Monday, 30 November 2009

War - it's not too late

Did I mention my new book? I've got a new book. It's called "War!" I did mention it? I can't remember that. Must have been drunk. Or distracted.

Not to worry. If fear of repetition was a concern, I'd be counting my posts on the fingers of one foot.

My new book is called "War!" (I told you repetition wasn't a fear.) It's about war. No, wars. That first one and the other one. Very sad affairs. If only they'd held them Kurt Vonnegut style: backwards.

It would make a great christmas present, "War!" Unlike war, which would make a really crap present. Thank you Mr. Punkt for punctuation. I'd sound like a real Nazi without it.

Traditional watch

Look, I know my work is littered with examples. Pot, black, kettle, etc. I'm a reformed man. But I haven't had chance to correct my past writings yet.

Traditional. A word as vague as it is handy. It covers any period more than 20 years in the past. Or earlier than you can remember. About as precise as that. Don't know any exact dates? Just use "traditional" instead.

Now I've realised that, every time I see the word it jumps off the page (or the screen). That gives me an idea, why don't I post the most flagrant and gratuitous uses of the word "traditional"? I could make it a regular feature of the blog.

Before you ask, this isn't an innovation. Private Eye have been doing something similar for years.

For no particular reason other than I just stumbled across them, here's a couple of outstanding examples of how to obscure history by the use of "traditionally" from Charlie Papazian:

"Contrary to popular belief the original Guinness draft stout is not strong ale; it’s no more than about 3.8% alcohol, even today. The bottled stout labeled “foreign export” traditionally reaches up to about 6% alcohol."

"Stout’s deep brown/black color suggests strength, yet traditionally this beer was brewed to lower strengths. Even today, draft stouts in Ireland are at about 3% alcohol."

Random. Totally random.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Smoke and Fire

I was gutted at missing the De Molen Festival a few weeks ago. Thinking back, I realised it had been ages since my last visit to Bodegraven. I put that right yesterday.

Stupid. I must be stupid. Every time I go, Menno offers me a load of his latest brews. Why on earth don't I go more often?

Some things are just a bad idea. Coffee Stouts. Bourbon Stouts. I've still not forgiven Mike for slipping me that chili beer unannounced. Chili beer. What a shit idea.

Chili, shit, coffee. Funnily enough, those all featured in the beers Menno forced on me yesterday.

Rook en Vuur. Understanding a smattering of Dutch, I wondered what the name was about. Smoke and Fire. A sip told me where the first part of the name came from. Smoked malt. But the fire.

"Chili. Can you feel a slight prickle on your tongue?" Menno explained the Vuur bit.

Very subtle and unexpectedly good.

Mout en Mocca. That was an easy one to guess. Coffee Stout. I've had too many that were loaded up with roasted barley and black malt, then coffee on top of that. Roast overload. Mout en Mocca isn't like that at all. It has an incredibly complex coffee aroma.The tastes is rich, roasty and very, very layered. Top stuff. There's my opinion of Coffee Stout changed.

That's coffee and chili covered. Just the shit to go. Enter yet another Coffee Stout. Kopi Loewak. This one made with the world's most expensive coffee. You know, the stuff the cats shit out. Now there are two Coffee Stouts I like.

A revelatory day.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will reveal that I did not pay for the beers consumed. Menno is a really nice guy.

Porter still ascendant

I thought I'd share something I tripped over while going through some Truman's brewing records. At the bottom of one log they'd handily inculded totals of the amount of each of their beers they'd brewed in 1860 and 1861.

It's an fascinating glimpse into the preferences of London drinkers. It shows us a time when Porter was still ascendant, but showing the first inklings of decline. The move from aged to Mild Porter is also evident.

Just for a laugh, I calculated the average gravity of Truman's output in 1861. It's an impressive 1064.7.

Let's take a closer look. In 1860 57.63% of Truman's output was Porter (if you combine the numbers for Runner and Keeper). In 1861, it was a tiny fraction lower at 57.5%. Nothing dramatic there. But Keeping Porter's share of output fell from 10% to 6%. Pretty significant.

The story with Stout is similar. In 1860, 16.35% in 1861 16.62% (that's Running and Keeping combined). No great change. But Keeping Stout fell from 3.97% to 2.33%.

Here's a nice, neat table with all the details:

Looking at the Ales, we can see the increasing popularity of Mild Ales. Biggest-seller by a considerable margin was X Ale, or standard Mild. Though it still lagged behind Stout somewhat. Most of the Ales were produced in tiny quantities. Output of the stronger Ales was mostly falling.

The proportion of Ales produced was increasing but still only just scraped 20% of the total. Thirty years later, things would be looking very different.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

War! available for sale!

Another book in my Mini Book Series is now available to buy. "War!". You lucky devils.

It tells the fascinating - and sometimes heartrending - story of British beer during the two world wars. But don't worry. It all turned out well in the end. Sort of.

Buy "War!" today and be the envy of your friends.


Tijd voor nog een innovatie. Waarom? Omdat het zoooo saai is om alleen maar engels te schrijven.

