Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Early Swedish lagers

Did I tell you a pile of Swedish brewery histories arrived last week? I'm sure I've already mentioned it somewhere. A bloke called Samuel E. Bring seems to have single-handedly tried to document Stockholm's brewing industry. I have three volumes (out of at least six, as one is numbered VI). They are providing fascinating insights into the early days of lager brewing in Sweden.

Bayerskt öl
The most popular style in Sweden in the period 1870 to 1920 was, by a street, Bayerskt öl. I had been assuming that this was a dark lager in the Munich style. As so often is the case, it's actually a little more complicated than that. According to the Svenska Bryggareföreningen's magazine of January 1887, there were many differences between the Swedish version and the original. Bayerskt öl:

  1. had a higher OG
  2. used lower quality hops so wasn't as bitter
  3. was paler - between pale yellow and pale brown, whereaas the original was closer in colour to Porter
  4. had a higher alcohol content because of the higher OG and because the paler malts used meant it was more highly attenuated
  5. had a higher CO2 content because:
    1. it was served directly from the barrel and not bottled
    2. Swedes liked highly-carbonated drinks

You may (or more likely not) be interested to know that one Swedish brewery, Falkenberg, still brews a Bayerskt. It's pretty pale, and is only just about dark enough to count as amber.

In 1884, the Bayerskt öl of Nürnbergs Bryggeriet in Sweden had a gravity of 13.8° Balling and was 3.84% ABW (5.3% ABV). In the same period, Pripps Bayerskt öl was 16° Balling and 6.7% ABV. By way of comparison, Löwenbräu (Munich) Lagerbier in 1887 was only 4.25% ABV, despite having a gravity of 14.75° Balling.

Pilsner öl
The first Swedish Pilsner was brewed in 1877 by Hamburgerbryggeriet in Stockholm. Paler and much bitterer than the better selling Bayerskt öl, it immediately found a market, though quite a small one. For both Pripps and Nürnbergs Bryggeriet it only made up around 5% of output in the period 1880-1920. Though, unlike some other styles, its popularity was relatively stable.

The Pripps version was around 15° Balling and 6.4% ABV. Just as with Bayerskt, this is considerably stronger than the original. Even the export beers brewed in Pilsen were only 5.25% ABV.

In the 188o's Grönwallska Bryggeriet introduced a new style of pale lager, Pilsnerdricka. It was a realtively weak beer, intended to offer a cheaper alternative to Pilsner. Many breweries introduced their own versions under a variety of names (Nürnbergs Bryggeriet's was called Iskällerdricka - "Ice cellar drink").

These are the details of a few beers of this type:

S:t Eriks Bryggeriet 7.4° Balling 2.8% ABV
Nürnbergs Bryggeriet 10.8° Balling 4.5% ABV
F.R. Neumüllers Bryggeriet 8.6° Balling 3.2% ABV
Erlangens Filial 8.2° Balling 3.2% ABV
Münchens Bryggeriet 8.8° Balling 3.4% ABV


Knut Albert said...

Bayer was dominationg across Scandinavia. In Denmark, bajer up until today is more or less synonmous with beer in everyday speech.
There are a few bayers alive, if not well in Norway, too, sweetish brown lagers. The alcohol level has probably gone up and down (mostly down) over the years, ususally because of government policy.

Ron Pattinson said...

If you go back to 1950, Bayer stil had 20% of the market in Norway and Pils 31%. The last figure I saw for Bayer was less than 0.5%.

I've got quite good statistics on sales by beer type:


I think many now don't realise that Carlsberg's first lager was dark, too. Do they still brew Gammel Carlsberg? It wasn't great (tasted like it was coloured with caramel) but it did make a change from Pils.

You see a similar pattern across most of Northern Europe. Between 1840 and 1860 Munich style dark lagers were introduced, but Pils mostly doesn't show up until the 1880's and then very much as a minority drink. Holland is typical - Heineken started with a dark lager, too.

I think most drinkers today don't realise how rare Pils was before WW II.

Knut Albert said...

You know what?
We should have an annual European Beer History seminar.

Ron Pattinson said...

Knut, not a bad idea. Though we could probably hold it in my living room. I could be wrong, but I don't think more than a handful of people would be interested.

Do you know if there are any websites on the history of Swedish, Danish or Norwegian brewing industry? I'm starting to accumulate some good sources on Sweden but haven't anything at all on Norway. Maybe I need to trawl through Abebooks.