Thursday, 23 May 2019

Vienna Beer arrives in London

It was only in the 1860’s that Lager became regularly available to drinkers in Britain. Two events were the catalyst to Lager’s arrival: the 1867 Great Exhibition in Paris the hot summer of 1868.

One of the big hits at the Paris Exhibition was the Vienna beer hall. Inspired by its success, similar beer halls began to spring up in Paris . British visitors to the exhibition were suitably impressed. A particularly hot summer the following year made cool Lager beer seem particularly inviting. In the southeast of England there was at least one day over 32º C in every month between May to September and in July alone there were 9 days over 32º C – . It sounds like the weather was very similar to 1976: a long drought and high temperatures for months on end.

By the end of 1868 there were five places selling Viennese Lager in London, two on the Strand and three in the city . The beer they sold was Märzen, either from Dreher’s brewery in Schwechat or from Liesing:

DREHERS BEER, bought at the Vienna Restaurant, 395, Strand. LIESING BEER, bought at the Crown Coffee-house, 41,  Holborne. 
Specific gravity 1,019.76 1,019.11
Alcohol 4.43 4.45
Acetic acid  0.12 0.13
Extract 7.05 6.82
Original gravity 1,062.27 1,061.67

Some things never change. The Austrian Märzen sold in London was more expensive than locally-brewed beer. Much more expensive. A pint of Dreher or Liesing Märzen would cost you 6d . Or 2.5p. Sounds pretty cheap, doesn’t it? But let’s put that into perspective. A pint of Mild Ale, also with a gravity in the low 1060’s, was only 2d, a third of the price .

Bavarian Beer, presumably from Munich, was also available in London. At the Royal Bavarian Restaurant, at 30 Oxford St., for example. This was a little weaker than the Viennese Märzen at 1058º and 5% ABV, but still cost 6d a pint. Compared to British beers, it was terrible value.

Looking at the wholesale price of Vienna Lager, it’s not surprising that it retailed at three times the price of Mild. The importer paid £5 6s. 6d for a 36-gallon barrel:

The beer itself in Austria  46s. 
carriage to England,  26s.  
duty,  24s.  
return of cask,  7s. 6d
Pall Mall Gazette - Thursday 28 January 1869, page 5.

£5 6s. 6d is 106s. 6d, almost exactly triple the 36s. a 36-gallon barrel of Mild Ale would cost.

It didn’t take long for Lager to spread outside London. In December 1868, the Bavarian Beer Hall, at 204 Oxford Street, Manchester was advertising “Genuine Bavarian Lager, Vienna & Bock Beer. In March 1869 the Dundee Courier reported that a “well-known establishment in Miller Street”, Glasgow had started selling Vienna beer.

Like this? Then you'll love the book it comes from, Lager! (UK):

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Edd The Brew said...

Hi Ron ,
I`ve seen a newspaper advert for a publican in Wigan , Lancashire from the 1880`s which states " Genuine Vienna Lager Beer may be had at this establishment , the only place in the town where it may be had on draught " .
I`ll try and dig out a copy and let you have it ,

Cheers ,

Barm said...

The Bavarian beer wouldn’t necessarily be from Munich in the late 1860s. Erlangen was exporting way more beer than Munich. The Munich breweries were only just starting to industrialise and the ice machine hadn’t come into use yet. We often assume the dominance of the Munich breweries is older than it is.