Nou, het is wel waar dat veel van jullie de nederlandse taal niet beheersen. Ik zeg, neem maar de kans om deze prachtige taal te leren.

Ja miks piirdun ainult üht võõrkeelt? Kas see ei ole rassistlik? OK, lehet zavaró az elején. Ngunit ako ba kayo sa kalaunan makuha ang pagkakabitin nito.

Bjór. Ég man nú. Það að eiga að vera þemað hér. Es saku kaut ko par alu. Por çfarë? Unë kam qenë kaq e zënë me të gjitha stuff këtë gjuhë, unë nuk mund të mendoj se një birrë të vetme mendohet.

Risi në birrë ni shehena ya taka.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Peace at last

Here's a excerpt from my latest Mini Book, "Peace!". Not a particularly long or exciting excerpt, but you can't have everything. If you want to see the bulk of it you'll need to be either lucky (get one of the free copies) or lay down some dosh.

Once the dust had settled after WW I, average gravity had dropped by about 10º from its pre-war level. It remained at around 1043º until 1931, when a big rise in beer duty (from 80s to 114s per standard barrel) prompted brewers to cut gravities to avoid increasing the price of a pint. The tax increase was reversed in 1933, but gravities never got back to their old levels, remaining around 1041º.

The uneven approach of brewers to the tax increase - dropping the gravity of some styles, such as Mild and Porter, increasing the price of others like Bitter - widened the gap in strength between the cheap and expensive beers. In 1923, Whitbread's X Ale had an OG of 1042.1º and its PA 1046.4º. In 1933, X was 1036.1º and PA 1048.8º.

Aside from that one little blip in the early 1930's, beer tax was remarkably stable in the interwar period, remaining at 80s per standard barrel from 1924 onwards.

This table gives an overview of beer output and taxation between the wars:

British brewing overview 1920 – 1939

Production (barrels)

Production (hl)

Average OG

tax per standard barrel

Net excise receipts (pounds)
























































































































Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 110

Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Innovative blogging

Innovation. We all need to innovate. Maybe it's time for me to start. Innovative blogging.

Where to start? Colours. Great idea. No more boring black letters. Bet no-one's done that before.

Fonts. There's another area I've neglected in my ridiculous search for facts.

Hey, I know, if I combine the two, I'll be right out there opening the envelope of blogging.

If I throw in a few different siZe letters anD some raNDom capital letterS, i'll rEealLy be puLLing tHe boUndaRies.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Calling residents of Manchester

I've a favour to ask. To someone in the Manchester area. I would do it myself, but I've no idea when I'll have chance.

What's the favour? Photograph Boddington's brewing records I'd greatly appreciate the help and would be prepared to reward the favour-giver.

The records are held here:

Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
Liverpool Road
M3 4FP
Tel: 0161 606 0127
Fax: 0161 606 0186

Open : Tue-Thu 10.00-16.30
Closed : 25, 26 December, 1 January

These are the documents I'm interested in:

M693/405/125 Brewing Books 1900 - 1903
M693/405/126 Brewing Books 1913 - 1917
M693/405/127 Brewing Books 1917 - 1929
M693/405/128 Brewing Books 1929 - 1938
M693/405/129 Brewing Books 1939 - 1946
M693/405/130 Brewing Books 1947 - 1951
M693/405/131 Brewing Books 1952 - 1958
M693/405/132 Brewing Books 1959 - 1964
M693/405/133 Brewing Books 1965 - 1970
M693/405/134 Brewing Books 1971 - 1974
M693/405/135 Brewing Books 1975 - 1979
M693/405/136 Brewing Books 1980 - 1983
M693/405/137 Brewing Books 1961 - 1963

Of those, the ones covering 1900 to 1951 are the ones I'd like to have a look at most. And this one:

Various Trade and Other Statistics: Summary of brewers in Manchester with quantities brewed 1862 - 1879; Summary of brewers in Burton-on-Trent with quantities brewed 1866 - 1880; Returns 1873 - 1883; Record of sales in Rochdale, Crewe, Middlesborough, Birmingham, Burton-on-Trent, Newcastle 1873 - 1886; Summary of types of trade 1874 - 1882; Summary of family trade 1880 - 1886.

So can anyone give me a hand with this?


Hard to believe, but yet another book is ready to go: "Peace!". A companion volume to, naturally enough, "War!". (Just like Tolstoy I've written War and Peace. Except mine are separate volumes.)

What's it about? Well, peace. The peacetime years between the two wars: 1920 - 1939.

The interwar period is fascinating. For me at least. It’s where modern British beer began. While Edwardian beers seem exotic and strange, those from after WW I are reassuringly familiar. Weak and watery Dark Mild, Bitter you could drink more than four pints of without falling over, Stout that isn’t really very stout at all, sweet Brown Ale. The standard beers you found down the pub when I started my drinking career all have their origins in the interwar years.

What would British beer be like today if the two world wars had never happened? That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. Obviously, it’s impossible to answer without a machine to travel between parallel universes. Lacking such a handy device, we’re left with guesswork.

