Monday, 11 May 2020

The decline of top-fermenting beer in Germany (part two)

More form Schönfeld on the decline of top-fermenting beer.

Another problem was that sales were very seasonal, only being really popular during hot weather.

"Furthermore, these beers are more summer than winter beers. In times of low heat, demand drops sharply. The lack of kick does not invite you to drink. The hot season is short when there is a demand for these beers, which are highly thirst-quenching and refreshing due to their high CO2 content. When this time is over, demand ceases and often enough to such an extent that the beers get older and older, their properties deteriorate significantly, they change, become acidic, also assume bad smell and become unsaleable.

Annoyance and loss are great and again reason enough for the innkeeper to wash his hands of these beers more and more. The guest is even more annoyed when he is presented with an old beer that he only drinks with self-restraint or refuses at all."
"Obergärige Biere und ihre Herstellung" by Dr. Franz Schönfeld, 2nd edition, Verlag von Paul Parey, Berlin, 1938, page 131.

Being fairly low in alcohol and lightly hopped, many of the old top-fermenting styles need to be consumed quickly. One exception to this was Berliner Weisse. Being already pretty damn sour, it wasn't going to spoil in that way. And it's surprisingly robust for such a weak beer. Bottles keep surfacing which are decades old, but still drinkable.

"So, one circumstance after another, conspired to gradually push these light beers out of trade and traffic, whereby more a change in taste associated with a more demanding lifestyle and the inferiority in quality compared to bottom-fermented beer had more decisive importance for the decline than the awkward method of serving that is annoying to the landlord and prevents brisk service.

However, the greater spoilage to which the light beers are exposed was of particular importance for the decline that followed in rapid succession.

The decline was not without interruption. Beginning in 1916, a period of ascent began, which peaked in 1919. The share of top-fermenting beer in total sales rose to 37%, whereupon the setback set in again, and now proceeded more unstoppably."
"Obergärige Biere und ihre Herstellung" by Dr. Franz Schönfeld, 2nd edition, Verlag von Paul Parey, Berlin, 1938, page 131.
It looks as if much of the decline was initiated by publicans. Who found the old styles awkward to serve and too likely to spoil.

Next time we'll see the reason for the sudden upturn in top-fermenting in 1916.

1 comment:

Roel Mulder said...

Thanks Ron, this is all fascinating stuff!