The Stubby Beer Bottle. Part II.

In these notes I discuss pre-war ads vaunting the stubby bottle by brewers who adopted the new package, and news articles that show packaging technology was a hot button issue of the period.

An October 1935 article in the Waterbury Evening Democrat in Connecticut set out the advantages of the stubby: 31% shorter than the regular 12-oz bottle but holding the same quantity, three ounces lighter, and “one-trip, no-deposit, non-returnable”:

 

 

The last sentence seems a misprint of some kind unless I misunderstood it. Parenthetically, those interested in food history might note the banana muffin recipe on the same page, a specialty of the Hollywood actress Grace Bradley.

The banana muffin today enjoys North American popularity and beyond. I’d have thought it a 1960s invention, but evidently not.

Another October 1935 ad, in the Evening Star in Washington, D.C., vaunted Piel’s beer in stubbies. The relativeness lightness of the bottle was stressed, and its throw-away quality – all conveniences meant to appeal to housewives.

 

 

This November 1936 ad appeared in The Veterans’ Review in Seattle, Washington:

 

 

Like some other ads of the period it appeals variously to tradition and modernity. Tradition is highlighted by mention of oak casks, age-old in brewing as well as winemaking and distilling.

Yet, the stubby represented modern engineering to the max. One might think the brewery would have vaunted steel barrels, which Krupp of Germany and its licensees were actively marketing in this period, as I discussed earlier.

But Heimlich retained the ancestral oak barrel. If, I might add, cost was a factor, the consumer was not told.

On the contemporary side of the ledger, “glass-lined” equipment is noted, likely lagering tanks – and packaging in “amber light”. In such contexts amber usually denoted the brown glass bottle, favoured then and still by brewers.

These minimize light entering the bottle, which can skunk it. In the Heimlich ad, bottling in “amber light” seemed to mean something else.

There was some application in the period of ultraviolet light as a sterilization aid (see in Wallerstein Communications, 1937 and the Sterilamp). UV light can be purple evidently, or shades of blackish, but I don’t think brown/amber.

Also, one purpose of brown glass is precisely to reduce the UV light entering the bottle. I hesitate in this area before drawing any conclusions, but perhaps the bottle filling room was darkened to reduce the light entering the bottle whatever type of glass was used, as strong light can still enter brown glass.

The reference to two free bottles meant Heimlich was using the “Eastern”, 12 oz. stubby, while many brewers in the West used the 11-oz version.

Despite these seeming advantages offered by Heimlich, not least the asserted quality of its beer, the brewery foundered by the end of the 1930s. Its own story has many twists and turns, a brewery that originated before Prohibition. Perhaps for another day.

November 1939 ad by Olympia Brewery in Washington was similarly didactic in 1930s style:

 

 

Here, the stubby is promoted in part by showing how the crown cap replaced the cork for beer bottles. It is stated the tannin of cork affects the beer. This is true in my experience, except not really noticeable over the period most beer is consumed.

Also, cork can enhance, or at least not harm, some types of beer, porter for example. Of course I do not mean here the (rare) infection in some cork that leads to cork taint, but the normal flavour of cork.

For a light lager like “Oly” though, clearly a metal cap suited the beer better. Cork was pretty much obsolete in American brewing by this time anyway.

Olympia also argued the stubby bested the long-neck 12 oz. bottle since air space in the neck was much reduced.

That is true, yet today bottling generally extracts air in the neck space to minimize the chances of oxidation, premature staling in other words. Crown caps too are lined today with a substance that absorbs residual oxygen.

So this advantage of the stubby is not quite as in the 1930s.

Bag of Beer, Baby

A late-1935 article in the Waterbury Evening Democrat described how cans and stubbies were vying for supremacy in the packaging market.

The article, using a (laboured?) military metaphor, interviewed industry spokesmen for both industries, who disclaimed a war was going on. This reflected the residual decorum characteristic of American business, more than anything else.

The writer ended on a mordant note:

In the meantime your correspondent is trying the contents of both containers … and is finding it increasingly difficult to decide whether he would prefer to complete his assignment under the banner of the old tin can or at the more distant posts where the uniform of Stubby is worn, or whether it wouldn’t be real nice to spend a real long time at both places. And just to liken it a little more to the Mediterranean disturbance [invasion of Ethiopia] word has just come along the grapevine telegraph that the paper industry is soon to enter the fray with a paper wrapper so that soon we may pass the can opener along into the discard with the bottle opener and just send the Pop out for a bag of beer.

No doubt many readers felt similarly – can or short bottle, bring on the beer. Kind of how I feel today.

As to paper, even in the 1930s some were thinking that beer could be packaged this way. The idea is intriguing, and if mentioned in the press I’d think a drawing board or two was devoted to the idea, if not lab testing of prototypes.

