Tuesday, 15 September 2020

More on Karamelbier

More quotes from Schönfeld's wonderful book on top-fermenting beer from the 1930s. translated by me (with some help from Google Translate).

 I've not quite finished with Karamelbier. This time looking at the specific type of sugar used to flavour it.

 "The character of the added sugar is also not insignificant for the flavour profile. As is well known, the sweetness of the same increases with an increasing content of mineral salts up to a certain limit, beyond which a more and more salty-bitter taste is added. It is the chlorides of alkalis and alkaline earths present in the beet that are concentrated in the syrup and are not removed during the first crystallisation, but are attached to the sugar crystals, especially during the last crystallisation of the byproducts. These not extensively refined sugars also contain other, organic, partly colored, partly uncolored co-formulants, so that instead of being pure white they have a yellow to yellow-brown or even brown color. They are ideal for sweetening malt beer and are also enthusiastically used by breweries, provided that they are allowed under the Beer Tax Act (Biersteuergesetz), according to which sugars are permitted whose mineral content does not exceed 0.75%. Sugars that come close to this limit, however, have a clearly stronger sweetness than the purest refined versions."
"Obergärige Biere und ihre Herstellung" by Dr. Franz Schönfeld, 2nd edition, Verlag von Paul Parey, Berlin, 1938, page 137. 

 We learn that beet sugar was employed. And not very pure beer sugar at that. It doesn't sound like the sugar is being inverted, simply crystallised. Is it true that certain impurities make sugar taste sweeter? Can't remember hearing about that before.

The description of the colour doesn't make it sound very attractive stuff. More dirty. But I suppose that in a dark beer you weren't really going to notice. Ot would be a different matter in a pale beer.


Karamelbier seems to have given a new impetus to top fermentation, getting it into what had previously been Lager-only breweries. So why not bottom ferment Karamelbier? Because it wasn't allowed under the Reinheitsgebot. Sugar was only permitted in top-fermenting beers.

"With Karamelbier, top fermentation, which had sunk more and more to insignificance and could almost only be kept in medium-sized and smaller companies, was able to emerge from this relapse and to conquer an equal place in its technical development alongside bottom fermentation. Because with the Karamelbier it could and had to find its way into the larger and larger companies, from which it had been closed until then, and which now, due to its highly developed technical equipment of top fermentation, allow the care and expedient treatment it requires to the same extent as with bottom fermentation.

This upward trend was not limited to Karamelbier. At almost the same time, top fermentation began to take off in another special area. It was top-fermented bitter lager, to which the customers were more inclined and which now also gave rise to a stronger stimulation of top fermentation."
"Obergärige Biere und ihre Herstellung" by Dr. Franz Schönfeld, 2nd edition, Verlag von Paul Parey, Berlin, 1938, page 137.

That last paragraph is fascinating, hinting, as it does, about another type of top-fermenting beer that was on the up: Bitter Lagerbier. Or, as it would be called today, Kölsch or Alt. Two beers I would dearly love to learn more about. Especially their origins. I'll be getting around to that fairly soon.

3 comments:

BryanB said...

A growing popularity of "top-fermenting bitter lager"? Fascinating! I wonder if WW2 bomb damage at breweries put paid to that - it destroyed a lot of Cologne's beer industry, I understand.

Barm said...

I suppose the impurities in sugar might have a similar effect to the salts in salted caramel or that Swedish ammonia liquorice, where the salty taste accentuates the sweetness.

Phil said...

Can't find it now, but I'm sure I remember a post by Boak & Bailey about an extinct southern English style which was seasoned with salt & tasted sweeter for it. The combination certainly has that effect, if you can get the proportions right. It's a good trick from the brewer's POV, as the salt still makes the drinker thirsty even though they don't taste it.