Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Wrexham Pilsener

As I've already mentioned, there are plenty of articles to be found in late 19th century newspapers about Lager. This one is even more specific, being about Pilsener.

The Wrexham Lager brewery was an important player in the development of Lager-brewing in Britain. It was the first Lager-only brewery to survive for any length of time. Founded in 1881, it lasted right up to 2000 when its multinational owners finally pulled the plug.

It is not so many years past since Lager Beer was practically unknown in this country. Travellers returning from Vienna, Berlin, Bavaria, and other continental towns, had gone into raptures over the famous "Beir Gardens," telling how the Burgomeister and the workman, the general and the private, the lady and her maid, the townspeople countryfolk, and strangers, not to speak of children and their nurses, all met on one common ground, straying under the Linden trees, listening to the strains of the military band playing Strauss' dreamy waltzes, or mayhap Wagner's "Lohengrin," the men drinking lager beer out of German tankards, iced, cold, and exhilarating. The number of tankards consumed at one sitting were generally in proportion to the credulity of the listener, sometimes it extended to gallons, as in the case of the famous student of Heidleberg.

It is a question if lager beer would have been introduced into England to the extent it now is, but for the fact that the German brewers first attacked the export trade of the English and Scotch brewers, and slowly but surely superseded them in almost every foreign market, particularly those under the British flag. Being successful, they then pushed the beer into England, and were assisted by the English residenters, who coming home brought the taste for lager beer with them. Up to this the German clubs in London, Manchester, &c, kept lager beer for their members, but outside of this there was no other trade to speak of. All this is now changed ; at present there are no less than thirty-five Continental lager beer breweries represented in London alone, and in England there are several breweries now making this beer. The demand for lager beer, especially the light Pilsener beer, has advanced with great strides. The public are finding out that this light beer is a very healthy beverage, acting as an exhilarating tonic, without any depressing effects, such as follow the consumption of heavier ales, and the taste generally is setting towards a light, palatable beer.

We have mentioned there are several breweries that brew lager beer in this country, among these the Wrexham Lager Beer Company (Limited), Wrexham, stands foremost, This brewery, built from the foundation on the German system, is complete in all its details, and has been very successful in brewing the light "Pilsener" beer for the past two years, their sales within six months having advanced nearly 50 per cent. The beer is a beautiful pale color, light and pleasant to the palate, and effervescing like good champagne, as a dinner beverage it is unsurpassed. The beer is matured in the Company's ice cellars for at least three months, the machinery at the brewery being capable of making from ten to twelve tons of ice per day. This being more than is required for brewing purposes, the company are now making the ice from pure town's water, and selling it to the public for trade or domestic use.

It is strange to think of the distant parts of the world to which the Wrexham Pilsener Beer finds its way. When one speaks of flowery Japan, China with her teeming populations ; the Malay Archipelago, including the Dutch island of Java, Rangoon, and British Burmah ; India, from Calcutta to the mountains, and in Ceylon ; all the principal Australian ports ; Africa, both east and west coast ; the principal ports in South America, both east and west coast ; Florida, New York, and Canada, it can be seen that it has a wide domain. At Home the principal large lines of steamers take it for passengers' use, both the great Australian lines and the famous Atlantic racers, not to mention Eastern bound steamers. In the United Kingdom, from Aberdeen in the north to Bournemouth in the south, and in the wild wests of Ireland to Hull in England, a large and growing trade is being done ; and like carrying coals to Newcastle it has even been sent to customers in Germany. We are informed that making use of their extensive malting floors and kilns the Company started malting last year, and made malt suitable for sale to other brewers. So far they have met with success, having sold all they malted for the purpose during the season. With the machinery and plant at their disposal, and the efficient staff of employés at present engaged, the Company Will have, and deserve, continued success in the future."
Wrexham Advertiser - Saturday 25 October 1890, page 5.

There are a couple of really interesting points in there. First, about the way German beer stole British export markets. Particularly export markets that were part of the British Empire. That I knew, but the next bit is an echo of how IPA arrived in Britain. Returning expats who had acquired a taste for Lager whilst abroad wanting to continue their Lager habit.

Then there's the number of Lager brewers with agents in London: 35. That's quite a lot. Though, given that only 50,000 barrels were imported in total in 1890 (source: Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 115), many must foreign breweries must have been bringing in very small quantities of beer.

One significant change since the early days of the 1860’s was the type of Lager being imported and drunk. At first the Vienna style of amber Lager had been most popular, followed by the dark Munich type. By 1890 Pilsner had become the preferred Lager, which mirrored trends in the rest of Europe. The first Lagers brewed in most of European countries were Müncheners. Carlsberg in Denmark and Heineken in Holland are good examples. Neither initially brewed a pale Lager.

Despite this glowing writeup in the local paper, the Wrexham Lager brewery struggled to find much of a market for its beers in Wales of Britain as a whole. Which is why there's such a long list of export destinations. It's significant that the first "domestic" customers mentioned are shipping lines. Hardly really domestic consumption.

This is one of several advertorial type articles about the brewery that I've found in the Wrexham Advertiser. One was clearly written by a non-native English speaker. A dead giveaway of the brewery having been involved in its writing.

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