The idea would seem well-suited to today, in particular. After all, you can draw soft drinks through a paper straw at some places, e.g. A&W Burgers in Canada. I tried it at an A & W in Toronto yesterday.

The effect was similar to a plastic straw but not quite as good, I thought. The rigidity of the paper version was a factor. Probably that will sort out in time.

Milk and juice cartons are a partial analogy, but usually are not carbonated or meant for rough handling. I have a feeling science could figure out a solution. Perhaps some beer somewhere is already packaged in paper.

The drain on the forests might be an obstacle, but one way or another I think we will see evolution in beer packaging, before long.

See Part III for the final part of this look.

Note: source of each image above is 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 Stubby Beer Bottle. Part I.

Fashions attend packaging for beer no less than what is inside. Environmental laws, or industry accords, affect the matter too, viz. for disposability and recycling.

In Canada currently the can is very popular for craft, while some bottles are still used, of varying shapes. In the domestic mass market industry both bottles and cans appear.

This is an example of a half-litre bottle used currently by Stone City Ales in Kingston, Ontario (and the beer is mighty good, too):

 

 

From the 1930s through the early Sixties 12 oz. “export” or slope-shape “Champagne” bottles were in use, see examples in this link. A slope-shape 22 oz. “quart” was used as well.*

The website of Molson-Coors states Molson Canadian lager, introduced in 1959 was bottled as shown, note clear glass:

 

In 1962, some sources state 1961, Canadian brewers introduced the brown-only stubby bottle as a national standard. A 1968 ad of Newfoundland Brewery Limited, by then an affiliate of Molson Breweries, shows the stubby in classic mode (via Memorial University Digital Archives):

 

 

Note the vending side by side of pale ale and lager versions of the famous India brand. Only the lager is sold today, the India Beer.

In 1983, Canadian brewers adopted taller bottles, which might differ among the brewers. These were considered American in style but were not really long-neck, as the old export bottle was.

By 1992 the bottle was standardized industry-wide to a tall, brown, shouldered format still in use today, mainly by the large brewers. See in Allen Sneath’s Canadian brewing history. Cans are also used.

A CBC radio report explained the background to the 1983 switch, which some rued as a loss of Canuck tradition.

Despite that change, the stubby still appears among big brewer ranks, e.g. this listing for Coors Banquet in Saskatchewan. Some Molson Canadian Lager was packaged in stubbies a few years ago, as a 2017 Tweet from Molson-Coors shows.

Canada popularized the stubby between 1962 and 1983, but it had a long history before that. The best way to understand it is to read the article (2019) A History of Non-Returnable Beer Bottles by Peter Schulz, Bill Lockhart, Carol Serr, Bill Lindsey, and Beau Schriever.

The authors aptly note:

Just as archeologists piece together the story of the past from fragments of ancient pots, so future historians might well glean insights into the way we live today by studying the shapes, materials, and surface designs of the “vessels” which contain our products (Modern Brewery Age 1964).

They explain the stubby was introduced in 1935 to compete better with the can, then new and gaining traction. The stubby was similar in shape and a few ounces lighter than the export bottle. Further, like the can it was disposable.

Owens-Illinois, the glass bottle manufacturer, designed the stubby. There were two main sizes, 12 oz. and, for the West Coast, 11 oz. A larger-size format was also made.

Some brewers, across the country, did adopt the stubby, the authors include a photo of Fidelio Ale in New York packaged in the new bottle.

In 1935 the trade journal The American Brewer carried an Owens-Illinois ad for the stubby (p. 16). The brewing profession at large clearly knew of the development, in other words. It was not an obscure technological advance, and had some commercial application in the period.

 

 

The term stubby was present at the creation, most likely devised by a marketing mind at Owens-Illinois. What Canadians have fondly viewed as their own is of American origin, as many of our cherished institutions.

Yet, we made the stubby famous, that’s true – fame of a kind anyway, the kind unlovely objects can gain with familiarity.

In part this resulted from its being returnable, an early nod to the burgeoning environmental movement. A returnable bottle also has its own economic justification (the two often go together): why throw away all that re-useable glass?

Schulz, Lockhart et al. note that even the first bottle was re-used by some breweries. Particularly during the Depression, people didn’t understand why it should be discarded after one use.

For whatever reason though, the first stubby did not succeed in the market. By World War II it was set aside. After the war it seems to have had limited use in various parts of the country.

Bottles in the stubby shape were sold in six packs in the 1970s in the U.S., certainly. Those I recall were plastic composition, throw-away. Don’t ask me why, but I remember walking with one of these on the sand dunes at Provincetown, Cape Cod, on a trip down there in the early ’70s.

