Monday, 14 June 2021

Czech beer sales by type

As I've often said, I love numbers. All types of lovely crunchy numbers. Like granola, but more useful and better tasting.

That Polish trade journal is serving me really well. It's thrown up some dead handy stuff. In fact, some of it answers a question I asked myself recently. Did Czechs drink mostly 10º Plato beer between the wars? I guessed that they did but had no hard data. Well now I do.

A preference for lower-gravity Lagers in Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic goes back a long way. I'm not quite sure why, as that isn't the case in any of the countries around them. Even when Bohemia and Moravia were in the same country as Austria, the beer drunk in the former was weaker than that drunk in the latter. The liking for weaker beer than on average isn't the result of wartime restrictions, as it does in the UK.

The Polish article divides  Czech beer into three types: piwo wyszynkowe, piwo składowe and piwo specjalne. Assuming that these are based on Czech classification, I'm pretty sure that they're výcepní pivo, ležák and specialní pivo. (Also after asking for help on Twitter.) Výcepní being 10º Plato and below, ležák 11º-12º Plato and specialní 10º Plato and above.

Czech beer sales by type in June 1935 & 1936
type 1935 1936 decline in %
  hl % hl %  
výčepní pivo 740,181 78.88% 628,570 79.29% 15.1
ležák  192,349 20.50% 159,974 20.18% 16.8
special beer  5,800 0.62% 4,244 0.54% 26.8
total 938,330   792,788   15.5
Przegląd Piwowarsko-Słodowniczy: organ Związku Piwowarów w Polsce 1936 wrzesień R.2 Nr3, page 65.

And, obviously, I've got some modern (fairly modern) numbers to compare them to.

Czech Beer production by beer type
beer type  2004 2005
výcepní  61.30% 59.80%
ležák  34.40% 35.80%
specialní     1.05%
non-alcoholic beer  1.10% 1.25%
Český svaz pivovarů a sladoven.

Back between the wars and even greater percentage of the beer consumed was 10º Plato. It's a shame to see its popularity has fallen so much. I'm guessing that 12º has closed in even more in the last 16 years.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Adolf Hitler: Heineken's part in his downfall

I keep learning new stuff about WW II. Like this about the role of the CBK (Centraal Brouwerij Kantoor), the Dutch brewers' trade organisation.

They seem to have quite successfully stood up for the industry with the Germans.

"After that, the C.B.K. also led the Germans to classify the personnel of the breweries and of the beer wholesalers as indispensable. Furthermore, the C.B.K. came into action when the occupiers took the position that some breweries would be allowed to continue working and the others would have to close: it managed to achieve that all breweries were allowed to continue working. In order to arrive at this result, reference was made to the obligatory deliveries to the "Wehrmacht", which, however, never amounted to more than 8 percent of the total turnover and ensured that sales to Dutch buyers, for whom there had always been serious fears, could be continued. It was also possible to avert the threat of the requisitioning of copper by relying on those compulsory deliveries, as well as by pointing to the success of Hitler's "Bier soll sein". This has been of great significance. In the previous war, the requisitioning of copper in Belgium had fatal consequences for the brewing industry of our southern neighbors and the consequences for our breweries would certainly have been even more serious in connection with the serious shortage of materials that existed after the second war."
"Korte Geshiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948", by H.A. Korthals, Uitgeverij C.V. Allert de Lange, Amsterdam, 1948, pages 390 - 391. 

Belgian brewers were devastated by having all their copper vessels confiscated and melted down to make munitions. Some resorted to using cast iron instead, but this wasn't very satisfactory. It took the industry many tears to get back on its feet. Many breweries never reopened. The same happened in the parts of Northern France occupied by the Germans.

The compulsory deliveries to German forces had a downside:

"The aforementioned regulation of the supplies to the 'Wehrmacht' enabled the bureau to determine almost exactly the strength of the troop concentrations in the various parts of the country. This information was also passed on to the English Espionage Service. The leadership of the C.B.K. however, had foreseen the possibility of 'passing on' the figures when setting up the scheme and, when submitting the proposals in the accompanying letter, it had pointed out the dangers — otherwise unspecified — associated with the scheme. When Mr. Stikker was called to account, he was able to point out to the Germans that he had alerted them to possible dangers and furthermore he argued that it was difficult to be held responsible for the "leak" in the CBK where no fewer than 70 people worked!"
"Korte Geshiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948", by H.A. Korthals, Uitgeverij C.V. Allert de Lange, Amsterdam, 1948, page 391. 

