Expedition Brewing Co. Bock

Some notes now on Expedition Bigfoot Bock from Expedition Brewing Co. in Newmarket, Ontario. This is a fairly new brewery that contracts out its production, currently in London, Ontario.

The website is marketing-oriented, with a fun theme built around travel, adventure, and tasting beers.

For Beer et Seq, it’s always about the beer, and Expedition hit the ground running with this one. It has the rich, molasses-tinged flavour of the best German bock I’ve had. Not surprisingly it’s an all-barley malt beer.



The flavour is full and sustained from start to finish, with a mineral-like hop finish, but the story is the malt here. It achieves a winy, rich taste with the molasses tone a constant undercurrent.

We had some good crafted bocks in Ontario in the last 12 months, there was the return of Creemore Urbock, and Hop City’s Boxcar Bock impressed as well.

But this Expedition takes the palm. It is 6.2% ABV, strong enough but not so strong that the alcohol takes away from the bibbing enjoyment.

I bought mine at The Beer Store in Toronto, Leaside branch. They have a lager as well, which I will review later this week with more info on Expedition.






Pantomime Golden Ale

This week I will highlight recent Ontario beer releases of note.

From Amsterdam Brewing in Toronto there is Pantomime Golden Ale, which uses a new British hop, Harlequin. It was developed by UK hop specialists Charles Faram through its Hop Development Program.

The beer is part of the ongoing Amsterdam Small Batch Adventure Brew series.

Indeed Pantomime Golden Ale is described as a collaboration with Charles Faram, a venerable concern with roots in the 19th century.

A description from the website of Faram’s Hop Development Program is informative. It seeks to marry “new world” flavours with a character from English soils and environment.

A seminar in Toronto the other day, conducted by Ben Adams and Shayn Sawchuk of Faram’s Toronto office, added further perspective. Eg. the name “Harlequin” was inspired by the multi-coloured look of the hop bract, the main leaf structure of the plant.

Pantomime Golden Ale uses Harlequin as single hop. It is added through the boil, at whirlpool, and in dry hopping at end of fermentation, just before final gravity is reached.

The malt is Maris Otter from UK maltsters Crisp. The result showcases the peach and pineapple character of Harlequin against a velvety, English malt base.

So, classic English malt, new English hop with some non-English influence in its DNA. Result: an accomplished British Golden Ale. Never had a better one.

You can buy it at the Amsterdam Brewery shop on Esander Dr., the Brewhouse shop on Queen’s Quay downtown, and by delivery through the website. Details in above link.


(Image via Amsterdam website and Canadian Brewing News)

Ale of Zywiec, Poland. Part II.

Sala on the Burton – Burton on the Sola

In Part I, I queried whether Zywiec’s ale was a strong type such as Burton ale, or an English pale ale, drier, less strong, from Burton but a later implant.

I reviewed rare Zywiec ale labels from the late 1800s and for the 1920s-1930s. All these state “ale”, using the English word, with no further description except “March”, for the earliest.

A 1912 print advertisement for Zywiec takes the matter somewhat further. The ad is from the Jan Goetz-Okocim brewery archive, maintained at National Archives in Krakow (NAIK).

It is among 16 exhibits set out in an historical page of the website for Wyborcza, the Polish newspaper. The ad could suggest (or in my opinion) the ale was a rich Burton-type, not a pale ale.

First, there is no doubt Burton ale had a vibrant trade in Poland in the 1700s. Numerous sources attest to it, in that century and the next. For my purposes here, ample evidence is provided by the 1864 essay-collection of George Augustus Sala, After Breakfast.

He noted that Russia, Poland, and the Danubian provinces “were great consumers of the sweet strong ale of Burton” in the reign of George II.

The goods were sent to St. Petersburg initially, and as we saw earlier the middle and upper classes formed the main market. The brewer Benjamin Wilson of Burton is associated in particular with expanding the trade in Poland after the introduction of tariffs foreclosed the Russian market.

Examining the advert – see in the second row of thumbnails – both porter and ale are mentioned (and other beers). The ad was likely placed by Ludwig Lazar named in the ad, an agent for Zywiec in Krakow.