Fun fact: at least one Canadian brewer had adopted the stubby, or a bottle quite like it, even before 1962. An earlier post of mine included this image from a 1949 issue of an employee magazine of National Breweries Ltd. in Montreal:

 

 

It was not quite the near-neckless stubby of 1962, but fairly close. It bears some resemblance to another 1930s abbreviated beer bottle, the steinie, perhaps a compromise between it and the stubby. See linked article by Schulz, Lockhart et al. for its description.

These authors also describe a third abbreviated bottle released in the late 1930s, the Packie, or Brownie, to which the Dow Ale bottle may also be connected.

I cannot confirm the stubby-like Dow Ale actually went on the market, but the accompanying story stated it had, and the plan evidently had reached a high stage of development.

That bottle was disposable, in line with the original stubby design. The 1962 bottle did vary from the 1949 effort as, apart the neck resembling more closely the original stubby, the bottle was made returnable.

My formative experiences with Canadian beer occurred during the reign of the stubby. While I have no strong preference for any beer container – I am more concerned with what’s inside – I liked drinking some brands straight from the bottle.

The stubby seemed ideal for that. Once it faded, I stopped doing that. (Cans aren’t the same for some reason, I don’t know why).

N.B. For a thorough, more international look at packaging formats for craft and mass market brewers, see Cat Wolinski’s infographic article in Vinepair in 2018.

Part II continues the discussion.

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

*The “quart” usage is my recollection of 1970s beer parlance in Quebec, having lived there at the time. I think probably the British terms pint and quart were simply transferred in Quebec to mean smaller and larger measures of beer, even though the local measures ended as smaller, because in English we called the 12-oz. bottle a pint. I am less sure of the 1970s Quebec French designations, maybe it was just petite and grosse for the 12 and 22-oz. size, respectively. It’s confusing because today, 20 or 22 oz. of beer in Quebec would be called a pint, and pinte in French.

 

 

 

 

 

The Purist of Pils

 

 

Svetky Lezak from Toronto’s Godspeed Brewery is astonishingly good, probably the best Bohemian-style beer I’ve had anywhere including Czech Republic (didn’t taste them all of course).

It has a notable softness of body, deep malty quality, and deep spicy/flowery hop flavour of true Saaz that just goes on and on. The hops leave a pleasing “medicinal” note that adds yet further complexity.

A Victorian beer observer (1875), Henry Vizetelly, used that very term, medicinal, to describe the Saaz effect, I now recall.

The current brewing of Svetly Lezak is particularly good as well, the brewery seems to have refined it to perfection. One hopes it will stay like this.

Certainly Godspeed makes some good beers – and some I don’t favour – but Svetly stands above them all, imo. See the website for descriptions of other beers.

The Svetly is for the purist of pils, who understands the unique Bohemian blonde lager palate. It uses double decoction, and long cold aging. The quality of the hops and the way they are added show maximum authenticity as well.

For the best all-round Ontario pils, I would elect a different beer, Amsterdam’s Pure Pilsener, but the Svetly rocks to a different beat really, more for the Czech purist.

The Pure Pilsener is a great all-rounder, combining elements of Czech, German, and craft beer. I think it would appeal to more people, as well, just an impression.

 

 

Pilsner Urquell, the great Czech avatar, speaks for itself, of course. Maybe the best way to put it is, all these represent the same tradition, but interpret it in their own way.

That is also true of this beer, from Slovakia.

 

 

Rounded and fruity/spicy from the Saaz hops, it has good body and drinkability. The brewery, Zlaty Bazant, originated in the 1960s. It has its own maltings, drawing barley from the region, and has made continual improvements to malting processes, which show in the beer.

(The website contains an outline of the malting process at the brewery).

The hops are handled though in a particularly skillful way, as for all the beers I’ve mentioned.

We get it within three months of brewing and it pours spanking fresh from the bottle.

Tasting such quality reminds me how an English pale ale could be as good, but so few are, in my experience. Even if English landrace hops and British malts are present, rarely is the palate assertive enough.

Often this results I think from insufficient hops used, an excessive attenuation limit, and too much sugar or grain adjunct.

Many craft pale ales and India Pale Ales I encounter day in day out have an intensity of malt and hop taste similar to what these pilseners attain. One need only brew an English pale ale the same way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Horse Ale and “The Rock”

Black Horse Ale’s First Sales in Newfoundland

The new issue of Ontario-based Loren Newman’s The Canadian Brewerianist showcases memorabilia for Newfoundland’s Black Horse Beer. Coasters, labels, and bottles from different eras are displayed in a piece by Mark Armstrong.

The beer still goes strong in the Province, a macro mainstay along with Dominion Ale and a few others. Craft beers there are as well, but not part of our story today.

