Fascists, Racists, Pinkos, Brewers And…

Not much inclined to write for the last week or so. Late 1970s nuclear fear retro followed quickly by 1930s Nazi fear retro. Seems our neighbours to the south hired a moron and he is turning out to be a fabulous moron attracting other morons to flit about his flame. Like last summer, one barely knows what to reach for but, perhaps unlike last summer, one knows one might to. What to do in these troubled times? Perhaps explore how fascism, communism and racism (perhaps bundled as “totalitarian supremacism“?) has been known to brewing over time? Let’s see.

Earlier this year, Hungary witnessed a bit of a political controversy over the appearance of Heineken’s red star – which Hungarian law considers a totalitarian symbol. As might have been expected, it was apparently as much as anything about contemporary politics and the time-honoured role brewing money plays in that game.

Totes Supps can also show up in more unexpected ways. In 2016, a brewery in Bavaria was accused of offering a Nazi friendly lager named Grenzzaun Halbe, or Border Fence Half. Priced at 88 euro cents a bottle, it was considered code for HH or Heil Hitler. The brewer in the usual way explained “insisted the name and slogan were not directed against migrants, but referred to defending Bavarian culture“* but, oddly, also said they had lent resources to the refugee influx.

Then there are the old boys who, you know, just say those sorts of things. Yesterday, Jason Notte provided a bit of a walk down memory lane offering the legacy of US brewing mogul Bill Coors who was apparently quoted in 1984 for providing such comments as “…one of the best things they did for you is to drag your ancestors over here in chains…” and “…they lack the intellectual capacity to succeed, and it’s taking them down the tubes” though the resulting libel suit against a newspaper that had the gall to report his words was dropped. The old git is still with us apparently, turning 101 the other day. Other similar substantial claims were made against the brewery in those days. Interesting, then, that three years later this was an opinion reported by the Syracuse Herald-Journal of February 10, 1987 just when Coors was entering the CNY market:

“When you buy their product you are, in effect, inviting the Coors people into your home,” said Joseph Welch, executive secretary of the Greater Syracuse Labor Council. “I think anyone with a conscience wouldn’t want those kind of people in their homes.”**

But these brewers can also be ingrained into the movement. If we go back a bit further, one can look at what brewers did during the time when fascists were actually in the ascent. To the right is a very handy graph with the somewhat vague title “Birra Peroni’s strategic response to institutional pressure” from the 2016 book Accounting and Food: Some Italian Experiences by Sargiacomo, D’Amico and Di Pietra. I say vague given it illustrates, in part, this business decision from 1926 to the regime’s fall:

…the Fascist government tried to control production and balance demand and supply by controlling the supply side…. In this context, the company’s strategic response may be viewed as a compromise. Giacomo Peroni, former president of the earlier Unione Italiana Fabbricanti di Birra (Italian Brewers’ Union) was put at the helm of the new association. As the managers of the new association, Giacomo could act as an institutional entrepreneur and therefore bend the institutional change to his own and his company’s interests. In fact, despite the need to reduce the company’s production volume as imposed by the Fascist government, in his role Giacomo Peroni managed to avoid such cuts and toss them off on his competitors. This is suggested by the fact that it was precisely in those years that the company increased its production volume and sales. 

Suggested?*** Hmm… Apparently, Peroni also fed demand from what are described as the “new African colonies” aka the invasion of Ethiopia. Nothing like a captive audience. Note: Peroni continues as a brand now owned by Japanese brewer Asahi, achieving apparently some recent success.

And we do also recall that the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch did lead to the army being called out, an arrest, a trial and a five year term. Well, then someone gave Hitler a pen in jail and he wrote down his evil which was shared after an early release.

What does all this prove? Well, as you can see in the footnotes, we can laugh at it. We can also support the democratic processes that stand against it. But that totalitarian supremacist is going to keep popping up. No point in pretending, offering a beer and dreaming that people are good. Some people are very bad. Having lived though an number of genocides at the youthful age of 54 – from Cambodia to the Balkans – I don’t expect that evil to change. But if we understand that it is an insidiously corrosive, inveigling tendency we should be aware that it needs being watched out for and given proper response.

