Thursday, 13 September 2012

Vienna Beer and the Franco-Prussian War

Vienna Beer yet again. This time we've moved on to 1871 and the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. A war that the Prussiians won 5-0. It was all over before half time.

Here's a strange effect of the war: German officers visiting London. Why? I guess because they were hanging around in Northern France. The Prussians occupies a big chunk of northern France while they were waiting for the French to pay reparations.

"Since the French war the Germans have proved capable of joking, and as regards England, a large number of their military have taken to peregrinating. The phenomena are not to be disregarded, for while a jocular son of the Vaterland was, hitherto, a curiosity, a travelled Teuton was scarcely to be found. London has now a number of German military visitors, it appears. The following is a copy of a programme which a German officer produced the other day on his arrival, as furnished to him by a brother officer who had returned to Rouen full of experience of the objects of interest London presents .— 1st, Madame Tussaud's ; 2nd, Westminster Abbey ; 3rd, The Alhambra ; 4th, Greenwich and Woolwich ; 5th, the Morning Guard Mounting at the Horse Guards ; 6th, the Park, "to see the Dames ;" 7th, the German Turnverein; 8th, the Opera; 9th, the Tower ("note the Armoury"); 10th. the Albert Hall and International Exhibition ("note the munitions of war"); 11th, the Royal Academy ; 12th, a volunteer regiment ; 13th, the Docks ; 14th, the Holborn National Assembly Rooms ; 15th, Vienna Beer. Most of these places, we suppose, would furnish good strategic points, in case of a London occupation. Let the Horse Guards look to it. The House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and the West End generally, are, according to the programme, not worth seeing.
Huddersfield Chronicle - Saturday 20 May 1871, page 9.
Madame Tussaud's London's number one attraction? I've never understood why anyone would want to look at wax models. Especially if you have to pay money for the privilege. I'd have put Vienna beer much higher up the list. Right after London Porter, Stout, Mild, Burton and Pale Ale.

Meanwhile back in Paris the French were trying to put the disaster of the war behind them with a fancy parade:

"THE GREAT REVIEW OF FRENCH TROOPS. — The Paris correspondent of the Daily News writes :— People went away weary with the review. Many of them left their places during the hours of marching, and strolled about behind the tribunes on the green, where the horses are walked when there is a race. Or they escorted ladies to places of refreshment, where the prices were monstrous. The refreshment stalls were let to a man with a well known name, Rouze. He was well known at the Exhibition of 1867 ; he has been burnt out in the Rue Royale, opposite the Madeleine ; and he has taken to exorbitant prices after having started years ago in a profession of cheapness. A water-ice which would be cold — just as good — in the streets of London for a penny, was sold at his oounter for a shilling. A bock of Vienna beer, which in the Quartier Latin the cafes sell for 25 centimes at a good profit — and which on the Boulevards is sold for 40 centimes at a prodigious advantage, something like cent. per cent, he offered to the world for a franc. What has this Rouze done that he should be so favoured? Why should the Government, because it holds a review at Longchamps, say to Rouze of all men, "Rouze, we love you — and we give you authority to pillage the people of Paris, by refusing to let them have a glass of beer unless they pay for it five times what it cost you. Rouze, take your money, and be of good cheer." It is possible that Rouze had his place in the plans of the Government. The review was dull  — the people were driven to the baok of the stand to try Rouze. But Rouze was dear — and drove them back again to see the dull review, in which I must signalise the presence of an English officer, who was much stared at on account of his scarlet uniform. He did not belong to the army. He belonged to some militia or volunteer regiment— I am not learned enough to say which, and I felt too much antipathy to him to care to go and ask him. But the French took him for some general officer at tbe least, and thought that perhaps they would one day have to fight the brave fellow who had come there in his scarlet trappings to make the Gaul tremble and wonder. On the whole the military spectacle was not such as need excite the fears of Europe. It did not inspire the French with any war-like ardour. The whole meaning of the spectacle was to be seen in Isabelle — the fair Isabelle. There was she — the flower girl — radiant as ever, and her hand full of buds and blossoms for your choice. The only difference was that, instead of racing colours, she sported a bit of tricolour. When you saw Isabelle there you knew that the review was no more than a race, and you hoped that the sightseers were pleased with the sport."
Sheffield Independent - Monday 03 July 1871, page 3.

