Sunday 17 October 2021

Dark Lager Day

No, not a new celebratory day for one of my favourite types of beer. Rather, a requirement imposed on publicans in wartime Holland. Yes, I'm back with that again. Using, as ever, the CBK minutes as my source.

I do love a good Dark Lager. As a Mild drinker, I sought out the darker-hued beers in my first forays into Bavaria. There's a very specific flavour in a good Bavarian Dunkles for which I've never come up with a good description. It's sort of nutty, but not quite. I've always assumed it came from a specific type of dark malt, but I could be wrong. I haven't the palate of a professional brewer.

I wish Augustiner would serve their Dunkles the "Bayerischer Anstich" way (straight from the cask). Don't get me wrong, I like the keg version. Knowing how much the old-fashioned dispense improves their Helles, cask Dunkles would be a knockout.

The robustly simple Dunkles brewed by Frau Hofmann out in the Franconian sticks.  What a great afternoon that was with Andy and Jeff Bell in - wow was it that long ago? - 2007.

Apologies for the digression. Just some great memories came back I when started thinking about Dark Lager.

Back to the imposition of Dark Lager Day in Rotterdam. Its March 1941. Nazi forces have occupied the country for almost a year. Time to make Rotterdam suffer some more. I don't mean that. Just wondering why specifically Rotterdam was singled out. Why not Amsterdam and The Hague as well?

Let's see what the CBK (Dutch brewers' organisation) planned:

Mr Zylker says that at a meeting of cafe owners in Rotterdam, at the suggestion of the H.B.M. it was decided to sell only Dark Lager beer one day a week. The H.B.M. would then consult with the other breweries to support such an arrangement through sanctions.

In the Speaker's opinion, this proposal from the H.B.M. is only enforceable, if the C.B.K, supports it, possibly by laying down this matter in regulations. The sanction should then consist of the exclusion of violating café owners from beer supply.

De Heer Six thinks that in the summer in the Netherlands there will be one or more beer-free days in the cafes. A Dark Lager day then takes on the meaning of a transitional measure towards a beerless day. Speaker is for a Dark Lager day.

The speaker went on to say that even rural innkeepers already ask for a Dark Lager day, while the concept of a beerless day is already alive with them.

Mr. Zylker says he has no objections to a Dark Lager day. However, in addition, a regulation will have to be made in Rotterdam with regard to Light Lager, since in the current circumstances it is impossible to maintain the Light Lager ban any longer.
Minutes of the management of the CBK on 26th March 1941, held at the Amsterdam City Archives, document number 31121-1, page 211.

H.B.M. is Heineken, in case you were wondering. Which, as I'm sure you remember, had a big brewery in Rotterdam.

I suppose I should explain what Dark Lager (Donker Lagerbier) and Light Lager (Licht Lagerbier) were. Relatively low-gravity by continental standards, at just 3.5% ABV when the panzers rolled over the eastern border. At this point, March 1941, it was a feeble 2.4% ABV.

Brewers and pub owners agreed: one day a week, nothing but Dark Lager. That didn't mean any old old dark beer. They specifically mean Donker Lagerbier. Which meant that not only were drinkers being limited in their choice of colour, but also strength. As the option of Pilsner was denied.

Then another problem pops up: the ban on Light Lager. What the hell was that about? A ban on Licht Lagerbier? What did they have against Rotterdam? Find out next time.

1 comment:

A Brew Rat said...

I know the flavor you are describing in a Dunkle. In my opinion, it is imparted by using fresh Munich malt. Brewing them with German Munich malt here in the U.S., my efforts fall short a lot of time because my malt isn't always that fresh, but every now and then I nail it. I usually brew them with 97% light Munich malt/3% dark Carafa II or III malt (added to get the right color).

I have had poor luck brewing Dunkles with dark Munich malt, because more often that not I get a weird vegetal flavor that I don't care for. Again, I attribute it to the freshness of the malt.