A website maintained by Chris D. Conway, a craft brewer, beer journalist, and scholar of Newfoundland beer history, states:

Much of … [the] history is only glanced at through beers which, while once brewed by small Newfoundland producers, are now brewed in the province by either Molson-Coors or AB-Inbev (as Labatt). These beers, Bennett Dominion Ale (Molson), India Beer (Molson), Blue Star (Labatt), and Jockey Club (Labatt) are brands which have been around in Newfoundland for well over half a century. Other beers, particularly Black Horse (Molson), also have a long tradition in Newfoundland, though it was never brewed by a Newfoundland-owned brewery.

Spread through his site Conway imparts considerable information on these beers’ history, especially Black Horse Beer (as now called). It is an excellent site with much of good value.

E.g. he shows Newfoundland Brewery had an India’s Holiday Bock Beer in (seemingly) the 1950s – a name one might expect to see in our own craft times. At 8% abv, they needed no lessons from craft on strength!

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto, Breweriana Collectors, and Atlantic Canada Beer Blog also contain label, or other, information relevant to Newfoundland brewing history.

I will add my part, here.

The Pre-Craft Breweries of Newfoundland

Through the mid-century until 1962, three independent brewers competed in Newfoundland. Conway summarizes their arc in his site. They were Bavarian Brewing Company Limited (1932-1962), Newfoundland Brewery Limited (1893-1962), and The Bennett Brewing Company (1827-1962).

As one can see at a glance, in the same terminal year, each was sold, to one of the three main Canadian brewers then. Molson Breweries got Newfoundland Brewery, Canadian Breweries Limited took Bennett Brewing, and Labatt scooped Bavarian Brewing.

Since Molson Breweries and Carling O’Keefe, formerly Canadian Breweries Limited, merged in 1989, Molson ended controlling the brands of the former Newfoundland Brewery and Bennett Brewing.

Origins of Black Horse Ale and Extension to Newfoundland

One result of the buy-out of Bennett Brewing was it started to brew Black Horse, a brand in Canadian Breweries Limited’s portfolio. Toronto-based Canadian Breweries Limited acquired the brand in 1952 when it bought National Breweries Limited in Quebec.

National Breweries Limited included Montreal’s Dawes Brewery, where the brand originated in the 19th century, actually in Lachine, Quebec at Dawes’ first brewery.

As Armstrong notes in his article, Conway’s site states that even before Bennett Brewing started to make Black Horse:

Canadian Breweries Limited (1951) … already had Black Horse and O’Keefe’s Old Stock in … [Newfoundland].

I am not sure what the “1951” means. It may simply mean that Conway traced a Black Horse Ale listing in Newfoundland as far back as that year, but his site does not add further detail.

Armstrong states while he has no evidence Black Horse was sold in Newfoundland before Bennett Brewing started to brew it:

I just feel there had to be an established market in Newfoundland  … My reasoning being, why would Bennett … become a licensee for that product if it didn’t already see a market for it?

Armstrong also notes that usually Canadian Breweries Limited phased out fading brands in favour of “big sellers”. The implication: unless Black Horse, in decline elsewhere in Canada, had some history in Newfoundland, it seemed not to make sense to introduce it there.

Early Export of Black Horse to Newfoundland 

In fact, the brand has a pre-history in Newfoundland. I have traced it back to December 1940. Perhaps it was there even earlier, but as shown below, Montreal-made Black Horse Ale was available in Newfoundland through the 1940s. Presumably therefore, it was sold in the 1950s and early ’60s as well.

In the past in Canada, except for a few off-shore and American imports, beers retailed in a province were manufactured there. Various provincial laws required or encouraged this, as a trade protective measure.

This is why, say, Molson Breweries operated, and still does via Molson-Coors Beverage Co., numerous breweries across Canada to supply local markets.

There were exceptions and it depended on the laws in a particular period. It must be remembered, as well, that Newfoundland was not part of Canada in 1940.

It was a separate possession of the British Empire, in fact under close U.K. administrative control due to a financial crisis resulting from the 1930s Depression.

Therefore, when National Breweries Limited in Quebec sent its Black Horse Ale to culturally adjacent, not-too-distant Newfoundland, it was nonetheless still an exported product.

The following ad is from the December 11, 1940 issue of the Western Star, a newspaper in Curling, Newfoundland, today part of the City of Corner Brook:

 

 

Similar ads appeared in Newfoundland right until Newfoundland joined the Canadian Confederation in 1949. Here is another, from the same newspaper in 1948:

 

 

I think probably this export of beer benefitted from some kind of exemption connected to the war. Canadian breweries generally, as I discussed earlier, were not permitted to export during wartime unless connected to the war effort.

Newfoundland certainly enjoyed, so to speak, an economic boost due to the onset of war in 1939. A webpage of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa explains well how the war impacted Newfoundland.

