Monday, 4 November 2013

American brewers lead the way

I bet that title surprised you. Except I'm not talking about today, but more than 100 years ago.

I've written before about the exchange of ideas, styles and techniques between the USA and Britain. It's a fascinating topic and one that has been much neglected. Ask yourself this, how was it that American breweries came to brew IPA? The name didn't exist at the time of independence. It's a sign that developments in brewing in Britain were still having an impact in the USA more than 50 years after it became a separate country.

By the end of the 19th century, the traffic was mostly the other way, with American brewers pioneering new techniques. One in particular was to have an enormous impact on British brewing: chilled and carbonated bottles beers. We'll be getting to that in a while. The article in the Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing I found when looking for stuff on bottling contains more. Much more. It's essentially a snapshot of American brewing techniques in the 1890's. And because we're seeing it through the eyes of outsiders - a British brewer Horace Brown on a study trip - everything gets explained. Including the stuff that would have seemed self-evident to an American brewer.

Brown seemed quite impressed by his American colleagues:

"The Americans are essentially a practical nation, and, as a rule, trouble themselves far too little about first principles, bat they make up for these deficiencies to some extent by their willingness to make experiments on a large scale, by the fearless manner in which they attack new problems, and by the entire absence of that extreme conservatism which generally characterises the pure empiricist in all the older countries.

In the mechanical arrangements of their breweries, and in the introduction of the best labour-saving machinery and appliances, the Americans are unquestionably far ahead of us, and the remarkably ready manner in which they can adapt their processes to the changing requirements of a community must strike all who have seen anything of their manufactories, a great contrast to the painful slowness with which any new idea is turned to practical account with us.
"Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing", Volume 3, Issue 6, November-December 1897, page 468.

A British brewer going to study developments abroad wouldn't have happened in the first half of the 19th century. Then the traffic was the other way around, with Continental brewers like Dreher and Sedlmayr visiting Britain to catch up with the latest advances. There seems to have been a big change towards the end of the century. British brewers became very conservative and set in their ways, where a few decades previously they had led the world. Though I suppose the same is true for many other industries.

Brown continues with a description of the types of beer brewed in the USA:

"Broadly speaking, there are two great classes of beer brewed in the United States, "lager" and "ale." The "ale," as with us, is the product of a top fermentation, and although it is almost unknown in the West, where lager has undivided sway, it still holds its own in the New England States, and far from being played out, as some would have us believe, will probably receive a stimulus from the improved methods of manufacture now coming in, which will enable it to enter into competition with lager, even in the West, that stronghold of the low fermentation beer."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 3, Issue 6, November-December 1897, page 468.

Lager's domination of the West is what I would have expected, but it's nice to have it confirmed. Those "improved methods of manufacture" were mostly the adoption of Lager-brewing techniques.

Brown then goes into greater detail on the types of Ale brewed:

"Up to recently, the ale brewers produced only about three qualities of ale, one, which we should call a "running ale," but which is there known as "present use" or "lively ale;" a so-called "still ale;" and a "stock ale." By far the greatest amount of trade was, and in fact still is, done in the "present use" or "lively ale." This is of a gravity varying from 21 to 24 lbs. Long, and is brewed very much on the lines of an English running ale, but since they require in America an extremely high state of condition, it is racked at about one-third of the O.G., and is generally primed or "kräusened" heavily, and stored for about a week at 60º F. the krausening consists in adding up to 20 or 25 per cent, of fermenting wort, with the object of producing a very vigorous after-fermentation, which must be sufficient to develop a cask pressure of from 80 to 100 lbs. on the square inch. This pressure of from 5.5 to 6.5 atmospheres of course necessitates extremely strong casks, and is sufficient to force the beer from the basement cellar to the saloon bar, which may be several stories above, and to completely empty the cask without any artificial aid in the way of pumping or air pressure. Such beers, as may be well imagined, are seldom quite bright when treated in this way, but they carry an enormous "head," without which they appear to be quite unsaleable.

The so-called "still ales" are brewed very much on the same lines as the "lively ales," but are attenuated somewhat lower, and as they are not kräusened they only acquire an amount of condition about equal to the most lively beers of this country. The stock ales are of higher gravity, and are matured in the cask for from 9 to 12 months; they very much resemble some of our English stock ales."
"Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing", Volume 3, Issue 6, November-December 1897, pages 468 - 469.