*See here for more.
**See here for more.
***See here for more.

 

Session 121: Bock – Unloved And Sorta Local

Jon Abernathy of The Brew Site (the great-grandfather of beer blogging to my great-uncle of beer blogging role) is hosting this month’s version of The Session and he askes about bock. As M. Noix Biereois d’Irelande pointed out excellently today, bock-style beers aren’t as common on the shelves as they were seven or eight years ago. As true in northeastern North America as it is in Ireland. Bock does not demand respect and it no longer attracts many of the inquisitive. Yet, I asked in 2009 whether Mahr’s Weisse Bock was the greatest smelling beer of all time. I must have once had an interest. A year later I tweeted my admiration for Koningshoeven Bock. Indeed, as recently as just three years ago, I posted about two Canadian craft takes on bock that I had received as samples.

Yet I do not hunt them out. Well, I hunt out fewer and fewer beers as enough good beer to satisfy anyone short of a case of dipsomania comes to me care of (i) the new wave of local small scale brewers and (ii) the slump of the Canadian dollar to US dollar exchange rate. Who in their right mind would? It’s fun actually, given that reality, to watch the last gasps of globalism inspiring the junketeers to still – just in this one week – witness them trundling up to the groaning buffet spreads of Asheville, New Zealand and even Peru! Oh, how I do need that report on the craft replicants of Peru. Please hurry.

Bock, however, is not that at all. Not a flog is being offered for bock. It is fusty. Maybe even owly. Bock, however, has a venerable North American heritage. It is a traditional local beer if we are talking about the Great Lakes watershed and environs. As Craig posted on Facebook, it stood amongst the greats – if the Free Press of Waverly, New York from 1886 is to be believed. In the New York Herald of 30 April 1860 there is something of a primer on the nature of bock in a column from “Our Berlin Correspondent” which might indicate that bock came here to our shores after that date, much later than lager in the 1840s or that earlier shadowy thing, cream beer. Bock is described by OBC in slightly harrowing terms:

The stronger more heady sort is termed bock beer, from the German word bock, which means a billy goat, the person who drinks it being excited to such a pitch of exhilaration that he capers like a goat… the above mentioned bock as hitherto kept up its reputation. Recently, however, a company has been formed on shares with a handsome capital, for the avowed purpose of opposing it…. They have built a large brewery, with extensive cellars, saloons and other accommodations, on the same hill, and propose to brew a lighter and milder beer than bock., selling it at a lower price, and the mania for imbibing vast quantities of the cerevisian fluid being still on the increase, they are very likely to succeed… 

Terrifying stuff. If I can find me some on the way home I might buy a bottle if I can find one in these times of IPA driven hegemony and homogeneity. So I can, you know, imbibe a vast quantity… and caper like a goat.

Could Cream Beer Actually Be Cream Beer’s Ancestor?


…by “handsome” I presume you mean the “other” one…

Here’s the thing. There is only so much I can lay out to support this idea so I might as well do it and admit that it is something of a reasonable hypothesis. To be fair, I rarely take a position that I can’t later extract myself from. I am squidly like that. But today I am almost extracting myself at the same time I make the assertion. Which assertion? That cream beer in 1820 may well be the forefather of cream beer today and that neither has anything to do directly with cream ale. Three people worldwide just fell off their chairs. How did I get there? First, I submit two biographical statements for two people – John and Mary – who were each children of German-American immigrant brewers, Philip German and Christian Frederick Haas:

…GERMAN, John W., was born in Harrisburg, October 27, 1851. He is the son of Emanuel S. German, who was born in Harrisburg in 1821, whose father, Philip German, a native of Germany, came to Harrisburg in 1800, and established a brewery, celebrated for its “Cream Beer,” and conducted it for many years…