Beer had no trouble finding a sale during World War II, in general. The Newfoundland brewers who had struggled in the 1930s surely did not mind “a hand” from a Canadian brewer, to help supply new thirsts locally, or old thirsts now backed by ready cash.

Cover-the-Bases Advertising

An ad for Black Horse Ale in Sherbrooke, Quebec in August 1940, set a stylish tone for the brew, likening it to Champagne:

 

 

The mention of Champagne in 1940 seems odd, not because inapt in a beer context, but because France had fallen to the Germans in June that year. It is likely though the ad appeared earlier in 1940, before the debacle.

To support the quality of Black Horse Ale, the ad invokes alternately heritage and modernity, ostensibly opposed concepts. The traditional wood vat is stressed versus, say, equipment made from a shiny metal emblematic of contemporary aero, locomotive, or auto design.

The early origins of the brand and multi-generational history of manufacture, are stressed as well.

But how many ads, then or now, actually stated the beer was not as good 25 and 50 years earlier? I mean, the same brand, so setting aside modern craft beer. This showed how dominating the idea of industrial progress was then.

While the same dynamic is at work today, in brewing as any branch of industry, we are more loathe to admit it. We prefer the gauzy romance of handicraft, the down home, the pre-industrial. Never mind most of it is gleaming/computerized, in one way or another.

So this is the beer sent from Montreal to Newfoundland aka “The Rock” in the 1940s: mellowed in natural wood of immemorial use, light-coloured (isn’t Champagne?) and not bitter, yet of full body. This was all-malt beer, too, as I have shown before.

It was made the old way, and also the new way. It tasted traditional, but was better than ever – the perfect beer for 1940 – or 2021, I daresay.

Black Horse Beer Today

The Black Horse in Newfoundland today is Black Horse Beer, not Black Horse Ale. The change is documented in advertising dating at least to the 1970s. I am not clear when exactly it occurred, perhaps with the first brews at Bennett Brewery in St. John’s after the sale.

The only place in Canada today where Black Horse is available is, to my knowledge, Newfoundland.* This is the current label, via Molson-Coors’ site:

 

 

The Percheron-looking horse harks back to early Dawes Brewery artwork for the brand, when the beer was an ale. It is not an ale today. A story for another time.

*And Labrador, its associated territory.

 

 

 

Beertown Toronto Opens

Beertown Public House is a group of beer-focused restaurants in Ontario, part of the Charcoal Group of Restaurants based in Waterloo, Ontario.

Waterloo is some 70 miles west of Toronto, a university and technology town. There is also an early and continuing Mennonite presence, originally an influx from the United States. Today the area is quite diverse in population.

Waterloo is paired often in discussion with nearby Kitchener, a city of similar origins, as Kitchener-Waterloo. Guelph, another university town, and Cambridge are not distant, and together they form a loose and growing economic region.

There are now eight Beertowns, the latest is on Wellington Street W. in Toronto, at University Avenue, in the downtown core. Beertowns were established earlier in Waterloo, Guelph, and Oakville among other centres outside Toronto.

The new Toronto location therefore marks a first for Beertown in this sense.

 

 

The Charcoal Group is owned by four partners, one of whom is Jody Palubiski, the long-time CEO. He was interviewed recently by Alan Quarry on Quarry’s Blog & Grill site. His remarks serve as good introduction to the Charcoal Group and its brands, including Beertown.

I had lunch there yesterday, and was impressed. Even though just opened everything ran smoothly. The beer selection is exemplary, craft to the max with some macro selections, and the food first-rate – I had Korean BBQ chicken wings.

The beer choice is divided into static (permanent) draft, static bottles, rotational bottles, rotational draft.

There is a terrace on one side, and circling the building considerable space is open to the sidewalk, so the effect is similar if you sit nearby. There are a number of beer-aware destinations in the downtown core, but another is always welcome, if the quality is good, certainly the case here.

 

 

Its location too on the western end of the core will help build its own base there. It is not that far from the Rogers Centre, and with the Blue Jays playing here again that will help bring the people.

 

 

No Beertown brews onsite, and I don’t think it’s really needed. With everything from lassi gose to bourbon-barrel Imperial Porter currently available at the Toronto location, no help is needed on the beer front, clearly.

I had a flight, skipping said porter – after a two-hour walk in 30 Celsius weather that didn’t seem the best idea.

Looking overseas for a moment, to London, U.K., a pub guide in 1976 noted that quite unexpectedly, traditional architecture seemed to blend harmoniously with “posh blocks with tinted glass”.

The book was speaking of the City (financial centre), but the observation in time has proved true for other parts of London, and the public house itself.

Canary Wharf had a pub early on, in fact, and I am sure there are many like it today in London office towers. There is of course the impressive Outpost Tower Hill Brewdog, and smaller Brewdogs in London, and elsewhere in the U.K.