Looked at rationally, the wars only accelerated processes already in action. The move away from heavy, aged beers to light, running beers began in the 19th century. I can’t imagine standard Mild and Bitter having remained over 5% ABV. Maybe they’d be a little stronger, perhaps 4 to 4.5% ABV. Or maybe not. As I’ve already said, this can only be guesswork.

Luckily, the period is very well documented. To be honest, the Whitbread and Truman Gravity Books have provided far more information than I need. At least for London beers. Combined with the extensive brewing records held in archives, it makes study of the period a doddle. As an intensely lazy person, that’s why I picked it. Not too much work. When I’m feeling more energetic, I may take on the 18th century.

I've just remembered. New book = new competition. I need a question. Let's think . . . .

. . . . that's not working. I'll ask the kids . . . . . .

What's Andrew's middle name? [No, I've already given that one away.] Who's Alexei's favourite artist? Which is our least favourite tree? What colour is our new kitchen? Where did dad break his first ankle? How many jenevers can dad drink before we call him an alcoholic? When will you stop singing?

All excellent suggestions, I'm sure you'll agree. But, I'm the father here. My word is final. A specific question, with one, unambiguous answer is what I need. How about this:

What would British beer be like today if the two world wars had never happened?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Hollow legs in Munich

Number, numbers numbers. Like books, you can never have too many of them. Today's numbers are from the 1880's.

Bavarians. They always liked their beer. In the 19th century, to a crazy extent. Though remember that the beer they were drinking was probably around 4% ABV. Then again, ten or twelve litres of beer even that strength wouldn't have me on my knees. It'd have me unconscious.

"There are (in 1882) five thousand four hundred and eighty-two breweries in Bavaria, or a little more than one to each thousand inhabitants, which proves that a "long felt want" is not allowed to exist here. We have about two thousand five hundred breweries in the United States, so that some twenty thousand or more thirsty people have to depend on each for their beer. In Munich the smaller breweries have been gradually swallowed up by the larger establishments, and there are at present twenty-nine breweries, the largest of these using one hundred and thirty thousand hectolitres (three hundred and sixty-four thousand bushels) of malt, and producing about seven million gallons of beer per annum.

In all Europe there are about forty thousand breweries, producing about one hundred and two million hectolitres (seventy-four million eight hundred thousand barrels) of beer. Of this quantity Bavaria produces twelve million two hundred and thirty thousand hectolitres (eight million nine hundred and seventy thousand barrels.)*

Munich consumes nearly one million hectolitres (seven hundred and thirty-three thousand barrels), of a value of nearly six million dollars annually.

In Europe, the least beer is drunk, of course, in those countries where they either have good cheap wines, or where a great deal of spirituous liquors are drunk. France, Spain, Italy, and Russia consume but comparatively little beer. In the United States the quantity of beer consumed per year by each man, woman, and child of the entire population is about thirty-five quarts, or less than one-tenth of a quart per day,— scarcely a thimbleful. The Dutchmen and the Danes are ahead of us, drinking annually forty and sixty-three quarts per capita respectively. England rushes up the number to one hundred and thirty quarts, and then comes Belgium with one hundred and sixty-five quarts, and the German Empire with one hundred and thirtyfive quarts. But certain parts of Germany are thirstier than others, for the little kingdom of Würtemberg has the respectable showing of two hundred and twentyfive quarts to each of its inhabitants, while if we take only the countries of North Germany, the average is only sixty-five quarts. Bavaria still overreaches Würtemberg, for in Bavaria each person consumes two hundred and sixty-one quarts in the course of the year, showing that where one of our citizens drinks one glass of beer the Bavarian drinks seven and a half. Bavaria thus takes the lead of all countries in its beer-consuming capacities.

But if the last given amount of two hundred and sixty-one quarts seems large, just see what Munich does as a capital to keep up its reputation. The annual quantity of beer consumed per head of the population amounts to four hundred and seventy-three quarts, or one and three-tenths quart per day; more than thirteen times as much as the average amount for the American citizen.

Although, as I have said, the very babes begin drinking beer almost as soon as they do milk, yet the quantities consumed by them are comparatively small. Then again, if one takes half the population as being females, who, of course, are moderate (according to their ideas) in the use of beer, I suppose it would leave a showing of three and a half or four quarts to each male over the age of sixteen years. Now, four quarts in the course of twenty-four hours is a small amount to a Munich man. If I give the figures of the capacity of an ordinary drinker, and of an accomplished drinker on extra occasions, they will appear startling. I venture to say that there are thousands of men in Munich who drink their eight quarts every day of their lives, —there are many who drink ten and twelve quarts. I knew one man who told me he had been drinking sixteen quarts daily for many years. When I looked at him I believed him. I knew another who drank six litres (nearly six and a half quarts) regularly every evening, besides what he had stowed away during the day. I am almost afraid to write how many quarts a full-fledged student when put upon his mettle can pack away, my fear being that my readers might think I am an expander. It is a well-established fact, however, that a student can drink, and does drink at times, ten to twelve quarts at a sitting. In order to get some idea of this quantity, suppose it were put into our ordinary five-cent glasses, filled as they usually are (for it must be remembered our glasses are one-half foam), and we would have a row of about sixty glasses waiting to be emptied.