…Mrs. Maltzberger was born in Zanesville, Ohio, where her father had removed in 1833. He was a native of Germany and emigrated to America early in the nineteenth century, being a brewmaster by trade, brewing what was known in the early days as cream beer. While in Zanesville he purchased much valuable real estate, and owned a brewery, and hotel. He was a very prominent man, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him…

If you go to page 1219 of this text you will see that Mrs. Maltzberger was named Mary and her father was Christian Frederick Haas. Both Haas Sr. and German Sr. come to the young United States early in the 1800s, establish a cream beer brewery and do very well. Convinced of anything yet? Me neither. So, let’s look at this passage from the April 1900 issue of The Pennsylvania-German a magazine “devoted to the history, biography, genealogy, poetry, folk-lore and general interests of the Pennsylvania Germans and their descendants.” At page 42 in a travelogue piece, we read the following:

In Nantucket it is safe to address every man as captain, and his return salutation, if he wishes you to enter his home, is “Come aboard.” So we say. “get aboard,” and let us resume our journey westward toward Middletown, so named because it was midway between Carlisle, then an outpost, and Lancaster. Leaving the centre square, we cross the Conoy Creek, which empties into the river at Bainbridge, and gives its name to one of the townships. That old brick house, just across the bridge, used to be Pfaff’s brewery, where cream beer, or Lauderschaum, was brewed more than half a century ago. It was a pure malt, wholesome and non-intoxicating. The art of making is lost, for you see none on the market.

OK, so again cream beer is placed in the early 1800s in a German immigrant context. It also now has a German name, Lauderschaum. I am advised that schaum is German for foam. Based in part on this incredibly detailed essay on the word lauter I am going to suggest that the lauder- in lauderschaum in fact lauter- and means “pure” or “honest” or even “only” which makes cream beer pure honest foamy beer. Buying anything yet? OK, how about this. It is a memoir of a gent, George Farquhar Jones, who lived from 1811-1887 in both Providence, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia and contains this recollection at page 231:

Rich, cool, in Pennsylvania and no longer in existence when the book was published in 1887. Hmm… Another? OK, look at this:

It’s another passage from a second memoir – this one about one Colonel James Worrall, Civil Engineer. He lived from 1812 to 1885 and in that passage above was recalling his youth in Philadelphia. Cream beer was “cool, creamy, not bitter, plenty of malt.” Sounds familiar?

All five sources use the term “cream beer” in relation to Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. Two reference that it’s malty and not bitter. It’s lower in strength. If we go back and look at the notes on Perot’s brewing logs for 1821-22 we see that the draught beer they are brewing is lower in hops and likely lower in strength. Both these records and 1820s notices from New York City indicate that it was considered rich. I am going to declare that it was a thing based on the above. Here’s another thing. Kevin Gibson in his 2014 book Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft states that the City had cream beer which became known as Kentucky Common later in the century after it evolves locally to be made with corn and caramel for colouring. It was associated with German breweries, was light in alcohol and lacked bitterness. Remember Mrs. Maltzberger up there? Her father immigrated internally too, bringing his brewing and maybe his cream beer to Zanesville, Ohio, too, where he established the American House Brewery. Like the German brewer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania around 1800 and the ones in Louisville, Kentucky, a bit later in the 1830s Christian Frederick Haas struck out for the interior to set up shop.

Which is interesting and, if correct, sets cream ale a bit adrift on its own course. If we recall, cream ale shows up in newspaper notices in the Hudson Valley in the 1830s. John Taylor of Albany takes it on and, by 1839, is selling an imperial cream ale. Taylor is a hugely successful ale brewer which is no way dependent on the German tradition. The sign proclaiming “Taylor’s Cream Ale” scars Albany’s waterfront skyline as early as 1841. His beers, like most others in the city, appear to be a different thing – big Anglo-American ale bombs – certainly when compared to lighter Teutonic cream beer awaiting its co-national lager to show up care of George Gillig in the early 1840s. Each goes on and traces its own route west – and even north as we see above – as part of the American story, evolving and lasting well into the ensuing decades and centuries.