"Present use" is a term that was also used in Britain, though it's more common early in the century. Basically, it was the equivalent of Mild Ale, though with a particularly American twist. 21 to 24 lbs. Long is 1058 - 1067. That's a little higher than English X Ales of the time, as you can see from the table below. They were in the range 1050 - 1058.

English X Ales 1894 - 1900
Date Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl Pitch temp
29th Jul 1897 Whitbread X 1058.2 1013.0 5.98 77.65% 8.20 2.04 60º
29th Jul 1897 Whitbread XK 1064.3 1016.0 6.38 75.10% 8.20 2.26 59º
24th Dec 1891 Barclay Perkins X 1058.0 1015.8 5.58 72.78% 5.93 1.45 61º
5th Jun 1900 Barclay Perkins X 1052.8 1010.0 5.67 81.11% 8.01 1.75 61º
23rd Jul 1897 Fullers X 1050.4 1013.9 4.84 72.53% 6.62 1.43 59º
7th Jul 1894 Truman X Ale 1056.5 9.0 2.19 60º
Fullers brewing records held at the brewery.
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/063.
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/1/587 and ACC/2305/1/593.
Truman brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/175.

I'd noticed kräusening in the records of Amsdell, a brewer in Albany, New York. I'd wondered why they'd adopted such a typical Lager technique for the brewing of their Ales. This explains it: they wanted a huge amount of CO2 in the beer. I assume that this method was replaced by simple external CO2 pressure. Having that much pressure in casks sounds scary. I guess they must have pitched the inside to make them airtight. Otherwise the pressure would just leak out.

I just happen to have details of Amsdell's kräusening:

Amsdell kräusening details
date year gyle number beer barrels C removed kräusen added when kräusen  added added at racking barrels racked when racked date year gyle number beer kräusen removed
1st Oct 1900 56 XX 167 46 11th Oct 7 204 12th Oct 11th Oct 1900 58 Winter Stock 46
9th Oct 1900 57 XX 169 27 49 12th Oct 7 196 13th Oct 12th Oct 1900 59 Scotch 49
11th Oct 1900 58 Winter Stock 260 46 0 0 235 3rd June
12th Oct 1900 59 Scotch 249 49 59 16th Oct 7 261 17th Oct 16th Oct 1900 61 XX 59
15th Oct 1900 60 XX 162 57 18th Oct 8 222 19th Oct 18th Oct 1900 62 Polar
16th Oct 1900 61 XX 209 59 49 19th Oct 8 191 20th Oct 19th Oct 1900 63 XX 49
18th Oct 1900 62 Polar 209 57 0 0 159 5th - 15th Nov
19th Oct 1900 63 XX 352 49 104 23nd Oct 8 403 25th Oct 23nd Oct 1900 65 XX 104
22nd Oct 1900 64 XX 191 0 62 25th Oct 8 178 26th Oct 25th Oct 1900 66 Winter XX 62
23nd Oct 1900 65 XX 356 104 70 26th Oct 7 330 27th Oct 26th Oct 1900 67 Scotch 70
25th Oct 1900 66 Winter XX 392 62 101 29th Oct 8 392 30th Oct 29th Oct 1900 68 XX 101
26th Oct 1900 67 Scotch 255 70 66 30th Oct 8 256 31st Oct 30th Oct 1900 69 XX 66
29th Oct 1900 68 XX 282 101 58 1st Nov 8 226 2nd Nov 1st Nov 1900 70 XX 58
30th Oct 1900 69 XX 368 66 97 2nd Nov 8 394 3rd Nov 2nd Nov 1900 71 Polar 97
1st Nov 1900 70 XX 389 58 103 5th Nov 8 399 6th Nov 5th Nov 1900 72 XX 103
2nd Nov 1900 71 Polar 305 97 0 0 189 19th - 27th Nov
5th Nov 1900 72 XX 265 103 60 8 233 9th Nov 1900 74 Winter XX 60
Amsdell brewing records.