Recently at an evening festival held at one of the Munich breweries, which was attended by about eight hundred persons, twenty-nine hectolitres of beer passed their lips in about four hours. This averages about three and six-tenths quarts to each participant. It was a congress of scientific men from all parts of Germany; steady, staid old fellows, the most of them.

* I have not thought it necessary to trouble my readers with ragged figures, but have rounded them off, to make them more sightly, and the amounts thus given are sufficiently accurate for a work of this kind.
"Consular Reminiscences" by By G. Henry Horstmann, pages 335-337.

Maybe there will be some more about drinking babies tomorrow. Or perhaps about the deterioration of hops in storage.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Salvator again

Obsessions are wonderful things. I always have something to talk about. It's time to return to an old favourite, Salvator.

That retired diplomat again. How I love the early days of the German Empire. Gründerzeit, that's what the Germans call it. (What a wonderful way with words the Germans have: Schadenfreude, Frühschoppen and Gründerzeit. Great, great words all.)

"But there is still another beer in Munich which makes its appearance but once a year (in the spring) and is sold only for a short number of days,—it is even stronger than the bock,—the Salvator beer.

To a certain extensive garden, high up on the right bank of the Isar, from which a beautiful view of the city is had, there is every year a pilgrimage of all Munichers. It seems as if a world's fair were being held. Close streams of people, men, women and children, people of all ranks and of every station in life, pour in from all directions, and the garden and the immense halls, and even the street adjoining, are swarming with drinkers. It is a hard fight of many minutes, duration before one can get to the various counters where the beer is tapped. It is a hard fight in the first place to secure an empty mug. The crowding and the shoving is almost intolerable, and yet the Munich man stands it bravely and good-naturedly; the prize rewards him for all the inconvenience he has in getting it. The thing must he seen, it cannot be described.

Salvator beer is the invention of the Paulian monks, who brewed this beer with special care at all their convents under the name of Holy Father beer, and they commenced drinking it on the second of April, the feast of the Holy Father. When the order was disbanded, the brewing of this beer ceased at all places except Munich. Their brewery in the Au (a suburb of Munich) was sold to a citizen brewer, who kept on making the brewage, faithfully adhering to the original receipt, to the great delectation of all Munichers. But at that time the Bavarian law did not permit the brewing of any beer either weaker or stronger than the established norm (the brewing of bock was a government privilege). The government for a long time closed its eyes to this one particular brewery. The government officials were themselves evidently fond of Salvator. Later, when it was found the law must take its course, a daily fine of fifty florins was imposed, as long as he sold the beer, on the now rich brewer. He paid the fine and laughed in his sleeve. But as the evading of the law on such conditions was, withal, of precarious tenure, the brewer was advised to make a direct petition to King Ludwig the First to secure his privilege. His petition was successful. The king granted him the right, and at the same time the monopoly of forever brewing the Holy Father beer on the site of the former Paulian Convent brewery.
"Consular Reminiscences" by By G. Henry Horstmann, pages 334-335.

There will probably be more from this fascinating book tomorrow. Maybe the bit about the total number of breweries in Europe. What do you think?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Favourite breakfast beer

I love the easy-going attitude to morning drinking in Germany. That probably explains why so many of my best beery breakfast experiences have been in Germany. It got me thinking, what is the perfect breakfast beer?

On my first visit to Prague - way back in the early 1980's - I arrived early. Very early. Some ungodly hour like 7 am. The trains were very considerately timed to hit the German-Czech border at 2 am. Border guards then spent four hours going through the train stamping passports. What fun that was. But my early arrival did mean that, after quickly dumping my bags at the hotel, I was in U Fleku not long after opening time, about 08:30. Where I had my first emotional meeting with Czech beer. I've never looked back. (Though that could be due to a neck problem. My mum once had to wear a stiff collar for something similar.)

Forchheim has excellent breakfast drinking options. Well two at least. Hebendanz and Neder. Both are brewery taps. Both offer gravity-served Export. A pair of outstanding everyday drinking beers. (What's the opposite of "extreme" or "innovative" beer? Moderate beer? Retrogressive beer?) In terms of customers and atmosphere, they couldn't be more different. For early-morning craziness, Hebendanz is a world-beater. Ghostly figures, wrapped in smoke gaze blank-eyed over litre steins and shot glasses. It could put you off alcohol forever. Not me. I find it weirdly uplifting. A triumph of human will over physical frailty. In contrast, the early-retirement breakfast club in Neder is an exercise in frugality and restraint. I wonder if there's any crossover in clientele between the two?

Fässla in Bamberg falls somewhere between Hebendanz and Neder. There's a slight air of alcoholism that gives it an edge I love, but which makes some uneaasy. I've fond memeries of sinking a few Lagerbiers next to a tableful of firemen. They looked like they'd just finished their shift. I hope they had, given the rate at which they were getting through beer. I wouldn't like to think it was just a break.

All the above experiences filled my heart with joy. But to uplift the soul, you need a religious element. You can probably guess where this is leading. Being up on a hill helps, too. Already halfway to heaven. At Andechs, three early-morning half litres of Doppelbock lifted me into the clouds. At least until early afternoon.

