Sunday, 11 April 2010

Winterbier, Sommerbier (part two)

More 19th-century bottom-fermenting fun. Bet you're as excited as I am.

Let's kick off with a revealing table of hopping rates:


Hopping rate per 100 pounds of beer
place
beer
lbs hops
Munich
Sommerbier
4
Munich
Winterbier
2.3
Bamberg
Sommerbier
8
Bamberg
Winterbier
4.4
Kulmbach
Sommerbier
12
Kulmbach
Winterbier
4
Karlsruhe
Sommerbier
7
Karlsruhe
Winterbier
2.9
Bohemia
Sommerbier
3.3
Bohemia
Winterbier
2.2
Prague
Sommerbier
4.4
England
Porter
12
England
IPA
32
Scotland
Ale
12
Source:


Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für öffentliche Gesundheitspflege, Volume 2, 1870, page 276.

You're bound to have remarked that Sommerbier was always more heavily-hopped than Winterbier. That's logical. Sommerbier was stronger and had to last all through the warm summer months. But what I found most revealing was how much more hopped the British styles were. Very high hopping rates was, for the 19th century, one of its major distinguishing features.

Here's a description of the different types of beer in Germany around 1900:

"Apart from individual local beers, beer is classified as barley, wheat and rice beer, also Braunbier made from highly-kilned malt, Weissbier from lightly-kilned malt; depending on the quantity of hops you obtain Süßbier or Bitterbier, depending on the quantity of malt used for a certain quantity, einfaches Bier or Doppelbier, high-alcohol beers are called "dry" in contrast to those high in residual sugars, those with a low original gravity are called light beers, weak are those with little alcohol, strong those with much alcohol, and heavy those with a large amount of unfermented extract. Lagerbiers are Winterbier or Schenkbier, that is intended for early consumption, or Sommerbiers (Lagerbiers in the narrower sense) that are stored in special cellars until well into the summer and autumn. This difference was particularly true for Bavaria, as long as brewing only took place from October to April and from 1 hl of malt on average of 2.5 to 2.6 hl of Winterbier, but only 2 to 2.1 hl of Sommerbier was produced. The introduction of the refrigerator, which allows brewing in the summer, has blurred the differences more and more. The excellence of Bockbier is based on the same conditions as Märzenbier. Condensed beers with a sweet, liqueur-like taste are mainly prepared in London by evaporating high-gravity beer in a vacuum to around a fifth of its original volume."
"Meyers grosses Konversations-Lexikon, Volume 2", 1903, page 846.

Clearly artificial refrigeration was the beginning of the end for the distinction between Sommerbier and Winterbier. With year-round brewing, trhere was no longer a need to brew a beer designed to last the whole summer without spoiling.

Note also the distinction which still existed between Braunbier and Weissbier. It was all to do with how the malt was kilned, not which type of grain was used. A Weissbier could be brewed from either barley or wheat. I dread to think how often that word has been incorrectly translated. One reason I prefer  to use German-language sources for information about German beer.

Don't worry. There's plenty more on Sommerbier and Winterbier to come. I've been saving my very best tables until last. I just cait wait for tomorrow to come.

6 comments:

First Stater said...

These hopping rates seem a bit hinkey. With water at 8.35 pounds/US gallon there are around 8 gallons of beer. I'm sorry but 4 pounds of hops/gallon seems a bit high for an English IPA.

Jeff Renner said...

@ First Stater - It would be about 12 US gallons of beer per 100 pounds, not 8. But an imperial gallon weighs 10 pounds, so there would be 10 imperial gallons in 100 pounds.

Regardless, I agree with you that it seems impossibly high. A barrel of 36 gallons (360 pounds) would then have 115 pounds of hops.

Perhaps it's meant to be ounces of hops per 100 pounds of beer?

Gary Gillman said...

One thing I can't recall ever reading in the literature was a comparative view of the merits (palate) of the old summer and winter beer. Winter brew was produced and consumed relatively quickly, as most lager today. Was it viewed in the 1800's as inferior to long-matured lager? Or was the reverse perhaps true due to dangers of long storage in non-sterile environments without strict temperature control? Or was there no difference recognized between the two?

Does long cold storage truly "round out" a beer as is often (loosely?) said?

Gary

Barm said...

Pure speculation, but I'd think they were simply regarded as the way things were. Just like fruit and vegetables in season.

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, the beer was stored at a constant temperature. They took great care to keep their cellars cool. More about that in a later post.

When I've published more about the difference in brewing methods, see which you think was the higher-quality beer.

One thing that can't be argued about: Sommerbier was more expensive than Winterbier. So I would guess that would make people think it was better.

Barm said...

The hopping rates must have been so much lower because hops didn't grow in Bavaria or Bohemia.