Sunday, 22 March 2015

Beer drinking in Germany in the 1890’s

In keeping with my current Berliner Weisse kick, I’ve been searching the British newspaper archive. It’s surprising how many hits I’ve had.

Though obviously I didn’t search for “Berliner Weisse” or “Berliner Weissbier”. “Berlin white beer” is the term that gets results.


. . . .

The United States Consul-General at Berlin, in his last report, states that the German beer production, which in the preceding year had risen, increased again in the fiscal year 1888-89, although the consumption was interfered with by the unfavourable weather of the summer of 1888, and also by the good fruit crops. The increase in the beer production of 1888-89 was confined entirely to the under-fermented (untergahrige) sorts, the highly-fermented beers having fallen off in amount. This was due in part to the bad weather, which was unfavourable to the consumption of highly-fermented (obergahrige) beers ; but chiefly to the growing popularity of the under-fermented sorts, whose sale by the breweries was increased through depots in other places, discounts to dealers, &c., and particularly through the growing popularity in town and land of bottled beer. As a consequence, the smaller breweries of the highly-fermented sorts decrease both in number and in amount of production.”
Aberdeen Journal - Tuesday 27 January 1891, page 2.

I’ve missed out the paragraph about France. It’s not really relevant here.

I’ve pointed out the decline in top-fermentation in North Germany in the final decades of the 19th century. And the fact that, in general, the new Lager breweries that were set up in the North operated on a much larger scale. The market for beer was generally expanding in Germany in this period, but all the growth came from Lager. The output of top-fermenting beer was pretty stable.

Here’s another topic dear to my heart: rice in German Lagers:

“Rice in the form of flour or broken grains, the waste from the Bremen rice mills, is used only in the manufacture of the under-fermented beers light in colour. The higher price of this in comparison with barley is offset by the fact that, in the malt process the latter loses 30 per cent. in weight, while the former in grinding suffers no loss. The addition of beer colour serves to give the proper colour to the beer instead of malt. For the same purpose colour-beers are manufactured in special breweries, which beers are not classified as malt surrogates, but are taxed as finished beers of malt and hops.”
Aberdeen Journal - Tuesday 27 January 1891, page 2.

By “brewing tax district” the author means the Brausteuergebiet, which excluded Bavaria, Baden Württemberg and Alsace Lorraine, but included pretty much all the rest of the German Empire.

“Hop culture is not largely carried on within the limits of the brewing tax district, and only in certain localities is it of any importance. These are the districts of Osterode and Johannesberg in East Prussia; Poerlitz in Pomerania; Neutomischl, Graetz, Wollstein and Mascritz in Posen; the Altmark in the province of Saxony; Luaneberg in Hanover; the Government district of Hohenzollern, part of the grand duchies of Hessen and Oldenburg, and a small part of the duchy of Brunswick. The price of hops in the province of Posen, where the quality was below the average, was tolerably high immediately after the harvest (best 300 marks, middle 140 marks per 100 kilogrammes), but it soon fell (best 180 marks, middle 60 to 80 marks, ordinary 40 marks.)”
Aberdeen Journal - Tuesday 27 January 1891, page 2.

Hops were – and still are – mostly grown in the South. Altmark hops show up in British brewing records, meaning that they grew enough to be able to export.

Here’s a little something about beer styles:

“Of the under-fermented beers there are three principal sorts - Schank or young beer, common lager beer, and the finer, stronger lager beers. One hundred kilogrammes of malt (used in the manufacture of highly-fermented beers), mixed with sugar, syrup, &c., produce from 6 to 8 hectolitres of common, and from 2.8 to 7 hectolitres of strong beer (porter and double beer). Of the under-fermented beers, 100 kilogrammes of malt make 2.5 to 5 hectolitres of good lager beer, 4 to 6 of common lager, and as much as 9.2 of Schank beer. Owing to competition, domestic and foreign, brewers were compelled to drop their prices, and, as an offset, to lighten their beers. The fall in prices, however, has been chiefly in the form of larger discounts to large buyers. It is also noted that prices vary in the same brewery according to the amount ordered, the responsibility of the buyer, competition, and the price of transportation. Average prices were as follows :- In barrels of one hectolitre, highly-fermented beers, common sorts, 6 to 12 marks; better sorts, do., 12 to 18 ; Berlin white beer, 11 to 15,; Graetzer, 13 ; under-fermented Schank, 13 to 17, common lager, 16 to 20; better sorts, 20 to 25.”
Aberdeen Journal - Tuesday 27 January 1891, page 2.

Interesting that Schank is defined as young beer, sort of like Mild, I guess. Would comme Lager be Winterbier and the finer kind Sommerbier? Or are they Lagerbier and Export?

The quantities brewed from 100 kg of malt give us some idea of the strength of the beers. As I already knew, German top-fermenting beers tended to be weaker than bottom-fermenting ones. One exception being Porter, which was usually brewed to a decent strength. It was also in general cheaper than Lager.

Strange to see Grätzer mentioned by name. It’s price – in the middle of the Berliner Weiss range – seems about right, as they were of a similar strength.

Finally something about Alsace-Lorraine, which had only been German for two decades.

“From Alsace-Lorraine it is reported that the consumption of beer during the fiscal year 1888-89 was 876,640 hectolitres, against 868,462 hectolitres in the preceding year. The decrease in the number of breweries in Alsace-Lorraine is due to the competition of better-arranged breweries in Baden and Bavaria. Hop culture is chiefly carried on in the district of Hagenau, and on a smaller scale near Strasburg, Colmar, Mulhausen, Munster, Sarrburg, and Saargemund. In the first mentioned district 2868 hectares were devoted to hops, against 2462 in the preceding year, when the average production per hectare was 925 kilogrammes.”
Aberdeen Journal - Tuesday 27 January 1891, page 2.

Munich breweries – led by Spaten – were the first in Germany to brew on a truly industrial scale, beginning around the middle of the century. It was only when Lager spread to the new industrial centres in the North that brewing there was performed on a large scale, notably in Dortmund. And Bavarian brewers began to face serious domestic competition.

No comments: