Jewish Breweries in old Belarus. Part I, Pupko Brewery.

Introduction

It has been my impression that between 1880 and 1980, Jews generally did not engage in commercial brewing, modern Israel apart. They were active in brewing science, and in retailing and wholesaling beer, but not in production.*

There was involvement in distilling in some countries, but that is a separate drink and business.

Exceptions did exist, certainly, some of which I discussed earlier, but few it seems in Great Britain. There is some irony here, as in modern times Britain has been among the most tolerant of nations toward the Jews.

James Death, in The Beer of the Bible (1887), wrote that no English brewery was Jewish-owned, despite brewing being a lucrative trade in the country. That may be an exaggeration, as how could he really know? But stating it in a respectable, indeed learned book tells a certain tale.

I turned my mind recently to Eastern Europe, which I hadn’t considered earlier, specifically the Pale of Settlement.

Jewish Brewing in Pale of Settlement

The Pale of Settlement was the western fringe of the Russian Empire where Jews had the right to reside, unlike the rest of Russia with some exceptions. The Pale emerged at the beginning of the 19th century with Polish partition, but vanished with the end of WW I.

The lands comprising the Pale were largely coterminous with the earlier Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, preceded by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Jews had lived continuously in these lands since the 1200s.

Britannica states:

The 1897 Russian census indicated that most of the Jewish population in the empire remained confined to the Pale. Almost 5,000,000 Jews lived within its boundaries, while roughly 200,000 lived elsewhere in European Russia. The majority of Jews lived in towns and townlets, though the largest communities were in the cities of Warsaw, Lódz, Vilna (now Vilnius), and Kishinev (now Chisinau) … The Pale effectively ceased to exist during World War I, when Jews in great numbers fled to the Russian interior to escape invading German forces.

In 1897 Russia’s total population was 125,640,021, see the Russian History Blog.

The image below shows the Pale of Settlement in 1901.

 

 

Grodno (Hrodna), at the western end of modern Belarus, near Poland, is name of both district and town. The Grodno district includes the town of Lida, which birthed the Pupko Brewery in 1876.

In 1910 Russia had 381 breweries, of which 110 were Jewish-owned, hence almost 30%; see pp. 314-315 of the 1911 study Emigration Conditions of Europe, which examined prospects for continued Jewish emigration to the United States.

Poland has a separate table, which shows Jewish capital was employed in 45 breweries. The total number in the country is not stated.

The percentage of Jewish ownership for Russia, and probably for Poland, was much higher than for other countries, in part reflecting the substantial Jewish population in the Pale. The Report noted many Jewish firms were small, judged by the number of employees and mechanical power utilisation.

Therefore, 30% does not necessarily reflect the production percentage. Some Jewish breweries were sizeable though, winning awards at European exhibitions and gaining more than a local market. Pupko was one.

The Coming of Holocaust

Jewish life in Eastern Europe in that period could be dolorous, not to mention dangerous, due to unrelenting anti-Semitism.The persecutions started (in the modern period) with repeated pogroms in the Russian Empire, e.g. 1881 in Kiev.

Serious outbreaks later occurred in centres of Jewish life such as Kishinev, Odessa, Minsk, Kyiv, and Grodno, with thousands killed and injured and property destroyed.

Anti-Semitic measures, social or governmental, were ratcheted up in the Thirties, Nazi Germany the main example. The animus manifested as well elsewhere in Central and East Europe.

With World War II the Soviets occupied Western Belarus, then part of the Second Polish Republic, joining it to Eastern Belarus under their fief. There followed, deportations of business classes, which included many Jews, to Siberia and elsewhere far East.

The Nazis brought the Holocaust. Almost all Jews in Grodno (the town) and Lida were killed, there or after deportation. Small bands survived who escaped from ghettoes or trains and fought in the forests as partisans.

For Belarus as a whole, there are varying estimates, but the great majority of Jews perished, mostly shot or deported to death camps. Two-thirds of European Jews as a whole were annihilated by the Nazis – civilian men, women and children.

In the late 1930s in Poland including Western Belarus, Jewish businesses not affected by economic malaise continued to operate until the war, Pupko Brewery included.

Pupko Brewery Resources

As far as I know, no general history of Belarus brewing has been written, apart the obvious language barrier I would face. Perhaps a Polish beer history has been authored that covers some of this history, if so I am not aware of it.

The website of the Alivaria Beer Museum in Minsk is attractive but does not set out historical content. I would think – hope – the Museum covers Pupko history, and may visit one day.

By searching in English and with some use of Google Translation, I still found good information on the Pupko brewery.

Brewery Website

We can start with the brewery website as, yes, the brewery still exists, although long out of Pupko hands. The name now is Lidskoe Brewery, with the main brand spelled Lidskae.

Lidskoe is owned by Olvi PLC of Finland, part of a small affiliate group that includes A. Le Coq in Estonia, which has importance in porter history.

The Pupko family was well-known in Lida, whose Jewish population was significant before WW II. For the interbellum period, according to Encyclopedia:

In 1921 there were 5,419 Jews (40% of the total population), reaching 6,335 (a third of the total) in 1931.

The percentage of Jews earlier was higher, but emigration was depleting their number. The Sztetl site states that in 1897 the percentage was 68% – presumably supplying a natural market for Pupko.

Elements of the Polish Army and Air Force were based in Lida between the wars, see this Lida entry in Wikipedia. This presence probably assisted the brewery’s fortunes.

The image below shows Lida around 1930 (source: Wikipedia link stated).

 

 

The timeline/infographic in Lidskoe’s website is well-researched and handsomely designed (indeed an inspiration to other breweries to do similar). I will summarize elements, but the full document is indispensable.

It starts by outlining pre-1800s beer and brewing in Belarus. Then it states:

Nosel [Nissan] Zelikovich Pupko, a citizen of Lida, builds a brewery at his own land plot. Long and narrow piece of land, as large as a half of a hockey field, stretches from the Vilenskaya street to the Lideika river. First batch of beer was marked on the factory chimney brickwork: the letters «Founded in 1876» can still be found there. Pupko’s house is located by the street, and the yard contains the factory buildings: double-stored factory with the office and separate buildings of the drying room and fermenting block.

A woodcut-style illustration, clearly a modern rendering, shows a bearded Nosel Pupko with draping black coat and hat in front of the brewery.

The chimney with founding year in patterned brickwork still stands at the brewery, as shown in the website. Other elements of the original structure endure, for example, a set of stairs installed around 1900, made of iron to resist fire. The original site is now much-enlarged and covered with tanks and other accoutrements of modern brewing.

The timeline reproduces a label of the first branded beer, c. 1900, noting:

In 1899 or 1900, the first known label of the factory emerges: «Dinner beer of N. Pupko’s Brewery». It is a cheap, popular beer. … The factory mark — the deer leaning against the barrel — can be found on thirty labels of the factory.

The deer still appears in current labels.

Nosel aka Nissan died in 1900. The brewery had a scale and reputation beyond the typical town brewery in Belarus, and benefitted from new technologies such as steam power.

Pupko was among the larger breweries in Belarus before WW II, although its exact size in the league table is not known to me. It had its own sawmill, no doubt using prime Memel oak for casks, easily available to Lida.

With war and political changes the Pupkos adapted. In WW I they made kvass and a no-alcohol beer, and in the 1920s, a low-alcohol (2%) table beer. I discuss below other beer types made over the brewery’s history.

Historians consulted by the brewery believe a Pupko grandson established a brewery in Umam, Ukraine in the late 1930s, called Bavaria.

The Lida brewery was seized by the Soviets after invading Poland in 1939. The Pupkos then in charge, brothers Mark and Shymon, left. The Germans took over in July 1941 after their invasion. The brewery was not bombed, in order to make beer for the army. The staff was retained, and the Pupko brothers brought back.

The site continues the history of the brewery, below I focus on WW II with reliance as well on additional resources.

Genealogical and Historical Resources

The families and activities of Jews in prewar Lida are reconstructed and memorialised at numerous websites. Most refer to the Pupko brewery, and provide additional information.

Foremost is this page at Kehila, a Jewish genealogical site. Some information was provided by Leon Lauresh, I understand an engineer and historian in Lida who has researched the brewery’s past.

He provided an image of the brewery itself, a painting rendered in 1916. It shows a courtyard surrounded by buildings of various design, the ubiquitous 19th century fire chimney, and what appears a dray and barrels.

Accounts are linked in Polish and Russian, which online translation permits to understand to a point. In 1900 the brewery was left to four sons, Itske, Gersh, Abram, and Meilakh, who continued and expanded the business.

In the early 1930s Meilakh was sole owner and by the advent of WW II, his sons, Mark and Shymon, ran the brewery.

The main (English) part of the site states:

In 1936, 28 workers and 8 technical specialists were employed at the brewery. 40,000 hectoliters of beer [4,200,000 quarts] were produced annually.  Raw materials used in 1936 were 157,3 ò. barley, 950 kg of hop, 87,7 ò. malt.

Details are given for brands and mechanization in this period, e.g., the brewery had its own “gas plant” (for carbon dioxide, likely) and power plant. The site also states:

There were branches of the firm [at least bottling plants, as some of the details in labels formerly online showed] in Baranowiczi, Nowogrudok, Hrodno [Grodno], Wilno [Vilnius], Molodeczno, Luninec, Pinsk,  Bereza, & Wolkowysk.

In 1929-1930 the brewery placed box ads in the Warsaw-based, Jewish-oriented Trybuna Akademicka, which published mainly in Polish (via National Library of Israel). Parowy means steam, to denote a mechanized operation.

 

 

A link in Kehila states after Lida was liberated in 1944 a British Royal Air Force party visited the town, on a secret mission. It was inspecting a new Russian YAK fighter. Beer was ordered from the brewery. The Lidskoe chronology mentions this as well.**

The brewery operated until mid-1943 when the remaining Jews in Lida including at the brewery were deported and mostly killed by the Nazis.

Mark and Shymon managed to survive, and departed overseas after the war. A Pupko descendant in Mexico, who ran a chemical plant there, visited Lida in 2005. She met with historians and remaining Jews in town.

I encourage again a review of these resources for a fuller picture.

Brewery Engineer Lochbihler

German soldier Joachim Lochbihler supervised the plant for part of the war. Before the war he was a brewery engineer in Nürnberg, hence the assignment. I believe he was in the Wehrmacht (German Army), not SS although some survivor accounts refer to SS.

42 people worked in the brewery when he was in charge.

Waitman Wade Beorn, a U.K.-based scholar of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, has authored the book Marching Into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus (2014).

In the section linked he writes that Lochbihler protected Jewish brewery workers from SS roundups, first, by ensuring that some workers could live in the brewery, and subsequently (after he left the brewery) by warning staff to join partisans in the forest.

At the war’s end Lochbihler was held in an American POW camp as a suspected war criminal, but was freed upon favourable testimony from Jewish Lida survivors, including the Pupko family.

Jewish Lida memorial sites relate the Lochbihler episode, substantially as Beorn did, whose book relied on survivor accounts. Lochbihler demonstrated a humanity evidently very rare in this context, something to be noted.

Beers of Pupko and Lidskoe Brewery

Lidskoe has provided an invaluable service to beer historians by including on its site archival brands and labels reflecting different eras.

The narrative accompanying is illuminating. The beers evolved over time, as is expected. The main blonde lager produced today dates from 1967.

In the 1940s the main types were Vienna, Pilsener, and Munich beers, apparently developed at a research institute in the mid-30s. When the Soviets took over in 1939 the style names were changed to avoid a “capitalist” connotation.

Beers earlier included a strong, well-hopped “double” beer. A March beer, close to 6% abv, was brewed in the early 1900s and again in the 1940s, but not today.

A “Tsar’s” beer in the Empire period was flavoured with coriander, cinnamon or caramel, which is interesting unto itself. As far as I can tell the Pupkos never brewed a porter.

Today, the extensive line includes porter and stout, a few craft styles, and the Koronet line, expressed as English-style. There is a Koronet light I.P.A. I am not clear if this is top-fermenting.

The vintage labels are atmospheric. One shows a seated man with bottle in one hand, glass in the other, wearing traditional folk costume and headdress. The same image may be seen on eBay currently (see third row).

As a further resource, a striking display of Pupko labels appears in Polish Beer Labels, see here (click on “Lida” in localities on left margin).

Epilogue

My grandparents were mainly from the Pale of Settlement including Grodno. They arrived as young children in Canada before WW I. Due to their families’ foresight and intrepid spirit, but also Canada’s generosity to accept them, I am, in all likelihood, here today to write this.

Until recently though, I knew almost nothing of Grodno or Belarus, or their breweries.

Part II follows below, on Papiermeister brewery.

………….

*Jewish families did have an important role in hop factoring in Germany until, and apparently after, the Nazi regime, this has been documented in recent years.

**The RAF has often come up in my brewing research. Mandate Palestine, Iraq, and British Malaya are all examples.

 

 

 

 

New England Charms the Big Apple

Welcome to the Hotel Pennsylvania

A vintage menu of 1936 points to the future of American dining and wine, from the New York-based Gourmet Society.

The menu is archived here, in the invaluable collection of Johnson and Wales University. It was typed and mimeographed for members and presents today a charming aspect. Pioneering radio journalist and speaker Mary McBride spoke at the dinner, a notable figure of her time.

She is pictured below with Eleanor Roosevelt (via link above).

 

 

The Gourmet Society, a heterogenous group of New York movers and shakers, invited public figures to its events. Food and drink were primary, but not exclusive, for these “modernes”. They also engaged in debates of the day, increasingly fraught with the approach of WW II.

The Gourmet Society was helmed by J. George Frederick, an advertising executive turned food author. The Society was active from 1933 until c. 1960. I discussed the Society and a number of its menus earlier.

The 1936 dinner was given at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York, across from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. Then comparatively new, Hotel Pennsylvania is still a New York fixture although the mid-century glamour has faded.

But in the 1930s, the hotel was ideal to host a creative dinner of “cosmopolites”, as Frederick termed his band. The menu that night was representative of coastal and interior New England. Offerings included turkey pie, oysters casino, stuffed potatoes, and squash pie.

Different states’ names were attached to each dish but this was largely a flourish, e.g. Vermont turkey pie.

The dishes have more than a British tinge. Oysters, pie of poultry, or winter vegetables – all could have appeared in Dickens or Thackeray. The rum similarly, albeit the Victorian “quartern” measure had been abandoned in a modernes’ Manhattan.

The Anglophile flavour ties into the first European settlers in the Northeast U.S., and much of Maritimes Canada for that matter. Frederick would write notes for each dish, sometimes offering the recipe.

 

 

The “Sauterne”, a generic label from a restored California winery, was a brave choice. It took imagination for prewar epicureans to select such an item over established French or German wines.

1936 is only three years after Prohibition, which had wiped away a wine industry in full ascension prior to WW I. But in F.D.R.’s New York, the Gourmet Society found inspiration in a re-born industry to match its American food theme.

The rum recalled the heyday of New England rum manufacture, especially in Medford, Mass. It is doubtful Medford rum would have been served at a formal dinner before Prohibition. By the late 1930s, the product was viewed in a different light, as a tradition almost lost.

It was similar to how India Pale Ale was viewed by craft brewers after the last industrially produced example, Ballantine India Pale Ale, had departed the market.

The Hotel Pennsylvania dinner was a construct, a cultural event, not just tonight’s dinner or even festive dining as such. It was urbanites, hipsters if you will, viewing food as other than simply sustenance or tradition.

George Frederick and other leading figures of New York’s early food scene presaged luminaries to come: the Beards, Kerrs, Rays, Reichls, Flays, and many more. They forecast our food trucks, food halls, baking competitions, and Zoom dinners. And much else that constitutes today’s culinary world.

 

 

Enchanted Forest

Brewery and Boudoir

Perfume and beer are ostensibly unrelated subjects, yet connections exist as will be seen below. (True, a brain inflamed by a heady brew will lyricize its scent, but metaphor is at work there).

Memel oak is a form of “Quercus robur”, or common European oak. There were vast stands in Russia and Poland. In past generations in Britain it was considered “the” wood for brewers’ casks, among many other uses in industry.

Memel was the Prussian Baltic city now called Klaipėda, in Lithuania. It was an important port (among others) from which the eponymous oak was shipped. Regardless which port sent it, wood of the requisite quality was called Memel, or Crown Memel.

I’ve had numerous postings on Memel oak in British brewing. This one collected many of the points.

In brief, until World War I Memel wood enjoyed near-universal use for British ale and porter barrels. Dublin-based Guinness, in contrast, adopted the tight-grained American white oak, “Quercus alba”, as did some minor porter brewers in England and Scotland.

These casks were not lined on the interior, or “coated”, in cooperage vocabulary.

American brewers used barrels made of their own, aforesaid white oak. In this case, the interiors were coated with brewers’ pitch, to prevent contact with the beer. Canadian brewers probably did similar, but I have not seen confirmation.

