Sunday, 16 May 2010

Fidelio 1941 experimental Lager

A change of pace. Or country. Summat. An Amercan brewing log.

I've had to make some choices with my beer obsession. A bit like a stamp collector, I had to specialise. Otherwise I'd go crazy. I made the decision about 10 years ago to stick to European beer. It's still a crazily wide scope. But it makes me feel more comfortable. That's why - the odd trip report excepted - I don't normally cover North America.

Despite my decision, I've still acquired some material about American brewing. Including some brewing records. Hang on. I'm feeling the need to do some shouting. WHY DOESN'T ANYONE IN THE USA EVER LOOK AT OLD BREWING RECORDS? They do exist. Shouting over.

The record below is one of a few sent to me by Chad Rieker (thanks Chad). Photocopies of documents he picked up somewhere.  If I hadn't been so busy with Barclay Perkins, I'd had have shared these with you earlier. Because they are quite cool.

The records are from the Fidelio Brewery of 501 First Avenue, New York. I think it closed in the 1950's. At least that's what "American Breweries II" says. And who am I to doubt their expertise.

It's an experimental Lager. Not sure what that means, other than the batch size being tiny. Just 4. 5 barrels. It does have particularly detailed instructions. Handy for you home brewers. Why not take a look?

A couple of points of interest.

First, that the temperatures are in Reaumur. I've only ever come across that in 19th-century German brewing manuals. It's easy enough to convert to centigrade. Freezing point is zero, boiling point 80 degrees. That an American brewery was using this scale and Balling for gravity says much about the German influence on American brewing.

Second, they're using grits and converting them in a pre-mash process. Most British breweries used flaked maize that could just be thrown into the mash.


Graham Wheeler said...

Seems to be the
United States Brewers' Academy
230 Washington Street
Mount Vernon, N.Y. 10551, according to the first line in the image and Google.


It looks like a recipe sheet handed out to students.

It being an "educational" brew explains its short brew-length. I suspect that "Brew Nos. 15 & 16 refer to recipe numbers rather than gyle numbers, which means they must have had at least 14 other recipes for the delight and edification of the inmates.

Ron Pattinson said...

It's not a recipe handed out to students. It gives the details of two separate brews - numbers 15 and 16.

Graham Wheeler said...

There are several points of interest that indicate it being a handout, or it not being an experiment

Firstly the organisation was a very well-known long-established brewing academy, a school where quite a number of current American brewers and brewing executives learned to brew.

It is undated, apart from 1941, which could mean academic year 1941.

The recipe was printed before the event, because the sheet has been manually annotated. Can't be much of an experiment if you don't stick to the plan.

Brew 15 is crossed out, indicating that it was not brewed.

It is fairly bog standard, nothing novel or remarkable about it, so what was the experiment? Even the title "12° Balling Lager" is fairly boring and un-experimental sounding. There is absolutely nothing on that sheet that indicates it being a genuine experiment apart from two words in the top right-hand corner - which is bog-standard school parlance anyway.

If it really was an experiment, surely the aims of the experiment would be printed on the form. It would also have had date and a reference number for tying things together.

Also, a commercially valuable experiment would have been headed Schwarz Laboratories Inc, not the subsidiary academy.

At schools / colleges, lab practicals were always called experiments, even though they were nothing of the sort because the outcome was already known.

Brew 15 and brew 16 could really mean Brew-house Practical 15 and 16.

To me it is just a recipe sheet. My money is still on it being a handout for the students' hands-on practical. It is too "ordinary" , too lacking in detail, and probably too messy for it to be anything else.

Gary Gillman said...

I was struck by the hops per barrel. There has been a lot of speculation here (North America) that commercial beers used to be much more hopped than currently. But not a lot of data, as far as I know, has been produced to back it up. Well now we have some. 4.5 lbs per barrel, or just over a pound per (U.S.) barrel, was used for these prewar U.S. brews. More of less similar, if you adjust for different barrel size, to what Fuller uses today for its ales. (Earlier I got an average of 1.5 lbs hops for the Fuller beers using data offered on its website). Anyone would agree Fuller's beers have excellent hop character.

That's impressive hopping for regular lager beer in 1941. It shows that commercial (macro-brewery) beers then were far more hopped than today's. Current mass market brews have, based on some quick Internet searches, an astonishing (comparatively) 1.5 oz. hops per barrel. In contrast, Sam Adams Boston Lager, an excellent full-flavoured beer, has one lb per barrel, comparable to the beers of circa-1941. Sam Adams Boston Lager was based on an 1800's recipe. One can see therefore that the hop rate of lager didn't change much by 1941. But gosh has it changed since. The craft brewers truly have restored hop flavour and zest to American brewing.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, there will be more about hopping rates soon.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, thanks, and I'll correct myself to state that they used in the 1941 recipes 4 lbs hops for 4.5 (U.S.) barrels (not 4.5 pounds hopa for four barrels), but still it is about a pound per barrel because the recipe calls for an additional "handful" added at the start of the boil.

