Wednesday, 31 December 2014

American beer styles of the 1930’s – Strong Pilsener

One of the unusual aspects of the Wahls beer classifications is the presence of two types of Pilsener: Mild and Strong.

The Strong Pilsener was, unsurprisingly brewed from a higher gravity.

Strong Pilsener Type Beer
Considerable beer is brewed in American breweries which is pale in color and high in alcohol and brewed with the expectation of predominating hop character. It is not possible to correctly brew this combination. An alcoholic content of 4% by weight which necessarily must be brewed with an original extract of over 13% introduces strong flavor qualities from the materials and particularly from the alcohol itself so that the flavor derived from the hops cannot predominate over these unless a very large quantity of hops per barrel are employed. This gives a beer too bitter for American taste. The amount of hops employed should be .7 pounds per barrel if the wort can be removed from the hops in less than one-half hour's time.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 170.”

There are a few contradictions in there. They seem to be saying that you can’t brew of this strength and get the right flavour profile. If you brewed it with normal American hopping, the malt and alcohol would dominate. If you hopped it heavily enough to have hops dominate, it was too bitter. For American tastes.

I was going to say that such beers wouldn’t be too bitter for modern America, but that isn’t really true. The majority of Americans still prefer their beer lightly hopped, as the sales of Budweiser attest.

“Many State laws distinguish between a low and high alcoholic beer which has caused a large proportion of the public to demand the high alcoholic variety. To meet this demand brewers are making this high alcoholic, so-called Pilsen, type of beer. (See analysis on Strong Pilsener Type Beer.)
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 170.”

So basically it was the piss-head public who forced brewers to make this type of beer. Too right. I’d always plump for the boozier option, too.

Here’s the analysis of Strong Pilsener mentioned in the text:

Reported by Wahl Institute, February 22, 1936
This beer is composed of the following substances, reported in percentages or pounds per hundred:
Alcohol (by weight) 4.19
Real extract (dry substance) 4.8
Carbonic acid 0.59
Water 90.42
The real extract (4.8) is made up of the following substances:
In Percentage of the beer In Percentage of the extract
Acid (lactic) 0.126 2.63
Acid salts 0.198 4.12
Protein 0.450 9.38
Ash 0.150 3.12
Sugar (reducing) 1.192 24.83
Dextrins 2.684 53.92
4.8 100
The following are important brewing figures:
Specific gravity of beer 1.012
Original balling of wort 13.18
Apparent extract of beer (balling) 3
Real attenuation 8.38
Fermentable sugar in the wort 9.57
Apparent attenuation 10.18
Alcohol (by volume) 5.24
Percent of extract fermented 63.6
Percent of extract unfermented 36.4
Percent of sugars in original wort 72.6
Percent of non-sugars in original wort 27.4
pH value 4.5
Total acidity 0.324
Carbonic acid by volumes 3
Amylo dextrins none
Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 175.

I make that 77% apparent attenuation, which is only a little more than in German and Bohemian Pilseners of the late 19th century.

I don’t quite have a recipe for this type, but I have once that’s close. It’s a Fidelio recipe from the early 1940’s.

Lager Beer Formula
300 barrels
12.5 Balling

Amount of materials required
11,152 lbs. Malt - 388 bushels
2,700 lbs. Common Grits - 27 Bags
805 lbs. Cream Halt Malt Syrup - 1 barrel
680 lbs. Corn Syrup - 1 barrel
150 lbs. Domestic Hops

2.700 lbs. Common Grits
1,496 lbs. Malt
56 bbls. Water 38°

Mash Tank
9,656 lbs. Malt or 284 bushels
66 Barrels Water at

1. Mash at 35°R. 5 minutes after all malt is down.
2. Rest mash 30 minutes at 35°R.
3. Raise mash slowly to 41°R. (Take 10 minutes use rake).
4.   Mash at 41°R. for 10 minutes.
5.   Raise from 41°R. to 54°R. in 10 minutes.
6.   Hash at 54ºR. for 15 minutes.
7.   Raise slowly mash from 54° to 59°R.
8.   Run 5 Barrels water; thru underlet.
9.   Rest 30 minutes at 58°R.
10.   Run to Kettle.

1,   Cooker Water       38ºR.
2.   Let malt in and mash at 58°R. for 15 minutes.
3.   Add common grits.
4. Raise Cooker Mash to 57°R. in 15 minutes and mash
   10 minutes at 670R.
5. Raise quickly to 80°R. and boil for 30 minutes.

Hops;      Use 150.lbs. of hops as follows:
40 lbs. when Kettle is full.
50 lbs.   45 minutes before striking out.
60 lbs.   20 minutes before striking out.
Add Cream Malt and Syrup in regular way.

Here’s some of that in table form:

Ingredients lbs %
Malt 11,152 72.71%
Common Grits 2,700 17.60%
Cream Halt Syrup 805 5.25%
Corn Syrup 680 4.43%
total 15,337

The malt percentage is 73%, a little more than the Wahls said. Note that in addition to the17% corn grits, the recipe also contains 10% sugar syrup.

The Réamur temperature scale that they're using has freezing at 0° and boiling at 80°.

Next we’ll be looking at darker Lagers.


Craig said...

The "Bushwick" pilsners may have fallen under the strong pilsner category. The nickname "Bushwhick" was a nod to Bushwhick Avenue in Brooklyn because Brooklyn was one of America's leading brewing centers into the 1950s, and home to Schaefer, Piels, and Liebman (and many others). Bushwhicks were fairly strong, with gravities between 1.045 and 1.050 and were quite heavily hopped.

Ben Jankowski wrote a pretty interesting article in “Brewing Techniques” about them in the mid 1990s.

A Brew Rat said...

What the heck is "cream halt syrup"?

Ron Pattinson said...

Brew Rat,

that shoulke be Malt Syrup.