As a vestige of Memel’s former importance in brewing, the historic Traquair brewery in Scotland still uses fermentation vats made of Memel oak. See images in the company’s website, under “How the Beer is Brewed”.

In a posting in the blog Pat’s Pints, Traquair’s vats may be seen more clearly, including their natural russet tinge. The colour appears in freshly harvested Memel logs, as shown in my earlier post mentioned.

So important was Memel wood that the Russian Czars sought to bring the forests under their control, according to a 1936 story in the New York Post. The Post was concerned, not with beer though, but my other subject here, perfume.

It recounts that a Lorna Terry worked for a perfume and apothecary firm on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. She devised a scent for a Russian singer, Tamara (pictured below), whose full name was Tamara Drasin Swann. She was well-known on the New York stage in the 1930s. Some accounts have her origins as Ukrainian.

Tamara often played an exotic or vamp, a stock figure on the American stage at the time. She died in a plane crash near Lisbon in 1943 while on tour with the United Service Organisation. For more biographical detail, see her Wikipedia entry, here.

Even those outside the workshops of perfume makers know their complex formulas often seek to evoke the forest, glade, or grotto. Terry wanted moreover to devise a scent that conjured associations with Tamara’s birth place.

The reporter wrote: “Miss Terry uses [oakmoss] as being redolent of the Memel Oak for which Russia has been famed for centuries”.

Oakmoss, a lichen which grows on oak trees, was used to generate or enhance this effect. It is a venerable ingredient in perfumes, sourced in eastern Europe, not America – or not very easily in America. Its oakmoss simply lacks the right stuff.

A wartime (1942) article in New York’s Malone Evening Telegram reported:

Sixteen American oakmosses have been found to date, only one of which can be used, and it is not as satisfactory as the imported lichen. This one, Evernia vulpina, came from Oregon. The Givaudianian, a perfumery journal, says this lichen would be usable as a war substitute provided it can be found somewhere in great abundance.

 

 

A further idea of oakmoss in perfume can be gained from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which in 1959 profiled the Italian fashion designer Simonetta Colonna di Cesaro Visconti (1922-2011). A successful businesswoman, of noble birth, she had launched her perfume brand Incanto some years earlier.

Incanto means, enchanted. The story artfully described her blend:

The fragrance is complex in character, although essentially floral-woodsy in type. The Sicilian jasmine and a rare woody oil provide an exquisite topnote, rose and mignonette from Northern Italy contribute their floral importance, and for sophistication there are accents of tabac and oakmoss.

Interestingly in our context, Duchess Simonetta had Russian blood, through her mother. See further on Simonetta by Cara Austine in the website, Celebrity Dressmaker.

The dark forest has an enduring resonance in many cultures, often with magical or mystical connotations. Perfumers drew on the mystique to create intoxicating scents, as did Lorna Terry for her femme fatale client, as did Duchess Simonetta for her upscale trade.

The actual scent of oakmass in perfume evokes the forest, earth, bark, and leather: see a concise explanation in the Byrdie website by Catherine Helbig.

Today, the Balkans in south-east Europe sends its oakmoss crop to perfumeries around the world. Balkan oak is “Quercus frainetto”, another oak species, also called Hungarian and Italian oak.

While differing in some respects from Memel oak, Hungarian oak was also extensively used in breweries. See e.g. an American consular report from 1887. 

Some vats today to age craft beer are fashioned from Italian oak, e.g. at the Scottish Brewdog’s Tower Hill location in London. (I was told this during a personal tour).

The image below, via Wikipedia, is the painting The Perfume Maker, by Rodolphe Ernst. It shows some of the ingredients and implements of old-time perfume-making.

 

 

Turning to beer, might we infer that Memel staves added an ineffable something to British beer? Even though wood casks were well scoured before each use, the wood must have communicated some taste to the beer. Memel oak was known, by contrast with American oak, for its subtle effect on beer, that much is clear.

Maybe the taste complemented English hops, which can be arbour-like and, in current beer parlance, “twiggy”. It all connects in an odd kind of way, doesn’t it? To our mind it does.

Traquair in Scotland persisted with Memel vats because it had to give the beer something. Perhaps it was a lightly earthy note – see the discussion in Pat’s Pints. Other reviews of Traquair beer note something similar, but nothing approaching the vanillin blare, we might call it, of American oak.

Of course, the American tang is appreciated for bourbon whiskey, and Chardonnay wine, but those are different drinks. It must be said some craft beer is stored, today, in uncoated American oak. The taste noted for whiskey and wine is appreciated in beer by some, too.

Perfume seems still to prefer oakmoss from Europe, so the equation for Europe as I’ve limned it is lacking Stateside, where modern craft brewing began.

It is pleasing to note Lorna Terry’s employer Caswell-Massey is still in business, selling fine fragrances and soaps from its New York base. See details in its website.

The firm remains American-owned, and is one of the oldest continuing businesses in the United States. Maybe a file deep in storage lists the formula for Tamara’s perfume, which conjured the bowers and glades of a Czar’s domains.

As for Incanto, a perfume of that name is marketed today by Salvatore Ferragamo.

Note re images: the images above are identified with source 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Third Case of Bass

No ones wins them all, and Bass was no exception. Some trade mark lawsuits, taken to protect the widely-known triangle symbol for Bass Pale Ale, were rejected in the courts.

I’ll choose an instance that continues the theme in my last two posts, viz. if type of beer defendant sold made a difference. We saw once that it did, and once it did not.

Henry Zeltner Brewing Co. was in many ways the obverse of Bass. A small brewer in Bronx, New York, an 1878 league table of lager brewers in the New York Sun had it near the bottom. Nonetheless the brewery lasted from 1860 to about 1910.

In those years, you could make a nice living for your family serving a local market, and Henry did.

