Monday, 3 September 2012

The price of Vienna Beer

This is a follow-up to my post "How Lager Came to Britain". In the form of letters that were published as a response to the article I reproduced.

Two sellers of Vienna felt obliged to react to the claims about the bad value for money it represented.

First it's the turn of the owner of the Vienna Beer Saloon, one of the pubs mentioned in the original article:

Sir, - Would it be asking too much of your indulgence to crave permission for some remarks on your able article of this morning on the "Vienna Beer," the more so as the establishment at 395, Strand has been selected by your medical contemporary as the standard by which to judge the Austrian beers to be had on draught in the metropolis. I wish to confine my remarks to "Drehers Double Marzen Bier," because it is this article upon which we have pinned our faith. That to which we offer an unqualified contradiction is this, viz.: "That the Austrian beer now being sold in London is inferior in quality and unreasonably higher in price than the best kinds of the same article obtainable in Vienna or Pesth," and "that three times as much is charged per glass as a better description of the same article can be obtained for in Austria.' The So-called " Lager Beer" of Dreher's and others, now so largely translated into the American creed, is the sort of beer ordinarily consumed, and this is very cheap indeed, a goodly tumbler or goblet of it being sold at about two pence or seven kreuzers. Those, however, that ask for Marzen beer are the more hardened in the profession, and even they do seldom indulge in this stronger sort of ale more than twice a week. But this beer of Dreher's costs 10 kreuzers or even 12, according to where it is sold, which is equivalent to our twopence-halfpenny or threepence. We have sold nothing else than Dreher's extra double Marzen bier, which is even stronger than Marzen sold either at Vienna, Pesth, or anywhere else on the Continent. The second assertion, viz., as to price, seems formidable on the first blush, but we have no difficulty in disposing of it as soon as we point to what we said on the quality, and on the prices charged for Dreher's Marzen bier even in Vienna. Besides, experience shows every day that no man was ever begrudged a fair price by the British public for a genuine article. Surely your medical contemporary wouldn't have us sell the very best in London for the lowest price in Vienna. If we, however, sell our article too dear, we are confident that before long competition will do its task, but we will require even from competition to sell the same article cheaper than we do - I am, &c,,
One of the Proprietors of the Vienna Beer Saloon, 395 Strand. Jan 26.
London Daily News - Saturday 30 January 1869, page 6.

The point he's making is about the difference between Vienna Lagerbier and Vienna Märzen. He rcorrectly observed that comparing the price of Lagerbier in Vienna with Märzen in London isn't fair, as the latter is a more expensive beer.

Luckily I have the details of other beers from Schwechat (Dreher) and Liseing from just a year later:

Schwechat and Liesing beers
Year Brewer country Beer Style Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1869 Schwechat Austria Dreher's Beer Märzen 0.12 1019.76 1062.17 5.54 68.22%
1870 Schwechat Austria Lagerbier Lagerbier 0.13 1017.59 1053.494 6.3 4.65 65.96%
1870 Schwechat Austria Märzen Märzen 0.14 1016.91 1054.727 7.1 4.90 67.95%
1870 Schwechat Austria Export Export 0.13 1017.39 1052.603 6 4.56 65.80%
1870 Schwechat Austria Lagerbier Lager 1017.6 1052.6 4.53 66.54%
1869 Liesing Austria Liesing Beer Märzen 0.12 1019.11 1061.67 5.56 69.01%
1870 Liesing Austria Lagerbier Lagerbier 0.15 1017.91 1054.471 5.6 4.73 65.95%
1870 Liesing Austria Abzugsbier Abzugsbier 0.17 1016.2 1041.356 - 3.25 59.85%
1870 Liesing Austria Export Export 0.23 1025.59 1067.893 4 5.47 60.78%
British Medical Journal Jan 23rd 1869, page 84.
"Theory and Practice of the Preparation of Malt and the Fabrication of Beer" Julius E. Thausing, Anton Schwartz and A.H. Bauer, Philadelphia 1882, pages 748-751
"Bericht über die Entwickelung der chemischen Industrie während des letzten Jahrzehends" by August Wilhelm von Hofmann, 1877, page 382

The second letter also complains about the price comparison, but this time with regard to the extra costs involved in getting Vienna Beeer to London:

SIR, - May we request the favour of a small space to reply to the remerks in your journal of the 26th inst. upon A. Dreher's Vienna Beer. The writer in the British Medical Journal, from whom you quote, is probably not aware that a heavy duty is levied upon foreign beer, amounting to 7.5d. per gallon, whilst the cost of transport is considerably increased by the circumstance that, in order to maintain the low and uniform temperature which is essential to its good condition, it is necessary in summer time to convey the casks in railvay waggons, specially constructed and provided with ice, and in winter with non-conducting material. Another considerable item is the cost of ice-cellars and ice-safes, in which the casks are kept cool here. As regards its quality as compared with the beer consumed in Vienna or Pesth, we have to state that this is of a much lighter kind, extra strength being expressly given to beer intended for exportation.-We are, &c.,
ANDRES BROTHERS, 97, New Bond-street, Jan. 29.
London Daily News - Saturday 30 January 1869, page 6.
I'm sure it was expensive to ship Lager cooled all the way from Vienna. Wondering how expensive? I just happen to have a breakdown of the cost:

"Messrs. Loibl and Sonhammer have sent us the following particulars as to Vienna beer :- Price of a barrel of thirty-six gallons of beer in Vienna, 46s.; carriage to England, 26s. ; duty, 24s. ; return of cask, which is of a kind that cannot be used here, 7s. 6d. So that a barrel of thirty-six gallons of Vienna beer costs the English importer no less than £5 6s. 6d. "
Pall Mall Gazette - Thursday 28 January 1869, page 5.
£5 6s. 6d is 106s 6d. Which is almost exactly treble the cost of a 36 gallon barrel of Mild Ale, which was 36s. Mild Ale sold for 2d a pint and Vienna Beer 6d a pint. It looks to me as if the price was fair. The transport was indeed very expensive, even more than the duty.

Amazing what you can find in the newspaper archives.


Jeff Renner said...

Ron - could you post images of your wonderful tables? I'm traveling (In the UK) with only an iPad and they're cut off. Thanks.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, sorry about that. I usually remember to add the image.