the ad shows that top-fermented beer still commanded strong affection in New Jersey, despite the dominance of lager in American brewing by then. Ballantine did brew lager by this time – “beer” strictly in former American parlance (from lager bier) – but pale ale still appealed to many, especially in the Northeast.

In New Jersey, specific historical influences reinforced that appeal, which I discussed in the post Of Pie, Paterson and Pints.

The ad shown also highlights the foods typically associated with ale and porter then: steak, lobster, heated cheese, and oysters. That about sums up the food picture for such beer, although allied foods might be served, the mutton chop, meat pie, other shellfish, etc.

The main food groups were clear though, especially their manner of preparation. I showed in other writing how some restaurants specialized in “musty ale”, a variant of pale ale, and lobster.

I chronicled the American Welsh Rabbit tradition, with its strong connections to Bass ale and similar beer, and the great alliance of steak and ale via the communal “Beefsteak”, a vestige of the old public eating.*

A similar tally for lager, whose Central European connotations were still strong in 1910, would include cold cuts. a cheese plate (cold), pickled fish, sandwiches, and pretzels.**

Each great family – lager and its innumerable types, and porter and ale with their subdivisions, had a food family peculiar to it. By the post-Prohibition era the families intermarried so to speak, accentuated by the fall of ale and porter in the American affection.***

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

*See for example here.

**Needless to say there was always some crossover. Ale could be taken with a cheese sandwich, say. Some had to like steak with lager. But broadly this division holds, by my research, apart the special subject of the saloon free lunch. By definition a choice of the proprietor not saloon patron, the free lunch could follow the binary suggested in these notes, but might depart from it, reflecting the region in which the saloon carried on business or the ethnic background of the owner. This special subject has been studied by scholars, which I’ll advert to in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

Cyril on Stout…

… and the Stirrup-Cup

Cyril Ray was an English wine specialist and writer, fairly long-lived (1908-1991). A good bio at Wikipedia explains his background. His name lives on, apart his writings, via his son Jonathan Ray, long-time wine editor of The Spectator.

The image below is of Ray père, from the biographical entry mentioned. Reminds me of Patrick Macnee of The Avengers TV series.

 

 

In 1967 Ray issued his In a Glass Lightly, which collected many of his magazine pieces and other occasional writings on drink.* These mainly deal with wine, but other drinks as well. There is a chapter on beer, in which he makes some interesting remarks on pale ale, pubs, and porter.

Image below is via the book’s Amazon listing.

 

 

Cyril Ray and Imperial Stout

In today’s beer scene some know his impactful appreciation of Russian Imperial Stout, now an established datum in craft brewing culture. It was originally written for Queen magazine, apparently in the mid-1960s.

I first saw it as reprinted in Michael Weiner’s The Taster’s Guide to Beer (1978), a book I bought over 40 years ago more or less concurrently with Michael Jackson’s more famous The World Guide to Beer (1977).

In the years before I created the Beer et Seq site in 2015, I contributed commentary in other forums. I must have mentioned Ray’s Russian stout remarks to Ron Pattinson as he mentioned me in 2009 when he reprinted the Queen article.

A useful service to beer studies that was. Of the many things Michael Jackson did for Russian stout – a lot – one thing he did not do was reference Ray’s remarks, which seem to have eluded him.

Ray characterized the beer in romantic-historical terms not dissimilar to how Jackson later did it. Therefore, one must credit Ray – and Weiner – in some part with transforming what was simply extra-strong porter into the craft darling Imperial Stout.

In a Glass Lightly incorporates the same Queen passages, so I won’t add anything further on that account.

Ray on Stout Generally

Ray also discusses other stout, some of which revolves around Guinness heir Bryan Guinness, aka Lord Moyne, evidently a friend and confidant. One anecdote states Bryan offered house guests a special drink, a “stirrup-cup”, at homegoing – Ray evidently stayed with him at his estate outside Dublin.

This was:

Guinness Foreign [Extra Stout] and Guinness Porter, mixed and matured to his own taste, and deliciously crisp yet full.