My best breakfast beer is somewhere in amongst that lot. But, as with children, you should never reveal your favourite.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Black IPA

Black IPA. Why?

Names aren't random. They're plucked from the subconscious. When they stick. Coin as clever a phrase as you like, but if it doesn't stick in punters' heads, your head's playing bog brush. No audience, no song.

If "Black IPA" didn't smack the spot in the teeth (administer a knee to its groin and stamp on its head as it whimpered in pool of its own wee) word-wise, no-one would use it. Calling it stupid ignores its significance. It tells us of the meaning attached to IPA. By some drinkers. IPA - the sort of beer I drink.

I drink IPA. Not Stout. Not Barley Wine. IPA.

It explains why a beer that's really a Stout or a Barley Wine is called something IPA instead.

Black IPA. It's all about drinkers and their perceptions of themselves. Hardly anything to do with beer at all.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Beer-drinking infants

Those Bavarians knew a thing or two. Especially when it came to childcare. My own attempts to bring my kids up the beer way weren't quite as successful as those of 19th-century Bavarians.

"The Bavarian could not have brought the science of beer-drinking to its present state of perfection if he did not begin at infancy. Nature teaches us that those organisms are the most perfectly developed that are of slow growth. To begin in later life to qualify oneself as a beer-drinker, would be to begin an art at its flowery extremities instead of at its source; it would be like expecting to be perfect in rhetoric without having learned to speak, to be perfect in spelling without having learned the alphabet; it would be like plunging into the water before we had learned to swim ; it would be like trying to get to the top of a ladder without starting at its bottom rounds. No; the Bavarian begins ab incunabilis. The babe at the breast is given its first sip of beer. Before it is more than a year old it is knowing in the matter of beer, and claps its hands joyfully when it sees the sparkling brown juice in the mug. Before it can walk it is generally honored with the present of a miniature beer-glass, which becomes as necessary a table equipment for it as the spoon it eats with. When the child is able to run about, it is taken by its parents to the beer-houses and the beergardens, and it there clutches the heavy mug of its father or its mother with both its fists, and immerses its beak into it like the older persons around. The magic attractions of beer already begin to work their charm, for it keeps the children from straying away. They may play around at a short distance from the table, but they do not go out of sight of it, and return to it from time to time to take a swig. As they advance in years and are put to the primary school, they become more sedentary at the beer-table; they then have a glass of their own. It is quite astonishing to see how many children are sitting quietly, with their elders, for hours, instead of romping around as children in other countries would do. Their taste begins to form; they wait expectantly for the tapping of a fresh barrel, and they are already judges of the quality of beer, and can talk about it like connoisseurs. When they get to the higher schools, the gymnasiums, the academies, and the universities, their imbibing propensities have developed to an enormous extent. The university student, in particular, becomes an adept in beer-drinking,—whatever else he studies, this art he pursues con amore."
"Consular Reminiscences" by By G. Henry Horstmann, pages 324-325.

The image of primary school children sat in a beer garden with their own glass of beer. How enchanting is that?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

1909 Maclay's 63/- OMS

For reasons I won't explain now, I need to get this image on the web. Though it is a beer that features in my 1909 Beer Style Guide book.

Take it to the Bavarian top

It's good to learn that there have been times ans places where a full measure was taken seriously. Not like in Britain, where you get 90% beer and 10% atmosphere or some other such intangible. (At least according to Jeff.)

This is an American's report of late 19th-century Bavarian custom:

"Of the quality of the Bavarian beer, and also of the quantities consumed, I shall speak farther on: I only want to remark in this place that in the measure of the beer one gets there is no humbug. The law requires that each glass and each mug shall bear on its outside the governmental attestation as to its capacity. A horizontal line is ground into the glass or stone showing the exact level which the liquid must have. This line dare not be less than one centimetre (half an inch) from tho rim, so as to allow for the foam. The vessels must be filled to that mark with beer. Woe to the publican who does not come up to the scratch. If, in the hurry of business, such a thing does occasionally happen, the guest is not slow to send his glass back to be properly filled, accompanied with some complimentary German epithets which would more than fill a barrel.

The unit of liquid measure in Germany is, as in France, the litre (something over a quart). Each mug holding that quantity must be stamped with the letter L before the stroke ; if a half-glass, with J L, so that there can be no mistake as to its real capacity. Before the introduction of the new weights and measures, in 1874, the unit for liquids in Bavaria was the mass (the measure), and the stone jugs were marked with an M.

It is so customary to display the initials of the reigning monarch as an emblem all over, as, for instance, on the helmets of the soldiers, on the boxes of the royal opera-house, etc., that one begins to accept the sign as having that meaning only, and no other. An American who stopped at Munich during the palmy days of King Maximilian's reign, and who pursued his studies with greater assiduity at the Royal Court Brewery than at any other institution, returned some ten years later (during which time he had been gathering useful knowledge) when King Ludwig the Second was on the throne. Our friend was not slow in resorting to his favorite place, the Court Brewery. When he got his mug he was at once struck with the alteration of the letter on it. " Well, I'm dod dasted," he said, " if these Bavarians aren't the most loyal people I ever saw,— even on their beer-mugs,—formerly it was always M for Maximilian, and now it's L for Ludwig
"Consular Reminiscences" by By G. Henry Horstmann, pages 327-328.