Anyway you cut it, a lot of hops by today's standards for mass market lager...


Jeff Renner said...

Some thoughts on this.

Gary - the handful of hops at the beginning of the boil is an old technique to keep down the foam.

Hopping levels - p. 38 of "The Practical Brewer" published by the Master Brewers' Association of America (1946 ed.), states "Normal usage [of hops] in the U.S.A. is from 0.4 to 0.7 pounds per [31 US gallon, or 117 liter] barrel of finished beer.

Four pounds per 4.5 barrels is 0.89 lbs/bbl, a bit higher than that. It may be that the finishing hops aren't considered since they add little bitterness. That would give 0.67 lbs/bbl.

What we don't know, of course, is the alpha acid content of these hops. Guessing that it might have been 4.0% would give us a calculated 35.6 IBU. A more modest 3.5% would give 31.2 IBU. I'd guess either of is be likely.

The Reaumur temps used converted from a chart in the above book:

7R = 47.75 F = 8.75C
30R = 99.5F = 37.5C
38R = 17.5F = 47.5C
54R = 153.5F - 67.5C
60R = 167F = 75C

I agree with Graham that it looks like a student exercise on a pilot-sized brewery.

Aaron J. Grier said...

I wonder what variety the "seedless" and yakima hops are. cluster for the yakima perhaps? how has the AA of hops has varied over time? seems like a lot of the high 10%+ AA hops are from the 1970s and 80s, and wouldn't have been available in the 40s.

Jeff Renner said...

Let's try this again:

38R = 117.5F = 47.5C

Aaron - Yes, probably some version of Cluster, but not a modern variety, which were bred in the mid-1960's.

According to p. 32 of "The Practical Brewer,"the chief varieties of hops grown in the US are "A late-maturing variety of the "Cluster" hop called Late Cluster, an early-maturing variety ... called Early Cluster, and the "Fuggle" variety ... The Late Cluster variety furnishes the bulk of the hops produced."

Barm said...

Aaron, I'm not sure, but I think the development of high-alpha hops is even more recent than that.

JessKidden said...

While it doesn't say much about individual beers or actual IBU's, etc, the statistics for total hop usage by US breweries published in the annual BREWERS DIGEST (2009's available online at the US "Beer Institute" site) under "Consumption of Agricultural Products" rather dramatically shows that hopping rates were on a steady downward spiral for all of the post-Repeal 20th century.

Pounds of hops per barrel
1915 - .65
1935 - .70
1940 - .58
1945 - .43
1950 - .43
1955 - .37
1960 - .33
1965 - .29
1970 - .23
1975 - .21
1980 - .22
1985 - .21
1990 - .22
1995 – .2
2000 – .1
2005 – .1
2008 - .3

Ron Pattinson said...

Jesskidden, some fascinating numbers there. And ones that give a good indication of general trends.

It would be handy to have numbers on average alpha acid content, too. I wonder if they exist?

Gary Gillman said...

That is interesting and consistent with my understanding. E.g., the 1945 number correlates roughly to what Jeff Renner stated and to the second Fidelio recipe you posted, Ron (1941). And it correlates to what Sam Adams has claimed, that its pound of hops per barrel is based on a 19th century recipe of the founder of the brewery (Jim Koch's ancestor). We know that this is in line with many 19th century practices for lager when refrigeration was less reliable or palates more simply attuned to higher hop rates.

Even the jump in 2008 makes sense, probably it is the first signs of the craft beer segment making an impact at this level. Either that or it may reflect Budweiser increasing its hop rate for that brand a couple of years ago. (It did so, this was reported in Wall Street Journal). Or both.

While IBUs are important, in practice I find this data of great importance.


JessKidden said...

Gary- re: the jump for 2008. Pretty sure Papazian of the Brewers Assoc. had a blog/column a few month back in which he claimed that craft brewers, which brew under 5% of the beer in the US, now use almost 20% of the hops.

At first, I thought it was a pretty amazing stat, then I thought about it and about all single bottles and six-packs of IPA's, DIPA's, IIPA's and Triple IPA's on the shelves and then the stacks and pallet loads of BMC's various "light lagers" and even lighter "light" beers and thought, "Nah, that kinda makes sense...".

Barm said...

On the other hand, since it's Papazian, it could be complete horseshit, or he could be right. It's impossible to tell.