Beers for Local Populations in Western Europe and North Africa, World War II
When the American forces engaged breweries overseas to brew for their troops, the breweries were already brewing, in a manner of speaking.
Leonard Saletan, in the 1946 article in American Brewer, stated that German breweries, due to war conditions, were brewing beer of only 1-2 Balling. So did, he wrote, French and Belgian breweries he worked with.
He wrote that such beer was “brewed in at about 8 B and cut during or subsequent to fermentation”. In other words, output was watered to stretch the quantity, but this would have produced a barely alcoholic drink. He doesn’t say but I’d think between .5% and 1% abv resulted, almost or equal to near beer during Prohibition.
Saletan doesn’t say once again but maybe the beers were hopped more or less normally for the volume. That would give the impression of a beery drink – a “hop ale”, it was called, in older British terminology.
He did state that “hops were generally available in Germany”. Indeed, when the breweries turned to making real beer for American forces, the hops (in Germany) remained German and amounts were “left to the discretion of the brewery”.
The tenor is that hops were not an issue for brewing, so I suspect more rather than less was used for “barely there” wartime beer. As to hops for similar quasi-beer in France and Belgium, Saletan doesn’t say. His remit of course was to describe the beer made for American Forces, so his comments on brewing for locals was more incidental.
Allan Barney’s 1946 article in Wallerstein Laboratory Communications, linked in my Part I, states that brewers in Oran, Algiers, and Casablanca made beer of “3 Balling”, or “1%”. I believe this meant the brew was 1% abv.
Starting at 3 B. with a finish, say, at 1 would produce just over 1% abv. Maybe he was referring to 1% abw, which would produce about 1.25% abv. In that case, attenuation would be greater of course, with less body in the beer.
It seems on average that breweries in North Africa had been brewing slightly stronger beer than in Germany, but this is hardly a distinction, as all this beer was barely alcoholic.
Nonetheless it is noteworthy that such Axis or Vichy breweries were functioning at all, or that barley and hops were still grown throughout the war, as the two articles make clear they were, indeed for Saaz hops in Bohemia.
Saletan in particular marvelled how few breweries he encountered suffered much damage from fighting. Lowenbrau in Munich got the worst of it, he said, and even then it didn’t affect actual production that much.
This may bear an analogy to the limited effect even Allied bombing of Axis industry had on the Axis war effort. Maybe the thought occurred to Barney and Saletan on their unusual stint working with wartime European breweries.