This timeline at the Tavern Trobe website is helpful, with photos and label depictions. The founder, Bavarian-born Henry Zeltner, ran the business for 38 years, until his death in 1898.

Bass Ratcliff by contrast was a major international firm, and litigious to the max. The vigilance was well-displayed in the United States where agents and bottlers were active to distribute Bass nation-wide.

A short obituary in American Brewers’ Review states that Henry died on June 9, 1898, of pneumonia, a common scythe in the days before antibiotic drugs. At the time of his death, litigation with Bass over a Zeltner trade mark was unresolved. Henry had won before Justice Townsend of the New York District Court, but Bass appealed.

Henry was vindicated by the appellate decision in 1899, but fate had robbed him of satisfaction to see the final result.

The appeal judges simply affirmed the decision “below”, of Justice Townsend, who dismissed Bass’s argument in a single, well-drawn paragraph.

Henry’s trade mark looked this way in one depiction (image via Tavern Trove):

 

 

As a reminder, Bass’s classic mark looked like this (image via Brewery History Wiki):

 

Judge Townsend felt the marks were quite distinguishable. He laid emphasis too on Henry’s product: lager, not ale, a “different class”. See the decision, here.

The judge considered that “the shape, color and collocation of symbols and letters” in Henry’s trade mark did not mimic those in the Bass label. Further, the colour of Zeltner’s bottles, and his cork and closure, differed from those of Bass.

This Zeltner tray, at an antiques website, lends credence to the judge’s decision. It shows the term “Old Fashioned Lager Beer” over the trade mark, the outer circular band in bright blue, and a white background offsetting the red triangle – the red, white, and blue of America, Henry’s adopted homeland.

Still, the triangle is there, in red. In a previous case, a triangle alone, even uncoloured, did the defendant in.

Are court cases to be completely rationalized? No, that is what jurists of the “realist” school think anyway. Then too, it’s always down to the specific case. On this outing Bass lost.

One wonders if the stress of the court battle led to Henry’s passing at only 67, not a young age for the time, but still … I think it not unlikely.

Henry was a stalwart of all-malt brewing, old-school all the way. While lager had eclipsed ale in the New York market, Henry’s kind of lager was going out, in favour of “Bohemian” cereal adjunct brewing.

Being a small player, probably the road ahead was hard enough, but the Bass fight could not have helped. Court battles can be sapping, even when you win.

Henry’s family continued the business for some years, but by 1910 was no longer brewing at 190th St. and 3rd Ave., Bronx, New York.

Ale and art

Brewers’ Initiative Post-War

An innovative public-private partnership, ahead of its time by decades, was “Ale and Art”, introduced in 1946. It was a joint effort of the Central Institute for Art and Design and four brewers in London.

The idea was to give commissions to notable London artists to produce original works to brighten the brewers’ pubs. Many were still getting on their feet again after the war.

The storyvia the Associated Press, was reprinted in numerous Australian newspapers. The program was launched at a pub popular with Antipodes airmen during the war, which explains I think the Australian angle.

From the account:

During the next 80 weeks, as he sits in his favourite pub, the Englishman will gaze at the work of over 30 artists, many of whose pictures are well known in the London art galleries. And the pictures are not just “extra-special” advertisements of public houses, quite the contrary. Although the brewers financed the scheme and made some suggestions as to subjects, the artists had a more-or-less free hand. They ranged far and wide through London and the Home Counties, painting churches and villages, hop fields and country market places, maltings and the River Thames.

In the concise, even tone typical of British journalism then, the public spirit of the gesture was made clear: the art was not expected to promote beer and breweries, as such.

Augustus John was the leading artist, quoted in the story. He quipped that brewers should support art because artists are some of their best customers.

Brave London, which had fought hard against the Nazis, was grey, half-destroyed, and exhausted. And still to be on rations for years. In this environment the government and brewing executives had the foresight to boost post-war pub trade by providing paid work to artists, who can usually use it.

Art and Ale would have cost relatively little, and was an inspired example of government and private cooperation. The brightening came in a heightened experience for pub patrons and cash in artists’ pockets.

 

The Cogers pub profiled is, I believe, today’s St. Brides Tavern. See here, at the Pub History site, for more information, source of above image. Cogers was – still is – the name of a storied debating society. The term came from cogitate, not codger a la old geezer.

Cogers club used to meet at or near this pub, it may have been a pub behind called the White Hart.

Both were located in a stylish 1930s Edward Luteyns block. Originally the pubs were separate buildings, elements of which were retained by Luteyns. The club met in one but I think it was St. Brides, which faces Salisbury Square. The other pub is now site of an airy City restaurant, appropriately called Luteyns.

One wonders what became of John’s paintings for the scheme. Maybe some still hang in St. Brides.

John’s name appropriately named a pub in Hampshire, in the village where he lived (perhaps still, but we are not sure).

The art plan would seem ideal for right now, as pubs re-open in the UK and around the world under loosened Covid 19 restrictions. They could all use a fillip.

Some craft breweries pre-Covid encouraged artists in different ways, but it might be done on a wider, organized scale, to help pubs reset after a highly unusual year.

While no one would (or should) compare Covid to WW II, this art plan of the late 1940s would suit our conditions right now.

Note re image: image above was sourced from the Pub History site linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Image used educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

A Second Case of Bass

This follows on our first post today, a Case of Bass.

Another day, another case, another defendant’s beer. Another dollar too, or pound, depending how the scales of justice tip.

In the English Chancery case In Re Worthington & Co.’s Trade Mark heard in 1879, Bass took action against another brewer,  Worthington & Co., seeking to register a triangular symbol to promote its beer.

(Worthington & Co. had not yet merged with Bass, that came later). Worthington had bought a brewery called Beccles, in Suffolk. Worthington devised a trade mark that showed the charming Beccles church enclosed by a double-bordered triangle.