And here are some of those figures re-arranged to show the percentage of kräusen added:

barrels kräusen removed kräusen added % kräusen
167 46 27.54%
169 27 49 28.99%
260 46 0 0.00%
249 49 59 23.69%
162 57 35.19%
209 59 49 23.44%
209 57 0 0.00%
352 49 104 29.55%
191 0 62 32.46%
356 104 70 19.66%
392 62 101 25.77%
255 70 66 25.88%
282 101 58 20.57%
368 66 97 26.36%
389 58 103 26.48%
305 97 0 0.00%
265 103 60 22.64%
Amsdell brewing records.

It's funny that the "Still Ales" had condition equal to the liveliest English Ales. That gives some ides of how fizzy the "Lively Ale" was. I suppose this was a reaction to the greater CO2 content of Lager. I'd love to know when Ale brewers started kräusening. Probably when Lager became popular.

It sounds as if the Stock Ales were the most similar to their English counterparts. 9 to 12 months in cask is pretty impressive. Though I know, for example, Ballantine, a famous Ale-brewer in Newark, New Jersey, were still bulk ageing beer long after the repeal of prohibition.

Next time we'll be looking and chilling and filtering beer.


Phil said...

sufficient to force the beer from the basement cellar to the saloon bar

It's... Real Keg! Those wacky Americans. Sounds almost as if they'd lost the knack of cellaring beer in casks & invented top pressure to substitute.

Gray Gillman said...

Ron, when you posted some time ago the fact of the Institute's publication history becoming available I trawled through the issues for a week. This article made the most impression on me, for many of the reasons you indicated.

I understand you will be in New York at some point soon. When you do, you must visit McSorley's, a storied tavern on 7th Street in the East Village. The founding predates by decades even Horace's visit. You will see on the backbar a row of long-disused hand pulls. These have been there since the 1800's (a worker there told me) and surely pulled at one time the non-fizzy present-use beer noted by Horace.

This style almost completely disappeared some years later and was brought back by American craft brewers in the 1980's.

Even the regular beer at McSorley has a flavour of what Horace is talking about, it is fizzy light and dark beer (only two kinds), it's been made at different breweries over the years, is more commercial than craft in style, and is served in small glasses half-filled with foam. This is the older style of drinking with the huge head that was probably German-influenced. The idea is to knock back more than one and you order them by the two. ("A light and dark, please").

There are a number of succeeding articles in the Journal chronicling similar visits and always the tone is respectful if not admiring.

With respect to stock beer: aging continued to be afforded some top-fermented beers but it was aged cold and often filtered first. In a word, all the old techniques were slowly lost until you were left with one or two beers that were still recognizably ale by the 1970's but in a much-attenuated form (I am using this term in a non-brewing sense).

The Ballantine beers fit this category, also, Lord Chesterfield's Ale, still made by Yuengling, and perhaps a beer or two from Genessee Brewing in Rochester, NY. It all slowly tailed down in character until the dawn of the craft brewing era. Ballantine India Pale Ale was the very last beer which had any real connection to what Horace was talking about in terms of stocked beers.

Finally, the English influence continued through the 1800's simply from people arriving in America to brew, e.g. the first Ballantine who was a Scot, and also, the continuing interchange of ideas in the Anglo-American world. America is a product of England, primarily, in its origins and the English language and common cultural heritage were and are a powerful unifying force. Indeed old England helped create American craft beer - it was certainly the driving force. What people call "IPA" today, meaning a malty strong beer with a potent American hops taste, was created in an attempt to do homage to English pale ale. There are no two ways about it.


Jeff Alworth said...

I own a great history of brewing in the Pacific Northwest put together by a husband-wife team who combed newspapers and public records throughout the region beginning in the 1840s and going through the next 150 years. That corresponds mainly to the arrival of Euro-Americans and therefore brewing. Nearly all the breweries formed before Prohibition--many lasted less than five years--were lager breweries, and nearly all of those were German-owned. There were two references, if memory serves, to ale breweries in Oregon--short-lived, forgotten.

It doesn't capture all of the Western US but is, I suspect, quite typical.

Craig said...

Is this it a total coincidence that you posted this today? It's just a mere two days after the tapping of the Albany Ale Project's cask of 1901 Albany Ale, a brew that just happen to be based on a 1901 recipe of Amsdell's Albany XX Ale? A brew that I might add was also kräusened—then and today!

I might add, though, that the technique of kräusening may have also had something to do with, not necessarily with the beer itself, but rather with who was brewing the beer.

