Sunday, 6 July 2014

Vienna Beer swindle

More about exotic Vienna Beer. And just how bad value it was.

And how those evil teetotal bastards were helping those nasty foreign German brewers. It seems to have somehow escaped the author that Vienna is in Austria.

The truth of the adage that "it is an ill wind which blows nobody good" is certainly illustrated in connection with the controversy upon beer adulteration, which has now been going on for some time past. The good has, unwittingly we presume, been done for the foreign brewers. We say unwittingly, because we cannot, says the Commercial Review, believe that the teetotal drink makers had an idea of assisting the consumption of foreign beer in this country when they attacked the production of Burton-on-Trent. Whatever their intention may have been, one thing is more than certain, which is that what they have done has already been the very making of the German brewers, not only in this country, but in our colonies also. Nothing could have happened better for them. They had long and industriously worked to bring their production into general favour with the British public without meeting with any marked success, but at last fortune smiled upon them in a most unexpected way. The opportunity offered, and, with the natural characteristic of the Fatherland, it was readily taken advantage of. While the little pot-and-kettle fight was going on in the columns of our daily press the Teuton was industriously at work. Many persons have given up drinking our "bitter" and taken to Vienna beer instead, but they have certainly not taken to aerated waters, as we presume was fondly hoped for by the originators of the fight, who have only succeeded in, while mauling others, getting very considerably mauled themselves. If we were to enquire fully into the component parts of all that we now eat and drink we are afraid that many things would fall out if favour with us. Perhaps if it were more generally known that soda-water is made from ordinary washing soda, fewer people would take that particular beverage than do at the present time. For ourselves we think that so long as a thing is not injurious to health, and is pleasant to take, we ought not to trouble ourselves about what it is made of. It seems to be quite a settled thing with many - who know nothing at all about the matter - that English beer is simply bad. Whether the German beer is good or not they of course do not know, but they have settled it that it is good, and take it accordingly. The trade which the German brewers are now doing here must be enormous. You can scarcely find a restaurant where Vienna beer does not make a prominent show upon the tables that used to be solely occupied by Bass and Allsopp, or other well-known English beer. The English brewers have themselves much to blame for this, for some of them have undoubtedly been turning out very inferior beer for some time past. With regard to the character of German beer, the general remark that is heard in favour of it is that it is so "nice and light;" but if our English brewers were to produce a very light beer nobody would have it. Many would call it beer and water, or small beer, perhaps "swipes" or some other uncomplimentary name; but such is human nature, particularly English nature. We believe that it will not be a very difficult matter for the English brewers to regain their lost ground, or at least some of it, but they must be up and doing at once. The Germans will not stop still; they are displaying a vast amount of energy and perseverance, and bribery also, to get their beer about everywhere. We believe that it is at present an enormously inflated trade, and that the mania for German beer-drinking is only a novelty which will wear off. The price which the public is charged for it, considering what it is - namely, small beer, is outrageous. The measures which it is retailed in are a gross swindle, and for that alone it ought not to be encouraged. But this is only the beginning. They will no doubt presently come to the same thing as the large coffee-cups now used in many foreign restaurants, which, although apparently full-size cups, really hold only about one-third of what such size cups should contain. True that the Vienna beer measures are not stated to hold pints and half-pints, but they are made to outwardly represent fully twice as much as they actually contain. We are aware that English beer may be and is retailed in some bars in glasses that do not contain any regulation measure, but those glasses are not to be compared for unfairness with the Vienna beer glasses. For the introduction of deceptive glasses into England we are indebted to the industrious foreigner. They were first introduced here by the ice-cream vendors, and, be it said to many an Englishman's discredit, the bad example was readily followed by them, and is kept up at the present time. We are sorry to have to believe that the large profit made upon the sale of this foreign beer is the great inducement for Englishman to sell it. Whether the present state of things will continue or not lies with the public and the English brewing trade. We confess ourselves to be in favour of good English beer, and we sincerely hope that we shall always be able to get it.
Birmingham Daily Post - Wednesday 26 December 1883, page 7.

Expensive, served in deceptively small measures, CO2 dispensed? It's reminding me awfully of something today. What could it be?

I thought there were rules about what measures beer could be served in? This is what the 1872 Finance Act says on the topic:

"8. Every person shall sell all intoxicating liquor which is sold by retail and not in cask or bottle, and is not sold in a quantity less than half a pint, in measures marked according to the imperial standards.

Every person who acts or suffers any person under his control or in his employment to act in contravention of this section shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding, for the first offence ten pounds, and not exceeding for any subsequent offence twenty pounds, and shall also be liable to forfeit the illegal measure in which the liquor was sold."

Any measure greater than a half pint had to be sold by Imperial measure. That doesn't sound like what was happening in this case.

British brewers were capable of brewing and did brew nice light beers. In fact their ability to do so is often quoted as one of the reasons Lager failed to catch on in Britain. British brewers made light Ales - especially in bottled form - with similar characteristics to Lager. That's what many Light Dinner Ales of Luncheon Ales were.

Of course, foreign Lager didn't capture British drinkers' affections for many decades. What happened in the 1880's really was a passing fad. Though small quantities of Lager did continued to be sold, both imported and domestically brewed, until Lager took off at the end of the 1950's.


Ron Piskel said...

I found it interesting that the teatotaler movement would try to use lager as a means of drawing people away from alcoholic drinks. Do you have a comparison of the ABV of the imported lagers vs domestic ale of the time?

J. Karanka said...

Hah, I never was that interested about Vienna lager till now. It sounds like it was all the rage for twenty years and then completely disappeared. Have you found many recipes for early British lagers? Allsops Munich sounds brilliant!