Rip-off caterting concessions are clearly nothing new. Thena again, what is? Microchip technology. They didn't have that in the 19th century.

It's good to learn that the pubs on the posh boulevards were dearer in the past. Just like they are today. I wonder if Parisians were as miserable a bunch back then, too?


Matt said...

It's hard to overestimate the effect of the Franco-Prussian War on subsequent European history, leading as it did to the German Empire and two World Wars.

The name "Franco-Prussian" also makes it easy to overlook the other German states that fought. I was a bit surprised when I went to Forchheim in July to see the memorial between the railway station and the Altstadt to "those who fell in the War of 1870".

Craig said...

I—although I have no hard evidence of this—have felt for a while that lager-drinking Germanic refugees fleeing Europe for America before and during the Franco-Prussian War, helped to fill a gap created by the loss of predominantly ale drinking, Anglo-Celtic men during the American Civil War. 1870 is just at the start of American-lager's rise in popularity. In Albany, first came a few Weiss beer makers in the late 1860s, but by the 1870s, lager breweries really begin to pop up. Less ale drinkers, more lager drinkers—it might not be the sole reason, but I think it may have contributed

Ed said...

I believe that war spurred Louis Pasteur on to his 'Studies in Beer' as his way of revenge, so the French could make top quality beer and stop importing German.

Ron Pattinson said...

Craig, 1870 is also the beginning of artificial refrigeration. I think that played a part, too.

Where did the German immigrants come from? Bottom-fermentation hadn't taken over Germany completely by 1870. Though it was seen as aposh drink, so aspirational immigrants might well have preferred it.

Ron Pattinson said...

Ed, that's true. A weird reason for a scientific study.

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, indeed. The war was the source of Franco-German tension for 75 years.

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, liked your post on Hillsborough, too. Some of my family were there, in the Forest end. It was traumatic enough for them, but still nothing compared to the experience of Liverpool fans.

Gary Gillman said...

One of the great puzzles of historical beer studies IMO is why the British, who by 1870 knew how to brew expertly and in quantity, were so respectful of the new lager, Viennese and other. By British (often English) I mean, brewing scientists, brewing authors and numerous others including many observers on foreign soil.

Why, in a period of British expansionism and the attendant confidence, would this diffidence be shown to the native product, whose variety and quality was undoubted as indeed attested by foreign observers in turn? (I suppose ironically, including some of the same people who led the lager revolution in Germany and Austro-Hungary).

What is wrong with more alcohol, less absorbed CO2 and better price? What is wrong with hops that don't have a "garlic flavour" (noted by at least one knowledgeable observer in this period)? What is wrong with beer made in a way to take on little if any cask wood taste and in particular to be free of the "pitch" taste so many noted in the foreign product (from the brewers' pitch with which the barrels were lined to retard spoilage)?

I can't believe British beer, by then mostly a running-type beer, was half of it sour or otherwise undrinkable. If one house got a bad reputation, you would go to the house round the corner.

In one sense, Britain did retain the old confidence, via the people who drank the stuff, since lager consumption was minimal per capita until the later 1960's and 1970's. But why were their "leaders" in matters of beer and brewing so reticent to vaunt the local product in the face of the new challenge?

The lure of the foreign, the new, can only be part of it. The technology with which industrialized lager brewing festooned itself was probably part of it, as technology tends to dazzle, then and now. Still, British observers might have had the confidence to point out that fancy plant and gleaming steel doesn't always produce the best taste.

Could it be that most technically trained observers in Britain didn't really like the taste of genuine top-fermented English beer? The people did, because they hung on to it for another 100 years, but perhaps those who made the product or advised on how to do so were less confident that beer "should" taste like this. I don't know, but this recent series of accounts of how Vienna beer was received so well with attendant local efforts to make something similar has prompted this thought after weeks of reflection.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I doubt British beer had any wood taste. They specifically tried to avoid that.