I take it Guinness prepared this special blend in bottles for Bryan, then its Vice-Chairman. One wishes more detail was available on the drink. But the logic is impeccable. (This blending thing for porter does seem to go back a long way, from early origins of porter. Off and on Guinness gets the blending treatment certainly. I’ve done it myself forever).

Ray states of stout that it goes well with jugged hare, Extra Stout in particular. Whereas he likes Guinness draught more with bone marrow and toast. As between Guinness Foreign Extra, then sent to “tropical” countries, and Guinness Special Export Stout, then sent to Europe, he thought the latter richer, a burgundy he says to the claret of the other. Fair enough.

Ray in general preferred Extra Stout (bottled) to draught Guinness, stating he liked the “prickle” of Extra Stout and it was “fresher”. Clearly the draught in the UK by then was the pasteurized keg beer. Extra Stout in 1960s England was still naturally-conditioned.

Ray, Pale Ale, Gold Triangle

Ray preferred naturally-conditioned bottled ale to the filtered, pasteurized stuff coming from the breweries in ever increasing quantities. He mentions Bass Red Triangle and Worthington White Shield in this regard, but – a sign of where the market was going – for home use even he bought the “keg” versions, Blue Triangle and Green Shield.

The bottled beer he had most regard for was the rare Bass Gold Triangle, on which he has much to say.** It was “admirably bitter, mellow, and rather strong”, sold in nips, or 2/3rds of a half-pint. He says it was perfect for a mid-morning or pre-luncheon drink, and by all rights should have been preferred by many to a gin-and-tonic, except for its price: two shillings a nip.

To be clear, this was too cheap, not too dear. He states he told Bass’ chairman to raise the price, so a higher echelon would buy it, but this did not occur. He states that later, when German Lowenbrau gained cachet in London, it could have been Bass Gold Triangle in its place. This puts a different spin on the usual story of lager’s unceasing, inevitable rise in the British Isles.

Assessing Ray as a Beer Critic

All this makes Ray sound like a true beer person, but really he wasn’t. Perhaps strategically, he states at the outset of the chapter that he really doesn’t know much about beer. He understood, and explained well, brewery- and pub-conditioned beer, say, but his heart seemed not really in it.

Perhaps he intended to assure his wine audience he remained on the grape side of the equation. He acknowledged that many in that constituency considered wine the socially superior drink. While he calls the attitude “snobbery”, I think by and large he shared the view.

For example, he states he gave his share of beer dinners but they seemed to make little impact on his guests. On one occasion he served Bass’s King’s Ale, brewed and bottled for the coronation of Edward VII, only to be told it tasted like “a tired old Madeira”.

Even Ray’s wife thought the beer reminiscent of “Parrish’s Chemical Food”. It is not beyond my research abilities to check what that was, or is, but I think I’ll refrain.

Image below is via this Worthpoint auction item.

 

 

It would take much independence of mind to stand against such attitudes, especially then, and I think in the end he too, raised two cheers for beer. The confirming point was his professed lack of interest in pubs. “Wet and smelly stand-up places” he called them, even likening the pub to a “public convenience”. Unfair, but there it is.

And so draught beer, really the star of the pub then and now, of the English brewing heritage, seemed to impress Ray only minimally. To the extent he embraced beer, it was the bottled form. This perhaps had its origin in class-based attitudes.***

It puts me in mind that flying officers in the prewar R.A.F. also preferred bottled beer to draught, as I recorded in Part I of my article on beer in British Malaya. During World War II Ray served as officer in a balloon squadron, so it all ties in, you see.

Note re images: images are sourced as identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

….

*The edition I used, but it seems a version of the book was published earlier, in 1960.

**Ron Pattinson has a few words, see here. Note the strength he records.

***See further in Comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Index To Gary Gillman Series on Prewar Polish and Adjacent Brewing Including for English Beer Styles

The posts, or essays as I like to call them, itemized below represent a body of writing from this past spring with a single exception from July 2018, as it fits the scheme intended.

I deal with English-style brewing (ale, porter) in Poland with a single but notable instance in Germany, starting in the 1800s. I also canvass prewar beer styles in general in Poland, its former Borderlands, and parts further east between ca.1900 and 1939.

Other aspects addressed of prewar Polish brewing include supplies used, for example the cask liner mammut and its source, and per capita consumption patterns in the light of world data.