Silly Germans, letting the breweries distribute beer to them. They should have handled it themselves. I assume that the troops had a certain ration of beer, which would have made it a piece of piss to work out how many there were at each location. Mr. Stikker was the chairman of the CBK, in case you're wondering.



Saturday, 12 June 2021

Let's Brew - 1939 Heineken Export Pils

Heineken was already in the export business long before WW II. Though in a much smaller way than they would be after it.

Still, it was a large enough trade not to be sniffed at. In 1939 Heineken’s Rotterdam brewery produced 43,004 hl, or 14.38% of its total output.

Its not hugely different from the standard Pils. The OG and ABV are the same. The grist is only marginally different, with a tiny amount of kleurmout. Which leaves the finished beer ever so slightly darker.

The biggest difference is in the hopping. The rate is a little higher and more hops were added early in the boil. Leaving the calculated IBUs four points higher at 20. Were “Ro” from the 1938 season and “Belg.” – I assume Belgian – with no harvest year specified.

1939 Heineken Export Pils
pilsner malt 8.75 lb 79.55%
flaked rice 2.25 lb 20.45%
Strisselspalt 90 mins 0.50 oz
Strisselspalt 60 mins 0.67 oz
Hallertau 30 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1048
FG 1011
ABV 4.89
Apparent attenuation 77.08%
IBU 20
Mash double decoction  
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 48º F
Yeast WLP830 German Lager

Mash in at 35º C (95º F) 5 minutes
Warm whole mash to 52º C (126º F) 20 minutes
Rest whole mash at 52º C (126º F) (protein rest) 15 minutes
Draw off first mash and without a rest bring to the boil 30 minutes
Boil first mash 10 minutes
The rest of the mash remains at 52º C (126º F) 40 minutes
Mash at 70º C (158º F) 25 minutes
Rest whole mash at 70º C (158º F) (saccharification rest) 30 minutes
Draw off second mash and without a rest bring to the boil 15 minutes
Boil second mash 10 minutes
Mash at 76º C (169º F) and mash out 20 minutes


Friday, 11 June 2021


My new book on my favourite Mild Bitter Ale is complete and ready for sale.

The result of a week writing and just 15 tears of research, it tells you everything you need to know about AK. With several pages and 50 home brew recipes, it's the definitive book on the style. OK, it's the only book on the style, but that doesn't stop it being definitive, does it?

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Czech beer exports in 1935 and 1936

More lovely numbers from that Polish industry journal. This time relating to Czech brewing. A topic very dear to my heart.

The numbers are for Czech beer exports. Unsurprisingly, their biggest market was in Germany. Their neighbour taking 59% of the total. The quantity having increased considerably from 1935. Luckily for the Czechs, as several other countries took considerably less Czech beer in 1936 than in 1935. Only Germany, the USA and the UK increased their imports.

I'm a little surprised Austria didn't import Czech beer, the two having been in the same country less than two decades previously. And what was going on in Italy? Why did imports fall so dramatically from 1,345 hl to just 3 hl?

I assume that most of the beer being was Pilsner Urquell along with some Budvar.

Let's put the numbers into context. Assuming the annual total was double that of a half year at 80,000 hl. That's about 50,000 UK barrels. In 1936, the UK exported 325,058 barrels, or nearly seven times as much. At the time the UK population was about 47 million and Czechoslovakia's about 15 million. Meaning that, per head of population, Czechoslovakia's beer exports were only about half that of the UK.

Czech beer exports in 1935 and 1936
Country 1st half 1935 1st half 1936
  hl crowns hl crowns
Germany 18,008 3,458,925 23,493 4,450,145
USA 2,702 728,063 3,599 876,810
Great Britain 3,274 614,499 3,845 650,563
Belgium 2,380 429,420 2,211 399,094
Switzerland 1,631 263,900 1,612 247,013
Netherlands 1,414 266,900 1,316 245,648
Austria 1,287 147,807 1,145 133,018
Egypt 916 131,955 738 103,378
France 800 133,609 716 123,274
Poland 632 119,393 392 71,934
Yugoslavia 390 52,758 277 39,388
Palestine 481 161,619 118 31,993
Italy 1,345 245,335 3 1,475
Other countries 499 113,663 318 89,432
total 35,759 6,867,846 39,783 7,463,165
Przegląd Piwowarsko-Słodowniczy: organ Związku Piwowarów w Polsce 1936 wrzesień R.2 Nr3, page 65.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Hops worldwide in 1935

You may have noticed that I have a bit of a thing about statistics. I can't get me enough of them. Well, as long as they're related to beer and brewing.