Here is a detail from the ad (source: Wyborcza page linked and NAIK):



Google translation renders the ale wording as:

Excellent Like English sweet and very restorative at a price like a porter.

Not quite grammatical, but the sense seems much like Sala’s beer. Pale ale, particularly as exported, generally was not sweet due to prolonged maturation and heavy hopping.

Pale ale was famously a “tonic”: bitter, dryish, bracing, not restorative really. The alcohol content itself is not stated in the ad. Restorative, if it meant strength, seems more consistent with an English Burton (barley wine) strength, not a pale ale.

At the same time, a piece of evidence seems to lie against.  In 1991 a supplement to a newspaper in Zywiec, entitled Echo Browaru, reviewed Zywiec brewery history. It stated the porter was introduced in 1881, which is confirmed by other sources, and the ale, 10 years later.

The account then described the latter as “pale ale”, without further details.  The sweet and restorative description that appeared some 20 years after Zywiec introduced its ale seems at odds with a pale ale designation, yet presumably the 1991 account relied on reliable information.

It may be that in the 1890s the beer wasn’t a pale ale, but became one after WW I, during the interwar period mentioned in my Part I.

Only brewing records, or further relevant information, can ultimately answer these questions. I would add that whatever style this ale was, or in specific periods, it should not be viewed as unrelated to the vogue for British ale in the country in the early 1800s and 1700s.

True, the 1991 account also suggests the ale and porter were introduced for “export” purposes. But we know porter remained a popular niche style in Poland through the 20th century.

This itself is connected, as commonly understood, to the early popularity of British porter in the country. The same must be true for the more attenuated ale tradition.

Zywiec continued making ale into the 1930s, but to all appearances as an outlier: this style of Polish brewing, such as it was, had practically disappeared.

Porter by contrast remained an item of the Polish brewing inventory. Indeed Zywiec still makes a porter, as noted in this description from its American site.

It seems doubtful Zywiec made ale in Communist Poland post-WW II, but I do not have details in this regard, for that period.

The other 15 exhibits from the Okocim archive are also of good interest. Most pertain to Okocim brewery itself, from the late 1800s-early 1900s, but some pertain to other breweries. These show cooperage works, line shaft power transmission, the exterior of buildings, offices and more, in excellent resolution.

Below, for some general atmosphere, is a modern image (source: Wikipedia) of the Sola river, where it is dammed about 12 miles upriver from Zywiec.



N.B. The Zywiec porter description somewhat defeated me, even with Google translation. I think it states the medical profession approved the product for their prescriptions.

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






Nikopol Brewery*

Marzen on the Dnieper

There are absorbing stories latent in the charming beer labels of old East Europe. They tell of breweries, often distant from centres of influence, plying routes of Empire for trade, and their beers. It might be the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it might be the Russian one.

The labels might be in Roman, or graceful Cyrillic, but a story is there to tell. The brewery of Nikopol is case in point.

Nikopol? I had the same question.

The Popular Encyclopedia (1879) placed Nikopol in southern Russia, on the Dnieper River, centre of a rich agricultural area. There were 8,858 souls. Today, Nikopol is in Ukraine. The nationality of the soul changes, but it is still Slavic.

The Popular Encyclopedia mentioned transport and trade ties with Odessa, on the Black Sea. This proved important for the brewery albeit Nikopol is well-upriver, a couple of hundred miles or so. It sits on a piece of land jutting into the river. In 1888 Karl Antonovich Steckel (sometimes rendered Stekel) established a sizeable, steam-powered brewery in the city.

You may view it here ca. 1890, posted in Rupivo, a Russian breweriana site. A big hulking affair, it broods over the town, belying the joy-giving properties of its product. Below is a modern view of the Dnieper from the Nikopol shore (source: Wikipedia):



Russia and Ukraine went through a lot since the Belle Epoque: Revolution, Leninism, Stalin and the New Economic Policy, WW II and the fight to get the Germans out, etc. It seemed unlikely much could be documented for the brewery’s early years.

