U.S. Army Beer 1943-1946 (Part II)

The American Beers of Benelux, France, and Germany

In Part I, I discussed an article in a 1946 issue of Wallerstein Laboratories Communications which explained American army supply of beer for soldiers in North Africa and Italy, in the latter part of World War II.

The article was written by Allan J. Barney, a U.S. Army officer during in that period. Before the war he worked as a chemist for Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis. Barney directed the army brewing and worked with local brewers to make a beer, he said, of starting gravity 10.3 B. and ending at 3.3 B (1013 FG), or 3.7% abv.

That beer was all-malt except some malt that had been mixed in Europe, contrary to army specifications, with oats or other unmalted grains. The mixed malt was “distributed” in some brewing runs. Except for some beer in Italy that used European malt and hops in inventory at some breweries, imported American malt and hops were used in all brews.

As I noted earlier, this was probably six-row malt. Barney did not explain how beer was brewed for troops in France and Germany. He described only brewing in North Africa and in multiple plants of Peroni in Italy.

I have uncovered a second article that substantially adds to the picture of U.S. Army brewing in wartime Europe. To my knowledge, neither article, hence the detail they disclose, has previously received been studied by beer historians.

The further article is “Brewing Beer for Soldiers in the European Theatre” by Leonard T. Saletan, described as a chemist for Tivoli Brewing Co. in Detroit. Tivoli’s history is outlined in Stephen Johnson’s (2016) Detroit Beer: a History of Brewing in the Motor City.

Saletan’s article was published in a 1946 issue of American Brewer, a trade journal of the U.S. brewing industry, not available online.

Saletan, in five closely written pages, explained how brewing was organized for troops in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Austria, and Germany. His article is a good counterpart to Barney’s as it covered many points Barney did not, and vice versa.

Together, they give a good picture of how the Army approached a supply and logistical issue that, as each stated, had its origins in the morale factor.

Broadly, brewing was arranged and supervised in a similar way in both cases. American brewing experts worked with local brewers to make beer to American specifications. In both cases American materials were imported but with some use of local (European) malt and hops.*

Saletan explained that J.G. Shakman of Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee, reporting to the Army Exchange Service, engaged six staff. Saletan was one, and each supervised brewing in a given geographic area. These were brewers or chemists from various American breweries including Schlitz, Pabst, and Pfeiffer.

The project Saletan described was of considerably larger scope than Barney’s. During 1945 and 1946 some 30 breweries, each listed by Saletan, made beer for the Army in western Europe. Not all operated concurrently as beer needs depended on troop strength.

The complement constantly varied until, as Saletan explained, a stable occupation force (postwar) existed in Germany. Further, the Army worked with five malt houses in Germany, also each listed.

As illustration, breweries in France included La Meuse in Paris, Champigneulles in the city of that name, Graff in Rennes, and Hornung in Chartres. In Belgium, breweries included Piedboeuf in Liège, Lamot in Malines, and Léopold in Brussels.

In Holland, there was Brand in Wylre. In Luxembourg, Mousel. For Austria: Stiegel, in Salzburg. In Germany: Schultheiss in Berlin, Hasen in Augsburg, Hofbrau in Bamberg, and Sandler in Kulmbach.

Only lager is referenced or at least implied, similar to Barney’s account; there is no suggestion top-fermented beer was made.

Of the great amount of detail Saletan conveyed, below I focus on aspects of brewing specifications, vs. that is production figures, pricing, packaging, distribution, unfamiliar German practices such as “bunging” (i.e., spunding, to carbonate from the fermentation stage), and quality control.

The brewing followed two main forms. Outside Germany, barley malt and grits, a form of corn adjunct, were used for mashing. The grits formed 25% in dry weight. Saletan wrote:

The beer produced was to have an O. G. of 11.3° B … The beer produced was to have 3.2% alcohol by weight, and 13.5 kg. of malt, 4.5 kg. of grits, and 200 g. of hops per hl. were to be used in producing the specified beer.

In Germany, only malt and hops were used, product in this case of Germany. Of German hops there was enough, but malt was more difficult. Special permission was needed to obtain barley for malting given postwar shortages. Nonetheless, considerable beer was brewed.

This all-malt German beer was set at 10.6° B starting, to produce still a 3.2% abw beer (4% abv); hence, this malt beer was drier than the other. I calculate an impressive 1015 finishing gravity for the adjunct beer, and 1012 for the all-malt – still respectable by modern standards.

Whether the differences were due to the different mash bill or some other reason – penury of materials in Germany, possibly – is interesting to ponder. Ditto for the beer Barney was tasked to brew.

The adjunct beer was hopped at what works out to approximately .5 lb. hops/bbl (U.S.). This was about typical for the time. Today, surely that is the maximum used for mass market light beer, but changes in alpha acid content must be factored as well.

Compare a 1960s recipe for Schlitz, from the Brew Your Own site.

I conclude the Army’s adjunct beer represented an average of specifications used at American breweries, at least for the “3.2” beer introduced when Prohibition ended. Saletan wrote the beer was designed to taste and did like beer the soldiers were familiar with at home.

He wrote, further, that most production had “an excellent taste” and was comparable to “a good glass of American beer”. None was pasteurized, the same for Barney’s beer. American draft beer then was unpasteurized, so the analogy held in that sense, especially as most army beer made overseas was barrelled.

As to the all-malt German beer, Saletan wrote that being 100% malt, it differed in character, but was “very good in taste”, and “greatly appreciated”. I don’t doubt it.

At a generous finishing gravity of 1015 the adjunct beer likely was pretty good too, as some craft beer similarly brewed has shown.

The hops in the adjunct beer likely was Cluster, or one form of it.

Of the breweries Saletan worked with, Piedboeuf in Liège impressed him the most due to its modernity of design and great size. It was built in the late 1930s using Art Deco industrial design, of reinforced concrete. The clocks and roof-top flood lamps were storied in Liège.

Closed in 1992, the building, known locally as the Jupiler Tower, endured in degraded form. If I have it right, a developer bought the site recently from Anheuser-Busch InBev, and it will be (or has been) demolished due to asbestos content, for urban re-development.

On this Facebook site you may see the building as Saletan knew it, glistening in Art Deco black and white. Saletan wrote the V-2s hit the city hard but, “despite its great height” and apart from some blown-out windows, the building escaped harm.

It brewed for another day, another nation, and then some.

Part III follows.

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*Saletan’s account, for its part, makes clear the American malt he worked with was six row. He describes how this caused consternation among the European brewers, due to differing husk size and lower yield as compared to the two-row malt theretofore standard in European brewhouses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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