“Lviv Porter, 1924-1939”, documents, using Polish sources, the continuing appeal of porter in the interwar period, and a likely shift to bottom-fermentation just ahead of World War II by a notable producer.

The essay “A Lviv Idyll, 1936” is a literary sally, finally.

This material both stands on its own and serves to complement my writing in the same period, (spring 2021) which documents the participation of Jews in Central and East European brewing, as indexed and introduced in this post.

Index 

Brewing British on the Moselle (July 25, 2018)

English Ales of Pomerania (April 11, 2021)

Ale of Zywiec, Poland. Part I. (April 14, 2021)

Ale of Zywiec, Poland. Part II. (April 18, 2021)

Edward Hall English Porter Brewery, Warsaw. Part I. (May 27, 2021)

Edward Hall English Porter Brewery, Warsaw. Part II. (May 27, 2021)

Historical Polish Beer Resource (May 30, 2021)

A Lviv Idyll, 1936 (June 2, 2021)

Lviv Porter, 1924-1939 (June 3, 2021)  

Polish Brewing Resource, 1899 (June 5, 2021)

Meaning of Piwo “Szynkowe” (June 12, 2021)

Ale and Porter on the Polish ‘Main – Zwierzyniec Brewery (June 13, 2021)

Polish Beer Slump 1930s (June 14, 2021)

World Beer Production Between 1913 and 1934 (June 17, 2021)

Brewing Supplies in Prewar Poland. Part I. (June 19, 2021)

Brewing Supplies in Prewar Poland. Part II. (June 20, 2021)

Brewing Supplies in Prewar Poland. Part III. (June 21, 2021)

 

 

Index to Gary Gillman Series on Prewar, Jewish-Owned Breweries in Central and Eastern Europe

Over the spring this year I did 15 posts, or essays I like to call them, on Jewish brewery ownership in Central and East Europe before 1939. Below I itemize them by date, so one can see at a glance the subjects covered.

The first and third set out significant historical and statistical background, in addition that is to the stories painted of individual breweries and their owners or families.

A range is included, from breweries in sizeable cities to village and estate breweries. In some cases the breweries still operate today, owned of course by others, which I discuss as well.

Together the links offer a good picture of Jewish participation in this sector, and its fate – devastation and annihilation – with the advent of World War II. Specifically, I refer to the Nazi persecution, in some cases preceded by Communist seizure of the plants and displacement of the private ownership.

In addition, I wrote 17 essays on non-Jewish breweries in Central/East Europe or aspects of brewing in general. These mostly pertain to prewar Poland, the former Polish Borderlands, and parts further east. This group describes English-style brewing in these areas, with special reference to porter.

The latter are collected in the post, “Index To Gary Gillman Series on Prewar Polish and Adjacent Brewing Including for English Beer Styles”. That writing both stands on its own and serves to complement the work collected in this post.

In its entirety, this material gives therefore both a picture of Jewish participation in prewar European brewing and the general context, or “beer scene”, in which it operated.

Note: A topic of this nature has a broad geographical scope. I dealt with selected breweries mainly in Poland, the former Polish Borderlands (today often Ukraine), and the former Russian Empire. I did not deal with Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, and former Czechoslovakia inter alia but the cases I considered are representative including, for the postwar Soviet bloc, where its regimes nationalized former Jewish breweries after the Nazis were defeated.

In Comments to the first post below, Engelhardt-Brauerei (Berlin-based) and Ottakringer (Vienna) are noted as examples for Germany and Austria of Jewish-owned breweries. I may revisit these, as well as other examples, but there were relatively few in the German lands, certainly.

