Sunday, 28 June 2009

The spread of pale lager

I've warned you before about assuming Pilsener brewing quickly spread across Europe after 1842. In Bavaria in particular brewers were reluctant to abandon their dark lagers and follow the new fad for pale lager.

This article documents the eventual adoption of light beer by the Bavarians.

"Notes on Bavarian Light Beer.

The dark, so-called Bavarian beer, which was brewed according to methods originating in Bavaria at a low temperature with bottom fermenting yeast, was well known at the beginning of the 19th Century, when large quantities of this beer were consumed, not only in Bavaria, but also in North Germany, Austria, and even in France.

"Pilsner beer" first attracted general notice during the World Exposition at Paris in 1867, after which it became a serious rival to the dark Bavarian beer. The first Bavarian brewer to make a beer of the Pilsner variety was Karl Michel, at that time owner of a brewery at Augsburg, and now director of the Michel Brewing Academy in Munich. Michel brewed light beers of different strengths and sold them both in and out of Bavaria; he had an especially good trade in Munich. Such was the good reputation of Michel's beer that it occupied a prominent place at the royal feast when Princess Grisela was betrothed to Prince Leopold of Bavaria. At this time no other German brewer was brewing light beer and it was several years before brewers generally began to produce it. The Berliner bohmische Brauhaus took it up and soon all North German brewers were making Pilsner beer.

The Bavarian brewers, particularly those of Munich and Augsburg, for a long time held aloof from the light beer, and even now the world famed Brauerei des Münchener Koniglichen Hofbrauhauses brews only dark beer. The brewers of Niirnberg and Culmbach followed the North Germans. The demand for Pilsner beer became greater, even in Munich. To meet this demand and the competition of outsiders the Munich brewers had to brew light beers.

The Brauerei zum Thomasbrau was the first to undertake to imitate Pilsner beer; next followed the Spatenbrauerei and gradually all the other Munich breweries except the Hofbrauhaus. Some of these brewers, as the Thomas brewery, succeeded in imitating Pilsner beer, but most of the others do not hop their worts as strongly as do the Bohemian brewers; this they do in deference to the taste of the Munich public, which is not very fond of bitter beer. The Munich light beers are generally stronger than the genuine Pilsner.

The differences in character which subsist between the light Pilsner and the dark Bavarian beers are due to differences in the method of preparation of the malt. While for dark beer the brewer requires a sweet, roasted malt with aromatic taste and dark color, for light beer he requires a malt with the brightest possible color without the aroma of roasted malt, and with a mealy, almond like taste. These two types of beer differ also in their concentration and in the amount of hops used. Light beers, taking Pilsner beer as a model, have a lower concentration (original wort) and more hop extract, than the Bavarian; further, the light beers are higher fermented than the dark beers.

As to the composition of the light Bavarian beer in comparison with the dark, it may be remarked that according to German law only malt and hops can be used in the manufacture of beer.

Below are given the average results of the analysis of 20 light and 20 dark Munich beers as given by the Munich Scientific Station for Brewing:


Light beer Dark beer
Original Wort 12.33% 13.68%
Degree of fermentation 58.61% 51.95%
Alcohol 3.76% 3.70%
Extract 5.09% 6.55%

Pilsner beer brewed in Bohemia has the following composition:

Original Wort 11.50%
Degree of fermentation 53.20%
Alcohol 3.30%
Extract 5%

The light beers now enjoy great popularity in Munich as well as outside of Germany. The production increases from year to year; in Munich it constitutes about 30 per cent, of the total."
"Pure products" published by The Scientific Station for Pure Products, 1909, pages 255-256.

Looks like it's becoming a summer of lager. Maybe I should just give it to it and accept it as my ineluctable summer theme.

10 comments:

Matt said...

Ron, now that you've chosen lager as your summer theme, can I suggest a topic for a post? I'd be interested in your recollections of the spread of lager in 70's Britain. I've read that the heatwave of 1976 (which I just about remember) was the key in securing its popularity.

Pivní Filosof said...

Very interesting the numbers at the end.
I've read somewhere that Pilsner Urquell is now brewed at 11.2° Balling, yet it has 4.4%ABV.

Is there any information about how long those beers were lagered? PU has justified the shortening of the lagering period from 90 to 35 days on the basis that that is closer to way the "original" PU was made....

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, I was thinking just the same thing yesterday. I'm not sure the figures totally support the theory.

This is the percentage share of lager:

1973 14.6
1974 16.4
1975 19.8
1976 23.4
1977 24.3
1978 26.8

Though it should be remembered that 1975 had a hot summer, too.

Andrew said...

Off hand (away from my notes) it jumped from end of the 70s, early 80s. Hitting around 45% in 86 and over 50% (of total beer sales) in 89.

Those are aggregates for the whole year, though. It might be interesting to compare seasonal sales for the mid 70s.

Ron Pattinson said...

Andrew, these are the numbers:

1984 38.9
1985 40.9
1986 43.4
1987 46.6
1988 48.6
1989 50.3

I do have these things to hand.

Andrew said...

Thanks. Have you got a source for that?
My money is on advertising rather than warm weather. I'm digging into it...

And just as an aside to the post, Carlsberg Pilsner wasn't produced until 1904 backing up your comments ( although they did start exporting lighter beers before that around early 1880s)

Ron Pattinson said...

Andrew, my source is the Statistical Handbook of the British Beer and Pub Association. A wonderful book

Jeff Renner said...

Of course, the brewing of pale beers in areas that traditionally brewed dark beers, such as Bavaria, required an understanding of water chemistry and how to adjust the minerals in the water. I believe it was Fred Scheer, the German-trained (Doemens) brewmaster, now at Bosco's in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, who told me that this was accomplished by the turn of the 20th Century.

zythophile said...

"Berliner bohmische Brauhaus", of course, means "Berlin Bohemian Brewery", which name implies that they didn't so much "take up" making Bohemian/Plzen-style pale lager as set out to make it from the start ... know anything about them, Ron?

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, I'm afraid I don't know anything more about the Berliner bohmische Brauhaus. It would be nice to have a date for when they started.