Brewing technical journals are a great source of them. I've spent many a happy hour collecting numbers from all sorts of trade journals in multiple languages. Though mostly in English  or German. So I was delighted to be pointed in the direction of  a Polish trade magazine by Gary Gillman, who wanted some help with a table heading.

A heading in the table below. The one for the last column, which shows hops usage in thousands of zentners (50 kg). I couldn't help posting about it, as it tells us quite a lot.

It doesn't surprise me that the UK and Ireland were the heaviest hoppers, with the latter topping the last. Why did Ireland come out so high? Because most of the beer brewed there was Stout. A beer which was both quite strong and heavily hopped. The UK average rate was double, and Ireland's triple, that of Continental Europe. That's a pretty big difference.

Between them, the UK and Ireland were using over 30% of the world's hops. Mightily impressive, but down from the late 19th century when the two countries consumed over 50% of the world's supply.

No shock either that Czechoslovakia led the pack in Continental Europe. Followed by other bits of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Elsewhere in the world, bits of another empire scored highly - the British Empire. With Australia & New Zealand just a little behind the UK. As was India. Which I can understand, what with the climate there. You'd want plenty of hops to prevent infection. I was a bit surprised at the high rate in Canada, which I would have expected to be more in line with the USA.

Hops worldwide in 1935
Country beer production 1935 hl  hops gm/hl hop usage in 1,000 zentner
Austria & Hungary 2,484,000 260 12,917
Balkans 141,000 250 705
Belgium & Luxembourg 13,913,000 225 62,608
Czechoslovakia 7,748,000 300 46,488
Denmark 2,209,000 165 7,290
France 15,163,000 185 56,103
Gdansk 75,000 250 375
Holland 1,373,000 215 5,904
Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland 551,000 275 3,031
Germany 39,754,000 224 178,098
Norway 411,000 215 1,767
Poland  1,065,000 250 5,325
Roumania and Yugoslavia 666,000 300 3,996
Russia * 3,700,000 250 18,500
Sweden 2,530,000 165 8,349
Switzerland 2,315,000 200 9,260
Italy, Spain & Portugal 1,158,000 250 5,790
Continent 95,256,000 223.9 426,506
Ireland 3,092,000 750 46,380
UK 26,587,000 500 265,870
Europa 124,935,000 295.7 738,756
Africa 529,000 350 3,703
Australia & New Zealand 3,109,000 450 27,981
Central America 1,288,000 250 6,440
South America 3,929,000 250 19,645
East Asia 2,101,000 250 10,505
India 72,000 450 648
Canada 2,098,000 375 15,735
USA 53,076,000 255 270,688
Total 191,137,000 286.2 1,094,101
* no specific consumption data available.
Przegląd Piwowarsko-Słodowniczy: organ Związku Piwowarów w Polsce 1936 wrzesień R.2 Nr3



Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Let's Brew - 1939 Heineken Licht Lagerbier

Yet another Heineken recipe from the eve of WW II. This time a nice, watery Pale Lager.

The other regular Pale Lager at Heineken was Licht Lagerbier. A 3.5% ABV beer which was a sort of session Pils. If you want to go all style Nazi.

Its grist was identical to the full-strength Pils: 80% pilsner malt and 20% rice. The form of the latter not being specified in the records. Not really much more to discuss there. It’s a very simple grist which much have produced a pretty light and easy-drinking beer. Something like a Lager AK, I suppose.

Not really having much of an idea what the hops were, I’ve plumped for Hallertau. The description in the brewing record, “Kra. R” doesn’t say much to me. What I do know for certain is that they were from the 1938 harvest.

1939 Heineken Licht Lagerbier
pilsner malt 6.50 lb 78.79%
flaked rice 1.75 lb 21.21%
Hallertau 90 mins 0.25 oz
Hallertau 60 mins 0.33 oz
Hallertau 30 mins 0.67 oz
OG 1036
FG 1009
ABV 3.57
Apparent attenuation 75.00%
IBU 16
SRM 2.5
Mash double decoction  
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 48º F
Yeast WLP830 German Lager

Mash in at 35º C (95º F) 5 minutes
Warm whole mash to 52º C (126º F) 20 minutes
Rest whole mash at 52º C (126º F) (protein rest) 15 minutes
Draw off first mash and without a rest bring to the boil 30 minutes
Boil first mash 10 minutes
The rest of the mash remains at 52º C (126º F) 40 minutes
Mash at 70º C (158º F) 25 minutes
Rest whole mash at 70º C (158º F) (saccharification rest) 30 minutes
Draw off second mash and without a rest bring to the boil 15 minutes
Boil second mash 10 minutes
Mash at 76º C (169º F) and mash out 20 minutes


Tuesday, 8 June 2021

What was AK?