Index

Jewish Breweries in old Belarus, Part I, Pupko Brewery (April 2, 2021)

Jewish Breweries in old Belarus, Part II: Papiermeister Brewery (April 5, 2021)

Jewish Breweries in old Belarus, Part III, Side Trip to Galicia (April 6, 2021)

Jewish Breweries in old Belarus, Part IV,  the Beers of Indura (April 7, 2021)

“Epstein’s Brewery”, its Fate in Vilnius (April 8, 2021)

Jewish Breweries of old Kolymyja, Galicia, Part I, Brettler Brewery (April 24, 2021)

Jewish Breweries of old Kolymyja, Galicia, Part II, Brettler Brewery (April 29, 2021)

Jewish Breweries of old Kolymyja, Galicia, Part III, Stefan Weiss Brewery (April 30, 2021)

Teitel Brewery of Prewar Poland (May 4, 2021)

Rivne Brewery, Ukraine (May 14, 2021)

The Victoria Brewery of Przemysl (May 18, 2021)

Dr. Henryk Kolischer Brewery, Medenice (May 20, 2021)

The Brewery of Kalush (May 23, 2021)

Amalia Goldberg Brewery, Tarnopol (May 26, 2021)

Arc of the Jelen Brewery, Lublin (June 9, 2021)

[Note added November 13, 2021]. See also “Pictures From a Brewery” (November 12, 2021), my discussion of Asher Barash’s 1929 master-work,

 

 

 

 

Neomexicanus in Various Guises. Concluding Part.

Following on my notes of yesterday, itemized herein are the instalments I was able to find of J.D. Harlan’s 1941 article “New Varieties of Hops”. This is all or most of it, certainly.

Perusal suggests there may be some repetition or multiple publication in these pieces. I did not methodically review them, apart my interest in Cats-Tails and its American wild hop component.

Clearly though anyone who wants a good idea of what the Geneva Experiment Station Bulletin covered should read them all.

August 1 (all 1941, all The Waterville Times).

August 3.

August 3, part II.

August 8. 

August 20.

August 27.

September 4.

Sept. 10.

Sept. 11.

Sept. 17.

Sept. 24.

October 1.

Harlan was a long-time hop specialist with the New York (State) Agricultural Station at Geneva, NY. The Station was tasked post-Prohibition with reviving New York’s hop industry.

The endeavour was ultimately not successful, but not for want of trying. The Waterville Times series was drawn from the Bulletin mentioned, which likely is available elsewhere in toto.

In this series, Harlan records hop performance following a four year trial of varieties planted in an experimental yard near Waterville, NY. Tested were:

  • old American varieties

  • newer varieties developed in England

  • some Continental varieties

Professor Salmon’s hybrids were clearly to the fore for the second group including Brewers Gold, Bullion, Cats-Tails, and Brewers Favourite. Brewers Favourite was a cross between a Cluster variety and an English landrace.

Cats-Tails is mentioned numerous times for various metrics. Here I would note, per the study, that in general brewers did not favour Cats-Tails. Second, the neomexicanus element originated in Colorado. In one instalment Harlan mentions “foothills” in the Rockies.

Colorado is of course a Southwestern state, directly north of New Mexico. The range of the Rocky Mountains extends southward through Colorado into New Mexico, their southern terminus.

Interwar reports by Professor Salmon on new varieties of hops similarly state the American wild hop (humulus Americanus) crossed with a male English hop (humulus lupulus) originated in Colorado. Such crossings produced Cats-Tails aka OZ79 and other seedlings.

See for example the 1939 report included in the September-October 1940 Journal of the Institute of Brewing. Cat’s-Tails is listed, among other hybrid seedlings.

My object here is not to investigate the relative merits of Cats-Tails. Evidently it did not have a long career. I might add though it had a high soft resin content, in particular for alpha acid content. This was a trait of some hybrids developed by Salmon, and no doubt Cats-Tails came as far as it did due to this factor.

Harlan included a table showing alpha acid rendering for a group of hops including Cats-Tails, in his August 8, 1941 instalment.

“Alphas” for Cats-Tails were 9.40%, impressive for the time. Bullion and another Manitoba seedling, and one variety of Cluster, came in higher but comparatively not by much, considering too seasonal variations. Many hops were under, notably the Czech Saaz, not a surprise of course.

Returning to a point I made in the first part of these notes, brewers might investigate whether hybrids are available today, if not likely Cats-Tails, that reflect genetic history from this Colorado hop. Maybe growers, here or in England, would be minded to plant Cats-Tails anew.

What displeased brewers back then, certainly for ale hops, may well find favour today, as craft history suggests.