If only every country were as assiduous. Here in Holland pub glasses don't give any clue as to their liquid capacity. And, of course, in Britain short measures are more or less officially sanctioned.

Handy to know when Bavaria went metric. I'd been wondering about that.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Finished . . . . just about

You'll be pleased to hear that the 1909 Beer Style Guide is complete. Well, my bit of it is. I'm still waiting for the recipes from Kristen to fully complete the book. With any look it should be out in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile I've started a new book. I need something to keep me occupied in the evening. It's called "Peace!" and will be volume X of my Mini Book Series (aah, I should have had "Mild! as volume X). No time to hang around, as I want this one ready for Christmas, too.

Blah di blah di blah. Just trying to fill some space. Blah di blah di blah. I don't like the picture jutting past the end of the text. It's an aesthetic thing. Blah di blah di blah. Almost there. Not long to go now. Blah di blah di blah. Just a couple more sentences and I'll be there. Blah di blah di blah.

Right, that just about does it. Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you what "Peace!" is about. Other than not killing each other.

Scottish Mild 1909 - 1914

More random beer data fun. Yes, yes, I know. Don't worry. The book is almost done and normal service will be resumed.

Scottish Mild. Almost as rare as wild haggis nowadays. Yet just 100 years ago there were lakes of the stuff. Before the Scots acquired a taste for Lager.

"How did Scottish Mild differ from English Mild?" that's a very good question. One which the 1909 Beer Style Guide will answer fully. The short answer is:

- it was sometimes much weaker,
- it was sometimes a bit stronger,
- the strong ones were hopped more heavily than their English equivalents,
- it was brewed from much the same ingredients.

Here are a few examples:

Fun, eh? It may return eventually to this blog.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The schlock of the new

Innovation. I'm starting to truly loathe that word. Especially its inappropriate use in relation to brewing. And the subtext that, by definition, "innovation" is a good thing.

I'll be honest with you. I don't want innovative beer. I want tasty, refreshing beer. Beer I want to drink more than a mouthful of. Beer that's a joy to drink rather than an exercise in endurance. I don't want to think "what a clever brewer, how ever did he come up with adding a slight apricot flavour to a Pale Ale?". Or "I wonder what the 17th variety of hop is?". "That's so innovative, making a Mild you have to sip through an enamel straw."

Worshipping at the alter of brewers' egos. It's not for me. I want something to drink, something that lifts my spirits and makes my heart soar. And, in sufficient quantities, will get me pissed. It's really not complicated.

And while I'm on the subject of what I want, festival measures. Nothing smaller than 15 cl, please. Small measures mean, for me, a festival of standing and queueing. I prefer a festival of sitting and drinking slightly immoderately.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Book update

Just to let you know how my 1909 Beer Style Guide is coming on. Very nicely. That's how it's coming on. Very nicely, indeed.

Just a couple of Scottish styles to go. The English ones are all done. And the introduction and appendices.

Oh yes, just one other thing missing. Most of the recipes. Still waiting on Kristen for them.

Time to start thinking of a cover. Mmm. That could make a competition. Design a cover. Or at least suggest a photo (one I can legally use) for the cover.

I really want to get the 1909 book out in time for Christmas. Could be double digit sales, if it's released in time. Enough for me to consider retirement.

Löwenbräu and WW II

Here's a companion to yesterday's post. To allow you to compare and contrast the impact of the two world wars on Bavarian brewing. Or something like that. That doesn't sound too examy, does it?

The first thing to strike me was that at no time during the Nazi period did Löwenbräu brew as much as they had on the eve of WW I. This is typical. Few German breweries managed to better their Edwardian output records until the 1950's.

Now I'd always though that brewing came to pretty much a standstill in Germany around the end of 1943. Evidently it didn't. What I do know is that a couple of years into the was, most of what got brewed was barely alcoholic.

If you'd seen the mess the brewery was by the end of the war, you'd be amazed that they still managed to brew anything. A couple of direct hits by bombs had reduced most of the buildings to rubble.

Let's have a look, shall we:

Lots more Löwenbräu numbers still to come. Lots.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Löwenbräu and WW I

Time to return to war. WW I to be precise. And from a slightly different angle. A German perspective.

I'm a sucker for statistics. That's I was so delighted with my purchase of "Löwenbräu. Von den Anfängen des Münchner Brauwesen" by Wolfgang Behringer. It's full of number. I quite liked Behringer's history of Spaten, but the output figures were in line graphs. Which it's impossible to extract exact numbers from. No such problem with his Löwenbräu book.

Which numbers have I got for you? Those for Löwenbräu output around the time of WW I. Cool, eh?

I'll admit that they surprised me somewhat. The figures. Especially those for 1917/18 and 1918/19. I'm surprised they brewed anything at all in those years.

Take a look:

You guessed it. Still hard at work on my 1909 book. Got to rush.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Munich brewery output in 1863/64

I know. I should toss you some meaty words instead of this thin gruel of numbers. But <insert excuse here> so I haven't the time.

