Pour in ’54
A brief sketch at Britannica will remind those of the arc of Anheuser-Busch Breweries. Today it is affiliated with Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Belgian-Brazil powerhouse based in Leuven, Belgium.
Eberhard Anheuser, originally a soap manufacturer, founded the empire by taking over a small brewery in St. Louis in 1860. Adolphus Busch, a vendor of brewing supplies, dealt with him and ended joining the business.
The two, mainly Adolphus in succeeding years and heirs, built the brewery into the world’s largest by the year 2000.
Descendants of Anheuser were also engaged with the business including a grandson of Eberhard with the same name. Eberhard Anheuser (1880-1963) had a long and fruitful career with Anheuser-Busch. A memorial site describes his achievements in and outside the brewery.
In my series just completed on early beer events of the Wine and Food Society of Los Angeles, I mentioned the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Van Nuys, California, opened in 1954. It was the third brewery in the group, the second had opened in Newark, New Jersey a few years earlier.
A ceremony was held on June 24, 1954 in the new brewery’s Rathskeller to herald the latest Anheuser-Busch expansion. Both Eberhard, then Chairman of the Board, and August A. Busch, Jr. (“Gussie”), its President, were on site to raise a toast.
(Title: “Brewery Opening”, 1954. Source: The Valley Times Collection, Digital Collections of the Los Angeles Public Library, via Calisphere, the University of California).
Sometimes one is struck by the “little things”. In the picture, each is holding a glass of Budweiser. August holds the bottle in the other hand. Eberhard’s glass is half-filled with foam. August’s glass, in contrast, has little foam.
The rings in August’s glass show it was filled near to the top with a small head.
Now, if anyone knew how to pour a beer in America, it was these men.
Each apparently preferred his glass as shown, unless a bartender filled them, but the iced display suggests the executives poured their own. Also, I think a bartender, especially in that environment, would have taken care to fill each glass the same way.
In any case, we see these different ways to pour. Serving chilled draft raises a similar question. I set aside cask-conditioned beer, which pours with a light head only and thin carbonation, and some wheat beer styles.
In the pre-craft era, the question “how to pour” much exercised beer fans. Even the great beer writer Michael Jackson (1942-2007) reviewed it in his early books.
Today, it seems much less a preoccupation, at least of “hard core” craft circles. Yet advice is not wanting. A quick search shows many instructional videos, articles (e.g. in Vinepair and Thrillist) and forum discussions.
Before WW II many photos in America, Germany and elsewhere show a glass filled half or more with foam.
A modern example is Trappist Chimay in this image at Global Beer Network.The foam fills almost half the glass. This is meant to release part of the absorbed carbon dioxide, so the beer’s flavour is fully released and it won’t be too gassy.
For draft beer, this is affected too by the need to give full measure, not always attained of course. Today, the average pour is probably 25% head, maybe less, but it varies with place and person.
Eberhard in 1954 was 74 years old, and perhaps he found it easier, or always did, to drink his product with much of its gas released.
Maybe August, Jr., younger or with a different preference, preferred a more fizzy beer. He seems to have taken small sips, and maybe the carbonation is absorbed more easily that way.
It’s all down to how you like it, and two scions of a famous American brewing clan had their way.
The Rathskeller at Van Nuys was beautifully designed. I will link striking period photos in the next post. The brewery still exists, and the same room is still used for tasting, but likely it looks different today.
Note re image: Source of image 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.