Friday, 21 May 2021

Strange Brew

I'm busy scrabbling through the last bit of research for my upcoming book, "Blitzkrieg!". Trawling through Heineken (Rotterdam) wartime records.

I photographed some years back. Just checked. Fuck me - it was 2007. I'd not done much with them because they weren't relevant to the research I was doing. I flirted with the pre-WW I ones, but had mostly left the others undisturbed.

I debated with myself whether I could be arsed to go through the WW II ones for the book. And non-lazy me triumphed. It was too good a chance to look at brewing on the other side to pass up. I'm glad now that lazy-arse me lost. Having discovered lots of stuff.

Despite having photographed some records, that's not what I've been using for my research. The Amsterdamse Stadsarchief is shit hot. Dead easy to use as requests are all done via computer. Even better, they've introduced a digitisation on demand service. 

You can request five documents a month be digitised. Obviously, I've been requesting the beer-related stuff. Specifically the Heineken Rotterdam stuff they have. I'm so glad I did, because it's made this section of research so much easier.

Having limited time in archives, I almost never photograph an entire document (the Whitbread Gravity Books are an exception). With most brewing books, I just try to get a couple of examples of each beer. That's how I could get through 60 Whitbread brewing books in a single session. Downside is that it's easy to miss stuff.

Which is exactly what happened with the Heineken records. Quickly flicking through them and snapping, I missed some strange brews. And the odd notation that solved some puzzle.

I'll start with the latter first. The handwriting in most of the records is atrocious. And there are abbreviations which aren't clear at all. "R" or "R s" had me guessing. Was it rietsuiker (cane sugar)? Or something else? Then in one single brew, the brewer could be arsed to write it out in full: rijst (rice).

This one had me stumped for a while, too:

Any guesses what it says? "Suiker" is the answer - sugar. Could you have read that?

Getting around to the title of this piece, in Autumn, Heineken made a few brews of Pils which were much stronger. Some at Bock strength, some at Märzen strength.

Strange Heineken Pils in 1940
Date Year OG Plato FG Plato ABV App. Atten-uation kg hops/ 100 kg hops kg/hl
27th Oct 1940 11.50 3.11 4.50 73.85% 1.33 0.19
23rd Oct 1940 16.61 4.43 6.70 74.58% 1.33 0.29
1st Nov 1940 14.50 3.86 5.80 74.48% 1.33 0.25
Heineken brewing record held at the Amsterdamse Stadsarchief, document number 834 - 1759.

The first is the standard version of Pils at the time. Neither of the other two is like any Pils Heineken had previously brewed. I think there's only one explanation: they must have been brewed for the Germans. Most likely, the German military. Why they wanted a Pils as strong as Bock, I've no idea. Other than that they wanted to get pissed.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Just read in a book about the Hanse. It was common practice to brew your beers for export with higher abv to ship your beers in as few barrels as possible in order to cut shipping fees and scale down afterwards. Could be same reason in times of WWII. Maybe the Heineken Pils was sent to the german troops abroad direct from Rotterdam.