Friday, 22 February 2008

German, Czech, Belgian, Dutch and British beers in the 1850's

In preparation for my historic German beer series of posts, here are some analyses of German, Czech, Belgian and British beers from the 1850's.

This is the text that accompanied the above table.

"The following serves to complete the characteristics of these beers:

Ale is a bright, more or less bitter (mild or bitter ale) full-bodied, strong beer. Porter is a dark, more or less Bitter, full-bodied, strong beer. Bavarian beers are moderately full-bodied, moderately strong, lighter or darker, more or less bitter. Austrian and Czech beers are similar to Bavarian, only they are often somewhat more full-bodied. Belgian beers, in terms of the amount of alcohol and extract are also close to Bavarian, all have a slightly sour taste. Berliner Weissbier has little body, is weak and highly-carbonated. Braunschweiger Mumme can hardly be called beer, it tastes like malt extract or couch-grass extract."
"Handwörterbuch der reinen und angewandten Chemie" by Justus Liebig, Johann
Christian Poggendorff, Friedrich Wöhler, 1858, pages 1038-1039.

I've also managed to sneak in my weekly Barclay Perkins reference. Though you'll see that their name has been misspelled "Barkley und Perkins".

And because someone on the Babblebelt was asking about old sources for Lambik, here are some more analyses of Dutch beers:


Theo said...

De Boog, de Krans, den Aker are (closed) breweries in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Heumensbier came from a place near by Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Theo Flissebaalje

Ron Pattinson said...

Thanks very much for that information.

It did say in the text that the beers were Dutch, but I wasn't sure what year they were carried out - it could have been during the brief period when Belgium was part of the Netherlands.

Utrecht isn't quite in the Senne valley, is it? Was lambik commonly brewed in the Netherlands at this time?

The Green Wall said...

Thanks again for these resources- I wasn't sure if you'd find my thanks in the Babblebelt post. Also, thank you for the translation of that relevant paragraph.

I'm spending the evening improving my German by trying to read it.


Gary Gillman said...

I enjoyed this brief but interesting contemporary (mid-1800's) quotation about the characteristics of some national beers.

The taste descriptors seem similar to other 1800's (and earlier in some cases) sources I've read. Byrn's (1852) description of pale ale seems similar (not identical), for example. Terms such as bitter, sweet (or synonyms such as mucilagenous or saccharine), aromatic, full-bodied, acid, empyreumatic (for burned or smoky I think), appear in the old texts with some regularity.

What I at at least have never found in old sources are descriptions of taste using similies and metaphors in the way many modern beer writers do. E.g., "this beer discloses a fruity quality redolent of dark cherries and a sweet mealy taste somewhat like cooked oats with dark sugar or fresh tea biscuits". This type of vocabulary was, I believe, drawn from writers often write today about wine. But the old-time beer writers, whether brewers or others, seem to eschew such a way of conveying taste. Maybe they simply took for granted the key-note flavours of different beer types. Maybe (probably) they just thought in different terms.

But wouldn't it be interesting to find something like this in the old texts, an adjective-laden description with references to other foods or drinks? I think once I did read - was it not Barnard? - one 1800's author who likened a beer to a certain kind of sherry (its nose I think - I think I read this in fact on your blog, Ron). That does give some indication of one kind of beer flavour then existing. But the string of adjective approach seems resolutely modern from what I can see.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, you're right that there are few detailed descriptions of the flavour of beer. But there are odd bits.

And when they talk about the "aged" taste, we can be fairly sure what they mean. It's brettanomyces induced flavours.

You can see why here:

I do have a couple of quotes where they go a two adjectives deep. And the odd comment on brewing records, like "Drank a little bitter."