Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Drawing it Mild

Hah! Fooled you. This piece has nothing to do with Mild. Or even Britain. It's about short measures.

"Drawing It Mild.— We take the following paragraph on the art of drawing beer from an American source :—It seems that the rate of profit in selling beer by the glass all depends on the drawing. The more rapidly the contents of a beer keg are drawn olf the larger the profit, and the more slowly the smaller the profit. In the outlying suburbs, on the unfrequented by-streets, where customers come in one at a time at intervals of half an hour, they get a glass of "solid" beer, while in the thronged saloons in the frequented parts of the city, where the faucet is opened every minute, the customer gets a glass of beer which is one-third to one-half froth. This makes all the difference in the world in the money drawer. The keg of beer which in the sleepy suburb yields only 150 glasses of  "solid" liquor, will, in a frequented locality, yield 300 glasses of foam-capped beer—and this means an advantage of 150 nickels exactly in favour of the latter. Then there is an art in drawing the delicious and refreshing amber liquor which is never lost sight of. An expert artist will draw 100 glasses of beer from a receptacle which a clumsy drawer will extract only seventy-five from. It looks like an impossibility, but it can be done. Beer at 5 cents a glass is supposed to be cheap, but what would a St Louis imbiber of the brown beverage think, in Bavaria, where for three cents he gets a mug of the choicest beer in the world, the Munich mug holding three times as much as the treacherous glasses that prevail here.

This is a very old trick, as is shown in the lamentable complaints of Rulerost and Nick F roth the tapster."
"In Praise of Ale" by W.T. Merchant, 1888, pages 624 - 625.

I keep reading descriptions of this or other being a "solid beer" on beer fora. Is this what they meant? It always struck me as weird, describing a liquid as "solid".


Bill said...

What I find interesting is the description "St. Louis imbiber of brown beverage" to describe American lager. Seems the recipe has changed a bit in the last century. I wonder if AB-InBev would open their archives so their earlier recipes could be examined, not likely I imagine.

Ed Carson said...

A question - How big is a "Munich Mug" in 1888? I'm trying to find out serving sizes for ale in the 19th century and why the American "long neck" bottle is 12oz.
First Stater - I'm sure the beer he is describing is 5 cent ale,tho a darker lager is a possibility. Remember too, in the 1880's, AB wasn't the only brewer in St Louis.

JoeMcPhee said...

It's hardly surprising to read this what with a "pint" being any measure from 11-20 oz over here.

Ron Pattinson said...

Ed, that's probably a Maaß, or 1.06903 litres.

It's also a mistake to assume the colour of any beer in the past. I'm sure A-B brewed lagers of different colours in the 19th century.

Gary Gillman said...

I suspect the brown beverage was the American version of dunkel beer. This seems to have been the norm, and I believe this is confirmed in Wahl & Henius. Only later in the 1800's did pale beers, initially styled Bohemian, become popular. I believe Budweiser (the A-B product) was always notably pale which would make sense considering its inspiration.

The kind of partly-filled mugs mentioned survives at McSorley's in New York, where the beers are capped by a large foam and the glasses end up three quarters filled or even less. Of course the price factors that, the beers are not expensive. That method of serving clearly is exactly the same as 100 years ago. I prefer it because the heavy foam has the effect of partly de-carbonating the beer. (Many old photos and illustrations show beer served in this manner and you still see this in Belgium and some other places at least for bottle-conditioned specialties).

The beer at McSorley's was good but is still commercially styled and craft beers of a more hand-made flavour are available at numerous bars in the same area.


Kristen England said...

By 'solid' beer I believe he is referring to one without any head.

Seanywonton said...

Here's possibly an even bigger problem: the fact that many bars in the states are calling a 14 oz shaker glass a pint. What a rip, especially if you are getting a foamy pour at 5-6 bucks a glass, as is the norm in NYC.

It's a good reason to make a point to never go back to certain bars.

Jeff Renner said...

The American lager choices of the late 19th century were perhaps even broader than today, given that most micros brew ales.

Here is a list of the beers (presumably all lagers) brewed by Anheuser Busch in 1893, as quoted in "a book describing the industries of St. Louis" and quoted on. p. 24 in the 1953 history of Anheuser Busch, "Making Friends is our Business," published by A/B:

"The brands are the 'Anheuser-Busch Standard,' the "Original Budweiser,' the 'Pale Lager,' the Pilsener or Exquisite,' the 'Old Burgundy,' and 'Faust Beer,' and include all varieties of beer from very pale and light brewings to dark and heavy beer, to suit the taste and demand for cold and hot climates."

BTW, for those not familiar with US coinage, the term "nickel" is the usual name for a five cent piece.

Matt said...

The solution to the short measure problem is simple. At home I usually drink out of a dimpled jug that a relative 'borrowed' from a local pub in the 70's. It has a stamped crown below the rim with the words "one pint to line". Oversized glasses are clearly the only way you can have a pint of liquid and a decent head. Having said that, if it's a choice I'd rather have the latter and have always found CAMRA's obsession with the subject and their 'take it to the top' campaign' a bit odd. I'd like to see them try that routine with a German waiter serving altbier!