What Is… Or Was “Schenk” Beer Anyway?

That’s from the New York Herald of 28 May 1874.  Schenk is one of those words that flits around the edges of US beer history popping up in scientific tables, included in passing references before, say, 1900 that is one of the more irritating to research. One simple reason is that it was / is a reasonably common surname. And it may suffer from that problem of speculation in the guise of conclusion we see too much of. Footnotes and primary records are the regular cure for that ailment so let’s see what we can find out before we form the image in our mind’s eye.

First, let’s start relatively near the end. In every child’s favourite bedtime book, Johnson’s New Universal Cyclopaedia: a Scientific and Popular Treasury of Useful Knowledge, Volume 1, at page 442 we read this in the sub-article on “Lager Beer”:

Three varieties of this beer are made: (1) “Lager” or summer beer, for which 3 bushels of malt and IA to 3 pounds of hops are used per barrel, and which is not ready for use in less than from four to six months. (2) “Schenk” winter or present-use beer: 2 to 3 bushels malt and 1 pound hops per barrel; ready in four to six weeks. (3) Bock bier, which is an extra strong beer, made in small quantity and served to customers in the spring, during the interval between the giving out of the schenk beer and the tapping of the lager. In its manufacture 3 1/2 bushels of malt and 1 pound of hops per barrel are used, and it requires two months for its preparation. 

The encyclopedia was produced by the A.J. Johnson publishing house of New York City run by one Alvin J. Johnson. You can click on the image to the right where each of the  three sorts of beer are prefaced by the word “Munich” – which is interesting. What I also like about that passage is how well it aligns with one other reference from a completely difference source. In 2011, the terribly reliable Ron wrote a post about Vienna malt and quoted a long passage from the British Medical Journal 1869, vol. 1 and particularly from pages 83 to 84:

Generally speaking, the beer drunk in Austria and Germany has less alcoholic strength than that consumed here. The strongest Kinds, such as those known in Bavaria by the names “Holy Father”, “Salvator”, and “Buck”, rarely contain so much as 5 per cent, by weight of absolute alcohol. The store-beer, or lager bier, generally contains about 3.5 per cent., ranging from 4 to 2.8 per cent. ; and the ordinary beer for quick draught, schenk bier, corresponding in that respect to our porter, contains from 2.25 to 3.5 per cent, of alcohol. In the Austrian dominions, the beer is generally preferred rather weaker than in Bavaria ; but in Austria, the organisation of the breweries, and the system of conducting the business, have been developed in such a manner as to assimilate more to the vast establishments we have in this country.

Now, to my mind that looks like two sources from two English-speaking countries within nine years of each other each presenting as fairly authoritative information about a classification of beer from a third culture.* For present purposes, this is useful enough to rely upon as a first principle that, whatever it was, in the latter third of the 1800s, schenk was understood as and also the common word for German beer of a weaker sort than middling lager and stronger bock. It is considered to exist on a continuum and not of a difference class than lager or bock. It is an adjective as much as a noun. A degree of strength.

This is interesting. Boak and Bailey’s bibliographical guide to entering an enhanced understanding of lager included a 2011 article by Lisa Grimm – “Beer History: German-American Brewers Before Prohibition” – which states this about the entry of lager into the brewing culture of the United States:

Many historians attribute the first lager beer brewed in America to John Wagner, a Bavarian immigrant who set up shop in Philadelphia in 1840, though some of that notice is probably due to the chain of events he helped kick off—Maureen Ogle points out in her excellent Ambitious Brew that two German immigrants were brewing lager on a small scale in 1838 in Virginia.

This passage follows the statement “German brewers were a relatively late addition to the scene, arriving in large numbers only in the mid-19th century.” This timing aligns with the post I wrote about a rather alarming New York City Sunday afternoon attack on a public house** which I entitled “An Anti-German Anti-Lager* NYC Riot In 1840” with that asterisk. See, I assumed Germans and lager were common entrants into the NYC scene but as Gary, well, chided me (let’s be frank) in relation to… 1840 slightly predates the date lager is understood to have arrived in New York with George Gillig… or rather the date Gillig takes on brewing lager. It appears he brewed something else from 1840 to 1846.

