Look at that. Just look at that. It is a notice in the New York Gazette from 30 October 1821. James H. De Lamater had brought in a supply of Larer’s Superior Cream Beer. Imported by the sloop David. Shipping is not any sort of surprise. Beer and ale was shipped all over the place by the Georgians. This beer, however, is likely being brought in to NYC at this time as this is the era when the good water started to disappear. The 1820s were the decade when “the remaining wealthy residents fled.”
Last fall, I wrote about how “cream ale” began to show up in some ads in the 1830s in New York City and Albany. But here is that word cream again from the outset of the previous decade – and this time describing a beer, not an ale. There appears to be four breweries by the name “Larer” that operated out of Philadelphia from 1805 to 1843. This beer comes from the second, the Melchior Larer & Son John Brewery. Lamater’s address, 9 William Street, is still there. Down in the southern tip of Manhattan amongst the towers in what was the original Dutch settlement. Now have a look at these notices from a few years later.
To the left, there is an ad from New York’s Evening Post of 10 December 1823. G.W. and W. Smith, brewers at 131 Chatham Square, promise that their “Fine Cream Beer” is similar to that of Philadelphia. In the middle we see a year later in the 30 October 1824 edition of the Evening Post that G.W. has lost his partner “W.” and relocated to the corner of Anthony and Broadway but he assures that his “rich Cream Beer” is still similar to that of Philadelphia. In the right hand notice, one Thomas Smith brewing out of James Street placed a notice in the 30 December 1826 New York Daily Advertiser offering his Double Ale and Cream Beer.
So, in the first bit of the 1820s, “cream beer” is a thing in both Philadelphia and New York. There are a few things to note other than the Smith-centric nature of the stuff.* Notice how, as far as I can tell, “cream” in this use is the first time I see a quality of beer – as opposed to a technical aspect as in double ale – being used in the classification of the beer. In 1798, NYC notices for porter could describe it as “ripe and brisk” but it is not “Brisk Porter” in the way the drink in these notices are consistently offering “Cream Beer” along with other known styles like. Notice also how it is “rich” and “fine” in the descriptions. The three adjectives would be conveying meaning to the buying public. Just as “ripe” and “brisk” would have to those earlier Federalist porter drinkers of the 1790s clinging on to the British style, if not her Crown. It’s also likely not the later cream ale, either. Folk could tell a beer from an ale in these days. Nothing to do with Genny Cream either. It was a new thing – a nativist beer for the post-recession era, the promise of the Era of Good Feelings fulfilled in a glass. Was it the first truly American beer?
*Another Philadelphia brewery that ran from 1832 to 1888 was started by a Robert Smith, a Londoner who trained at Bass – according to Rich Wagner in his excellent Philadelphia Beer. Francis Perot born of brewers who himself began brewing in 1818 was known for his cream beer, too – “far and wide.”