North America led the way here, since it developed its urban centres later than the U.K., and perhaps sooner to the rhythm of modern commerce, but increasingly the two streams have joined.

And the truth is, for many patrons, the spirit of the public house is not affected. What “makes” the public house is not, necessarily, the landlord in the corner, Victorian bric-a-brac, a leafy garden, or a railway arch.

It is excellent beer, in quality and variety, other drinks, food if wanted, and people at the bar, if a chat is wanted.* All Toronto beer haunts have a central bar, including the latest ones in office blocks.

The pub evolves, but at the same time, remains the same, the good ones.

….

*Covid regulations permitting.

 

 

 

 

Pubs of London – a 1976 Conspectus

 

 

Our good friend Gary Hodder in Toronto gave me this book for comments, and easy to oblige in view of its interest. Gary first visited Britain in the 1970s, well before I did, and I assume had this in his knapsack for the trip.

First issued in 1976, the one shown is a 1978 reprinting. The title sounds almost contrived, for humorous effect, but it was certainly real.

The book, in fact a series of regional pub guides, was sponsored by Miles Laboratories. Miles made the famous stomach and headache remedy, Alka-Seltzer. The copyright page assigns the rights to R.M. Smith, who must have had an arrangement with Miles Labs, perhaps to share sale proceeds.

The publisher was Bayard London, for whom Smith must have worked.

Despite the very British context here, Miles Laboratories was founded in the late 1800s by a Midwestern American surnamed Miles, a pharmacist. It implanted in Britain between the wars, as best I can tell, with a laboratory and offices in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire.

Bayer of Germany bought Miles not long after this book appeared. The Stoke lab was closed in the 1980s but the site continued, and perhaps still, as a meeting place for Bayer personnel.

Smith, described as the book’s editor, states in the Introduction the book was compiled with the assistance of the pub landlords. Leafing through it, it seems evident how the series was done.

Smith likely sent a template to each landlord to complete, viz. the pub’s location and history, beers available, description of premises, and type of clientele.

The London borough system is used to organize the content. The individuality of each borough is stressed, less a factor today perhaps.

There is a short introduction for each borough, with places of interest, markets, churches, museums, famous people, and statues all noted.

The book is serious but even in tone. It isn’t jokey, nor does it treat beer with the studied gravity typical since the 1980s. The Campaign for Real Ale is briefly mentioned, for its success in preserving real ale.

The general Introduction has short but telling observations, such as that the majority of pubs was built in the Victorian period, to serve the surging population spawned by the Industrial Revolution.

The variety of pubs is stressed, as to age, architectural styles, patrons, and more obscure factors such as the influence of Christianity, e.g. some pubs were on pilgrimage routes.

Of course many pubs listed, perhaps most, no longer operate although many buildings still stand (I checked a number of examples). That said, many pubs are still going strong, Covid regulations permitting of course.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The Lamb, Henekey’s Inn (now Cittie of York), Edgar Wallace, The Guinea, The Dove, The Blackfriar, are just a few examples.

Opening the book at random, I noted The Old Swan of Watney Mann in Battersea. It had a lighterage theme, evident in the thrusting hull-shapes of the exterior.

The facing page has the stately The French Revolution on Upper Richmond Road. Some ironies there, I think, of architecture and location.

 

 

Neither exists today. The Old Swan offered Watney’s Special, Red Barrel, Ben Truman, Carlsberg, and draught Guinness.

The French Revolution had Whitbread Trophy, Tankard, Heineken, draught cider – and draught sherry, which tells you something of locale and era. The French Revolution was formerly Cricketers, due to a cricket club on Putney Lower Common.

I should add all pubs in the book are depicted in striking black and white drawings. The artist is described simply as Myerscough, a person of evident ability.

I recall other guides of the time, to which this series was broadly similar. If one can generalize, this writing, certainly Pubs of London, reflected the mid-20th century, restrained public writing style of Britain. Nothing very emotional, or rather, the emotion is conveyed in a particular way.

Today’s public writing, influenced by social media, wears its heart on the sleeve much more. There are advantages to each, I suppose, but I incline to the former.

The author commented of the City:

… despite [the] new building, old spires, dilapidated warehouses, and posh blocks with tinted glass unexpectedly live harmoniously together.

While much has changed, not least in beer and, especially at the moment, pub life in Britain, the observation was prescient, indeed for London generally.

The book might have benefitted from a short description of beer styles; that apart it was exemplary of its type, and is a good collectible.

Note re images: Used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property in “Alka-Seltzer Guide to the Pubs of London” belongs solely to lawful owner. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

Michelob Characteristics, 1890s. Part II.

