Thursday, 19 November 2009

Take it to the Bavarian top

It's good to learn that there have been times ans places where a full measure was taken seriously. Not like in Britain, where you get 90% beer and 10% atmosphere or some other such intangible. (At least according to Jeff.)

This is an American's report of late 19th-century Bavarian custom:

"Of the quality of the Bavarian beer, and also of the quantities consumed, I shall speak farther on: I only want to remark in this place that in the measure of the beer one gets there is no humbug. The law requires that each glass and each mug shall bear on its outside the governmental attestation as to its capacity. A horizontal line is ground into the glass or stone showing the exact level which the liquid must have. This line dare not be less than one centimetre (half an inch) from tho rim, so as to allow for the foam. The vessels must be filled to that mark with beer. Woe to the publican who does not come up to the scratch. If, in the hurry of business, such a thing does occasionally happen, the guest is not slow to send his glass back to be properly filled, accompanied with some complimentary German epithets which would more than fill a barrel.

The unit of liquid measure in Germany is, as in France, the litre (something over a quart). Each mug holding that quantity must be stamped with the letter L before the stroke ; if a half-glass, with J L, so that there can be no mistake as to its real capacity. Before the introduction of the new weights and measures, in 1874, the unit for liquids in Bavaria was the mass (the measure), and the stone jugs were marked with an M.

It is so customary to display the initials of the reigning monarch as an emblem all over, as, for instance, on the helmets of the soldiers, on the boxes of the royal opera-house, etc., that one begins to accept the sign as having that meaning only, and no other. An American who stopped at Munich during the palmy days of King Maximilian's reign, and who pursued his studies with greater assiduity at the Royal Court Brewery than at any other institution, returned some ten years later (during which time he had been gathering useful knowledge) when King Ludwig the Second was on the throne. Our friend was not slow in resorting to his favorite place, the Court Brewery. When he got his mug he was at once struck with the alteration of the letter on it. " Well, I'm dod dasted," he said, " if these Bavarians aren't the most loyal people I ever saw,— even on their beer-mugs,—formerly it was always M for Maximilian, and now it's L for Ludwig
"Consular Reminiscences" by By G. Henry Horstmann, pages 327-328.

If only every country were as assiduous. Here in Holland pub glasses don't give any clue as to their liquid capacity. And, of course, in Britain short measures are more or less officially sanctioned.

Handy to know when Bavaria went metric. I'd been wondering about that.


Atis said...

Actually the metric system was mandatory in Bavaria from 1872 (optional from 1870). It was introduced simultaneously in all German Empire, but some parts of it had adopted the metric system as early as in 1810.

Mike said...

In the over 100 years since that report was written little has changed in Bavaria, at least as far as beer glass markings are concerned. I noticed that on my glasses, the mark is 3 cm from the brim, but all that shows is the glasses may have gotten a little bigger while the quantity remained the same.

Séan Billings said...

The official line of the two Irish publican organisations is that the head on the beer counts as part of the measure, which is why Irish pint glasses are a pint to the brim. I think they are just thieving gits though.

Chap said...

Interesting. But Ron, you must have noticed that Franconians serving beer in a Krug rely on its weight to be sure that they are serving you a proper measure, rather than eye-balling the line on the outside of the Krug.

Rod said...

The Albquell Bräuhaus in the old village of Trochtelfingen, in the Schwaebishe Alb, has a Krug Museum, full of old steins from the days when there were, I think, 8 breweries in this small village alone and many others in the surrounding area.
The most interesting single thing in this museum (which is, of course, for deep beer obsessives only, as my wife will tell you) is the Mass (standard beer measure) in this area was 0.8 ltr and many of the steins are marked with this measure.

"Franconians serving beer in a Krug rely on its weight to be sure that they are serving you a proper measure" I have seen this being done in southern Hessen too (not a million miles away), but, unfortunately it is far from being the universal practice in Franken that you make it sound.