Monday, 25 October 2021

Delivering beer to the Wehrmacht (part three)

In a time of raw material shortages, the need to supply the Wehrmacht with beer put extra strain on Dutch brewers. Especially as they mostly insisted on getting Pilsner, that is beer of the highest gravity.

Dutch brewers were afraid that, if they had to deliver exclusively stronger beer to the Germans, they would have to reduce the gravity of beer for the general population.

Mr. van Stolk says that the strength must also be discussed with Mr. Engelhard, Chefintendant of the German étappe. One could try if necessary to have imported German beer delivered to the canteens or else to brew special beer for that purpose. This can be discussed with the German gentlemen on 9th April. It can then be argued that if only heavier beer is to be delivered to the canteens, the cafes will receive beer of even lower quality than currently envisaged, which will have to be drunk by the soldiers."
Report of a meeting between NAC, NMC, VVO and CBK, 4th April 1941, held at the Amsterdam City Archives, document number 31121-1, pages 180 - 181.

Of course, selling low-strength beer in pubs would impact German soldiers, as they didn't exclusively drink in their own canteens. But did German canteens really need the strongest beer? Some of the brewers thought not.

"Mr. Six says that the beer in the canteens is mainly consumed with food and therefore does not have to have a high gravity. (This claim was later refuted by the German side, because beer in the canteens is consumed without food).

De Heerer Zylker points out that the intendance always asks for Pilsener beer, but that the local officers agree with Lager (7.5%).

Mr. Smits van Weasberghe announces that the requirement for Pilsener beer is maintained in Brabant. Speakers brewery received a letter from Mr. Engelhard, in which he promised extra raw materials for the Wehrmacht."
Report of a meeting between NAC, NMC, VVO and CBK, 4th April 1941, held at the Amsterdam City Archives, document number 31121-1, page 181. 

Now that's confusing. In some places  the Germans were still insisting on Pilsner, in others they were happy with the eakert Lagerbier. Admittedly, a 7.5º Balling beer was just about still intoxicating, being around 3% ABV. About the same as a Mild in the UK at the time.

Where would the raw materials come from to supply strong beer to the Wehrmacht? It seems like from reallocating existing supplies.

"Mr. Abraham believes that this does not refer to an extra quantity for the brewing company, but to an allocation at the expense of other breweries.

Mr Stikker says that there has already been talk of a central distribution (with the cooperation of the Meelcentrale) of beer supplies to the Wehrmacht via the breweries. Initially those breweries which have the biggest stocks would then be eligible for these deliveries; thus, without redistribution of raw materials, a certain leveling of stocks is achieved.

Mr. Abraham informs that the central distribution via the Meelcentrale will continue, although it is not yet entirely certain. It is desirable that this takes place via the Meelcentrale, which gives the allocations and ensures confidentiality. In this respect the Meelcentrale is supported by the German authorities. For example, the Wehrmacht will not insist on certain brands. The local authorities are not entitled to demand only Pilsener beer. If the arrangement is made, the allocations of the Meelcentrale will have to be strictly adhered to and no beer will be supplied at all without such allocation.

According to the statement of the Chefintendant of the German etappe, the canteens usually have stock for 14 days to a month. This will overcome transportation difficulties."
Report of a meeting between NAC, NMC, VVO and CBK, 4th April 1941, held at the Amsterdam City Archives, document number 31121-1, page 181. 

No new raw materials then. Just the breweries who had good stocks of them would have to bear the brunt of supplying the Wehrmacht. The result was that a few breweries bore the brunt of supplying the German canteens.

Next time we'll see exactly which breweries that was and how much beer they were shipping. Some breweries way more than others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder at what point the Nazi elites decided to start hoarding the best beer for themselves. I think as far as wine they were already trying to buy up supplies in France and Italy by early 1942, possibly earlier, but I'm sure it wasn't quite so simple with beer as it might be to stash 1000 bottles of good Bordeaux.