Could it be that each happily just latch on to the adjective oblivious of the existence of the other? Could be. Could be.

The Steelyard, Stillyard, Stylyard and Spelling

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Ah, the Hanseatic League. I posted about the Hanseatic League earlier this year, pointing out how it was likely the conduit for the first introduction of hopped beer into England – and, by implication, not the Dutch. I think that might be the case for no other reason that the Dutch were introduced to hopped beer by shipments from the Hanseatic League, the Renaissance corporate port towns of the Baltic which had that handy corporate navy with corporate cannon to enforce its idea of open trade.

Renaissance and Elizabethan brewing and drinking in England is particularly interesting as the period ties a lot of later things together…. or founds them… or whatever. For example, Hull was a 1600s brewing town that also was a Hanseatic depot. Hull ale was a contemporary of Northdown as being a premium drink in London in second half of the 1600s. It’s a coastal ale of the sort that governs until the canals reach deeper into the countryside releasing the odd sulfurous and maybe hoppier beers of Burton in Staffordshire upon the national and international market. Like the railways in the mid-1800s Ontario that gave rural Labatt and Carling the opportunity to explode out into the world, England’s canals of the early 1700s also placed brewing at scale nearer the grain fields, likely cutting out middlemen and displacing premium coastal brewing perhaps by undermining existing price. Theory. Working theory.

What was displaced was the model set by the Hanseatic League. Renaissance Hamburg was the greatest brewing center in the history of beer – 42% of the workforce was involved in brewing. The Hanseatic depot at King’s Lynn still stands, one of the branch locations of Hanseatic activity. London was the Kontor with its headquarters of import / export operation located just west of London Bridge on the north shore of the Thames where Cannon Street station now stands. One of the coolest thing is that there have basically been two owners of that site since perhaps 1250 as the vestigial Hanseatic League interests in Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg sold it to the South-Eastern Railway Company in 1852. The presence of the Hanseatic League cannot be minimized at the critical point in the 1400s. Consider this passage from 1889’s bestseller The Hansa Towns by Helen Zimmern. It has a certain ripe Victorian style but does explain things like this:

Nor was London by any means their only depôt. It was the chief, but they also had factories in York, Hull, Bristol, Norwich, Ipswich, Yarmouth, Boston, and Lynn Regis. Some mention of them is found in Leland’s “Itinerary.” Under an invitation to the Hanseatics to trade with Scotland we find the name honoured in legend and song of William Wallace. In John Lydgate’s poems we also meet with our Hanseatics. In relating the festivities that took place in London city on the occasion of the triumphal entry of Henry VI, who had been crowned king at Paris some months previously, the poet narrates how there rode in procession the Mayor of London clad in red velvet, accompanied by his aldermen 196 and sheriffs dressed in scarlet and fur, followed by the burghers and guilds with their trade ensigns, and finally succeeded by a number of foreigners.

“And for to remember of other alyens,
Fyrst Jenenyes (Genoese) though they were strangers,
Florentynes and Venycyens,
And Easterlings, glad in her maneres,
Conveyed with sergeantes and other officeres,
Estatly horsed, after the maier riding,
Passed the subburbis to mete withe the kyng.”

A love of pomp and outward show was indeed a characteristic of the Hanseatics in England who thus perchance wished to impress upon the natives a sense of their wealth.

Henry IV was crowned the King of England in 1399. Hanseatic League ambassadors are in the procession when he enters London for the first time. They are somebodies. And they are powerful. They had a wee war with England from 1469-74… and won entrenching their right to trade. Hopped beer was not introduced to England by a few straggling sailors showing up at a few coastal towns. It was brought along – even imposed perhaps – by a massive commercial and military complex. Let’s look at some maps at how the Hansa QH has been described:

hans1561map1633lg

hanselizmap1720

hanslondon1667

 

 

 

 

