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

The American Beer of Benelux, France, Germany

In Part I, I discussed an article in the 1946 Wallerstein Laboratories Communications that explained how the American army supplied beer for its soldiers in North Africa and Italy in the latter part of World War II.

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

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

As I noted earlier, it 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 now 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, have previously received attention in beer historical studies. I therefore put my pen to it.

The second 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. It is not available online.

Saletan, in five closely written pages, explains how brewing was organized for troops in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Austria, and Germany. His article is an excellent counterpart to Barney’s as it covers 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 both stated, had its origins in the morale factor.

Broadly, brewing was arranged and supervised in a similar way in both instances. 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 a 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. They were brewers or chemists from different 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 enumerated.

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

In Holland: 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 brewing is referenced or at least implied, similar to Barney’s account; there is no suggestion of any form of top-fermented beer, although it is possible some was made.

Of the great amount of detail Saletan conveyed, below I will focus on the brewing specifications, vs. production figures, pricing, packaging, distribution, unfamiliar (to Saletan) German practices like “bunging” (spunding, to carbonate from the fermentation stage), or quality control.

Brewing followed two main forms. Outside Germany, malt and grits, a form of corn adjunct, were used for the mash. 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 hops there was enough, malt was more difficult. Special permissions were 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, but still to produce 3.2% abw (4% abv); hence it can be seen the malt beer was drier than the other. I calculated an impressive 1015 finishing gravity for the adjunct beer and 1012 for the all-malt, still respectable certainly by modern standards.

Whether the differences noted were due to the difference in mash bill or for some other reason – greater 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 is expected for the time, and continued broadly for the same type beer into the 1960s. Today surely it is the maximum that would be 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 would conclude the Army’s adjunct beer represented an average of specifications from American breweries at the time, at least for the “3.2” beer introduced after Prohibition. Saletan wrote that the beer was designed to taste, and did, like the beer American soldiers were familiar with at home.

Indeed he said most of the production had “an excellent taste” and was comparable to “a good glass of American beer”. None was pasteurized, as for Barney’s beer as well. American draft beer then was unpasteurized, so the analogy held here in that sense, especially as most beer produced 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 was probably Cluster, or one form of it. A venerable pre-craft American variety, the American soils of its birth would still have conferred a craft-like character.

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 following Art Deco industrial design, of reinforced concrete. Its 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 we have it right, it was bought by a developer recently from Anheuser-Busch InBev, and will be (or has been) demolished due to asbestos content, as precursor to a grand urban re-development scheme.

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

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

Part III follows below.

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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 heretofore standard in European brewhouses.