Here's the table:

I was surprised by two things:

1. Löwenbräu topped the table.
2. Löwenbräu topped the table by such a large margin.

I hadn't expected Zacherl (Paulaner) to come so low, either.

That's it for today. I told you I was busy.

Friday, 13 November 2009

and another winner is . . . .

I threatened more prizes. In a vague way. Well, I wasn't just bullshitting. There's at least one more prize being awarded.

Picking Josef would have been worth a book. If only one of you had done it. Must have worn my Stalin too much on my sleeve. Why Tarquin appealed to more than one has me either puzzled or disturbed. I'll let you know which it is when I've stopped shaking.

The prize being awarded is a special price. . . . prize. (That's what I meant. Prize. A bit crap style-wise, but at least comprehensible.) A discretionary prize. Awarded by Andrew. The "Look dad, someone guessed Affrikka!" prize. (My money was on a vote for Emergencypint.)

A book goes to rabbi lionheart.

Get in touch via the email on my website.

Germany's favourite beer style

Some statistics today. I sort of have an excuse for publishing them. Someone asked me the other day about the market share of Weizen. Here's your answer.

Let's takle a look at the table first, then start a discussion:

The biggest changes are a bit depressing. The collapse in sales of Alt and Kölsch. Alt has been particularly hard, dropping from 6.6% of all beer sold to just 1.4%. Very worrying. Kölsch has only fared a little better, declining from 4.5% to 1.6%.

The only real winner has been Weizen, which increased its sales six-fold over the period covered. Schwarzbier has come out of nowhere (well, out of the DDR, actually - about the same as nowhere as far as West Germans are concerned) to overtake both Alt and Kölsch, but still has minimal market penetration.

Export, which rallied surprisingly five years ago appears to be on the slide again. Pils looks to be past its peak and could be about to plummet floorwards. That's my prediction, anyway. As for what might replace it - who knows? I'm not Mystic Mogg.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

And the winner is . . . . .

The tension. I can feel it. You could cut it with a machete. Cut it bad. Finally Lexie's middle name will be revealed and the winners unconcealed.

There were several entries. Mostly way wide of the mark. I don't know what sort of monster dad some of you think I am. Now to the answer.

Some answers were (I hope) obvious jokes. Andrew thought of Affrikka. He was delighted someone picked it. "It's the sort of stupid name trendy parents give their kids." "You should have doubled the final A." I suggested, too late. Emergencypint Elmo and Rimmer were his, too.

Lexie's contributions were Artwodeetwo and Brian. Varied inspiration there, Lexie.

Tarquin and Candelent are names that I might actually have used. Tarquin, just because, well, just because. Candelent was my mother's maiden name.

Vodka and Crumpet were just being silly. In case you didn't notice. If you really didn't notice, I suggest finding residential care.

Lexie's name has a beer connection. Many guessed that. But there are a couple of reasons why some of the names were non-starters:

1. Dolores would never have let me give one of our kids a stupid name
2. You can't just call your kid anything you want here in Holland. There are rules about which names are acceptable.

That rules out Pilsen and Stout. Probably Mild and Ale, too. We're left with Porter, Barclay, Perkins and Burton. All those would have passed. Now, if Lexie had been born a few years later, he probably would have been called Barclay Perkins Pattinson. But he was born before my obsession with the Southwark brewer began.

That's why his middle name is Burton.

Silly me. I should mention the winners. That's Barry M and mrbowenz. If you can get in touch with me via the email on my website. Let me know your postal address and a shiny (I handled them after eating chips) copy of "War!" will be on its way immidiately*.

There may be more prizes. Depends what I have left lying around.

*Immediately may be a period of weeks.

Courage and WW I

I never tire of WW I. It's such a fascinating period. You get the full gamut of British beer strengths in the space of just 2 or 3 years.

Today we're going to take a look at Courage. In particular how they changed their beers is response to government legislation. If you can remember as far back as Wednesday, you might recollect what Whitbread did. Which was to brew a piss-weak version of their MA so that they could continue to make a strong version that was outside price control. And accordingly make more money from it.

Courage's tactics were a bit different. Let's take a look at the beers they brewed and their gravities.

See if you can match the legislation with its effect on Courage's beers.

July 1 1917: Statutory output for quarter increased by 33 1/3 per cent. to rate of 15,043,000 standard barrels, half the beer to be brewed at a gravity not exceeding 1036º, 20 per cent. offered to all brewers on those terms, the balance of 13 1/2 per cent. being brewed under special licence for consumption in munition areas.

Oct. 1 1917: Rate and conditions of previous quarter continued but gravity for one-half of the output raised to 1042º. Prices also fixed at 4d. per pint under 1036º, 5d. per pint under 1042º.

Jan. 1 1918: Rate and conditions of previous quarter again continued.