Put briefly, AK was the classic “Running Bitter”, that is, a Pale Ale which was intended to be drunk young.

The original 19th-century Pale Ales had all been Stock Ales, aged for a considerable period before sale. Big, heavy beers, they needed a long maturation to knock off the rough edges and to give the beer time to spontaneously drop bright, without the need for fining. A beer such as Bass Pale Ale was usually at least 12 months old before it was sold.

Around the middle of the 19th century a new type of Pale Ale appeared. Lighter in alcohol and intended to be drunk almost immediately after brewing. Such beers were particularly favoured for private use. That is casks of beer bought to be consumed at home. As this was primarily intended to be drunk with meals, something light and easily digestible was preferred.

Its expected use in a domestic setting is why the word “family” pops up so often in the description of AK in price lists. Also the words “light” and “dinner” were much used in relation to it. As we’ll see a little later in this book.

Dr. Edward Ralph Moritz, a brewing scientist, giving evidence to a parliamentary committee, defined the maturation times for different types of beer.

Maturation times of different types of beers in the 1890s
(a.) Stock ale, kept 4 to 12 months before delivery:—
Fine English malt 66 66
Fine foreign malt 25 34
No. 1 invert sugar or glucose 9 0
  100 100
(b.) Semi-stock pale bottling beers, kept about three months before delivery:—
Fine English malt 60  
Foreign malt 25  
No. 2 invert sugar or glucose 15  
(cJ Light pale ales (A.K.), kept about 2 to 4 weeks before delivery:—
Good to fine English malt 55  
Good to fine foreign malt 25  
No. 2 invert sugar or glucose 20  
(d.) Mild ale (X. or XX.—fourpenny) kept four to ten days before delivery :—
Good English malt 50  
Good ordinary foreign malt 25  
No. 2, invert or glucose 25  
Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental Committee on Beer Materials, 1899, pages 190 - 191.

There was a big difference between the months which Stock Pale Ale was matured and the coupe of weeks a Running Bitter received. As tastes changed in the second half of the 19th century, Stock Pale Ales began to fade away and after WW II they had virtually disappeared, save for a few examples brewed in Burton-on-Trent.

Running Bitter reigned supreme in the 20th century. It’s what all modern cask Bitters are. By deliberately brewing a lighter beer, bringing it more quickly into condition by priming with sugar at racking time and clearing it with finings, brewers were able to create a palatable product much more quickly and cheaply.

The use of sugar, and to some extent adjuncts, such as flaked maize, made such beers possible. An all-malt, higher gravity Stock Pale Ale took much longer to condition that a lighter gravity bee3r with lots of readily-fermentable sugars.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Fermenting vessels in WW II

Pretty much everyone fermented in open vessels of some description. Though their form and shape varied considerably.

They were universally fitted with attemperators: metal pipes inside the fermenter through which cold water could be pumped to control the temperature of the wort. The development of the attemperator was one of the key technological innovations of the late 19th century. They allowed brewers to completely control fermentation temperatures and brew through the summer. Aiding, too, improved consistency and quality in the beer produced.

The two simplest were rounds and squares. Which were just open-topped vessels which were either round or square. Their size varied hugely, though they were rarely more than 100 barrels or so.

Sometimes the whole fermentation was performed in a round or a square, but they could also be used as part of a dropping fermentation or in conjunction with a Burton union set.

Skimming system
This was the simplest, and the most common, type of fermentation vessel. A single round or square vessel was used and excess yeast simply removed by skimming it from the top. For this purpose, a parachute was usually employed. This was a funnel-like device which was dragged across the vessel just above the level of the wort, causing the yeast to fall down through it.

The wort was roused at regular intervals to keep the yeast in suspension. The frequency of this rousing was determined by how flocculant the yeast was. The more flocculant it was, the more frequent the rousing.

Dropping system
A popular method of fermentation, especially in the South of England, was the dropping system. Fermentation began in a tall, relatively narrow, cylindrical vessel. After a period of time which might vary from as little as a few hours to a couple of days, the wort was transferred – “dropped” – to a lower shallow, square vessel.

As with most fancy fermentation systems, one of the principal aims was to remove excess yeast from the wort. Though dropping also effectively roused the wort and promoted a vigorous fermentation.

The time of dropping varied. At some breweries it was after 24 hours – even sooner in the case of Fullers where it was sometimes less than 12 hours. At others it wasn’t until the beer had hit half gravity.