Not so. A journalist called Igor Antsishkin wrote an excellent account a few years ago in Nikopol Arts, which reports on culture and events. As translated by Google, the title is Enterprises That we Lost: Nikopol Brewery has Been Brewing Beer for Over a Hundred Years.

I will summarize aspects but the original should be read for the full flavour. More than the gist is rendered by the translation, and a bonus: the literal results of machine translation can render a poetic or charming effect.

This line though rings well in standard English while revealing Slavic proclivities:

Beer without vodka is throwing money into the wind.

Steckel is described as Austrian but as having been connected as well to Turnau, now Turnov in northern Czech Republic. Bavaria is mentioned too although I think Turnov was never in Bavaria. It is clear he was not from Nikopol and never resided there. He had a house he would occupy for short periods to survey his investment.

He hired a general manager, Ivan Pitro, who had graduated from a brewing academy in Turnau, and the two are remembered as operating the brewery before the Revolution.

Antsishkin describes many details. These include where the hops and barley came from (locally, with some hops imported eg. from Bohemia), staffing, production figures and values, and motive power for different functions.

The brewery took water from the Dnieper – still clean then – and malted its own grain. It used bottles of fairly recent design produced by an Empire factory, in Donetsk, exotic coloured triangular-shaped bottles. You may view them in Rupivo, for Nikopol, too.

Ahead of WW I the brewery was nearing 100,000 hL per annum, reaching first division in the brewers’ league, by the metric we saw earlier. A prohibition law, then the war, slowed its course, but the brewery carried on under Lenin and Stalin. The Germans used it to make beer for the Wehrmacht after occupying the city.

At war’s end it returns to domestic production, and is expanded for kvass and soft drinks. It ends its beer production days only in 2002 – an amazing run, taking all with all.

Antsishkin describes the beer types made in Steckel’s day, names familiar to me from writing on East European brewing. He states (Google translation):

The brewing process took an average of five days. The brewery brewed the then famous sorts of beer – “Martovskoe”, “Plzenskoe”, “Venskoe” and “Porter”.

So, March beer, pilsner, Vienna, and porter. The first and third would seem the same, but presumably there was some difference. An American Homebrewers’ Association presentation on old Russian beers has good notes for pre-Revolution styles and after. The author, Ali Kocho Williams, writes of March beer:

  • Martovskoe (synonymous with Marzen, although a darker beer) a slightly sweet flavor and strong malt aroma

Although post-1918 is referenced, I would think Steckel’s beer of this name was similar. Perhaps his Vienna was lighter and paler, or less aged. The five days is puzzling – could it be the brewery was top-fermenting? I would doubt this, but can’t be sure. “Brewing process” might mean mashing and boiling with hops, although normally that should not take five days.

Antsishkin includes a good image of the brewery in 1910. In the 22 years since construction one can see improvements, e.g. the encircling wall. A less random character is evident, in general, than in 1888 when rude footbridges still crossed the Dnieper.

So this story has all the elements of my accounts for Belarus, Galicia, and Lithuania: onset of industrial brewing, focus on lager, ever-present competition (see Antsishkin again), and the traumatic effects of war. It even has religion, not Jewish in this case: Antsishkin states Steckel was Roman Catholic and chary to entrust management to an adherent of the Orthodox Church!

This tells us something about the world of c. 1900, not entirely displaced, sadly.

Coda: Parts of the building still stand. Gorod, a publication in Dnipro further upriver, reported in 2015 that a developer agreed with Nikopol town council to preserve the historic parts to incorporate them in an urban development plan. It would be interesting to know the follow-up, six years later.

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


*Also or mainly called Steckel Brewery.












Tyskie Beer Gronie, 2021

Polish Options in Ontario

In Ontario currently a small group of Polish brands is available, ones you see often in international centres.

There is Zywiec, Tyskie, Lech, Żubr, Lomza, Okocim. And Lezajsk, Lomza, Tatra, and Warka. All are pale lagers in the international style, but hues and tastes can vary within. Most are around 5% abv, one or two stronger, Okocim has one.

Occasionally a porter appears, but not often enough. All these brands are products of large, so-called macro breweries although Lomza is part of the Polish-owned group Van Pur, more a strong regional, I would say.