No colour was claimed, this was not possible for some reason. The decision reproduced examples of each label. To me they looked quite different, but Bass won again.

The reason: the label might be printed in red or another colour, and the church would be obscured, with a greater likelihood of resemblance resulting.

It being an appellate case heard by a panel, one judge dissented. He argued it was not proper to assume Worthington might print its design in a dishonest way, to mislead consumers. Rather, one should assume it would use the label in black and white, as registered, on its face quite different to Bass’s design.

The judge, Mr. Justice Cotton, in this case distinguished between beer types, something his American counterpart refused to do 20 years later. Bass had argued that the market knew its beer as the “triangle ale”, a fact the American court of 1899 accepted.

Lordship Cotton, showing an impressive grasp of beer knowledge, quickly dismissed this. He stated triangle ale simply meant Bass Pale Ale as against Bass’s Burton ale, which used a lozenge (diamond) symbol. He wrote that triangle ale was written in trade orders to ensure Burton ale was not shipped, and the term had no further significance.

Via Wikipedia Commons:

 

 

For mystified readers, since both beers were brewed at Bass in Burton, Burton ale was another type: darker and stronger than Bass Pale Ale. In fact, Burton ale was the type historically associated with Burton and region, but was eclipsed from the early 19th century by pale ale.

Beer writer Michael Jackson, after citing a poem lauding “Old Burton”, brought out the difference in The World Guide to Beer (1977):

Even in the 1750s, the brewers of the Trent Valley had already been famous for at least 100 years, and had been mentioned in the writings of Defoe, but the emergence of pale ale as a new style gave them the chance to sparkle.

Mr. Justice Cotton was sympa, whether from personal proclivity or evidence in the record, is hard to say.

And so, nothing is absolute, distinctions among beer types in a general class shouldn’t matter in larger society, until they do.

 

 

 

A Case of Bass

An 1899 American court decision handed a victory to U.K.-based Bass Brewery, an injunction against Christian Feigenspan in New Jersey. Feigenspan had sought to use a triangle symbol to label two forms of beer: a pale ale, and half-and-half – pale ale and brown stout blended, in this case.

See from p. 207, a decision of the New Jersey Circuit Court.

From Jess Kidden’s Google Beer pages, we have a good idea what Feigenspan’s labels looked like, in a period card or poster.

Bass famously labelled its draft and bottled beers with a red equilateral triangle. Wholesalers bought in bulk from Bass in Burton-on-Trent, England and re-sold to retailers world-wide, both bottled and draft forms.

Feigenspan was using red, too, to colour its (isosceles) triangle although its trade mark registration disclaimed any particular colour. Bass, as the case explained, sometimes used alternate colours to its brand its pale ale, white was one. Red was typical though, especially for bottled Bass, and actually preceded any other colour, according to evidence taken.

Feigenspan was not on strong ground. The decision is well-worded and smartly paced. Mr. Feigenspan as a witness did not, as well, strike the court as honest and guileless.

One point I’d like to bring out here is, Feigenspan argued his half-and-half could not violate Bass’s rights because, in essence, it wasn’t (India) pale ale, the type for which Bass was famous. As a mixture of beers and with a different colour than pale ale typically had, Feigenspan was trying to argue half and half was a separate product.

The court made quick work of this argument, holding both forms of beer were “malt liquor”, and “courts should not be astute to recognize fine distinctions” where the products were of a general class.

Here we see the limits of beer style, the thing near and dear to the heart of the beer enthusiast.

The defendant’s argument was never very strong anyway, as a mix of beers is still much closer to either component than, say, a box of paper tissue. But whatever force the argument had was quickly deflated by judicial logic and, I’d add, common sense.

Reading the case, I was reminded of the reaction of a friend of the family who could never be persuaded to like beer. Try this, I’d say, try that, this has fruit in it, that has nutmeg.

“It’s still beer”, he intoned. And so it is. From a certain point of view – but one rather widespread among, we might call them, non-initiates.

Feigenspan continued to market its brands under other labels. It came back fairly strong after Prohibition ended (1933). 10 years later though, Ballantine Brewery in the same state bought its share capital.

If you would a second case of Bass, see here.

 

 

 

Tomson & Wotton: Classic Seaside Brewery

When checking up on Ramsgate, which I knew to be in Kent and on the sea, but little more, this came up under “People ask”:

Of the three towns on Kent’s Isle of Thanet, Ramsgate is often seen as the underdog: somewhat over-shadowed by the time-warped charms of genteel Broadstairs or the gaudy glory of artsy Margate. … By reputation, it’s a bit rough, a bit run-down, but Ramsgate used to be posh.

The term rough, and posh for that matter, are not used this side of the Atlantic in quite the same way, but we get the meaning.

I don’t know who authored the text but it is compact and well-written. Ramsgate had its glory years in the 19th century but was well-frequented in the last century as well. Londoners sapped by the heat regularly took refuge there, into the 1950s.

In 1864’s All About Ramsgate and Broadstairs, the author typed Ramsgate as seaside town for Russell Square; Broadstairs, for Cadogan Place; and Margate for Kennington and Camden Town, which complements my quotation above.

For a Dickens-like description of a hot London summer, read the page preceding; its cinematic clarity derives from a time the written word counted for everything to convey experience to people.

So hot was it, “warm fingers made marks on the new novel”. And bitter ale was “iced” in London (always “luke” over there? Not). I can go on, but read it for yourself.

Below is an image of Ramsgate in its Victorian salad days (via Wikipedia):

 

 

The Kent resorts were much boosted by the burgeoning South England rail system in the 1800s.

Recently I mentioned that “seaside” breweries were noted for particular trading features. This is brought out in the article on Tomson & Wotton brewery in the 1962 volume of Brewing Trade Reviews I’ve referenced.