April 1 1918: Output for quarter reduced to rate of 11,470,000 standard barrels. The extra 20 per cent. offer withdrawn and 33 1/3 per cent. for munition areas reduced to 10.4 per cent., equal to 1,120,000 barrels, leaving total output at rate of 12,590,000 a year. Conditions changed by provision that average gravity of all beer brewed shall not exceed 1030º for great Britain and 1045º for Ireland, and that no beer shall be brewed below 1010º: and prices fixed at 4d. per pint below 1030º, and 5d. per pint for 1030º to 1034º. Food Controller imposed a special charge of 25s. per standard barrel for a munition beer brewed under his licence. April 23 1918: Duty increased to 50s.

Jan. 1 1919 : Statutory barrelage increased by 25 per cent., making annual rate of total output 13,260,000 standard barrels. Gravities raised 2º both for Great Britain and Ireland.

Feb. 20 1919 : Food Controller stated that "it is being constantly represented to us from Labour and other organisations that the shortage of beer and spirits is a cause contributing to the unrest in the country. I hope very shortly to be in a position to allow a considerably larger additional output of beer, and of better quality, than that recently sanctioned."

April 1 1919 : Beer duty raised to 70s. Statutory barrelage increased by 50 per cent., and gravity raised to 1040º in Great Britain. Special charge of 25s. per barrel for munition beer abolished as from April 30 1919.

May 23 1919 : Statutory barrelage further increased by 45 per cent., bringing total output up to rate of 26,000,000 standard barrels a Year. July 1 1919: All restriction on volume of output removed, and average permitted gravity increased in Great Britain to 1044º, and in Ireland to 1051º.

Aug. 1 1919 : In lieu of proposed increase of beer duty to 80s. on freedom of output being established, the gravities at which the different priced beers might be sold retail were revised in a new Order by the Food Controller. The range of gravities was raised 4º all round, beer under 1020º being fixed at the maximum price of 2d. per pint in a public-bar.

Wasn't that fun? No, I guess it wasn't. I'm too busy with the 1909 book.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Competition - the simplified version

"Dad, I want to win the book." "It's not really a very difficult question for you, is it? All you have to do is look in your passport, Lexie."

Lexie wishes to make the following statement:

"For the record, Lexie is not a girl. He is a boy. "

I changed his nappy. No way he's a girl.

Now that's clear, on with the competition. There were many good entries first time around. Some warmed my heart. Others frightened with their insight. And there were those that made up their own answers.

None were correct. And, let's be honest, how many of you are there? I can't expect many more entries. Time for round two.

Here's a simplified list. Sorry. Shortened list:

E. Mild
F. Porter
G. Barclay
H. Perkins
I. Burton
K. Ale
L. Pilsen
M. Tarquin
O. Stout
P. Affrikka
R. Elmo
S. Rimmer
T. Brian
U. Artwodeetwo
V. Vodka
X. Candelent
Y. Crumpet
Z. Emergencypint

There will be multiple prizes. Honest. Christmas is around the corner*, and I've been filled with the spirit of giving.

*That's what it felt like in Bexleyheath last Saturday.

Beer colour in Munich

Beer colour is a fascinating subject. You'd be surprised how often drinkers change their mind about which colour beer they like best. Fickle bunch.

I bought a dead good book the other day. About the Löwenbräu brewery in Munich. It's called "Löwenbräu. Von den Anfängen des Münchner Brauwesen" and was written by Wolfgang Behringer. (He alsio wrote an excellent history of Spaten.) It's justr the sort of book I love. Full of statistics and facts. Researched facts rather than the imaginary kind.

It has some fascinating titbits abour beer colour in Munich. Now, I'd always assumed (a dangerous thing to do, I know) that, before the 1890's, Munich lagers had always been dark. Turns out things are a bit more complicated than that.

In the 1840's someone made a survey of the Munich breweries and their beers. And took the trouble to note the colour. About half the beers were described as "wine yellow". Doesn't sound like dark to me. But a few years later, all the beers were dark. At least up until the 1890's when Helles was introduced. Though, as you'll see from the table below, it took a while for Helles to win over the throats of the locals.

I maintain my prediction of an imminent move in public taste from pale to dark beer. You may be surprised just how quickly it occurs.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Offline in Folkestone

You may have noticed a lack of comment moderation over the weekend. There was a simple reason. I was offline in England. 48 hours without internet access. Not as scary as I'd feared.

I'd tell you about the weird and exotic beers I drank. I really would. If I'd drunk any. But it wasn't that type of trip. London Pride, Courage Best and Guinness. That was it. And I had no less a good time because of that.

Folkestone is my guilty pleasure. A place where, on Friday and Saturday night, the hems are high and the décolletés deep. Mikey loves that. I quite like it, too, though not for quite the same reasons. I'm far too old and married to be on the pull. It's nice that people make the effort. The folks in Folkestone make Amsterdammers look a very dowdy bunch.

Folkestone's pubs aren't the most historic, stylish or exclusive. No gastropubs or trendy bars. Just normal pubs for normal people. Places where I can lock up my inner beer geek and be just a punter like everyone else. Because there's a lot more to a Saturday night out than the beer or even the surroundings. It's all about having a laugh and yes, having a few more drinks than you really should. An escape from the endless drudgery of the working week. Why should we feel guilty about that?

No photos with the post. I left my camera at home. With my notebook. In any case, Lexie needed the camera for his latest stop-frame animation project.