It’s easy to assume, looking back from the present, that Pilsener was an immediate success. It wasn’t, because, initially at least, it wasn’t the type of Lager brewed. In the 1860’s, few Pale Lagers were brewed outside Bohemia.
The styles of Lager first brewed outside Germany were inspired by the two pioneers who revolutionised central European brewing: Dreher of Schwechat just outside Vienna and Sedlmayr of Spaten in Munich. The two undertook a long study trip in the 1830’s, mostly to Britain, at the time at the forefront of brewing technology. What they learned allowed them to modernise their breweries and, in the case of Dreher, become the largest brewery on the continent.
Their friendship also brought bottom-fermentation to Vienna. Sedlmayr provided Dreher with yeast after his attempts to brew an English-style Pale Ale in Schewchat had failed. His amber Lager was a huge hit all across Europe, even in the UK. In the 1860’s Dreher’s Lagerbier was being shipped all over the continent and rivalled Bass and Allsopp for international fame.
Which is how Heineken noticed it. In 1869 there was an international exhibition held in the Paleis for Volksvlijt, not far from Heineken’s new brewery on the Stadhouders kade. Heineken sold beer at the exhibition, but the public were far more interested in what Dreher was selling*. Heineken took note.
Central European Lager styles
Now for a little context. Central Europe was home to many styles if Lager in the second half of the 19th century, some of which no longer exist.
In Bavaria, the styles were, in ascending order of strength:
Winterbier or Schenkbier
Sommerbier or Lagerbier
Doppelbock or Salvator
All of these beers were dark in colour.
Munich beers in 1866
Here are a few analyses of Munich beers in 1866:
|Munich Beers in 1866|
|"Handbuch der chemischen technologie" by Otto Dammer, Rudolf Kaiser, 1896, pages 696-697|
Austrian Lager styles
Austrian Lagers came in similar strength bands to those in Bavaria: Winterbier, Sommerbier ,
Export, Märzen and Bock. Though the colours were quite different to in Bavaria. In Bohemia the majority of Lager were pale in colour, while in Vienna amber was the preferred colour. Though increasingly in Vienna and Austria paler types of Lager became popular towards the end of the century.
|Dreher beers in the 1870's|
|"Theory and Practice of the Preparation of Malt and the Fabrication of Beer" Julius E. Thausing, Anton Schwartz and A.H. Bauer, Philadelphia 1882, pages 748-751|
|Wahl & Henius, pages 823-830|
* "Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948", by H. A. Korthals, 1948, page 29.