My Pick

Looking at some labels recently I chose Tyskie, for two reasons. First, it had the most distant expiry date that day in that LCBO outlet. Second, malt, hops, hop extract, and water are the listed ingredients – no malt adjuncts such as maize, or sugar.

I hadn’t recalled Tyskie was all-malt, not the Gronie anyway which is the flagship internationally. Looking into it, the brand stopped using glucose some time ago, at least in some export markets.

The bottle I bought reads 5% abv, vs. 5.2% on the brewery website.

The taste was excellent, fresh, tangy, bitter enough, lightly malty, a touch sweeter than most in the group mentioned. Most are too dry for my palate anyway, so this is a plus.

Some Background on Tyskie

Tyskie is made in Tychy, a town in Silesia that was German for a long time. The brewery, set up by aristocrats again long ago, had a fillip in the 1860s when placed on an industrial footing to brew lager.

By 1900 it was selling over 100,000 hL per annum, in the top league of Polish breweries then. Some of the medium-size brewers hadn’t reached half that even by the 1930s, such as Pupko in Lida.

Of course, there were tumultuous changes in Poland during that 30+ years, especially the advent of WW I and the struggle to recover in the 1920s

Tyskie today is part of a three-brewery Polish group, Kompania Piwowarska which together represents about one-third of Polish beer sales. Kompania is owned by Asahi of Japan. It was owned formerly by SABMiller, before its merger with Anheuser Busch In Bev.

The Kompania site has a good timeline with informative photos.

Some Brewing Details

The website for the brewery states Tyskie Gronie has 20 IBUs, quite respectable, and 5.2% alcohol as noted above. Possibly the domestic Gronie still uses sugar, which might account for the higher abv.

The bottle states Lubelski and Marynka hops feature, both Polish varieties. The Polish Hops site has good detail on each. The first, from the classic Lublin yards, is a Noble variety connected to famed Saaz of Bohemia.

Marynka has some New World elements viz. the Brewer’s Gold in the heritage, but is not dominant in Tyskie Gronie.

Other Tyskie Beers

The brewery website showcases three other brands: a wheat malt beer, made by bottom-fermentation; a decoction pilsener following methods from the 1920s; and a darkish lager of lower alcohol, “a hit” of the 1970s, meaning I think the recipe dates from then.

There is a craft/specialty line as well under the Ksiazece banner. The porter looks first rate.


One doesn’t always want a rich malty or hoppy beer. At least I don’t, and Tyskie is a well-brewed alternative. Its move to all-malt is salutary, Heineken did the same thing about 25 years ago.

This can only improve quality provided brewers don’t push the fermentation too far. Tyskie gets it right.



Ale of Zywiec, Poland. Part 1.


I have been discussing early, pre-craft ale in Poland. I do not mean Grodziskie aka Grätzer, Kotbuss, or other ancestral top-fermentation beers of wheat malt or mixed grains, sometimes with honey or molasses.

Rather I mean English-style, relatively strong, barley malt ale, the type exported to Baltic ports even before the 1800s, as of course porter whose story is better-known.

These exports stimulated local manufacture, initially to circumvent tariff barriers.

Early Polish Ales

In 1844 John Macgregor in his Commercial Statistics. A Digest of the Productive Resources, etc. stated under “Manufactures of Poland“:

Beer of all descriptions is a favourite beverage of the middle and higher classes in Poland, and a preference for English porter and ale appears to have existed for many years back.

He goes on to describe a keen attempt to implant English-style brewing:



See also the chapter on porter by Martyn Cornell in The Geography of Beer: Culture and Economics, ed. Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark Patterson (2020).

As is well-known, porter endured in the Baltic countries and appurtenant lands – to my mind Poland is not “Baltic” as such – although bottom-fermentation became almost invariable.

But what happened to the ales? From my canvassing of historic labels and other sources, the type withered. Bottom-fermentation beer took over: the clear lagers, exports, bocks, Bawarskies (dark Munich-style), and more.

Strewn through the label catalogues are wheat beers, yes, but many fewer than lagers, and they seem mainly Bavarian, or Berliner-style.