The illustration to the left is a detail of the 1633 reprint of the 1561 Agas map. You can see the location of London’s Hanseatic Steelyard in blue to the west of London Bridge. Above way at the top of the text is a much finer detail of the site. Notice it is referred to as the “Stylyarde.” In the middle is a 1720s map of Elizabethan London. Notice the site is now referred to as the “Stillyard.” And to the right is a diagram of the site of the Steelyard itself in this case called the “Stahlhofes” – as it was in 1667 according to a late 1800s German atlas. So, we have four ways of spelling the name of the site. Which means that each needs to be run through the dark Satanic
research mills if we are going to have an idea of what’s going on. In a note to the discussion of John Stow‘s Survey of London (editions from 1598 to 1603), British History Online has an extended discussion in a footnote on the variously described Stillyard / Steelyard / Stilliard / Stelehouse / Steleyard which states that there was a trade presence from Cologne there as early as 1157. It also indicates that the German version Stahlhof that appears rather early on means a stall hall – a marketplace. Stow himself describes the site and operations at length in his narrative map of London including the following:

Next to this lane, on the east, is the Steelyard, as they term it, a place for merchants of Almaine, that used to bring hither as well wheat, rye, and other grain, as cables, ropes, masts, pitch, tar, flax, hemp, linen cloth, wainscots, wax, steel, and other profitable merchandises.

Interestingly, as Stow notes, past the intervening church, near the Steelyard in Haywharf Lane in the late 1500s there was a “great brew-house” operated in the past by Henry Campion and then by his son Abraham. Life in the district was… lively. In the poem by Isabella Whitney (1548–1573) “The Wyll and Testament of Isabella Whitney” we read the following:

At Stiliarde ſtore of Wines there bée,
your dulled mindes to glad:
And handſome men, that muſt not wed
except they leaue their trade.
They oft ſhal ſéeke for proper Gyrles,
and ſome perhaps ſhall fynde:
That neede compels, or lucre lures
to ſatiſfye their mind.

So, as we see on the image to the right, there is a wine house. I assumed it was a wholesale depot but it appears to be an Elizabethan retail party palace where lads and lassies mingle as they consider drink, lust and lucre. February 1582 government orders issued by the Privy Council to the Lord High Treasurer show the Stillyard being excused from certain taxation – right under another order allowing the export of 1,000 tuns of beer from London. Elizabethan brewing and trading at scale. You don’t hear about that often. Leaping ahead into the next century, Samuel Pepys, diarist and high government official, records a number of visits to the site in the 1660s. On Friday, 13 December 1661 he wrote:

…to the office about some special business, where Sir Williams both were, and from thence with them to the Steelyard, where my Lady Batten and others came to us, and there we drank and had musique and Captain Cox’s company, and he paid all, and so late back again home by coach, and so to bed.

On Monday 26 January 1662/63 he stated that he was “up and by water with Sir W. Batten to White Hall, drinking a glass of wormewood wine at the Stillyard… while on Sunday, 2 September 1666 he uses it as a location in his description of the Great Fire of London. Perhaps most gloriously, he gives us this image of a part of his day on Wednesday, 21 October 1663:

Thence, having my belly full, away on foot to my brother’s, all along Thames Streete, and my belly being full of small beer, I did all alone, for health’s sake, drink half a pint of Rhenish wine at the Still-yard, mixed with beer.

Rhenish mixed with beer. There’s a challenge to today’s sense of yum. Thankfully, he also drank Northdown and Hull so it was not all weird for Sammy. I am going to leave it there but to review, then, what we have seen is that the Hanseatic League was a massive trading partner which had a huge export trade in beer in the 1400s. It had a very significant governmental foothold in the middle of London which was recognized from at least 1399 to the 1660s as something to be reckoned with. The business presence stretched for 700 years from the 1150s to the 1850s. They ran a retail and entertainment hall of some sort exactly when beer is coming into England at the same time that they operate the largest brewing center in the world at Hamburg.

Suffice it to say, there is more to be found about the role of the Hanseatic League and the history of hopped beer in England. Does it support the rough overlapping sequence Haneastic hopped beer (say Hamburg and later Flemish 1300s to 1600s) => coastal hopped beer (like Hull and Northdown, say, late 1400s-1712) => canal based hopped beer (Burton after 1712)? Could be. Need to find out.