The big advantage of the system was that it tended to produce a cleaner beer.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Heineken (Rotterdam) grists in 1940

Time for even more Heineken in WW II fun. To be honest, there's not much wrong with their beers on paper at this point. A little caramel aside, they're all 100% malt. The hopping is a little on the light side, however.

Just before Heineken started watering down their beers, they dropped the rice. I assume because stocks had run out. Which left their Pils 100% malt for the first time since WW I. Not that drinkers had long to appreciate this before their Pils got all watery. Licht Lagerbier also went to as simple a grist as can be, consisting of 100% Pilsner malt.

The grist Beiersch remained unchanged, as it had never contained rice. In Donker Lagerbier, the rice was replaced by more pilsner malt. Amongst the dark beers, the biggest change was to Bok, where the percentage of broeimout was doubled from 3% to 6%. They all continued to contain a small quantity of caramel.

Heineken (Rotterdam) grists in 1940
Date Beer Style lager malt Kleur-mout broei-mout Caramel-mout litres Kleur
14th Nov Do Donker Lagerbier 90.00% 0.70% 6.00% 3.30% 15
8th Nov Li Licht Lagerbier 100.00%        
8th Nov P Pils 100.00%        
8th Nov Bei Münchener 89.22% 0.98% 5.88% 3.92% 23
10th Jul Bok Bok 91.00% 1.00% 6.00% 2.00% 20
Heineken brewing record held at the Amsterdamse Stadsarchief, document number 834 - 1759.



Saturday, 5 June 2021

Let's Brew - 1939 Heineken Donker Lagerbier

Since I've already published recipes of the other two, I may as well complete the set of Heineken Dark Lagers with Donker Lagerbier.

Weakest of Heineken’s dark beer was Donker Lagerbier. A sort of session Münchener, you could call it, at just 3.5% ABV.

It wasn’t their most popular beer, by any means. Accounting for just under 9% of Heineken’s output in 1939.

In Germany you didn’t get Lagers of this gravity. Everything was at least Vollbier – 11º Plato – strength. At least until the war kicked in. Whereas in Czechoslovakia slightly stronger beers of 10º Plato were extremely popular.

The malts are the same as in Beiersch, albeit not in the same proportions. The big difference in the grist, however, is the presence of rice. Something not found in Heineken’s other dark beers.

The hops were a mix of Hallertau and something described as “Rand.” In the brewing record. No idea what that might be. Both types were from the 1938 harvest.

1939 Heineken Donker Lagerbier
pilsner malt 6.00 lb 73.80%
caramel malt 60 L 0.25 lb 3.08%
caraamber 0.50 lb 6.15%
carafa III 0.07 lb 0.86%
rice 1.25 lb 15.38%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.06 lb 0.74%
Hallertau 90 mins 0.25 oz
Hallertau 60 mins 0.50 oz
Hallertau 30 mins 0.67 oz
OG 1035
FG 1009
ABV 3.44
Apparent attenuation 74.29%
IBU 19
SRM 12
Mash double decoction  
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 48º F
Yeast WLP830 German Lager


Friday, 4 June 2021

Heineken (Rotterdam) beers in 1940

Let’s take a look at Heineken’s beers just before they started watering them down.

This exact set of beers, other than the Bok, were only brewed for around a week. After that, they were all watered down to a much lower effective gravity. Here we can see Pils and Beiersch being brewed at a lightly lower gravity and ABV, while the two Lagerbiers remain essentially unchanged. Though we will see a difference once we get onto the recipes.

Attenuation remains around 75% apparent for the whole range. Little else has changed, either. The hopping rates are the same as in 1939, other than for the Bok. Could that be because it was destined for Germany? (This is the beer with the note “for Münch.”) The colours are all much the same, too.  

Heineken (Rotterdam) beers in 1940
Date Beer Style OG Plato FG Plato ABV App. Atten-uation kg hops/ 100 kg hops kg/hl colour
14th Nov Do Donker Lagerbier 8.90 2.30 3.50 74.83% 1.10 0.13 14
8th Nov Li Licht Lagerbier 9.05 2.45 3.50 73.64% 1.40 0.16 5
8th Nov P Pils 11.50 3.11 4.50 73.85% 1.33 0.20 6
8th Nov Bei Münchener 12.00 3.08 4.80 75.23% 0.98 0.16 15
10th Jul Bok Bok 17.20 4.51 7.00 75.06% 1.00 0.24 15
Heineken brewing record held at the Amsterdamse Stadsarchief, document number 834 - 1759.