Sunday, 16 September 2012

Germany and Free Trade

That title should have driven away most of my potential audience. Welcome unputoffables.

Gaining maximum hits isn't, as you might have guessed from the often wilfull obscurity of my topics, my prime motive for writing. I'm a selfish (as well as lazy) git. I write what I want to.

Getting back to the post, we're continuing our drunken stumble through the Bierhalle of the 1870's. This time in the capital of the new German Empire, Berlin.

As someone else recently wrote in a blog or newspaper (I can't remember, so why pretend?) English pubs have never been classless. At least not in the last 300 years. Whereas in 19th-century Germany they were. That's why British travellers go on about it so much. Because back home it was so different.

The way to read this article is to look at what the author highlights. It's what's different from back home.

BERLIN, Oct 9.
As I anticipated the opening of the Reichstag has now been fixed for the 16th. If the weather continue as it is at present, the streets of Berlin for the next week will present an unusually gay and lively aspect. The city is already filled with strangers, whose intention is to enjoy a regular Berlin season. Place-hunters from all parts of Germany are mixed up with them. I dare say they are reckoning without the host, for there is not as yet much money to be got out of the German Empire. The whole affair is an extremely sober one, what an Austrian, or a  Frenchman, or a Russian would call shabby. Germany has not become drunk with her victories, or if there be drunkenness, it arises from, lager-beer. That is the drink preferred even by Prince Bismarck himself. At his soiries, which are now to be resumed, little casks of lager-beer from Vienna are never missing. They are brought in after the champagne, and the beer is drawn from the tap as soon as the ladies have left, or even before. The Prince has only publicly sanctioned what was a habit, privately indulged in by gentlemen before. For in Berlin it had more and more become customary, with single men at least, to adjourn from evening parties to beer-houses, There are but few clubs at Berlin, the extremely democratic character of the town being opposed to exclusiveness. The better class of wine-houses and beer-houses take their place. There you may not rarely be taken aback at one o'clock at night by a rush into the room of swarms of young gentlemen in dress coats, white chokers, and varnished boots, who are continuing an animated conversation which was begun at some evening party, and is still carried on without much regard to the public character of the place. The lager-beer, in particular, must have attractions of its own, for it has now conquered even the ladies; I mean the ladies of the higher classes. Of this you may convince yourself any night after the performances at the threatres are over. Particularly in the Unter den Linden and round the Royal Theatre on the Schiller Platz the numerous better class beer-houses are rapidly filling with families; the ladies not seldom in evening dress - a strange sight.The style of life is getting more and more different from that of Paris, as well as from that, of London. It is more free and easy, and yet more modest and plain, than either. We must, however, wait to see to what all this will lead. Germans of more advanced years do not like the thing at all. They generally complain of conversation having become shallow and regret that the days are past when more intimate circles, shy of contact with others, celebrated the birthdays of the great German poets, or bad some private commemorative gathering, round the blue spirit-fed flame that heated the tea-urn."
London Daily News - Friday 13 October 1871, page 5.

The beer could well have been from Vienna. 1871 is early for Lager brewing around Berlin. Or the British writer could just be assuming Lager beer came from Vienna.

Ladies in evening dress drinking Lager. What was the world coming to?

I once did I runner from a posh restaurant next to the Opera on Unter den Linden. We'd waited ages for the bill. It was in the happy DDR days. The staff souldn't give a toss about collecting the money. It reminded me of early Seventies Britain. Brilliant if you didn't mind the lights being off half the day.


Martyn Cornell said...

Seems odd that Bismarck, who, after all, had led Prussia into war with Austria-Hungary only five years before, and who had just that year deliberately welded together a German reich that specifically excluded Austria, would drink beer from Vienna. He was famous, after all, for drinkin Black Velvet, either Guinness and chanpagne or Schwarzbier and champagne, depending on which source you want to trust.

Gary Gillman said...

The story of beer being consumed after Champagne provides both historical and a (German-American)cultural context for the pre-Prohibition Lowenbrau ad in America: "When you run out of Champagne, bring out the Lowenbrau".

As to what the Prince liked in matters of the malt, it could be one of those situations where a drink achieved early a pantheonic status which laid it exempt from national predelictions if not prejudices. Champagne indeed is like that and has been for a long time (and he is connected to Champagne too as Martyn said). The Beatles were like that in Communist Russia, etc.

The situation culturally wasn't the same, but nonetheless it is fair to note that porter did achieve a certain status or affection in upper-class English minds. There was that early 1800's Royal Visit to Whitbread for example (and more than one such Royal acknowledgement). Pamela Sambrook has shown that country house inventories regularly included supplies of London porter and she notes a "portering fatt" (vat) used in brewing operations in one such house circa-1700, before the first documented mention of porter in 1721. (This term may have nothing to do with porter as beer, but it is an area for exploration for those inclinced, IMO)


Matt said...

"As someone else recently wrote in a blog or newspaper (I can't remember, so why pretend?) English pubs have never been classless."

Might be this blog post of mine you're thinking of Ron.

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, that's it.

Sorry for not remembering whre I'd read it.