In a number of earlier posts I examined Budweiser’s gravities and alcohol between 1884 and the start World War I. In September 2016 I discussed an 1884 assay that showed 1015 FG and abv of 5.3%.

In November 2016, see this post, I noted around 1900 the FG seems to climb to 1020, with alcohol just under 4% abv. This is consistent with the 1898-1899 test Edd Mather just reported, see Part I, except there alcohol is 4.7% abv.

I stated in that post:

So 1020 for Bud by 1889-1904 makes sense, it’s not a farfetched number and marries with the 1889 booklet’s “very strong in nutritive quality”.

Also in November 2016 I discussed three tests on Budweiser performed in 1904, with similar results to 1884 except one had 4% abv alcohol.

It seems the numbers did vary at times, and short of analyses based on company records, none of which have been published to my knowledge, one must take each finding as it reads.

It may be the company was trying different approaches, or for different markets, at different times. The most I would say is, approaching World War I, it seems Budweiser’s strength and final gravity settled down to about 5% abv and 1015.

None of these other assays addressed Michelob though, which makes the data of 1898-1899 even more interesting.

 

Michelob Characteristics, 1890s. Part I.

I recently completed a multi-part series on Michelob, introduced as a draught-only luxury brand in 1896. The series mainly dealt with the kind of marketing Anheuser-Busch did over the years, or in other words its characteristic markets.

These included college set, affluent class, German ethnic, beer connoisseur, African American, later young professionals, and hipsters.

I did refer to the fact that until 1961 it was all-malt, and at least in earlier decades, had relied on choice Bohemian Saaz hops for its bouquet and top note.

I reported various taste opinions including of famed author Henry L. Mencken, who considered it second only to imported Bohemian pilsener for quality.

I was aware that Michael Jackson wrote in The Pocket Guide to Beer, first edition, 1982, that both Budweiser and Michelob were 4.8% abv. Jackson added that Michelob was “brewed from a higher original gravity” than Budweiser, and given 32 days’ aging, presumably longer than Budweiser’s aging (three weeks, I believe, even now).

This meant of course Michelob had a higher finishing gravity than Budweiser, was richer. Jackson also wrote Michelob used more malt, 80% vs. 70% for Budweiser, so it had a bigger body all-round, even after the switch in 1961 to an adjunct formula.

I do recall that Michelob being richer than Budweiser, in fact.

Edd Mather in the U.K. was recently provided by an American contact with analyses from 1898-1899 of various U.S. beers. Michelob was included. Edd reported an impressive 1058.5 starting gravity, with 4.7% abv.

As American-based Mike Stein noted in our Twitter exchange, that is 1022 FG, a rich finish indeed.

Edd’s data had Budweiser – one of two similar but not identical assays – at 1054.74,  and also 4.7% abv. This would be about 1019 FG. So, just as in 1982, Michelob finished at higher gravity than Budweiser but in 1982 both surely started from gravities lower than in 1898-1899.

I noted back in 2016 that a 1908 American brewing journal reported data for, among other all-malt beers, Dreher Michelob – in other words Michelob imported from the Bohemian brewery run by Anton Dreher’s descendants.

From its table, I calculate 1046 OG, 1012 FG, 4.46% abv.

Christine P. Rhodes, in her The Encyclopedia of Beer of 2014, had a Dreher Michelob in 1896 at 11.3 P/1045 OG, 3.1 P (1012 FG) and 4.3% abv. So, quite similar to what I conclude from the 1908 American table.

From various brewing texts, Ron Pattinson compiled data that has an 1888 Dreher Michelob “Lagerbier”, so not Marzen, at 13.3 P or 1054 OG, 1015 FG, 5.14% abv.

There is also an 1870s “Bohemian” beer from Dreher, presumably from Michelob, served at Dreher Beer Hall, 4.57% abv, 1016.7 FG. That may have been a Marzen. A Schwechat Marzen listed for same period has a similar FG, 1016.9, and the abvs are similar.

The 1898-1899 American Michelob, based on data Edd reported, was rather richer in body than these others. Why this should be I am not sure. Perhaps Adolphus Busch wanted his beer even maltier, or perhaps Dreher at Michelob had one beer in its range of that characteristic.

Per an 1880 German text, Dreher shipped from Michelob Lager-Bier and Marzen beers. The latter was more costly, and probably richer-bodied:

 

This does not necessarily state all the beers made at Michelob, or in the period Busch decided to emulate the style (1890s).

One 1870s Marzen in Ron’s page, not Dreher’s, was just under 1022 FG. This brewer’s Lager beer was almost 1020. Schellendorf in Vienna brewed them. This pairing of Lagerbier-Marzen mirrors fairly closely the Budweiser-Michelob in Edd’s data: final gravities almost the same, abv lower but not by much.

