Sunday, 15 March 2015

Berliner Weisse in the UK

Just for a change, here’s stuff about Berliner Weisse, o Berlin White Beer as it’s so sweetly  called in English.

This is a fun one, especially as it makes mention of the flavour:

Berlin white beer, one beverages grouped for Customs purposes, is remarkable for its frothiness. In Germany it is served huge glasses in the shape of a  champagne glass, but almost ten times the size. In fact, the rim of a Berliner bier glass will eclipse any ordinary face. The beer, which has a deep froth when poured out, has a peculiar tartness, not exactly acid like lemonade, but more the tomato. White beer most popular in summer time, though it is drunk, of course, all the year round.”
Yorkshire Evening Post - Thursday 13 May 1909, page 4.

Sour more like a tomato than lemonade. What on earth does that mean?  The did serve it in enormous glasses before WW I. Literally bigger than your head. Almost the size of a fish tank.

This is what they mean by grouped for customs purposes:

“Under the Customs Act of 1881 the duty payable on every 36 gallons of mum, spruce, or black beer is £1 6s., where the worts were before fermentation of a specific gravity not exceeding 1,215 degrees, and £1 10s. 6d. where the specific gravity exceeded 1,215 degrees. To remove some doubts on the subject, this enactment is now extended to Berlin white beer and other preparations, whether fermented not fermented, of a character similar to mum, spruce, or black beer.”
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Tuesday 16 August 1887, page 6.

I’m scratching my head as to why Berliner Weisse was lumped together with Mumme. That’s a stretch even for a Horst Dornbusch. They’re about as dissimilar as you can imagine. Mumme black, treacly and incredibly sweet, Berliner Weisse light, dry and sour. You can see by the gravity mentioned that the rules were really aimed at Mumme.

That’s a very high rate of duty – the tax on a standard barrel of domestically brewed beer was 6s 3d. 312d compared to 75d. Though if you take the gravity into account it’s not so crazy. On a beer with an OG of 1210 that works out to 81.7d per standard barrel. But for a low-gravity beer like Berliner Weisse, the tax is crazily high. Assuming a gravity of 1036º, that works out to 476.7d per standard barrel.

Did anyone really import it into Britain? It would have been enormously expensive. That’s more than 1d per pint tax, at a time when Mild only cost 2d per pint. The tax on a standard-strength Mild of 1055º was just a farthing (0.25d).

It was still being taxed at a ludicrously high rate between the wars:


Existing Duties.  Proposed Duties. 
£ s. d.  £ s. d.
Mum, spruce, black beer or Berlin white beer, of specific gravity (subject to the existing rebate £5 per 36 gallons not exceeding 1,215 degrees per 36 gallons 20 2 0  20 14 0
Exceeding 1,215deg. per 36 gallons 23 11 0  24 5 0 
Other sorts of specific gravity of 1,055deg. per gallons (and proportion for any difference in gravity. Subject to the existing additional duty of 10d. per 36 gallons 1,055deg. consequential on the hop duty and to the existing rebate of £1 per bulk barrel).   5 0 6  5 3 6 
Excise Beer- 
Beer of a specific gravity of 1,055deg. per 36 gallons (and in proportion for any difference in gravity) (subject to the existing rebate per bulk barrel). 5 0 0 5 3 0 
It is proposed that the increase in beer duty shall take effect from April 15.”
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 15 April 1930, page 14.

I wonder when these provisions ended? My bet is after WW II.

Still lots more about Berliner Weisse to come.


Gary Gillman said...

This helps a little bit I think:

On ny view though this circa-1900 beer sounds less sour than the Kindl type.


Alan said...

Likely part of growing Anti-German sentiment in the 1880s. There was a requirements that German goods be identified as "Made in Germany" in 1887. So sayeth Wikipedia:

"The label was originally introduced in Britain by the Merchandise Marks Act 1887, to mark foreign produce more obviously, as foreign manufactures had been falsely marking inferior goods with the marks of renowned British manufacturing companies and importing them into the United Kingdom. Most of these were found to be originating from Germany, whose government had introduced a protectionist policy to legally prohibit the import of goods in order to build up domestic industry..."