Sunday, 25 April 2010

Austrian beer in 1873

I'm feeling lazy today. Actually, I always feel lazy. Today I'm going to act lazily, too. And limit myself to one long quote about Austrian beer. I think it's a pretty groovy article. One I didn't even need to translate. Lucky me.

I found this while searching for stuff on Anton Dreher. Not quite sure why I was looking for that. I'm trying to research my next major project, which is nothing to do with Austria, Lager or even pitch-lined barrels. So why the hell was  I looking up Dreher? Quite possibly to avoid the mountain of numbers my proper research has been building up. I'm starting to worry that I might be going into too great detail.

But enough of me. Let's talk about you. Or at least someone other than me. Like Anton Dreher.Or Austria. I realise that's a country, not a person, but it isn't me. I'm pretty certain I haven't been transformed magically into a central European country. If I had, I'd never fit on the tram. And I took one of those this morning.

I'd better get on to the quote before I drivel on too long. Here goes:

"The Austrian beers like all the light beers of Germany are brewed in accordance with the Bavarian system, and are generally a very superior class of beverage. They are of a pale amber colour, exceedingly bright and sparkling, and of a full pleasant flavour, entirely free from acidity, remarkably light drinking, are invariably in fine condition, owing to their being kept constantly iced when the weather is in the least degree warm, and always carry a rich creamy head. The marked difference between the Austrian and lighter German beers and those of England arises principally from the brewing, still the after treatment and certain exigencies of climate contribute materially to the contrast. Austrian beer is not nearly so strong as English beer, yet from the quantity of unfermented extract which it contains, it drinks fuller so to speak in proportion to its strength and is infinitely more refreshing. In Vienna everybody drinks beer, which even figures regularly at the Imperial dinner table, and owing to its exceeding lightness quadruple the quantity can be consumed as could be partaken of in England without the risk of getting intoxicated.

The great speciality in fact of the Austrian and lighter German beers is their producing neither intoxication nor drowsiness, and which is due principally to the small quantity of alcohol they contain. Still there is another important reason which appears never to have been taken in consideration, namely, the purity of the alcohol and its freedom from aldehyde and fusil oil. The Bavarian system of under fermentation, which is in general use in the breweries of Austria, prevents the formation of aldehyde and ensures the entire elimination of the gluten of the malt, which is the great oxydising agent, besides lessening the liability to produce fusil oil. The Vienna beers show upon analysis from 7 to 9 per cent, of proof spirit combined with an average of 3,000 grains of soluble extract per imperial gallon. In all fermented saccharine solutions a certain quantity of alcohol is requisite to save them from further fermentation and ultimate acidity, but the Vienna beers do not contain sufficient spirit to protect them for any length of time after they have been removed from the ice cellars. When any nitrogenous matter is present, a change takes place more readily, and although the beer is free from gluten, the most powerful decomposing agent it has to contend with, it still contains albumen, which in the act of decomposition has the property of converting alcohol into acetic acid.

In brewing the light German beers, not only much fewer hops but from 30 to 40 per cent, less malt is used than in the average of English beers, still the former are not proportionally cheaper, simply because what they lack in material has to be made up by superior production and finish. Ice, which is used in immense quantities, forms a considerable item in the expenditure of Austrian and German breweries generally. One large establishment, that of the celebrated Dreher, uses as much as 40,000 tons per annum in the brewery alone, besides the large extra quantity required in the various cellars and stores where the beer is kept, and for packing it when sent by railway in vans especially constructed for the purpose. All this is essential to maintain the soundness of the beer and ensure that brisk condition for which it is so celebrated, and although it adds considerably to the cost, the expenditure must still be incurred, or the beer after transit and exposure to even a moderately warm temperature will lose its fine character and get completely out of condition.

The consumption of beer of this perishable nature is chiefly confined to places on the continent where ice is plentiful, and where it is not the custom, as in England, for families to have beer in cask at their own homes, for a beverage of this light character can be kept on draught merely for a day or two after it has been once tapped. In no city in the world is beer to be found of such general excellence and of so uniform a quality as at Vienna, where it is almost invariably obtained in high perfection, owing partly to the more celebrated breweries being so near to the capital, but chiefly to the quick consumption at the numerous beer halls and gardens, which ensures fine condition as well as perfect freshness. The demand at many of these establishments is so great that nothing is thought of drawing as much as 1,500 gallons in the course of a single day. With this rapid draught, the peculiar and often objectionable flavour imparted by the pitch used by all the German brewers to line their casks so as to keep them air tight, is perceptible in the Vienna beer only in a very slight degree, owing, no doubt, to its scarcely having time to take it up. This flavour, however, is frequently communicated to the beer in the fermenting tuns, which are lined with pitch that partially dissolves during the fermentation process.