Almost certainly the prized “dank” of today would have raised brewers’ hackles in the Thirties. We saw one hop back then, a Manitoban hybrid, termed “rank”. That’s only one letter off from dank, man.

 

 

 

 

Neomexicanus in Various Guises. First Part.

Grabbing the cat by the Tail

Beer writer Hollie Stephens has a good article just out, “The Rise of Neomexicanus” in Craft Beer and Brewing. She draws attention to systematic development in recent years of the wild American hop known as neomexicanus, found not unexpectedly in New Mexico, often along rivers and streams.

The hop is native to the Rocky Mountain states, and has long been known by hop scientists and hop breeders. What seems actually new, as described in the article, is development of stable breeds derived from the “mother” plant by rigorous selection to maximize desirable characteristics.

She notes:

Hop breeding—growing seeds from male and female plants—can be an arduous process. [New Mexico-based Todd] Bates says that he began by growing them in five-gallon buckets, 200 or 300 plants at a time. It took time to develop a winning breeding group …

Culture was later extended to Washington State, famed as a hop growing region. As I understand it, these hops are not crossed with a domesticated, or non-wild hop variety. Rather, seedlings are developed from male and female plants to get a stable breed with good brewing characteristics.

Medusa, described well in Kegerator, is considered a particularly successful result of such work.

As Stephens noted, some years ago Sierra Nevada Brewery innovated by using neomexicanus when some became commercially available. I tasted its Harvest Wild Hop IPA back then, and it was extremely good. It is not currently brewed, but Sierra Nevada’s website states it might be again.

This description in the webpage accords with my memory of the taste, and with statements in Stephens’ article:

HARVEST WILD HOP IPA – NEOMEXICANUS VARIETAL ….

The finale in our Harvest series features Neomexicanus, a wild hop native to the U.S. that imparts striking melon and apricot aromas as well as a floral undercurrent and citrus-like flavor.

It is of interest to note that American neomexicanus was long the subject of a hop breeding programme at Southeast Agricultural College at Wye, Kent, U.K., or so I have concluded from what follows.

Professor Ernest Salmon, long-time director of the programme, wrote up the “‘Cats-Tail'” hop in 1935 in the journal of the college, see summary in a 1936 American publication, Experiment Station Record, Volume 74, by United States, Office of Experiment Stations.

In August-October 1941 a multi-instalment article by J.D. Harlan of the “Geneva [New York] Experiment Station” was published in The Waterville Times. It reported on various metrics of early and late Cluster, but also lesser-known types, Cats-Tails among them, and a (Czech) Saaz variety. An extract:

 

 

Soft resin data, green weight, dry weight as a percentage of green weight, and other characteristics were compared among the hops.** Note the term neomexicanus is used clearly to show an American, Rocky Mountain hop entered into Cats-Tails.

An English male hop, presumably a landrace such as Golding or other (one would need to read Salmon’s full 1935 article) was crossed with neomexicanus to raise the Cats-Tail seedling. The hop is referred to regularly in issues of the U.K.-based Journal of the Institute of Brewing from the late 1930s until about 1950.*

The alpha-numerical designation was OZ79 but Journal reports written regularly by Salmon suggest numerous variants were developed each with its own number.

Cats-Tails had high wilt resistance but disclosed some flavour of its American origin, not always liked by those used to landrace flavours in British brewing.

One can see an analogy here to Salmon’s better-known work crossing a Manitoba wild hop with British landrace varieties, to produce especially Brewers Gold, Bullion, and Northern Brewer (all-1930s-’40s).

The Manitoba cutting was another in the family of wild hops distributed around the world. Whether it is technically neomexicanus or not I am not certain, but it seems clear Wye College and a station at East Malling in Kent used both the Manitoba and (U.S.-origin) Rocky Mountain wild hops to develop hybrid hops.

In 1940 Wallerstein Communications in New York, a brewing consultancy, summarized some interesting data on both neomexicanus and Manitoba hybrids of Wye College, see here.

Emerging from the 1930s-’40s as well were the Keyworth varieties, both “midseason” and “early”. They were named for a scientist in East Malling, Kent who selected Salmon hybrids for field development. These were I understand, like Cats-Tails, a cross between English landrace and Rocky Mountain neomexicanus, not landrace + the Manitoba hop.

