Thursday, 2 May 2013

A Bar in Germany

Nothing odd about that, I hear you say. But this is July 1945, when fighting in Europe had only stopped a few weeks before.

I love the way the writer stresses the Hull connection - local journalism at its irritating best. But there's more to enjoy in this short piece.

Hull Guardsman Says "Time Please"

(By a Military Observer)
It is three minutes to nine in the bar of the "Deutsches Haus Hotel" in Verden, German town on the banks of the River Weser. And though it seems a disgustingly early hour at which to close a bar, the old familiar call of "Time, gentlemen, please" awakens the customers to the necessity of getting in another "quick one " before they are hustled out.

The bar may be German one — as also is the beer - but the customers are British soldiers of the Guards Armoured Division, who are occupying the surrounding area, and the man with the stentorian voice who warns them it "Time"" is Gdsmn. Griffin, whose wife lives at 13, Grant-ter., Scarborough-st., Hull.

The bar is just one department of a divisional canteen, and is under the care of former Berwick-on-Tweed farmer, Sgt. Allastair Forsyth, who is assisted by Gdsn. Griffin and a member of a well-known Normanton family of butchers, Gdsn. Fred Hampson (whose father's trade name is Hammond).

In the case of more adamant customers, loth to leave, Gdsn. Griffin throws etiquette to the winds, says a little more sternly "Drink up and get out." Sgt. Forsyth assists in the ceremony by giving a nearby oxygen cylinder a couple of resounding thwacks with a large spanner, and the stragglers take the hint.


The beer is generally acclaimed as being "not bad." On the other hand it is never referred to as "good." It is light lager, supplied from Bremen, with a four per cent, alcoholic content. "Our only regret," the staff assured me, "is that it isn't English beer. We hear that English beer is to be brewed in Hamburg, and we hope to get our hands on some of that shortly."

At the moment this German beer is served through German pumps in German half-pint glasses, and is paid for in German money (half a mark or threepence per half-pint). Not quite like the days we knew in the old Fox and Hounds or the Rose and Crown perhaps, but, even though no one has yet to be carried home, the lads feel they have had a drink of beer, out of a glass, in a pub — and that's a step in the right direction.

Altogether, the bar is run smoothly and capably. Gdsmn. Griffin adds nostalgic touch by addressing all his customers as "Sir." "Half a pint, sir. That'll be half a mark. sir. Thank you. sir." His speed of service in the crowded bar is becoming quite professional.

Throughout the campaign he has fought with an armoured battalion of Welsh Guards."
Hull Daily Mail - Wednesday 04 July 1945, page 4.

It's clear from this quote "the lads feel they have had a drink of beer, out of a glass, in a pub" that the ability to drop by a pub was very important for British soldiers. I guess it brought a sense of normalcy to a pretty odd situation. After six years of fighting against Germany, there they were suddenly occupying it.

They were pretty lucky to get German beer in 1945. In many parts of the country they weren't brewing at all. Though, now I think about it, the occupying forces probably had first dibs on whatever was being brewed.

4% ABV is also a pretty decent strength. You'd have been lucky to find Bitter as strong as that.

London draught Bitters in 1945
Brewer Price size Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
Barclay Perkins 14d pint 0.04 1009.3 1038 32.5 3.72 75.53%
Charrington 1/2d pint 0.07 1009.4 1037 18.5 3.58 74.59%
Courage 1/4d pint 0.08 1010.4 1043.7 22 4.33 76.20%
Mann Crossman 1/4d pint 0.11 1010.1 1042.5 27 4.21 76.24%
Meux 1/2d pint 0.11 1007.4 1032.1 21 3.20 76.95%
Taylor Walker 14d pint 0.11 1011.2 1037 29 3.34 69.73%
Truman 15d pint 0.08 1005.9 1041.6 24 4.65 85.82%
Watney 1/2d pint 0.08 1006.6 1038.3 27 4.12 82.77%
Whitbread 1/2d pint 0.07 1009.2 1032.8 27.5 3.06 71.95%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002

Er, maybe I'll take that back. One thing's certain - you wouldn't have got a pint for 6d in Britain. The cheapest beer in the table is more than double the price.

Back to those German breweries. I wonder which of the Bremen breweries was making their beer? Haake-Beck perhaps? The irony is, of course, that a century earlier they'd brewed IPA and Porter in Bremen.

What type of beer was the English beer they brewed in Hamburg? Bitter? Mild? Most likely one of those two.


Jan said...

Hi! I am from Bremen. The "Germania-Brauerei C. Dreßler", of which the etiquette is, was partially destroyed by allied bombs on Jan. 3rd 1941.
"Haake-Beck" was partially destroyed too during the war.
The "Union-Brauerei Bremen" in Bremen-Walle/Osterfeuerberg wasn't damaged that way i think.

Those british soldiers were lucky to drink one of the last german beers in that time, because some time after in 1945 the brewing of (alcoholic) beer was forbidden by allied administration until 1948.

Ron Pattinson said...


thanks for that.

Was brewing prohibited everywhere? I thought it varied between the various occupying powers. I seem to remember reading that the French were much less strict than the British and Americans.

I also wonder if the British didn't use German breweries to make beer for the British army, as was mentioned in the article.

I'm fascinated by brewing in wartime. Finding information about what was going on in Germany between 1940 and 1950 has been very difficult.

Jan said...

You may be right. Probably it was only forbidden in the british-american Bizone.

I only know, that Haake-Beck was brewing a non-alcoholic brown beer during these years.

Another point about german IPA and Porter: The production of those british styles in Bremen ended by the WW1 at the latest, but in the 20ies there was (I)PA and Porter sold in Bremen, that came from Britain (BarclayPerkins!) as well as from a brewery in Hamburg. I forgot the name, but i have some advertisings i found in old newspapers from Bremen. So if you are interested i can check it and will send you a copy.

Barm said...

According to a Spiegel article in March 1948, the British had initially banned the production of all alcohol, whereas in the French zone a 2% beer was permitted and 3% in the Russian zone.

17 of the 250 breweries in the British zone were allocated barley for making beer. They brewed beer for the NAAFI at 8.5 Plato.

Ron Pattinson said...


thanks for that. I was sure that the British army would have supplied its troops with beer.

Barm said...

The question of what kind of “English” beer would be brewed for the troops is intriguing. I can’t imagine they would go to the trouble of importing English malt and hops. And deliberately humiliating the Germans by making them use sugar?