Vienna beer would not be considered sufficiently stimulating for general consumption in England, besides which it lacks the aroma and flavour of the hop. The Germans generally often claim for their beer the advantage of its being both food and drink, which doubtless is true enough of the beers of certain localities, where it is the practice to leave a considerable proportion of the dextrine and sugar of the wort unfermented. This class of beer, which is drunk principally by the peasantry and labouring classes, is high-coloured, clammy, and heavy in bulk. Still even the ordinary beers are regarded in a measure as so much food, and possibly the bibacious Germans do derive some benefit in this way from them. An analysis, however, of several samples shows that the total soluble extract, that is, the dextrine and sugar, comprised in an entire gallon, merely supplies the same amount of nutriment as is contained in 17 oz. of bread. Continental beer, generally, contains a larger quantity of soluble extract than English beer; although in some kinds of the latter the proportion is considerable, still their headiness is a bar to sufficient being taken to impart an appreciable amount of nutriment.

In Austria, as in all the principal beer producing countries on the continent, a great increase in the consumption of beer has manifested itself of late years, combined with a marked decrease in the number of breweries, owing to the smaller breweries being forced to succumb to the competition of the larger establishments, which are conducted on more scientific as well as sounder economic principles. Between the years 1860 and 1872, the number of breweries decreased from 3,314 to 2,636, or more than 20 per cent., whereas during the same period the quantity of beer produced increased as much as 60 per cent. In Upper Austria, where cider is largely drunk by the country people, no particular increase in the production of beer is apparent, and indeed, in years when apples have been plentiful, a positive falling off commonly declares itself. The increased consumption of beer in Austria is contemporaneous in a measure with the rapid progress of one vast brewery establishment of European fame, namely, that of Anton Dreher, at Klein Schwechat, near Vienna,, which In the first year of its existence brewed merely 333,832 gallons of beer, and now brews 8,798,300 gallons, an increase of more than 26 fold. A diploma of honour was given to Herr Dreher for the improvements in brewing which he had been the means of effecting, as well as to another large firm, A. Mantner and Son, of Vienna, a medal for progress being awarded to a celebrated brewery of Vienna beer, known as the Liesing Brewery Company; and medals for merit to the Brunn and Huttledorf Breweries in Lower Austria, Hatschek Brothers, at Linz, and Herr, Kuffner, at Dobling. Honourable mention was further made of three other exhibitors.

Most of the Austrian beers have a mild and soft flavour, and it is rarely that any of them are so bitter as the English pale ales. An exception, however, must be made with regard to, the so-called Pilsner beer brewed at Pilsen, in Bohemia, on a very extensive scale, and much in favour with the Viennese, who do not object to pay a slightly higher price for it. This beer is exceedingly pale in colour as well as remarkably light, being even weaker than the Vienna beer, and contains a considerable amount of carbonic acid. Its distinguishing quality, however, is its strong, indeed almost medicinal bitter flavour, due to the Saaz hops, held in the highest esteem in the locality. The Citizens' brewery at Pilsen, which produces by far the largest quantity of this beer, and is in feet the most extensive brewing establishment in Bohemia, had a medal for progress awarded to it for the samples it exhibited. Another brewery company at Pilsen received a medal for merit, the same reward being given to five other Bohemian breweries, in addition to which honourable mention was made in five instances.

Bohemia has been a beer producing State ever since the, fourteenth century, and its ales have long enjoyed a more than local celebrity. To-day the number of large breweries it supports are very great. Wine being neither plentiful nor cheap, and cider not being made to any extent, beer is an article of general consumption among the Bohemians, and the annual quantity produced shows an increase of no less than 76 per cent, during the last 13 years."

"Reports on the Vienna Universal Exhibition of 1873, Volume 4", 1874, pages 160-163.

Lots of fascinating facts in there. I hope you spotted them, because, as I said at the start, I'm being all lazy today.



I hope I never meet a goat like the one on that last label

4 comments:

Martyn Cornell said...

FWIW, "7 to 9 per cent of proof spirit" is, depending on whether you take the UK or US definitions of "proof", either 4 to 5 per cent alcohol by volume, or 3.5 to 4.5 per cent abv. Either way, this would have been the equivalent of "table beer" in the UK at the time.

Kevin LaVoy said...

I like how they claim that the beers cause neither intoxication or drowsiness.

lager-frenzy.com said...

Ron, where did you get the reports? I've been looking for them for ages. Obviously in the wrong place...

Ron Pattinson said...

Lager, you can find them here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=nw9AAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA163&dq=%22anton+dreher%22+vienna&hl=en&ei=SibQS5_LNsPflgeZpqnpDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22anton%20dreher%22%20vienna&f=false