Thursday, 27 May 2021

Heineken beers in 1939

Heineken had a pretty simple range at the start of WW II: a pale and a dark full-strength Lager, a pale and a dark Schankbier-strength Lager, an export Pils and a Bok. With the standard Pils being by far their biggest seller, accounting for around two-thirds of their production.

The Pils was pretty typical for the style. A touch under 12º Plato, and 4.7% ABV. Though, if you look at interwar labels, the strength is given as 5% ABV. (Holland was unusual in having the ABV listed on beer labels in the interwar period.) Yet it was always really 4.7% ABV. I assume they were exploiting the tolerance for error allowed on the ABV to the maximum. A trick still performed by large breweries today.

The hopping rate of the Pils at 0.2 kg per hl is lower than you might expect for a hop-accented beer. It’s the equivalent of around 4.5 lbs per quarter (336 lbs) of malt and 0.75 lbs per barrel. To put that into context, in the same year Barclay Perkins Standard Mild, X Ale, was hopped at 7 lbs per quarter of malt and 0.95 lbs per barrel.

Heineken’s other full-strength Lager, Beierische, was obviously intended to be in the Munich style. It actually pre-dated their Pils, having been one of their first bottom-fermented beers. By the late 1930s its popularity had faded and it was brewed in modest quantities.

Beierische was lightly stronger than Pils both in OG and ABV. It was even more lightly-hopped than Pils, though that was in keeping with the intended style. I’m not sure what colour scale they were using. Based on the colour of the Pils, it looks about the same as old Lovibond or EBC, so about double SRM. Which would make it a little on the pale side for a Münchener.

Licht Lagerbier look much like a light version of Pils. Session Pils, I suppose you could call it. The hopping rate per 100 kg of malt is a little bit higher than that of the Pils, but roughly similar. As you would expect, the colour was a little paler.

Donker Lagerbier was more lightly hopped, but of the same strength as its pale sibling. The colour being the same as Beierische.

Export Pils was much the same as the standard beer, just being a little hoppier. In fact, it was the most heavily hopped of all their beers.

Finally, there’s Bok, a seasonal beer only available in the Autumn. It must have had a reasonable amount of lagering. The example in the table was brewed at the beginning of August but wouldn’t have been on sale for at least another two months. It was by far the strongest beer of the range at 7% ABV. Which is why this is one of the last brews for several years. It wasn’t ever brewed during the occupation. It has the lowest hopping rate per 100 kg of malt of all their beers.

Heineken beers in 1939
Date Beer Style OG Plato FG Plato ABV App. Atten-uation kg hops/ 100 kg hops kg/hl colour
26th Dec Do Donker Lagerbier 8.91 2.31 3.50 74.75% 1.10 0.13 15
11th Dec Li Licht Lagerbier 8.96 2.36 3.50 74.35% 1.37 0.16 4
12th Dec Exp Pils 11.86 2.93 4.80 76.16% 1.50 0.23 6
6th Dec P Pils 11.91 3.18 4.70 74.21% 1.33 0.20 5
7th Dec Bei Münchener 12.59 3.33 5.00 74.51% 0.98 0.17 15
7th Aug Bok Bok 17.14 4.44 7.00 75.36% 0.80 0.19 15
Heineken brewing records held at the Amsterdamse Stadsarchief, document numbers 834 - 1758 and 834 - 1759.



Anonymous said...

For a long time in the US, Heineken was considered a premium beer, a big step above Miller and Bud. Was that also true in Europe? Or was it a lot more pedestrian?

Roel Mulder said...

I think you could say that before WWII, Heineken was probably considered a premium brand in the Netherlands, but after the war, especially from the 1960s onwards, it became so widespread that it was considered a part of dull everyday life.
Hi anonymous, to my generation (born in the 1980s) Heineken is 'the beer your dad drinks'. I remember being baffled when I found out that it was so popular among foreigners, especially Americans. What doesn't help is that in Holland you associate Heineken with the many worn-down, old-fashioned pubs it owns (and its fruit machine playing patrons). And then there are their ill-fated attempts at being cool by introducing such marketing gems as Heineken Extra Cold (served from a frozen tap) and Heineken Extra Fresh (on sale refrigerated with a pretentious paper wrapper around it) or a a new version with wild yeasts from Patagonia (no joke). They ditched their traditional brown bottles and started using green ones because they thought it looked cooler (we all know using green glass is the best way to destroy a beer).
It has a reason that today their main claim to fame seems to be their alcoholfree 0.0% version...

Roel Mulder said...

Hi Ron, in fact mentioning the ABV on labels was obligatory from 1 April 1932 onwards in the Netherlands. Which is convenient for dating old labels.