Documented Early Polish Ales

A few ales, or beer branded as ale, nonetheless continued as shown in the historical site Polish Beer Labels, but I counted only four in ca. 1000 labels. The period covered is mostly interwar, but this tells a tale right there.

I discussed a 1930s-era, “à la English ale” from Koscierzyna Brewery in East Pomeriana, and a pale ale of similar period from Wielkopolski Brewery in Bydgoszcz. Both were in the same region, broadly.

Zywiec ale

In a different region of Poland, in the Zywiec valley south-west of Krakow, a brewery was established on an industrial footing in 1856 by Archduke Friedrich Habsburg. Today, Zywiec is part of a Polish grouping with links to Dutch-based Heineken.

Zywiec has long been known for its bottom-fermentation range including the eponymous pale lager.

I have not been able to ascertain what it brewed upon founding, but would think lager was made, given the scale of investment and construction. Perhaps this followed somewhat later, but anyway lager-brewing became identified with Zywiec.

Nonetheless, a beer called “ale” (the English word) was also made. In the website of Zywiec Beer Museum, this label appears:



(Source: Zywiec website)

What type of beer was this, exactly? The label does not say pale ale. It does state March (Marcowe). The other Polish words mean Zywiec spring, a general allusion to water quality, but not more.

In its earliest period, the 1820s and ’30s, English-style ale in Poland predated the widespread popularity of pale ale, even in Britain. Perhaps March was an allusion to the English March brewing tradition. But this March beer was not (or little) promoted in England by this period vs. some trade billing still given October brewing.

Tizard’s manual in 1850 still refers to March beer, but the term really was a throwback to the previous century.

Still, a time lag or mere physical distance can often explain the survival of terms or methods in places distant from where they originated. Maybe March beer was a term once current in Poland, in the heyday of English imports.

Or, maybe the March ale of Zywiec was a Vienna lager, a style made famous by Anton Dreher from about 1840, with Bavaria’s Gabriel Sedlmayer in aid. But why the “ale”, then? Did the tan (Vienna) colour remind people of English ale sold in Poland earlier in the century?

Perhaps, yet further, the Zywiec ale was a strong Burton ale, with March here referring to a period of aging. Strong or Burton ales often were aged, although not always.

The label seems late-1800s, but the brand was also made between the wars, 1920s-30s. In Polish Beer Labels, click on Zywiec in bottom-left, a round label for Zywiec ale appears, three in fact. See in lower-third of the collection.

A couple of generic “Ale” signs or labels appear further up in the page, seemingly of later date, one is stamped “pivo mocne” (strong beer).

“March” is not stated on any of these mid-1900s labels, while it does appear (Marcowe) on other labels reproduced in the page, from seemingly the same period.

How the interwar Zywiec ale was brewed is hard to say. The quotation marks placed on the term ale suggest perhaps it was really a lager. It seems probable the beer at least tasted English, via the malts and (especially) hops used, but quite possibly it was bottom-fermented.

Possibly other Polish breweries marketed an ale in this period, however brewed. Given porter itself was a declining category, it seems unlikely there were many such beers.

It has not been absent from my mind that Polish legislation from the late 1800s through to 1939 may have impacted use of these terms. Maybe “March” meant simply, exceeds 4.5% alcohol, a common strength on interwar beer labels. (The other was 2.5%).

I have not been able, or as yet, to investigate this level of detail.

The Modern “Polish Ale”

The well-known Okocim brewery today has a “Polskie ale”, see here. The description suggests a contemporary approach, not meant to evoke the historical. Yet, the term ale used alone – Polskie just means Polish – seems to reflect older usage in the country.



(Source: company website)

Lomza, another well-known Polish brand, also has a Polskie ale, described as a red ale. Like Okocim, nothing seems meant historically except perhaps for terminology.

Some Polish craft brewers market a “piwa ale” or similar, but again not meant historically, by my reading.

There are craft IPAs, some prefixed “English”. In most cases such brewing also is not intended to recall earlier tradition.

These notes continue in Part II.

Note re images: all intellectual property in images shown belongs to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images are identified and linked to original source in the text. Used for educational and research purposes.