Is This One Way Big Craft Might Be Dying?

hansunger1

There is nothing more certain about the brewing trade more than the history is defined an extraordinary limited set of patterns. Those who think that the owners of big craft breweries are special, well, know nothing about the rise of lager in the late 1800s as a premium even healthy drink – and know nothing about the rise of Albany Ale from central New York in early the middle third of the 1800s or the rise of Taunton Ale from southwest England as probably a premium even healthy drink in the last quarter of the 1700s. I suspect Northdown Ale was the premium even healthy drink in the lower Thames valley in the third quarter of the 1600s, too. There are, in fact, only a limited number of things you can say about beer to make people buy it other than that it’s tasty, cheap and gets you a tremendous buzz. They are: (i) it’s premium and (ii) it’s healthy. Check out social media today. The spin doctors are still at it. That quote up there? That is from the fabulously fabulous Dr. Richard W. Unger of UBC. More particularly, it is from his essay “Beer: A New Bulk Good of International Trade” in the book Cogs, Cargoes and Commerce: Maritime Bulk Trade in Northern Europe, 1150-1400. It’s actually the ending. Sorry. Spoilers. It reminds me of craft. Or rather big craft.

Just at the moment, big craft is going through a time of change that is not unlike what happened to the beers of Hamburg in the latter 1400s and early 1500s. Hanseatic Hamburg’s hopped beer as a technology went through an era when it was considered premium, rare and difficult to make. Roughly from 1250 to 1350. Neighbouring markets raised import duties to keep it out or just enough to equalize the cost with local producers. Because Hamburg during that time was the greatest brewing center in the history of beer. 42% of the workforce was involved in brewing. 15% of all Swedish exports were hops sent to the breweries of Hamburg and its allies. Read ye some Unger if you have any doubts. These trading communities had their own warships and a trust based commerce that overcame North Sea and Baltic piracy and storm. A commercial empire. And it all went away. At least the brewing did. They switched to trading in the ultimate beer concentrate – grain.

Here in Canada we are undergoing much more accelerated change at the moment. The collapse of the oil market and the sad performance of the Canadian dollar against the American version means no one in their right mind is even thinking of buying US craft beer either by a quick flip over the border or as an import. Yet there are around 550 craft brewing kettles in the land. As a result, while I can buy 2 litres of Pilsner Urquell for 10 bucks and decent Ontario craft for maybe 12 bucks the equivalent volume of beer in a six pack of fairly pedestrian Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is selling for a silly $15.50 and will likely soon cost more given our new 68 cent dollar. Who needs it? Few if the stock that sits on the shelves is any indication.

This is an accentuated version of what is happening in the US itself. Being well north of 4,000 breweries in the US means fans of good beer in the US are no longer dependent on those Hanseatic Hamburgers of big craft who ship coast to coast. People are making their own better local beer now just as the Netherlands did around 1450 and England did starting in 1520. Big craft is losing sales just as its handmaid bulk cider is. Who needs it? If you are looking for something rare and interesting – premium and maybe even healthy – who needs to go to a grocery store or gas station shelf to buy the beer trucked in from out of state? Fewer and fewer.

The economies of scale in good beer are having their way with the market. Not large scale. Small scale. The era of the great white male multi-millionaire brewery owner is over. The nameless nimble newbie hoards have learned the tricks of Hamburg, leaving the old fests cancelled and the old men the option to sell out, shut down or sit around wondering what happened. Same as it ever was.

Was Hanseatic League Beer The First in England?

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Ah, the Hanseatic League. Remember the Championship game of 1922? That was great. Gordie won the Cup.