Additionally, that bit brings up national pride right about now. Jordan, in part of our book Ontario Beer, wrote that the first brewer on record in Waterloo Township was George Rebscher who opened his establishment in 1837:

It should come as no surprise that Rebscher, as a German brewer from Hesse in Franconia, brought with him the brewing techniques that were used in his homeland. Rebscher was the first brewer of lager beer in North America. What we cannot know is exactly what the lager might have been like. It seems likely the unfiltered styles that were popular in Franconia might have represented some of the early output. Given what we know of brewing in the early stages of a settlement in Upper Canada, it is relatively unlikely that George Rebscher’s lager would have been made entirely of barley for the first year or two of production.

Which is all very interesting. In the 1843 edition of Flügel’s Complete Dictionary of the German and English Languages there is a translation given at page 508 for “schenk” and a number of related words.  You can read it if you click on the thumbnail to the right. And if you can struggle with the Gothic script you will see that it is related to ideas of draught and tavern. Sort of table beer, perhaps. By contrast, lager-bier is defined at page 353 as “beer for keeping, strong beer.” Jordan went on to suggest that the early beer from Rebscher was more zwickelbier than kellerbier based on the lack of aging. To my mind, based on the above, that sounds a lot like a beer that is more schenk than lager, too.

And… that’s it. Frankly whether it was Rebscher, Wagner or Gillig really does not matter for today’s purposes. These gents are all examples of the folk included in the wave of German-speaking immigrant to the western hemisphere in Q2 1800s. It’s The Beginning. The beginning of lager. Well, a beginning of what is called lager. The beginning of German beer in North America. New beer for a new wave of immigrants in the 1830s and 1840’s. Sorta. Sorta maybe. The problem with the story is that there are two key elements that exist in North America well before this genesis story: German beer and… Germans. See, the Germans who came to North America in the second quarter of the 1800s were not the first. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has summarized it this way:

The largest wave of German immigration to Pennsylvania occurred
during the years 1749-1754 but tapered off during the French and Indian Wars and after the American Revolution… By the time of the Revolutionary War, there were approximately 65,000 to 75,000 ethnically German residents in Pennsylvania. Some historians estimate the number as high as 100,000. Benjamin Franklin wrote that at least one-third of Pennsylvania’s white population was German.

Which is interesting. There was German beer of some sort and there were Germans not only well before lager shows up in America but plenty of Germans were before the American Revolution.  But they were not necessarily the same sort of Germans. As that piece states, the German immigrants of the 1830s and 1840s came from northern and eastern Germany and were Catholic whereas the earlier Pennsylvania Germans tended to come from the southern German principalities and were Lutherans or other sorts of Protestants. Which may well mean, then as now, the beer was different.

 

 

 

 

So, armed with that, let’s go further back. If we do, we see that “schenk” was a term with a prior history. As illustrated to above the far left, Heinrich Hildebrand used the term in his early 1700s philosophical treatise Jurisdictio Universa Secundum Mores Hodiernos Compendiose Considerata. You can see it there in Gothic German script as an illustration of his tenth hypothesis set out in Latin. And, no, I have no idea what he’s talking about either. “Schenk” also shows up, as up there in the middle, in this entry in a French language dictionary of German terms from 1788, the Neues Teutsches und Französisches Wörterbuch. And, to the upper right, here it is in an English-German dictionary from Britain published in 1800. So, schenk was a thing before lager came to the USA. At this point, not so much the adjective explaining relative strength. Note also how broad the various associated forms of the word are. In 1800, a tavern  keeper is a schenk or a schenke depending on gender. It has a meaning more its own than by the end of the 1800s.

Let’s go a bit lateral now. Bear with me. We saw a year and a half ago that in the 1820s there was something called cream beer being sold in New York which was associated with the Germans of Pennsylvania. A sort of fresh beer… draught… table beer perhaps. There is another term used around the same time – “Bavarian” – sometimes with “ale” and sometimes with “beer.” The New York Evening Post of 20 January 1836 uses the term “Bavarian beer” in a long article, “The German Prince In Germany And France” where it is said the German author Jean Paul was fond of it.

And then there is swankey which , as noted by Boak and Bailey in the June 2015 edition of BeerAdvocate, was a name of a beer in Pennsylvania which was a lot like a name for a light rustic beer in Cornwall England, swanky.  The word swankey with an “e” was used in a 12 May 1849 article on a crisis at sea in the New York’s Weekly Herald. It was used in rather unflattering terms as you can see to the right: vinegar, brandy, saltwater and molasses. Notice that the ship left from Delaware. Next to eastern Pennsylvania. A lowbrow making a lowbrow reference to probably a lowbrow drink.