*Relatively uncommon in brewing today. There is the Canadian Molson Export Ale (or is “export” the modifier?), Liberty Ale in San Francisco, and a few others, but most modern ales state whether pale, India, bitter, red, etc.










New Article on Naming Origins of Porter

I’m pleased to announce that my article “A New Idea Regarding the Origin of Porter’s Name”, has just appeared in the U.K.-based food history journal Petits Propos Culinaires, in issue #119 (April 2021).

In the article, I argue for a plausible link between the names porter and three threads, and early weaving terminology, which represents a new direction in porter studies, so far as the naming aspect is concerned.

This article reiterates in a concise way, and brings to wider attention, my views as set forth in a number of posts here in 2015.

To subscribe to PPC or order a single copy, see purchasing details for issue #119 (pictured below) at Prospect Books, which publishes works on cookery and food history.



The English Ales of Pomerania


Brewing can demonstrate interesting continuities over time. Its special magic, as for winemaking and distilling, is to create an uplifting quality. Often a bond develops between producer and public, and locale of production acquires an aura.

Few things are more emotive to the beer lover than a weathered old brewery.

Some breweries still brew in the old stand, inevitably with changed ownership over time. Some American Budweiser is still brewed in a forest of buildings in downtown St. Louis, Missouri originating in the 1800s.

Molson-Coors has brewed for over 200 hundred years by the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, although soon most operations will transfer to Longueil, Quebec. (This YouTube video gives background).

As brands and breweries can long endure in the public mind, new breweries may adopt the old names, or even move into the original premises.

Brewery Revival in the “Polish Corridor”

Take Stary Browar Koscierzyna, a Polish brewery, hotel, and pub complex. It is in Koscierzyna in northern Poland, about 30 miles south-west of Gdansk.

A brewery similarly named operated in the same location until 1948.

Gdansk before 1945 was more commonly known by its German name, Danzig, while Koscierzyna was long called Berent. Both were in East Pomerania in West Prussia, from the late-1700s until the end of WW I.

In the 1920s and 30s Danzig was a Free Port, and Koscierzyna in the Polish Corridor. The Corridor was a land bridge on former German territory for Poland to access Danzig and the Baltic, including the new port of Gdynia.

To visualize the Corridor see this image at Wikipedia Commons.

East of Danzig was East Prussia. Today Danzig, East Prussia minus a Russian enclave, and much of West Prussia/Corridor are in Poland.

The ethnic mix in these areas varied. Danzig before WW II was mostly German-speaking. Koscierzyna and many other towns in the Corridor had a Polish ethnic majority, especially after WW I. Some towns counted many Kashubians, a west Slavic people closely related to the Poles.

Small percentages of Jews lived throughout until Hitler’s regime sealed their fate.

Brewery History

The hotel website has a good timeline that starts with the earlier brewery, the Berenter Brewery. It was established by Carl Teodor Hanff in 1856, although some brewing took place even earlier.

The brewery was progressively enlarged and industrialized. Abraham Berent took over in 1888, and in 1895 Wilhelm Brendel bought part of the brewery. Before WW I light and dark beers were produced, a Smietanka and Dubeltowe, probably lagers.

The timeline states Abraham Berent was the most dynamic of the early owners. Yet, the brewery had its “golden years” in the interwar period, employing not more than 15 staff but with bottling facilities spread through the region.

WW II is not mentioned but the brewery resumes after, then in 1948 is converted to mineral water production, and later to make mead. All operations ceased in 1998.

Archeology work took place in 2010. Badges of some type in white porcelain were unearthed marked Louis Cohn, seemingly pre-WW I. I am unclear what connection he had to the brewery, if any.

In 2011 investors commenced work for restoration and installation of a new brewery, hotel, pub, and pizzeria. Evidently a substantial investment was made. The results as shown in the gallery are impressive including the gleaming copper brewhouse.

The complex occupies the solid red brick structure descended from the 19th century.

(Source: hotel website).

Interwar Beer Range

A Wikipedia entry for the brewery sets out similar information to the website, adding the beers interwar were “Kozlak, Pelne Jasne, Slodowe Pasteuryzowane and Englishe Ale”. It references a 2017 publication by Isabella Byszewska on revival of the brewery.

