Monday, 8 December 2014

American bottom-fermenting styles in the 1930’s (part two)

We’re back again with the Wahls’ book from the 1930’s and its handy description of American styles of the day.

You may have heard of this style of Pale Lager from Central Europe:

“The Bohemian type of lager beer with a light yellow to greenish yellow color with pronounced hop flavor and bitter taste; the malt flavor in this beer is not pronounced; it is usually lively and sparkling; alcoholic content is 3.0 to 3.5 per cent by weight, from worts of about 12 per cent original extract; typical of Bohemian beer is the Pilsener from the city of Pilsen (Plzen) in Bohemia, and also the much favored mild American extra pale beers.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 151.

It’s clear that Pilsener didn’t have the dominant position it later acquired. Though I’ll warn again that the information looks a bit dated to me and doesn’t necessarily reflect the true situation in the late 1930’s.

 I don’t have any analyses of US Pilseners from the 1930’s, but I do have a few German and Czech ones:

German and Czech Pilsener in the 1930's
Year Brewer country Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation OG Plato ABW
1930 Pilsner Urquell Czech 1015.1 1049.8 0.69 4.46 68.71% 12.37 3.57
1935 Pilsner Urquell Czech 0.05 1013.8 1049.4 4.62 72.06% 12.28 3.69
1930 average of 12 samples Germany 1013.2 1051.5 0.65 4.93 73.34% 12.79 3.94
1930 strongest sample Germany 1017.6 1054.8 0.81 4.29 66.67% 13.56 3.43
1930 weakest sample Germany 1009.7 1049.6 0.59 5.10 79.58% 12.34 4.08
1935 Schultheiss Patzenhofer Germany 0.05 1009 1049.8 5.32 81.93% 12.38 4.26
"Van Brouwerij tot Bierglas" by F. Kurris, Doetinchem, 1948, pages 26-27
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

An OG of around 12º Plato doesn’t seem far off the mark, but the ABW does. 3.5% to 4% would appear more accurate. The “much favoured” comment implies that very pale and mild Lagers were very popular in the USA. Which, despite the inroads of IPA, is still the case.

Now it’s the turn of one of the early favourites of the bottom-fermenting world, Vienna Lager:

“The Vienna type of lager beer has less pronounced character than either Muenchener or Pilsener types. In point of color, hop and malt aroma, smooth and bitter taste, it takes a place between these two types; alcoholic content of about 3.5 to 3.75 per cent by weight, from worts of about 13 per cent original extract, so named from Vienna (Wien); the most representative product coming from Klein-Schwechat — a suburb of Vienna where Anton Dreher introduced ice cooling of cellars in 1845.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 151 - 152.

Not having any analyses, I can’t comment as to the accuracy of the gravity and ABW quoted. Though it would be hard to generalise in any case because a brewery like Schwechat produced a range of styles with differing strengths.

“The Dortmunder type of lager beer with a very light color like Pilsener from long grown low kiln dried malt; a strong, very pronounced hop flavor; highly and completely attenuated; alcoholic content about 4 to 4.5 per cent by weight, from worts usually of 14.5 per cent original extract; it originated in Dortmund, near the Rhine in Westphalia.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 152.

Let’s see how that stacks up with some real examples:

German Dortmunder Export in the 1930's
Year Brewer OG FG colour ABV App. Atten-uation OG Plato ABV ABW
1930 average of 14 samples 1054 1012.2 0.73 5.39 76.44% 13.37 5.39 4.31
1930 strongest sample 1057.16 1014.3 0.84 5.58 73.85% 14.11 5.58 4.47
1930 weakest sample 1051.21 1009.4 0.66 5.08 80.88% 12.71 5.08 4.06
"Van Brouwerij tot Bierglas" by F. Kurris, Doetinchem, 1948, pages 26-27

Once again, the gravity quoted is a bit too high – 13.5º Plato would seem more accurate – though the ABW is about spot on. The attenuation is pretty high, as the book says. Even higher than for Pilseners, which is surprising. Note the colour is pretty much the same as the Pilseners.

Now some other dark Bavarian styles:

“Nurnberger and Wurzburger beers are somewhat darker than Muenchener and slightly heavier brewed. Kulmbacher beer is very dark, almost black, and brewed to 16 per cent original extract with over 4.5 per cent alcohol by weight. Maerzen beer is brewed in November but comes out in March in the Lenten season.   Salvator beers are lighter in color than Muenchener but brewed as strong and stored for months.   Bock beer is somewhat stronger than Muenchener and comes out around Christmas and like Maerzen is given long storage. Its name is not derived from the horned Billy goat usually depicted on advertisement posters but from the brewery of Einbeck near Hamburg. The American lager beers are generally patterned after these typical German beers. The season for Bock beer in America is the month of March.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 152.

Great to have some more details of Kulmbacher. It sounds like a very dark Bock, based on that gravity.

I’m sure he’s wrong about Salvator. It definitely wasn’t a similar strength to ordinary Münchener and I doubt it was paler in colour, seeing as it had a similar grist but higher gravity. Why it’s not mentioned as being a kind of stronger Bock, I just don’t understand. And surely it was Salvator for Lent, not Märzen?

Finally, the USA’s own indigenous Lager style:

“California Steam Beer. This type of beer became popular in San Francisco. It is not a lager beer inasmuch as the brew is run directly from the fermenter into the trade packages (barrels). Krausen is then added to the beer in the trade package and the barrels are bunged and delivered to the taverns and placed on racks where fermentation is completed. At the time of kräusening isinglass is also added which aided in clarification during the short storage upon the tavern's racks. This beer is produced by bottom fermentation yeast and when drawn into the stein is very wild because of the high pressure developed in the barrel, the stein being nearly full with foam. This beer has been evidently brewed for this effect, the customers desiring this particular foamy character.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 152 - 153.

There are some handy details there. Racking directly from the fermenter into trade casks is definitely an unusual way to brew a bottom-fermenting beer. It sounds similar in some ways to the American “present use” Ales of the late 19th century which also had a lot of pressure in the trade cask. Kräusening and adding isinglass at the same time – it’s the sort of mix of British and German brewing practices you only really see in North America.

Next time it will be the turn of the top-fermenting styles.


Mike Austin said...

when you say "ABV" is it a typo? They seem to be quoting alcohol by weight.

Ron Pattinson said...


yes that should be ABW. I've changed it.