Hmm… then we see that the 28 April 1888 edition of the New York Tribune included a passage in a newsy notes column on a enterprise dedicated to the brewing of swankey which I set out in full below:

Brook’s law was an 1880’s temperance law in Pennsylvania. And low strength table beer “is very popular in Germany.” Stan notes a similar add from Wichita from around the same year in his book Brewing Local but suggests swankey started there. Hmm – the police blotter article up top from twelve years before would discount an 1888 start if there is a connection.  I wonder if it actually is something of the end point for the concept. See, swank is an old word, too – like schenk.*** In the common sense has a rather interesting etymology. Full of notions of youth and swagger and stagger before it was a fifty cent word for trendy.

And if we are honest, swanky and schenk can start to sound a bit alike if you mix in various accents especially if the schenk is schenke. Mixed accents of mixing peoples. See, there is a Cornwall and Pennsylvania connection, too. Quakers moved from Cornwall to western New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania in the later 1600s.  Pennsylvania has a few nicknames and one is the Quaker State, immortalized by the engine oil as well as a brand of oatmeal. Did they bring the word swanky in the 1600smeet up with Germans in the 1700s making schenk, merge them in to swankey and maybe brand it as cream beer in the early 1800s to explain it to people who didn’t get the local lingo. That 1880s reference Stan notes might be more of an echo, a remembrance of beer words past.

Seems a bit of a convenient stretch, doesn’t it. But we are talking about a pretty small and culturally discrete population. There are only 240,000 people in Pennsylvania in 1770. And we see three low alcohol not-lager beers coming out of the same community over time and at a time when there was no real finesse about neatly splitting hairs over whether a beer is of one sort or another. Think about it. Maybe a stretch. Maybe not.

*Note also this definition from the 1885  edition (and not the claimed 1835 edition) of The Progressive Dictionary of the English Language: A Supplementary Wordbook to All Leading Dictionaries of the United States and Great Britain published by the Progressive Publishing Company of Chicago: “Schenk-beer (shengk ber), n. [G. schenk-bier, from schenken, to pour out, because put on draught soon after it is made.] A kind of mild German beer; German draught or pot beer, designed for Immediate use, as distinguished from lager or store beer. Called also Shank-beer.

**The term “German public house” was a thing in New York before 1846. The Spectator newspaper used the term on 2 April 1842 to describe one of the buildings lost in a great fire.

***This looks like a reference to “schenkebier” from the 1400s.

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.

Francis Perot Brewed 116 Times In 1821 to 1822

perotlog1821dftbBrewing was seasonal in the early 1800s east coast towns. You see it in the Vassar logs from Poughkeepsie NY and again with the brewing logs of Francis and William Perot of Philadelphia of 1821-22. Ed Carson was good enough to scan them last fall and I am drawn back to them by
this question about what “cream beer” might be at that moment. That “B” up there is potentially very important. “Cream” is a word that gets used in a number of ways in brewing over the years so being fairly tight on what is being described is a good approach. In this exercise, I am trying to think about what it meant attached to “beer” in Philadelphia and also NYC in 1820 to 1925 or so. It is clear from the newspaper notices discussed last time it was (i) a novelty, (ii) desirable and (iii) local to Philadelphia. But what else can this year’s worth of notations tell us even though “cream” is never mentioned?

First, who is Perot? Highlighted above is the first log entry for the 1821 to 1822 season from the brewery of Francis and William Perot. Francis becomes quite accomplished. He was known for his cream beer.. His summary biography states:

Francis Perot (1796-1885) was apprenticed in 1812 to the 5th and 6th generations of Morrises (Thomas and Joseph). In 1818, Perot started his own brewery and malt house on Vine Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, bringing other family members into the business and marrying Elizabeth Morris. The Morrises turned their business over to Francis Perot. T. Morris Perot and Elliston Perot represent the 7th and 8th generations in the business — an unbroken line of descent in the business.*

More needs to be written and researched about Perot. For today’s purposes, we can stick to this one brewing year’s worth of log entries. I will post the log pages is a bit for purposes of your rebuttals and accusations but for now I see the following:

=> In 1821-22, all but one of the 87 brews of draft beer are noted as “home consumption.” But his ale is either mild (1/3) or “long keeping” (2/3). One batch of draft beer is shipped to Virginia;

=> As Ed pointed out, “the “Dft B” is less hoppy with 1 lb of hops to 3-5 bushels of malt, while the ale is .5 to 1+ lbs per bushel. And the Porter is the strongest with a hop rate of 1 to 1″;

=> In addition to the 87 batches of “Dft B” they brew twenty-one of Ale and eight of Porter. Like the Ale, their Porter has notes as to whether the batches are mild or for long keeping. They also each have, for certain batches, the notation “hops boiled twice”.