The article explains there were two high seasons for trade: Christmas and summer but summer was the main peak. A number of features of the plant description pertain to this, especially the three aluminum and one steel, glass-lined fermenter that complemented the main stock of wood Kauri fermenters (more on Kauri below).

Most draught produced was still naturally-conditioned, racked in wood casks. A little was “keg” beer though, the filtered, fizzier draft often served cold that became popular later in the Sixties.

The range of beers offered likely too reflected the summer trade, when T & W needed to cater to a wider range of tastes than local conditions would dictate. It made two “pale ales” (probably two draught bitters), a stronger, bottled pale, two brown ales, a barley wine (the strongest), and a stout.

It also bottled Guinness stout, brought by “tanker”, meaning likely by truck in bulk from London where Guinness had a second brewery, at Park Royal.

No lager is mentioned, although town pubs probably carried a few brands from Continental or UK producers. Tomson & Wotton also had a spirits and wine division, as many regional breweries did then, but being a seaside brewery, this extra capability was essential.

Mild ale is not mentioned. Mild drinkers had to be satisfied with bottled brown beer. Michael Jackson (1942-2007), the great beer writer, called mild “cloth-capped”, a description not applicable to Ramsgate in its fullest meaning, by my gleaning, at least in its summering heyday.

Following image is courtesy the Brewery History Society Wiki on T & W.

 

 

Kauri pinewood was once favoured for brewery fermentation vessels. It had workability, durability, and showed resistance to decay despite the heavy impact of humidity. It came from New Zealand and other parts of the Antipodes, and New Guinea.

A southern conifer, it was extensively felled for British and Empire uses in construction and industry. Yet some is still available, in New Zealand, under controlled conditions.

A couple of points now on other aspects of Tomson & Wotton brewing, which combined both Victorian and modern features. An early-1800s malt mill was still in use but in process of replacement. The kettle, to boil mashed wort with hops, was, unusually even by craft standards today, open to the atmosphere.

T & W brewers liked the results better than a more modern closed kettle. Today, brew kettles are generally closed when in use, although some have manholes or traps that may be opened.

Barley for malt came from nearby Kent fields, as did hops. Fragrant Kent hops were, and are, some of the best in the world. Beer drinkers in Ramsgate had a world-class product in front of them, in those salt-sprayed old pubs, but how many knew it?

This was the classic, local English brewery of yore, selling largely in its own territory, mainly using old-fashioned methods, with raw materials mostly sourced locally.*

They still “drank local”, back then, in many parts of Britain. Craft brewing has brought this back, especially where locally raised grains and hops are used.

Sadly for T & W, trends – and brewing has them as any business – were going the other way in the 1960s. It was increasingly the era of nationally-advertised, smart-looking brands. There is another word we don’t use here in the same way, but it fits somehow.

By 1962 Tomson & Wotton already had an “association” with London giant Whitbread, which probably had an investment in the firm, or loaned money to it. In time Whitbread’s took the firm lock, stock, and, well, barrel.

According to the BHS Wiki, the buy-out was in 1968 and the brewery was shut a few months after purchase.

Although it had started even earlier, the brewery endured in the same Tomson family from 1680 until the White Album came out. A pretty fine record.

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*By this time most U.K. breweries used some sugar in the process, to supplement the malt. Probably T & W did although sugar is not mentioned in the Review account.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carling Brewery Toronto, 1962

Once again, a volume of Brewing Trade Review issues from 1962 provides rich context for beer historians.

Eg. Guinness built a new ship, The Lady Patricia, to transport refrigerated, steel-and-aluminum tanks of beer to Britain and beyond (p. 1064). The article notes how wood cask shipment is almost of the past.

Britain’s oldest claimed brewery, Tomson & Wotton of Ramsgate is profiled, p. 840. Later bought out and closed by Whitbread (sound familiar?).

Guinness’s recent launch of Harp lager is covered, with details of its dedicated, rebuilt brewery at Dundalk, p. 592. Information on the Harp launch is available elsewhere but there is always a new twist.

And note how Guinness is positioned as championing lager in Ireland, paralleling its asserted role to revive Irish ale, via notably the Phoenix brand.

Review writer John Levett profiled Carling beer in the United States but in fact, mostly described the new, $12,000,000 Carling brewery in Toronto. (See from p. 922). The plant still exists, as Molson-Coors Beverage Co.’s main Canadian brewery.

The tower-like, oblong-shape central building of dark brick with contrasting light frame atop, shown in the article, is still a leitmotif at the plant, on Carlingview Rd. in Etobicoke, Toronto, despite much expansion since.

(Image below is courtesy Canadian Brewing News).

 

 

The 1962 article is replete with facts and figures, showing how bustling Toronto – such a different city, then – was selected to showcase the Carling Division of E.P. Taylor’s Canadian Breweries Ltd.

(Canadian Breweries Ltd. was sold to Rothman’s Tobacco in 1969. Its name was changed in the early 1970s to Carling O’Keefe. It merged with The Molson Companies in 1989, and Molson later joined Coors of Colorado).

Of the many technical points covered, my favourite is the malt mill discussion. So intricate and hushed was the mechanism that a coin placed on edge atop the machine would not topple as it purred away.

This is the Canadian version, or 1962 Canada version, of the small coin placed on the foam cap of a well-poured Guinness – it stays on the foam going down.

1,000,000 bottles a day were produced, or 365,000,000 per year if ran continuously.

The stainless Pfaudler lauter tun from Rochester, New York was claimed as largest in the world. Automated controls are mentioned more than once – the thrall of hi-tech was never more potent, all notions of craft lost ostensibly to gleaming metal and electronic command.

It is interesting to compare today’s output. A recent Toronto Star report, addressing the current lockout at the plant, pegs annual production at 880,000,000 bottles.