So bock, light, malt, and English ale. In the excellent Polish Beer Labels site, original prewar labels of the brewery are reproduced, including for the English ale. It states more specifically – in English, not translated – “à la English ale”, with a Continental flourish.

The “19” is Plato starting extract. The likely result was a strong beer at least 7% abv. The brewery was hearkening back I think to English pale ale before WW I, which makes sense in this context.

Other labels in the group state 2.5% or 4.5% alcohol. The English ale does not state the alcohol content, but “dubeletowe”, or double, on the label suggests a strong beer.

A possibility is this English ale was a strong ale, vs. pale ale as such. I incline against though, given as well that another brewery in the region issued a “pale ale” with inclusion of the double term (see below).

English-style Beer in Prewar Poland 

In leafing through perhaps 1000 labels on Polish Beer Labels, I saw only a handful for ale. There is a pale ale from Wielkopolski brewery in Bydgoszcz, which is some 80 miles south of Koscierzyna.

In Poznan, yet further south but still in the Corridor, a bottler sold English Bass Pale Ale, together with Barclay Perkins Imperial Stout and Pilsner Urquell. These particular labels appear to pre-date WW I.

It seems in parts of northern Poland a slim English ale heritage was being honoured. Via the busy Danzig port British beers would have landed routinely. Porter is the best example and there are many labels for porter in Polish Beer Labels, but few for ale.

Still, a little ale was brewed locally. The “à la” meant perhaps Koscierzyna’s version was bottom-fermented. The timeline notes an ice warehouse onsite in 1872, so lagering was probably the rule at least from that time. Other images show what seems standard lagering in wood tuns.

Ales Today at Stary Browar Koscierzyna

Given the revived brewery is a craft brewery, I expected to find in its range an India Pale Ale, a leitmotif of craft brewing everywhere. And indeed, there is one in the beer list on the brewery’s dedicated website.

The taste notes suggest the fruity, tropical style popular worldwide today, and state that American hops are used.

But an English-style IPA is also listed. This is relatively rare for craft breweries. Of course some is made but the American style dominates everywhere, indeed IPA “means” the American type, full stop.

Why, then, would a revived Polish brewery in a formerly German territory feature an English pale ale?

I think I’ve given you the answer.

The English IPA suggests a classic English palate with its “ripe orange” and “bitter orange”, among other flavours that together spell British. Indeed all-English hops are used.


(Source: brewery website).

Extract per the taste notes is 16 P., producing 6.4% abv, lighter than the 1930s ale. It will do just fine.

In Conclusion

Despite a long hiatus, continuity has prevailed for a Polish brewery’s heritage. First, brewing was re-established in the original locale. Second, a minor but still notable brand in the prewar brewing line was brought back, via the English IPA. This is gratifying, showing too as it does, an appreciation for classic flavours of the past.

See in the Comments my additional remarks for the brewing today.

Note: our next post Ale of Zywiec, Poland continues this discussion.

Note re images: all intellectual property in images shown belongs to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images are identified and linked to original source in text. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*With apologies to the native speakers I have omitted Polish diacritical symbols in these notes.










Avling Øresund Porter

Porter is never far from mind, just as with India Pale Ale. And I’ve been reading or writing a lot about porter lately, Swedish ones, Belarusian, Polish, now Lithuanian.

So how about a Canadian one, especially when I encounter a fine example?

Not sure what the foreign-looking “o” means, but the taste rocks. Flavourful malt sustains the 6% ABV, ditto the assertive, English-style hopping.

It’s more a sustained, drying effect, than bitter. Sandy or mineral-like you might say, not citric or flowery.

The brewery calls it a “robust porter” which certainly applies, as many in the genre have a malty, English stamp.



It brought to mind but perhaps trumps the porter brewed before Covid-19 at Creemore Batch brewpub in downtown Toronto (currently shut under Covid).

They share an elegant, chocolatey note that denotes a traditional London or north European porter. There is, too, that slightly burnt/charcoal taste at the end, not overdone as in too much craft porter or stout.