=> They brew doubles and singles off a single batch and in some cases three separate runnings. They appear to be kept at least initially separate as they are accounted for by number of barrels of each.

=>The log records that 57% of the bushels of barley went into the “Dft B” but it accounted for 75% of the batches produced. I have to count up the barrels for each batch as Perot does not total them but they do not appear to skew to the same ratio. It may well be that it is beer is lighter in strength than the Ale and Porter. Gotta do a bit more looking at that…

What to make of it? In the summary page, Perot uses the full term “Draught Beer” as opposed to “Porter” and “Ale” but what is odd is that low hopped brewing results in the “beer” which is the opposite of the normal usage of the word, isn’t it? By fifteen years later, we see regular ads for “cream ale” but at this point whatever is coming out of this Philadelphia brewery is called beer, looks like what gets called “cream” beer – and it has half the hops of their ale.

Later: The 1821-22 Perot Logs

Page 1 and 2 – 19 Sep 1821:

perotlogpage1a

perotlogpage1b

 

 

 

 

Page 3 and 4 – 1 Nov 1821:

perotlogpage2a

perotlogpage2b

 

 

 

 

Page 5 and 6 – 18 Dec 1821:

perotlogpage3a

perotlogpage3b

 

 

 

 

Page 7 and 8 – 24 Jan 1822:

perotlogpage4a

perotlogpage4b\

 

 

 

Page 9 and 10 – 23 Mar 1822:

perotlogpage5aperotlogpage5b

 

 

 

 

Neato. There is plenty more to write about. As far as I can tell there may be five “creams” in US NE brewing history: pre-1825 Philly cream beer; 1835-1860s Taylor-style cream ale; 1860s-1910 cream ale; post prohibition cream light lager like Genny Cream; and craft cream… whatever that is. Much more work to do to see if that is right or if something else is going on.

*Cited this way in the family papers: “Information from: “A Condensed History of the Oldest Business House in America – The Francis Perot’s Sons Malting Co. of Philadelphia.” 1890.”

Philadelphians Studying Barley Varieties In 1788 And 1819

A road block. As much a writer’s block as a researching one. Spring is a rotten time to sit down to a computer in the evening. Softball games need being watched, exam sitters need being encouraged and the garden still remains not fully planted. It’s a bad time of the year to daydream about what was going on with brewing in the years around 1800. But then the hint is there – the garden – and away you go again.

The Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture is the oldest agricultural society in the United States, first organized in 1785. Reports about its early findings pop up fairly regularly in newspapers reminding you that leading edge science was always interesting and important. Was it the Homebrew Computer Club of its era? Maybe. Ben Franklin was a founder. But it didn’t exactly set off a nation-wide explosion of research. My nearby Jefferson County Agricultural Society is the second oldest in New York State but, still, it’s thirty-two years younger than the one in Philadelphia. But it started things rolling. The Philadelphia Society’s is mentioned in the 31 July 1788 letter to George Washington from gentleman farmer George Morgan discussing strategies to avoid crop loss that seems connected to that newspaper report in the Poughkeepsie Journal on Hiltzheimer’s crop planting tests from that fall. Both are related to the Hessian Fly. Morgan writes:

Your Excellency is no doubt informed of the Ravages made in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey by the Hessian Fly, whose History is given in various Publications: As this Insect is now advanced to the Neighbourhood of Philadelphia, and its Progress southward is alarming to the Farmer, I have taken some Pains to inform myself of its Manners and Life, and to make several Experiments to oppose its destructive Depredations: From these it appears that good Culture of strong Soil, or well manured Lands, may sometimes produce a Crop of Wheat or Barley, when that sowed in poor or middling Soil, without the other Advantages, will be totally destroy’d…

The Hessian Fly, Morgan reports, only attacked the wheat and barley. Rye was seldom touched and oats, buckwheat and corn were unaffected. The Hessian Fly was still hammering the crops in the Upper Hudson in 1799. Which goes a long way to explain why Sir William Strickland is studying American agriculture in the mid-1790s. Given Europe’s croplands are being ravaged by war, finding sources of grain was vital. Two decades on, the issue is still a concern of the Philadelphia Agricultural Society, as noted in volume 1, number 12 of The American Farmer from 18 June 1819:

In England, and other parts of Europe, and in the northern parts of our country, summer wheat is raised to great advantage. Whether or not it would escape the fly is doubtful; for flies have been found in plenty in summer barley. ‘ It is not yet agreed what kinds of wheats best withstand injuries from the Hessian Fly. The yellow bearded and other wheats with solid straw or strong stems, (the solid stemmed wheats being designated by the appellation of cane or cone wheats) are deemed the most efficacious. Farmers should bend their sedulous attention to the selection of such wheats. Good farming, manure, and reasonably late sowing, are certainly the best securities. But too late seeding is unsafe; for the spring-brood of flies attack the tender plants of every late sown wheat, not sufficiently forward to be capable of resisting this foe, with the like destructive effect we experience in spring barley; appearing to prefer, for this purpose, plants in the early stages of their growth. It is, most probably, a native here. lt never entirely leaves us; though it appears, at irregular periods, in numbers less scourging than at times when its ravages are more conspicuously destructive.

Which indicates that there was a very good reason that six-row winter barley continued to be the preferred crop of barley well into the 1800s despite the advice given from England to move to two-row and its higher productivity. The finer crop simply was not suited to the local conditions. Winter wheat was out of the ground and hearty enough to withstand the fly. This also ties into Craig’s observations from last January about the second third of the 1800s when he noticed Albany area brewers adding honey to the wort to top up the fermentables. Six-row worked.

Which makes me wonder when exactly six-row ever got into most of the mash in America?

Book Review: Philadelphia Beer, Rich Wagner

3501As recently discussed, the past is a foreign land when it comes to US beer history. More like another planet it seems sometimes. I am not sure why this is but I suspect it has something to do with the drive to be authoritative rather than innovative when it comes to so many of the beer books being published. Sadly, there is more than enough problematic high level description of various qualities out there but far too little of the more interesting and accurate detail.

Then one comes across a book like Philadelphia Beer by Rich Wagner – or rather just pages 17 to 34 – and all my despair falls away. Why? Because Mr. Wagner admitted and actually investigated a portion of that seemingly secret or perhaps oddly discomforting tale of pre-lager moderate to large scale ale production that not only existed but thrived in America from somewhere around the 1630s into the late 1800s. In those few pages, he identifies brewers and breweries by name, location, production and beer brands that existed not only before lager in the 1840s or so but he does the same for pre-Revolutionary Philadelphia, the city that becomes the first US capital. And in doing so, he adds credence to all that follows. I trust his writing on what comes later in the first German lager breweries, the later industrial macro-lager breweries and the craft breweries because of it.

Why have we found ourselves here? There may be a reason for this lack of collective long term memory. The introduction of lager roughly coincides with the expansion of the US from a coastal eastern nation built on a colonial footprint to the nation we know today, care of the Erie Canal and resolution of First Nation, French, Spanish and Russian control of large tracts of what are now the central and western states… and Florida. In a way, American ale was an Atlantic focused thing while lager is mid-western to Pacific. The path of lager, as Maureen Ogle so well describes, defines America as much as the wild west and California surfers so. It is in itself exceptional in all the meanings of that word. This burden of national history bears upon the topic. And it is in addition to the simple fact that a deeper longer view takes the sort of hard work that Wagner takes on himself and builds upon from the few earlier studies. Too often we only see what happens when one confuses facts as they were and the evidence that is available today.

Get yourself a copy of this book. Then, start thinking about how the structure of this small book, applied large, might change the way we see the extraordinary phenomenon that is American brewing. And might create a new tie between craft movement of recent decades and that small scale craftmanship of hundreds of years ago. And then maybe we’ll start seeing not only the similarities but maybe even the links. I had a Yuengling yesterday as it turns out.

Pennsylvania, Flying Mouflan, Troegs, Harrisburg

Bought this at Kappy’s last week for $6.99 for the bomber. There was some statement that this beer blew away last year’s Nugget Nectar in terms of hops and lavished the discerning palate with a face filling bunch of other flavours. I was sold at the $6.99 myself given the sad lack of Troegs beer in my life.

Pretty nice stuff. It pours a swell chestnut with a mocha froth and rim. The aroma is booze, date and brown bread. A pretty thick beer on the swally with a lot of pine and white grapefruit hops going shoulder to shoulder with date, cocoa, milk chocolate, hazelnut. The brewer’s notes recommend the very four months this bottle waited from production to pour. Probably could be classified as a Dauphin County Brown Double IPA. That’s it. A DCBDIPA. Maybe the best I have ever had.

BAers have the love.

