Wednesday 25 February 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1911 Heineken (Rotterdam) Gerste

Look at this. A Let's Brew Wednesday on . . . . a Wednesday.

This is another recipe I've knacked together for another project. Why waste it? Even though I doubt many of you will ever brew such a deeply unfashionable beer as this. Despite it being an extinct style. Doubtless peach and coffee infused versions will be appearing soon "inspired by" Gerste.

Who am I kidding? This beer ticks all the wrong boxes. Not that strong. Dark. Lightly hopped.

Gerste is an oddball beer from the early days of bottom-fermentation in Holland. It was originally a top-fermenting style, but Heineken used the name for a cheap and cheerful type of Dark Lager. It was incredibly popular. There's a fair amount of sour grapes in how Baartz, of rival Oranjeboom in Rotterdam, described Gerstebier in 1884:

"although a bottom-fermented beer, it is of a low gravity and not lagered, and is a beer quick to make for a significantly lower price" ("een weliswaar ondergistend bier, maar van licht gehalte en geen Lagerbier, maar een bier van snelle confectie en tot belangrijk lager prijs").
"Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948", by H. A. Korthals, 1948, page 96.

Bottom-fermented, but not really a Lager. Presumably that's how Heineken could bang it out on the cheap. This shows you how much cheaper:

Heineken retail prices in 1895
Beer per bottle (cents)
Export 20
Münchener 20
Pilsener 18
Gerste 12
Tafelbier 9
Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad 22nd February 1895, page 4.

It's only when you look at the specs of the beers that you realise how good value Gerste was:

Heineken Rotterdam beers in 1911
Bier OG Balling FG Balling app. degree attenuation % ABV Colour kg hop/hl
Pils 13.2 4.15 68.56% 4.8 6 0.2
Lager 9.8 3.3 66.33% 3.4 9 0.16
Gerste 12 5 58.33% 3.7 13.5 0.18
Beiersch 13.1 5.3 59.54% 4.2 13 0.18
Bok 16.7 7.5 55.09% 5 14 0.2
Heineken brewing record held at the Amsterdam Stadsarchief, document number 834-1752.

Not not that much lower in ABV than Beiersch, but less than half the price. The obvious choice for the cost-conscious boozer. Which is reflected in the sales figures:

Heineken Rotterdam production by type in 1911
type no. of brews size of brew (HL) total amount % of total
Lager 226 270 61,020 36.13%
Gerste 356 220 78,320 46.37%
Beiersch 28 200 5,600 3.32%
Pils 107 200 21,400 12.67%
Bok 17 150 2,550 1.51%
total 734 168,890
Heineken brewing record held at the Amsterdam Stadsarchief, document number 834-1752.

It was almost half of what they were brewing, in the Rotterdam brewery at least. A really important product for Heineken.

One last technical note. Heineken had two yeast strains. The posh beers like Pils and Beiersch were fermented with the posh A strain. Gerste was brewed with second-division Heineken’s D strain..

Almost forgot. In Dutch "gerste" means barley.

Over to me . . . . ..

1911 Heineken Gerste
pilsner malt 2 row 10.00 lb
Carafa III  0.40 lb
Hallertau 60 mins 1.50 oz
OG 1048
FG 1019
ABV 3.84
Apparent attenuation 60.42%
IBU 24
SRM 17.5
Mash double decoction
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 48º F
Yeast WLP830 German Lager


The Beer Nut said...

Tastewise, anything like a Dutch Oud Bruin, you reckon?

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut,

nothing like as sweet. Oud Bruin has artificial sweetener in it.

The Beer Nut said...

I'll pack the Canderel when I'm travelling to 1911, so.

J. Karanka said...

Looks good if you ask me. Like some sort of really cheap porter.

Unknown said...

Was carafa 3 the same thing it is today? I'm surprised to see that in a 1911 beer.

dana said...

A black lager?
Is there a mention of the decoction temperatures?

Ron Pattinson said...


I've no idea. The reocrd is pretty vague - it just has a column "kleur mout" ("coloured malt").

Laurens P said...

This actually is one of the nicest recipes from this blog I've brewed so far. Refreshing, smooth and despite the low ABV still interesting enough to have another one.