That is more than double the output of 1962. The Ontario population in 1962 was about 6,000,000. Now it is c. 14,000,000. The Carling plant would have served mostly Ontario then, with perhaps some shipments to Quebec, but Carling also had plants in Ottawa – Brading’s, a second one in Toronto, O’Keefe, and according to Levett still operating plants in Waterloo and Windsor.*

Carling was in midst of a major U.S. expansion, but that was served by American-based production, as the article explains and is confirmed elsewhere. Indeed Carling, via Carling National Brewery, was on a tear for some years still in the U.S.

O’Keefe and Brading only closed later in the late 60s, when all production was centralized on Carlingview Rd.

Today, as the Star noted, 20% of the output is a special line exported to the United States. It is evident, even excluding the O’Keefe and Brading production, that the contribution of the Carlingview plant to Ontario per capita consumption has fallen considerably since 1962.

Of course the brewing landscape is vastly different today. Imports play a role unheard of in 1962, not to mention the still-important craft brewing sector. And wine consumption has grown a lot since then.

There were 350 people employed at Carlingview in 1962. Today, per the Star, the complement is 300, with more than twice the output of then. That tells a tale, too.

The daily bottlings equaled, stated the article, 2,100 “kegs”. If my numbers are right, perhaps for the UK audience, a keg here was 36 gal. Imp. Using the hop consumption mentioned in the article, I get 1/3rd lb. hops/bbl., which sounds about right for the time.

What did they produce? Lots of Carling! Perhaps too some ale brands. What does Carling taste like today, as produced at the same plant? Next post.

Note re image: source of image above is identified and linked in text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to lawful owner. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*I did not check each case except for O’Keefe and Brading.

Wood in the English Brewery, 1962

Mighty Oaks do Fall

In my previous post, I used a 1962 volume of The Brewing Trade Review to spotlight two historically influential breweries: E. Lacon in Great Yarmouth, noted for its audit ale, and D. Carnegie in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Carnegie was famed for its porter, still brewed in another Swedish location by an affiliate of the Danish Carlsberg.

The 1962 volume is largely monument to a past brewing era, although the Sixties is much closer in other respects. The Beatles were just getting going, and their influence rings ever strong. In contrast, most English beer styles and exemplar breweries in the book belong to history, with bitter ale the main exception.

In 1962, about the same 60 years had elapsed since issuance of the 1895 edition of E.R. Southby’s A Systematic Handbook of Practical Brewing. That influential text was the subject of extended commentary in the 1962 volume by brewing scientist J.L. Shimwell.

I profiled this important and idiosyncratic figure in this post. I had learned more about him when I did that work, which now comes in handy. The writer of the Southby series is termed “Gypsum”, a Victorian-sounding pseudonym for Shimwell’s contributions to the Review.

The series blends a clear explanation of Southby on important points, other historical knowledge Shimwell had, and informed, contemporary knowledge.

For vessels to mash malt, Southby felt English oak staves were best, with iron also suitable provided rust-free (today steel and aluminium do the job well). The reason was English wood would not rot under influence of the heated grain mix.

“Foreign oak”, seemingly including the Baltic oak cherished for beer casks, would not do for this purpose. For fermentation vessels, the situation was more nuanced, as you may read here (p. 782).

For beer casks, along with increasingly rare English oak, Memel and related oaks shipped from Baltic ports were indispensableShimwell writes at p. 784:

Southby lists some of the places from which foreign oak could be obtained: Stettin, Memmel, Dantzic, Odessa, Blumeza, and Riga – today they seem like names from another age.

By 1962, the subtext was, Baltic wood was unobtainable due to the effects of war and politics in East Europe. Hence, and this from my earlier research, other materials were employed for beer casks. Initially American white oak, although usually lined inside to keep out the “cocoanut” taste, as one c. 1900 journal put it.

Persian oak was tried, and many other sorts. Finally metal casks came in, gaining when Shimwell was writing. Guinness in Dublin was Exhibit A.

Metal casks have stayed, while so much else has changed in brewing and the industry. Yet, even this redoubt may crumble. Plastic materials have found a limited role. A Bloomberg report covered Carlsberg’s adoption of plastic kegs in 2018.

Nonetheless in 1962 there were plenty of wood casks in use in Britain’s beer industry. Some were old Memel still serviceable, some other woods used as substitute. An industry still existed to maintain these and perhaps build a few new ones.

In the 1962 volume, Vincent Murphy & Co. of Liverpool placed an advert as follows:

 

 

Their phone number was Bootle 1055. Nothing sounds more stereotypically English, down to the likely pun of 1055 (beer historian in-joke). Bootle is a locality in Sefton, Merseyside.

Liverpool and its great docks were landing point for vast shipments of staves from Memel, now Klaipeda, Lithuania, and other Baltic ports. Hence the timber merchants once legion in Liverpool.

With the postwar reduction of dock commerce the merchants closed or mostly. Certainly Vincent Murphy did, in 1982. It was sold to Timbmet of Stanford-in-Vale, Oxford, as a report had it that year in the Oxford Mail.

Timbmet, for its part, still goes strong. Alas, wood casks in British breweries do not. There are still a few around, mostly made of the American wood British brewers once rejected, in the great majority, for that use.*

Guinness in Dublin was the great exception. Even in the 19th century it liked seasoned American oak for casks. Porter brewers in another old oak – London – stayed with Baltic wood as long as they could.

Today, many people like the effect of unlined American oak on beer, an innovation introduced by craft brewers. It features usually for bourbon barrel Imperial Stout, and some other styles. I am less enamoured, the odd strong beer apart.

Whatever wood is used now in U.K. (and North American) breweries, it’s nothing to what it used to be, as lots of things in life.

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*Hard pegs, or spiles, used to handle cask ale in the cellar, were often made of American oak.