Saturday, 25 August 2012

How Lager came to Britain

More Lager fun. This time, the very beginning of the story.

How did Lager become established in Britain? It was a funny process, kicked off by two quite unrelated events. As this article explains:

Everybody (says the Pall Mall Gazette) who, visited the Paris Exhibition the year before last will remember the continual throng of people flocking in and out of the German beershops as one of the most remarkable features of the show. The immense popularity of the Bavarian and especially the Austrian beer, led to the opening of permanent establishments for its sale in different parts of Paris, and an attempt is now being made to gain a footing for the trade in London. At first sight, considering, the vast amount of brewing which goes on in this country, and the old reputation of the manufacture, the experiment of introducing foreign beer, on which the cost of a long journey has to be paid, may seem rather unpromising. In point of fact, however, the sort of beer which is supplied by Dreher and the Liesing Company has really no counterpart among the different varieties of English beer, and supplies what has long bean recognised as a want - a light, pure, clear drink, of good flavour, but weak alcoholic strength. This is just what our English brewers, from a mistaken notion of interest, seem determined not to brew. For the sake of the higher price, they compel people to drink strong stupefying ale, the lighter kinds of beer being quite insipid and unpalatable. A slight concession is, indeed, made in the case of beer for domestic use, though even then the same false principle may be detected; but in the case of taverns and public-houses it is impossible to get a glass of drinkable beer which is not stronger than need be. Nothing can be more absurd than that we should have to go to Munich or Vienna for beer, which might be produced at home in any quantity, and probablly of better quality. The Austrians, however, are making a mistake in charging 6d. a pint for their beer - more than three times as much as is charged in Vienna. Twopence, or at the most threepence, a pint should pay them very well, and would certainly increase the circle of their customers, The British medical Journal gives the component parts of which Austrian beer is composed. These appear to be as follows:-

DREHERS BEER, bought at the Vienna bought at the Restaurant, 395, Strand.
LIESING BEER, bought at the Crown Coffee-house, 41,  Holborne.
Specific gravity
Acetic acid
Original gravity

Further, the proportion of malt used in brewing this Viennese beer is estimated at:-

Drehers Beer.,,... 2.30 bushels per barrel of 36 gallons.
Liesing Beer ...... 2.28 ,. , ,

And it is said that about three times as much is charged per glass as a better description of the same article can be obtained for in Austria. "
Birmingham Daily Post - Wednesday 27 January 1869, page 6.

The Viennese beer hall had been a particularly big hit at the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1867. An event that had been attended by many Britons. Then there's the first example of a phenomenon that happened several times: Lager consumption being given a huge boost by exceptionally warm weather.

1868 was very hot, especially in Southeast England, where there was at least one day over 32º C in every month from May to September. In July alone there were 9 days over 32º C.

I find this stuff fascinating. We'll be returning to the theme of Lager's initial beachhead in Britain.


Alan said...

Two questions pop to mind. What measuring tool 150 years ago measures gravity to 1,019.11? And what is the unit of extract measurement?

Ron Pattinson said...

Alan, these men were scienticians. No probs with precision.

Extract is Plato, isn't it?

Andrew Elliott said...

Originally it was Balling, which was established in 1843, then improved upon by Brix. Plato didn't come along until the early 20th century, so I'd bet Extract was Brix.

Gravity measurements would be calculated based on known constants using a Pycnometer. Known mass/volume of water, vs. weighed out sample of same volume wort.

Ron Pattinson said...

Andrew, thanks for the correction. I should have said Balling. Or that bloody foreign measure.

I prefer pounds per barrel myself. Makes all the calculations so easy.

Andrew Elliott said...

Balling/Brix/Plato... all guys with too much time on their hands. I guess Balling got it done, the other two are the overly nitpicky.

Interesting article at least; seems "drinkability" isn't a new concept.