Most of the breweries in Albany, like Amsdell, were—historically—British-style ale breweries, even at the turn-of-the-20th century. Albany is a bit unique in this aspect. Most cities in the U.S. at this time, and not just in the West, had far more and larger lager breweries than ale breweries. It was quite the opposite in Albany. While men like Aldophus Busch were opening lager breweries in the mid-west during the 1850s, Albany's Ale breweries were already quite large. By the mid-1880s, the largest lager brewery in Albany only made about 35,000 bbls/year, while the largest ale breweries made closer to 100,000. When the mass exodus from Central Europe began in the 1870s through about 1900 many of the experienced German brewers who came to Albany, found themselves working not at lager breweries but those who made ale.

Lager, in unto itself, didn't kill ale in Albany like it did in many place in the U.S. What lager did do was change how ale was brewed.

Carl Miller said...

Hey Ron -- This is great. Thanks. For context, it might help to acknowledge something that Brown may not have known: Right at this time (mid- to late-1890s) U.S. ale brewers were in the midst of making a concerted effort to rekindle a strong ale market in America. The feeling was that they needed to create an almost new type of ale -- what came to be called "sparkling ale" mostly, but also went by different names, such as cream ale (though that name had been floating about since the early 1800s). It was, of course, designed to compete with the Pilseners which had pretty much stolen the beer market here since the 1880s onward. Hence krausening, filtering, carbonation. It was a confluence of tastes, markets and technologies. And it worked! Brewers repoprted that ale sales rose once sparkling ale hit the market. Incidentally, many east coast brewers made both ale and lager by the late 1890s, and some of them krausened their ale with lager krausen. Hence the decsription of "cream ale" by some as a hybrid style.

Gary Gillman said...

Ah Jeff but let's not forget the great Rainier Ale aka The Green Death, or it was great at one time, or it was 7% ABV anyway. :)


Ron Pattinson said...


I'd like to say it was deliberate, but it wasn't. I'd been meaning to publish this for some time, but had got hung up on bottling. It's brilliant to see how brewing in the US differed.

Barbarrick said...

Ron, I think that this "brewer Horace Brown" and the great Worthington brewing chemist Horace Tabberer Brown were one and the same.

Gary Gillman said...

That was a very interesting comment from Carl Miller - where do I know that name from, long-time U.S. beer writer maybe? - about using lager krausen to impart high condition in ale brewing. That may be the answer to the long-held puzzle (for me) as to why I read for years that some cream ale was simply a blend of ale and lager. Yet, in reading countless descriptions of brewing processes in numerous eras, I never read that finished lager and ale were combined as such. This may be the key to the puzzle. Yet, why use lager krausen and not that of the same ale...? Can it be simply that capacity ruled this out, i.e., those who did this brewed much more lager than ale? Or somehow perhaps the lager krausen was more effective?


Ron Pattinson said...


very interesting. I find the misture of Ale and Lager brewing techniques fascinating.

I was going to say that I knew of no brewery in the UK that kräusened, but of course Guinness did with their "headings".

Ron Pattinson said...


as his name is given as Horace T. Brown in the article, I think it's certain that's who the author was.

It one of the things I love about the Journal - they had the top brewing scientists of the day writing for them.

Carl Miller said...

Yeah, there's something about the idea of kausening ale with a lager krausen that is really intriguing -- not just from the point of view of the process, but also from the aspect that the goal must have ben to create a more lager-like ale -- or so I always assumed. I hadn't thought of Gary's point. That makes sense. If you're lager-to-ale output was say 4 batches to one, perhaps there just wasn't any ale in krausen stage available when you're ale was in conditioning. Or, maybe there was some other practical reason. Somewhere I have an article that talks about sparkling ales in depth, and I think it might be discussed in there. Anyway, Robert Wahl in Chicago, for one, did not favor the method. He wrote in the American Handybook in 1901, "more recently the American brewers are equipping their plants with refrigerating machines to brew a beer -- brilliant or sparkling ale -- that combines the properties of lager beer and ale, i.e., a sparkling, brilliant beer with an ale taste and aroma....Krausening with lager beer krausen cannot be recommended, as the character of the product then approaches too much that of lager." But maybe that was the whole point.