Avling brewpub is also in Toronto but in an eastern quadrant, on Queen Street. There was a steady line-up, well-separated, on the sidewalk this morning to buy beer from their “hatch”.

The right taste, the right stuff.




“Epstein’s Brewery”, its Fate in Vilnius

Former Szopen Brewery in Vilnius

The Pale of Settlement, the part of western Russia where Jews were permitted to reside without special authorization, included Vilna, or Vilnius, and much of present Lithuania. Vilnius is the capital, a city of much historic importance including to the Jewish community.

A number of breweries in the region had Jewish founders. One continues today in the form of Lithuania’s Kalnapilio-Tauro, part of a group owned by Royal Interbrew of Denmark. All component brands are brewed now in Panevėžys, a sizeable city in Lithuania.

The Kalnapilio limb had separate origins, creation of a landed capitalist in the early 1900s, Albert Foight. Tauro, or Tauras, had 19th century origins in Vilnius in the form of the Szopen Brewery.

We saw in Part II of my series on Jewish-owned breweries in Belarus that in the 1930s “Shafen” had a branch in Lida. It was managed by a Lida resident, to compete with the two local breweries.

That “Shafen” is Szopen. Szopen was founded in Vilnius by two Jewish businessmen in 1860. They associated with Wilhelm Szopen, the brewer, whose name was used to identify the business.

Szopen later purchased the full interest although the other two continued as directors. Kurier Wileński writes on Lithuanian history and stated in a blog essay of 2013:

The first brewery was established in ‎‎Lukaszniki (Vilnius) in 1860. Two Jewish businessmen—Abel Sołowiejczyk and Iser Berg Wolf—were its founders. They fetched to Vilnius a brewer Wilhelm Szopen who soon entered into partnership with the owners and ca 1866 the brewery in ‎Lukaszniki came to be called the Szopen Brewery. In the course of time Wilhelm Szopen became the owner of the brewery, albeit its founders remained in the board of directors ….

Szopen Breweries highly expanded, since from the beginning of 1890 in the company there were employed over 50 workmen and produced up to 300 thousand buckets of beer, a bucket—as a unit of measurement in Russia—was approx. 12.3 litres. Therefore  ….

However, there was also the competition between Jewish businessmen in Vilnius and in 1897 Szopen Breweries were taken over by an affluent Jewish entrepreneur—Mordechaj Owsiej Epstein, the owner of the brewery in Popławy.

The hulking Szopen structure still stands, now converted into studio apartments. This image, titled “Epstein’s Brewery” is from 2017 when the conversion was still ongoing.

Wileński limns the future of the brewery into WW I and the 1930s, at the start of which Szopen was producing 30,000 hL per annum. He mentions the Lida agency connection.

I may add, from 1923 Vilnius (Wilno) was part of Poland. Lithuania did not recognize this and used Kaunas as de facto capital. Vilnius was comprised then of a majority of Poles and Jews.

Wileński states Szopen was nationalized in 1940 – the Soviets controlled Lithuania from June – and after Lithuania regained independence, the name was changed to Tauras.

Tauras was adopted (state a number of other sources) at the end of the war, which may be the meaning here, but in any case not in 1990, when Lithuania ceased to be a Soviet socialist republic.*

Tauras-brand beer is still marketed, as seen in its dedicated website. Bottles and cans are depicted (see Products) carrying the 1860 founding year. A sparse historical timeline is included.

Abel Sołowiejczyk and Iser Berg Wolf are not mentioned, that I could see from Google translation. Wilhelm Szopen is, and “M. Epstein” in connection with the joint stock company formation.

Wileński’s essay is helpful, and a good guide to anyone interested to delve further, particularly with benefit of the relevant languages.

Almost all Lithuanian Jews were killed by the Nazis or their auxiliaries, under the German occupation which lasted from June 1941 until January 1945.

As to whether Mordechai Epstein survived, or his heirs did, or they had connections to the brewery after the war, I don’t know, but all seems doubtful.  I have not been able to find any biographical information.


*The company timeline, referred to below, seems to suggest the Tauras name was adopted in 1950, but in any case it was before 1990.