What The Heck Was “Albany Ale” In 1847… Or 1807?

albanyale

So I am nosing around looking for India pale ale references on Google news archives when I spot this one in a newspaper from 1847’s Newfoundland to something called Albany ale. In hogsheads no less.

What the heck is it? It is listed in the The Public Ledger of 12 Oct 1847 amongst other imported goods from around the world – even Gourock canvass from the Old Country. In 1853, there is notice again in The Public Ledger of Newfoundland as being “just arrived” in a 50 barrel lot. It looks like an import. Albany ale is listed in the Hartford Courant as far back as issues from 1806 and 1807. In 1846, its for sale in New Orleans and, in 1854, there was a fire at the agents of an Albany ale manufacturer in New York City according to The New York Times. It’s even a drink at a church supper in Adams County, Pennsylvania in 1850.

But what the heck is it? Is it a style? Or is it just an ale from Albany, NY? If so, why is that the pale ale that makes it all the way to Newfoundland?

Colonial Dutch Beer

Last week, a reader named Bob posed a very good question in the comments about: “Did the Dutch traders ship beer as a commodity in trade for Asian goods? If yes, what years, what style? Were hops used in any manner then?“. I thought it was such a good question that I posed it to Richard Unger, Professor at UBC and author of a number of books on beer history as well as the shipping trade. It may well be that there is no better person to answer Bob. And he did:

After some lengthy travelling I am now back home and can try to answer your or rather Bob’s question.

Amsterdam brewers in the first half of the 19th century produced some called East India beer which was not much different, so it was said, from beer brewed in the Bavarian style. Up to the 1860s Bavarian beer was extremely rare in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and only with the setting up of new breweries in the 1860s was the novel technology adopted, and then with enthusiasm. So such East India beer was special and different from the normal output.

It probably had a higher alcohol content though – that was the usual way to try to protect beers going to the tropics from spoilage. Dutch brewers, principally in Amsterdam, did brew beer for export to the East Indies even in the first half of the seventeenth century but it appears to have been the typical premium hopped beer, a bit better and somewhat stronger, than the beer made for consumption at home. There were many different names used for different beers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but I have never come across one that identified the beer made for export to the Indies, either East or West.

It is possible that none of that export beer was ever sold on the domestic market, the opposite with what happened with IPA which not long after it was established in the East became a popular drink at home. Incidentally the date of the first production of IPA is uncertain, or at least I am not certain. My best guess is a rather late one, that is around 1830 but I would be happy to be corrected. I am sorry to offer so little but I hope it is of some help.

Regards, Richard Unger

Very interesting and has triggered the posing of another question that I have already put to Lew Bryson about one meaning of the word “gueuze” which may be a red herring – which might in itself be a pun.

Big Hop Bombs: Simcoe Double IPA, Weyerbacher Brewing, PA

Rich fine tan creamy head over deep caramel ale. The smell is orange marmalade with a sort of distinctly garlic-y hot heat. In the mouth eucalyptus and mint hops with orange peel and rich creamy malt closing into heat. A really fine double IPA, balanced – at 9% not overwhelming. A kinder gentler sibling of the same brewer’s Eleven. A fine thing in the shade on the hot day with a stinky blue cheese and a good loaf as children draw with chalk around you.

Planned by the brewer to be a softer gentler version of a big hop bomb. 100% BAer approval noted and well worthy.

The Two-IPA Challenge

ipavipa

I’ve wanted to try this comparison for a while. Sgt. Major’s IPA from Fitzroy Harbour in the Ottawa Valley is a unique beer in at least the eastern side Canada in that it attempts to take on the US style on its own chewy hoppy terms. Hop Devil IPA from Victory in Pennsylvania is one of the classic northeast US IPAs – balanced but big.

ipavipa2

The two beers pour deep amber under fine off-white heads but the Hop Devil is darker while the head of the Sgt. Major holds its fine head with almost Guinness-like will power. In the mouth, the Canadian is hoppier by a long shot but the American presents raisin notes and is richer but by only a notch. Both rely on American hop strains to provide an unsweetened grapefruit twang thang. Both have a good grainy profile from a honest quality malt bill and both use fairly softish water compared to the amount of bittering – no sulfate cheating here. The Hop Devil uses a creamier yeast strain. The overall quality of the beers is extremely similar which is a real tribute to the small Ontario brewer.

I like them both and will have some confidence in picking up a six of Sgt. Major next time I am cranking in my mind about the lack of variety at the local beer suppliers.