A July 1936 article in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing refers in a table to two hops trialled in brewing, one clearly a hybridized Manitoba hop, the other which bears a different number apparently a cross with Rocky Mountain neomexicanus:

 

 

Ian Hornsey’s 2nd. edition (2013) of his book Brewing appears to draw a similar distinction between the Keyworth hops that incorporated “American female H. lupulus var. neomexicanus” and (for Bramling Cross, he states) “‘Bramling x a wild Canadian hop‘”. See pp. 77-78.

It can get confusing because the Manitoba hop is sometimes loosely called neomexicanus.*** Conversely, some sources, including this one of the British Hop Association, state Keyworth – some is still grown – has “‘Manitoba'” character. It appears nonetheless that hybrid hops from both these sources, not just the Manitoba one, emerged from the Wye programmes.

The webpage of the British Hop Association places the Manitoba in quotes as well. This may suggest it is using the term in a general sense, not literally to suggest Manitoba lineage. Clearly there is some link in the respective aroma and taste although it is interesting that the Rocky Mountain one, from that standpoint, seems preferred in the July 1936 table.

This may feed in to the quality evidently recognized today from bred examples of New Mexico origin.

As far as I know, Cats-tails aka (OZ79) is not raised today. But the point being, brewers interested to use Rocky Mountain neomexicanus might inquire of hop suppliers whether a hybrid with such neomexicanus in the lineage is available, of which it appears both Keyworth types are examples.

Given the small amounts available of 100% neomexicanus, this may be a more practical way for many brewers to access the character.

Concluding Part.

……

*See e.g. Salmon’s “Thirtieth Report on the Trial of New Varieties of Hops, 1946” in Jan.-Feb. 1948 the Journal of the Institute of Brewing. “‘Cats-Tails'” is identified as “(OZ79)”. A list of variants follows, each bearing its own code, e.g. OC5, AII16. The group is identified as “Seedlings raised from the wild American hop (Humulus americanus var. neo-mexicanus)“.

**Harlan was a hop specialist at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station based in Geneva, New York. In the concluding part to this post I will reference all parts of the study I found. It appears from one that the neomexicanus in “Cat’s-Tails” came from Colorado.

***Loosely in the sense that the sources mentioned seem to reserve “neomexicanus” for the Rocky Mountain, American-origin hop while “Manitoba” or “Canadian” describes another hop from North America. While classification as such for regional examples of North American wild hops is beyond my scope here, it might be noted that location – terroir, if you will – plays an important role for all hop attributes, even relatively locally as Stephens explains in her article.

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

 

 

 

Brock St. Scotch Ale

Brock Street Brewery in Whitby, Ontario is within the wider Toronto conurbation, another fairly recent arrival to craft ranks: only a half-dozen years in business.

Yet like other crafts I’ve mentioned it seems a fixture on the scene, due evidently to its popularity and awards it has won (a gold medal for the subject Strong Scotch Ale).

The four principals have extended the line to vodka sodas, sours, and other riffs on modern craft brewing. You can see in current offerings. I had only tried one or two earlier, but nothing impressed like this Strong Scotch Ale:

 

 

The first sip, even after a bottle of Guinness (so the palate not “first beer”), shined by the intensity of taste – good taste, which makes all the difference. British-style hops underpin, just 15 IBUs although in palate terms it seems more.

The website itself, after the formal designation, calls it a strong British ale, perhaps a hint it could have been styled strong mild, strong red ale, even ESB, designations I’d hardly quarrel with.

It did remind me of some Scottish beer, Traquair House Ale, also McEwan’s Scotch Ale without its smoky edge. Perhaps even more so, in an opposite part of the British Isles, Harvey’s Christmas Ale.

Michael Jackson the beer bard (1942-2007) reported on early appreciation for Scottish ale by a German eminence, Bismarck or a royal, if memory serves. The term “Burgundy of Scotland” was used, an honorific fully earned by Brock St.’s beer.

Rich malt is to the fore, the strength meeting a suitably high finishing gravity, without that “biscuit” note some reddish ales have I find off-putting (probably used in excess). Everything is smooth, lush, winy/fruity, but full of taste.