As Edd’s data has Budweiser at 1019 FG, it makes sense U.S. Michelob was bigger in body, as the super-premium in the brewery. A super-Marzen, possibly, at least then.

See my Part II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea? Totally. Part IV.

In Montreal recently I found the brand shown, Hyleys, subtitled “The Aristocratic Tea”.

If tea can be socially graded thus, I would agree. It has a fine floral aroma and taste, quite citrus as the label suggests. This brand, unlike many, offers reasonable detail on the make-up. A side-panel states:

 … [an] exquisite Royal English blend made of select Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings grades, grown in the highlands of Dimbula and Nuwara Eliya of the island of Ceylon.

It is packed in Sri Lanka (the former Ceylon). This taste is closer to what I recall of orange pekoe 40+ years ago. I did ask my mom (again), on my recent visit, what types the household bought, and that my grandmother used.

 

 

She said, “Salada or Red Rose”. I asked, “Brooke Bond, perhaps”? She said, “No”. She did add her mother probably made it using loose leaves, which is something I hadn’t thought of earlier, and may be a factor in why I recall her tea being so good.

We drank it on Sundays in her large, second-story flat on Esplanade Street, around the corner from St-Viateur Bagel Bakery. I recall one of four things to go with it: honey cake, jam roly-poly, chocolate cake, or a crunchy strudel. After the bagels.

This Hyleys is very good, more on the floral-fruity vector than I recall of Montreal tea but a good example of that type. If one combined this profile with the Brooke Bond Taj Mahal I mentioned in the last part, that would be very close to the 1960s-’70s orange pekoe I recall in Montreal.

Good information on Hyleys is available in this link, it is a brand of Regency Teas, based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Regency is a relatively new company, established in 1997 but the people who set up the business had long experience in the industry, and it shows in this product.

Regency packs a wide range of black and green teas under the Hyleys banner, plus an herbal range.

Now, from an international point of view, tea, Montreal, and the Flower Power era might suggest to many the poet and songster Leonard Cohen, who grew up in the city. (Never knew the man).

His famous line from Suzanne:

And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.

I actually can recall the first time I heard that song, in a student’s apartment just east of McGill University in the “student ghetto”.  It did make an impression even though I never really favoured his music, or folk-balladic music in general.

I liked folk when it became rock and roll, i.e., The Byrds, Loving Spoonful, Mamas and Papas, etc.

Still, the song had a certain power, especially if you know the city, but evidently if one doesn’t, as well. Cohen’s tea, from Suzanne, must have been green tea from China. If he had visited his grandmother on weekends, I doubt she served that.

They must have grown up, as I did, with the black tea that was used in East Europe before our people got here. Our family would say, “gloz tey”, a cup of tea, but really a glass of tea.

The Russian Empire must have used glasses, to draw the tea from those samovars we’ve all seen pictures of.

I can’t recall anyone drinking it in a literal glass on Esplanade Street 40 and 50 years ago, but the expression was still used.* As well, many Montreal Jewish homes had a samovar in the house used as decor, now I know why.

There is one in this household, somewhere.

*Some usual cups though (handled) were transparent, made of glass.

 

 

The Quebec Liquor Board: 100 Years of History

The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), the Quebec state liquor monopoly, is an equivalent to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Each province has something similar.

With the SAQ celebrating its 100th year, its glossy magazine currently is devoted to this history. Many aspects are covered such as what people drank and ate in different decades, interviews with long-time staff, and coming trends (e.g. natural and orange wines are cited).

Much of the content, and more such as video presentations, can be found in the SAQ’s website, see this link.

There is good information in particular on the lead-up to the creation of the SAQ in 1921 including the period of partial prohibition from 1919-1921.

There is an interesting interview with the French-born pioneer of modern Quebec viticulture. He also invented ice cider, a product that has great potential in my view, to develop especially the kind of niche international market Ontario Icewine has.

The one thing I noticed, unless I missed it in a corner of the website, is sparse if any information on beer. The site explains well the growth of wine consumption in recent decades. It parallels a similar development elsewhere in North America, but again little on beer.

One reason perhaps is the SAQ, while it does offer a selection of imported and craft beers, was not given responsibility in 1921 to bottle and distribute domestic beer. That remained within the brewers’ domain.

With the French European heritage too of much of Quebec’s population, wine holds a special place in Quebec’s affections. Beer cannot compete, in the same way.

There is of course a vibrant craft brewing industry in Quebec. It distributes through grocery stories and other channels, so it’s two streams so to speak, at least as I see it.

Overall an excellent treatment of an interesting subject. Rare it is that a state liquor corporation will take such a deep interest in its own and beverage alcohol history in the jurisdiction.

Good to see this initiative, and lots to ponder in the content.

Pictured below is the cover of the print version, a special issue of the SAQ magazine Le goût de partager.