That chart above is from Britain and Poland-Lithuania: Contact and Comparison from the Middle Ages to 1795 published in 2008 and co-edited by every beer history nerd’s favorite professor, Dr. Richard W. Unger. Before I knew anything about Albany ale, I asked Professor Unger about Dutch brewing in the Hudson Valley. If I have a fanboy crush on anything about beer it’s his research on medieval to industrial Baltic trade. Because I have a brief if beefy Baltic past. While living in western Pomerania, I had beers with a guy who was on trans-Atlantic Polish factory fishing boats in the 1970s not to mention a man who was a colonel in the underground riding German train lines, slipping away from time to time to place a bomb or two. His drink nephew wagged a revolver in my face while we partied. The things you remember from time to time.

Anyway, enough about me. More about beer. Unger shows how the Hanseatic League of northern Germany and Poland was instrumental in moving hopped beer into western Europe in the 1300s. England is often said to receive hops from the Netherlands but the Netherlands receives them through trade with traders from the Hanseatic League. Early 1300s restrictions against hopped beer in the Netherlands were dropped by mid-century due to the popularity of the imported stuff. That table up there is from an article in Britain and Poland-Lithuania: Contact and Comparison from the Middle Ages to 1795 by Wendy M. Childs in an article called “England’s Contacts With Poland-Lithuania.” She is pointing out that the Polish city of Gdansk* had trading routes into England quite regularly from the 1370s including the good ship Elynand her cargo above via Hull in 1401. Notice that the beer is not showing up from the Netherlands. It’s from Poland’s main Baltic port. Which potentially skips about maybe half a century of trade contracts. Is it possible that the first hopped beer in England was not via the nearby Netherlands** but from earlier, more easterly Hanseatic trade routes? Just speculation for sure but for me at this point the neatest idea might be that North Sea ports like Hull and Lynn might have been enjoying hopped beer a little further back than understood. And what does that mean for the brewers in those ports?

* Where, yes, I drank a lot of Gdanskie in late 1991.
**Where, oddly, I worked and drank in 1986.

Ontario: Uber, Nickel Brook Brewing, Burlington

uberWhat a minefield this beer presents me. Not only do I know and like the brewer but his mother lives nearby and his auntie works where I do. How could I possible give an opinion unbouyed by positive thoughts? Then again, it’s not like I am all Jimjunkety or anything. No need to stop using the bathroom mirror. Then, besides that, there is the question of what others might think of me – which can be odd and disconcerting – not to mention likely wrong. How dare I try something not conservative? But more importantly, what does it mean about this style? What does this beer in this place and time mean?

You will recall the the best expression of what style is was Jackson’s first go at it, before he went bad Aristotelian creating the mess we live with today. Originally, a style of beer was stylized after an example, a great beer. I think it is fair to say that practically speaking that example is the Weihenstephen Berliner Weiss I wrote about for Session 19 – if for no other reason that for a long while this was the only example you were going to lay your hands on in North America. That is until micro went craft. So, is this homage or dommage to the style? Should I care?

The beer pours an effervescent clear light gold. No head at all. On the snort, you get apple cider and cow poo of the nicest kind. In the mouth, a light and lightly astringent texture holds flavours of apple, meadow grass, minerals like a good Mosel, fresh lemon juice, a little cream of wheat like a good gueuze and a little little something vegetative like fresh cabbage or cauliflower. A really lovely sipper and at 3.8% a beer you can sip for a good long time.

What a relief! No ethical qualms!! Priced at $7.95 for 750ml, this is about twice as much as the brewers hefty IPA Headstock, one of the best values in beer in Canada. The BAers give it lots of positivitay… which is good.

A Treasure Trove of Tiny Teutonic Glassware

I am a lucky man. I was almost into a nap after a failed morning of showshoeing followed by some throwing around of embarrassingly light weights when the family poured back into the house with many purchases – including a collection of tiny German beer glasses bought at a charity second hand shop. Most are 200 ml with one 300 ml from Franz of Rastatt that sits before me filled with Bernardus Abt 12. They are lovely things. The stemmed Dortmunder Union glass is particularly sweet. Each one cost only around 99 cents and apparently there are more, though the rest suffer from chips and scratches.