Any English or Scottish ale brewer would be wowed by this beer, and in truth I’ve had few beers in Britain as good.

So, having lamented recently the paucity of emphatically British-style beer in North America, this example must be upheld as a beacon.

 

Porter Pursuit. Part III.

Guinness Extra Stout, Canada-style

This is the Labatt-brewed version of Guinness Extra Stout, 5% abv, available in Canada since 1965. I try it every couple of years or so, so we can add this 2021 review to those of previous years.

According to the label, the licensed brew is produced only in Montreal, not at any other Labatt plant in Canada. Labatt of course is a unit of Anheuser Busch InBev.

This is the best taste yet imo, at least for many years. The key elements – bitterness, roast character and malt background – seem boosted. David Hughes’ book “A Bottle of Guinness Please” states the formulation changed in 1971, with a starting gravity of 1052.

As it is 5% abv (always been, the Canadian version), this would produce something like 1013 FG, allowing too for tolerances in the ABV.

 

 

The beer seems about 1012-1013 FG, noticeably richer than the canned “widget” Guinness and draft versions, both sent here from Ireland. If the spec changed later again and the OG is, say, 1050, the beer at 5% abv would be correspondingly drier.

To my taste it’s quite similar to Dublin Guinness Extra Stout. There used to be a more evident “Canadian” background taste but the current brew seems deeper in character. Perhaps the years of craft success have impelled Guinness to re-examine some of its recipes, although I find its stouts middling at best.

Still, the Labatt Guinness is good, and reminds me of when I first tasted it in Montreal in the 1970s. As to its make-up, I noted in an earlier post:

Guinness apparently still relies on “Guinness flavour extract” to impart the Guinness character to a local pale brew. The essence is exported around the world to this end. Bill Yenne in his Guinness history explained it in fairly non-technical terms, see here.

I am convinced most beers, perhaps more typically in craft hands but not restricted to that, get tweaked over time. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not.

Guinness should brew Foreign Extra Stout in Canada or import it here, and its milk stout, etc. We get no line extensions except the two lagers, Blonde American and Hop House 13. Our state-controlled beer distribution system does not favour listing smaller volume extensions, even those routinely available in the United States.

 

 

 

The Christmas Beer

Last year just as it was drawing to a close I wrote three notes on Christmas ale. First I set out an early instance of Christmas ale branding by Hallett & Abbey in England. Next, I discussed how the association between ale and Noel arose in the Christian calendar.

Finally, I looked at another early example of Christmas ale marketing, this time in Brooklyn, New York.

The work is here, and more apt for this year really as we are still in the run-up to the festive period, before the satiation and post-Yule lassitude set in.

Hallett & Abbey Christmas Ale (19/12/20)

Ale, St. Thomas, and Christmas: (19/12/20)

Christmas Ale in Brooklyn, NY: (22/12/20)

 

 

 

 

 

Porter Pursuit. Part II.

I just found another worthy porter, not labelled dry in this case. Still, grateful to have in an environment where classic, full-tasted porter – unflavoured, hopped traditionally – is the exception not the rule.

It is Cameron’s Brewing Crooked Nose Stout, from the craft stalwart Cameron’s in Oakville, Ontario, within the Toronto conurbation. I opened it moments after completing Part I. It’s a seasonal release for some years now but I’ve just caught up with it.

5.1% abv. Good malty body, not too much though, but more importantly not too little. No raw burnt notes, which good porter should not have, but rather roastiness and sweet malt playing off each other.

45 IBUs, so not underhoppped as too many of the genre. See company webpage for more description.

 

 

Tasting the beer, before reading anything about it I knew the hop taste was “right”. Then, I checked the can and website: East Kent Goldings. Why am I not surprised?

The mash bill includes some wheat and oats, but these do not mar the English porter profile. If you want, classify it as an oatmeal stout.

Good to see this, we need more of the same.*

 

 

We continue with Part III looking at Canadian-brewed Guinness.

*In this type of discussion many cite Fuller Porter from London as a standard. It is okay, but this Cameron’s is much better, imo. As for many porters, “more” of what is in the Fuller – same profile, just more – would make it a better product.