Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Dutch Ale

Do Continental Ales exist? A question I often ask myself in idle moments. It beats staring out of the window blankly. But only just.

Fairness is important. Especially when you find stuff that doesn't fit your theories. (I had considered destroying the evidence but what with the internet and Google Books, that's a hopeless task.)

In that spirit, here's proof that some Continental beers were considered Ale:

Het Nieuws van den Dag, 5th April 1884

The price hierarchy there says a lot. Top of the tree are Bass Pale Ale and Extra Stout at 30 cents a bottle. Next Vollenhoven's Extra Stout at 25 cents.

Beierische Bieren. That's a general name for bottom-fermenting beer. Heineken, Amstel and Pilsener. Not sure what any of those exactly is. But at 17 and 18 cents, they're a good bit cheaper than the posh top-fermenters.

The last lot are a funny bunch. Gerstenbier and Princessen Bier are Dutch types. Not sure if they are top- or bottom-fermenters. For the more price-conscious drinker. It would help if I knew the relationship between a Kruik, a Flesch and a halve Liter.


Matt said...

Google Books leads to some other interesting places. For instance, the Belgian researchers who wrote in this Dutch-edited and German-published textbook

categorize all yeasts into "ale" or "lager." They then call the beer itself "ale" or "lager" according to what type of yeast fermented it. (See their excellent Chapter 13 "Brewing yeasts" especially 13.2.1.)

Being serious scientists (from the highly respected group at Leuven) the authors do state that "ale" and "lager" are not a rigorous taxonomy (the "real" taxonomy being more complicated) but rather a convenient shorthand.

Nevertheless it's a shorthand they use, and indeed the words "ale" and "lager" have long been used this way for science conducted in English.

In that light, it seems a little outrageous to use words like "cultural imperialism" to describe those (like these authors) who would categorize an Altbier as "ale."

It may be unfortunate from a cultural standpoint, but the meaning of "ale" in international English has morphed. Perhaps it softens the blow that it was morphed a long time ago, by people whose reasons were technical and practical rather than malicious.

Anonymous said...

It's quite possible that, as in Belgium, some beers were brewed based on British practice.It would make sense to call these ales.It's when the term is applied to beers not of the sort developed in the UK that writers are missing the point.
As for the kruik and the fleisch I would guess that they were names for containers (crock and flask?)just as we had flagons here.Guessing from the price perhaps a fleisch was a litre ?

Velky Al said...

I wonder if a pint of Flesch would be Shylock's tipple of choice?

Barm said...

It's common for people writing in a second or third language to defer to what native speakers of that language say. Doesn't mean it's right.

Here the researchers have read, or heard, British and American brewers talking about "ale yeast" and assumed that "ale" is the English for top-fermenting. It isn't.

Of course the British and American brewers talk about ale, because those are the top-fermenting beers which they brew. It's a leap into another dimension to then assert on that basis that Weißbier or Alt must also be categorised as Ale.

There's no problem with the Hollands Ale in Ron's advert. Whatever it was, it was regarded as Ale by the brewer, vendor and drinker. The cultural imperialism appears when Anglo-Saxons start attaching labels to beers that have nothing at all to do with how people think of those beers in their region of origin. It's not just Ale. "Farmhouse Ale", because people can't be bothered learning to pronounce Saison. "Quad". "Belgian Sours". "Bohemian Pilsner".

Gary Gillman said...

I agree with Marquis. I think the Hollandische ale is probably a mild ale of the English type, interpreted locally. The Dormund-style beer listed after would suggest this, i.e., two foreign styles, locally made, are being bracketed.

The term goudale is a partial exception since it is used on at least one French beer in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and is an old folkloric term for beer in France and Flanders. But since the English words "good ale" are the origin of same, one can assume again that the term was used to describe an English-style drink, or one with a parallel quality.

However, isn't the term ol and similar terms (alus, alu, etc.) used in Sweden and other parts of Europe to mean beer and considering their antiquity, top-fermented beer? I seem to recall pictures of beer labels from the countries in question in Michael Jackson's World Guide to Beer using such terms.


Barm said...

Yes, but the word is also used for bottom-fermenting beers in those languages, as I understand it. I don't expect many homebrew twats to be in a rush to agree that those are ale. Even though the word would inescapably translate as such.

Mike said...

Gary, I don't know the term goudale, but goud is the Dutch word for gold (or blonde, in the case of beer). If that term is Dutch (and it looks more Dutch than French), I doubt it means "good ale."

Barm, I agree completely with your interpretation of the use of ale.

Gary Gillman said...

Ol and similar expressions are certainly used to describe bottom-fermented beers, but bottom-fermented beers are the newbies of the beer world, relatively speaking. The term would first have applied, and for a long time, to the only beer available in those places - top-fermented beer. So Continental top-ferment ale did exist in these places at least.

As for countries where the terms beer, bier, la biere, etc. are more generally used, I offered "la goudale" as an example I am aware of where the ale term co-exists, albeit in a restricted sense, in parts of France and Belgium at least.

Here is some online discussion referencing information from Brasseurs Gayants in France on the ancient origins of the term goudale (so again referable to top-fermented ale, as indeed this Goudale is from Gayants or in that style I would say):

Apart from this, I have consulted French etymology dictionaries, which also attest to an apparently English origin for the term. I can't easily find them again (I looked at this some time ago) but I recall that this was the main theory.


Matt said...

Barm, you should hestitate before assuming Prof. Derdelinckx doesn't know his words. His many dozens of English-language publications indicate otherwise, and you will find that the "ale/lager" shorthand is common in English-language technical writing regardless of the author's origin.

This means we have to add "scientist" to "twat" and "imperialist," on the list of reasons why people would call saison an ale.

Seriously, I do understand the cultural issue here. But it's no use arguing that "ale" absolutely doesn't mean "top-fermented," when that's clearly a common usage in technical writing. It would be better to argue that while "ale/lager" is a convenient technical shorthand, those who care about culture should opt to use local names. Most folks would go along with that.

Dan Hackney said...

Does the belegen imply aged? My Dutch being of the comedy tourist attempt sort am not sure, but don't you get belegen kaas?

Is that why they are dearer, as well as the brand name cachet?