The funny thing is, of course, that I am not all that keen on German beers as a general thing. Yet whenever I get these tiny glasses with their heavily embossed brightly painted branding it’s like your first glimpse of your stuffed socking on Christmas Day. There is a delicacy about them. The glass is thin. The art work is thoughtful, larded with crests and Gothic script. And then there is this thing that I am going to call “hand feel” – the pleasure of the physical design. There is that one with the stem but others are slightly scalloped on the vertical. The rest give a subtle nod to the needs of the hand whether as a slender cylinder or a gentle widening then tapering that just fits.

Clearly someone packed it in. These could have been consigned by an executor or an abandoned spouse. The glass I use now may have been once untouchable, sitting in an cabinet behind glass. Mine now. I do as I wish with them.

A Week With Softer Side Of German Brews

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It was time to clear out a few obscure brews that have been hogging stash shelf space and I grabbed nothing but the Germans. I thought it was going to turn out to be about sharp hops of one sort or another, the sort of thing I ran into over two years ago. I was absolutely stunned when top after top was popped to expose another soft deep dark brown earthy complex beer of one sort or another. These beers were not particularly to a style or a region that I know of. I bought them at different times and different places without a plan and really without really looking. But it didn’t strike me as a fluke.

I’ve had simple German dunkels before and while I liked them I was not blown away. Too little a step up from black lagers. I was looking for more oomph. But I’ve had hints that the sorts of beers were within reach, liken when I had a Korbinian from Weihenstephaner. But this week was proof – everyone one a keeper. Here is, to quote Joe, my “vaguely pornographic list of bottles opened“:

  • Der Weisse Bock: by Mahr’s. Is this the greatest smelling beer of all time? Black cherry so thick it verges on licorice. All over a mat of pumpernickel. In the mouth, it is bright and sweet with the aroma flavours enhanced by a citric acidic zip as well as a decent level of grain texture. At 8.5%, heavy but not hot. The goat on the label is actually licking the foaming head off the glass. I would too if I had enough of these. So nice I don’t even feel shelted. Great BAer respect.
  • Moosbacher Kellerbier: By Private Landbrauerei Scheuerer. Appled barley candy, a little smokiness in the bitter. Not unlike low carbonation Scots ale like Caledonian 80/ but with a little zag of steel to the hops. Six months past the best before date. Bought at the Galeville Grocery some time ago for $3.69 a 5.2% half litre swing top. I am a big fan of the style this being my fourth. Solid BAer respect.
  • Bavarian Dunkler Weizenbock: by Brauere Michael Plank: Fabulous looking lively carbonated chestnut ale with a well hidden 7.5%. Very light on the usual weizen banana and clove but plenty of flavour date and thompson raisin under wheat grain and grass that adds up to a sort of black cherry effect when you look at it that way. Fresh and moreish even at this strength. Far less spicy than its style mate Adventus. BAers take this one another notch higher.
  • Schwelmer Alt: by Brauerei Schwelm. I got this for 1.90 USD somewhere. It pours a lovely bright chestnut under mocha froth and foam. On the nose, as big and malty rich as concentrated as opening a can of malt extract. Lighter in body that the nose would leave you expecting. A slight smoke note, a little metallic tinge, fresh water and tastes of dry fruit and apple butter. Massively moreish. Oodles of BAer respect.
  • Jubelfestbier: by Mahr’s. How many ways can I say deep chestnut ale with a mocha rim and foam. Another soft water malty gem. Scents of earthy dark dry fruit and cocoa. In the mouth, again, it is lighter than the smell might have suggested. Nutty brown malts, a nod to steel hops sitting very much below the profile. Chalky cream yeast. Again moreish. Extremely moreish. Just 4.9%. You could drink buckets of this beer. Huge BAer respect.

I had no idea. Easy drinking yet complex yet comforting beers. These are the sorts of beers you imagine good English milds and browns would turn out to be but those are really are lighter, more guzzlable. These beers are slower, reminding me of the Scots malty beers I got to try on the old tartaned family trips – though different again. Why aren’t these sorts of beers being made in North America? And if they are… where can I find them?