Category Archives: Beer styles

World Beer Style Guide 1901

Beer styles of 1901 diagram.

The diagram above is a representation of text from a 1901 book called One Hundred Years of Brewing publish by H.S. Rich & Co. of Chicago as a special supplement of The Western Brewer.

The passage in question is most interesting as a reflection of how things looked at the time — which types of beer had people heard of? And how were the relationships between them perceived?

It is quoted almost in full below, with our own emphases, but you can (and should) take a look at the original here:

There is one typical, strongly pronounced distinction to-day, and… between the beers of Germany, England and America. The German beer… is expected to be made of a more dextrinous wort, rich in extract, of full-mouthed taste, moderate in alcohol, mostly of dark colour, and possessing a rich and permanent head of foam.

The Bohemian beers have more of a vinous character and possess a fine and strongly noticeable hop flavor, a pronounced bitter taste, and are light in color.

The English beers are divided into two classes, the light colored beers — ales — the dark or black colored ones — porter and stout.

The ales have chiefly a vinous character and possess a good percentage of alcohol and extract, strongly marked hop flavor and bitter taste, and are rich in carbonic acid. The bottle ales and stock ales, especially the last named ones, possess a characteristic fine wine taste, produced by a peculiar and prolonged secondary fermentation. Porter, with a rich and very heavy foam, was in former years a very heavy beverage, but at present is brewed in [sic] lighter, and has, as a result of its composition, a characteristic bitter and dry taste.

The American lager beers taste more like wine than the German ones and in character are nearer related to the Bohemian or Austrian beers, have very much effervescence, and combine the quality of preserving the foam with a more or less full-mouthed taste. Their color, with the exception of special brands, is light throughout.

Besides these there are a number of provincial or local character… To count up their names only would fill several pages, and for that reason we can only mention the principal ones

The weiss beer (wheat beer originally) are strongly effervescent beers, produced by top fermentation and going through the second part of fermentation after being bottled…

“Broyhahn,” also a historical beer, is a very light colored, winey beverage, of a sweetish-sour taste. “Gose” is a beverage similar to “Broyhahn”. Both are made by top-fermentation.

Too numerous to mention individually are the herb beers, receiving their flavor by the addition of herbs of the greatest variety…

Among the celebrated Austrian beers, the already mentioned “Pilsner” stands at the head of the list. They all have a similar winey taste, and are of light color.

Among the English beers, Burton ale takes the lead… Side by side with the same we find as type of the dark colored beer Dublin stout. Scotch ale was at one time a very celebrated beverage, its vividness and fine winey taste being especially praised.

In Belgium there are to be found certain beers of local celebrity possessing all the qualities produced by the process of self fermentation to which they are subjected, their names being “Lambik” and “Faro”.

One of the most celebrated beers in its day was “Strassburger,” which, for a long number of years, controlled the Paris market to the exclusion of the Bavarian beer. It has a characteristically winey taste…

The American breweries produce, besides lager beer, ale and porter, the so-called “common” beer and “steam” beer, the last named on the Pacific coast.

That’s not very far off the style framework put forward by Michael ‘Beer Hunter’ Jackson’s in his World Guide to Beer 77 years later, is it?

But what does ‘winey’ mean in this context?

Innocuous Fluid, 1856

“The respectable man of the lower order is a clerk undoubtedly… He lives in a small, eight-roomed house, in a terrace with a high-sounding name, ‘Adeliza’ or ‘Navarino’, in Camden-town or Dalston. He lets the drawing-room floor to a single gentleman… Pewter pots are never seen hanging on the area rails; for, in his respectability, he looks upon public-houses as the favourite baits of the devil, and has a four and a half-gallon cask of the mildest and cheapest bitter beer from the Romford brewery always on tap in his coal-cellar. It is with this innocuous fluid that the single gentleman and his friends are occasionally supplied, and charged at the rate of fourpence per pint.”

From ‘Respectable People’ by Edmund H Yates, The Train magazine, 1856.

(We think he’s describing what we’re beginning to suspect was the original AK, brewed by Ind Coope in the mid-1840s.)

Vienna Beer Today

Piccadilly Johnnies, 1904.

As the 1860s turned into the 1870s, absolutely the trendiest thing to drink in London was Vienna beer, aka Vienna lager — the pricey imported ‘craft beer’ of its day.

It seems to us that it was not so much a ‘style’ as the product of a single brewery — Dreher, of Klein-Schwechat, Vienna — with a few imitators trying to muscle in on the market it had created.

It appealed to Piccadilly Johnny — the hipster of his day –because:

  • It was served cold.
  • It had higher levels of carbonation.
  • It was paler than Munich Dunkel. (Though not as pale as Pilsner.)
  • He believed it wasn’t ‘intoxicating’. (We think this was psychological.)
  • ‘German’ stuff was fashionable, while English stuff was considered inherently naff.

Now, almost 150 years later, though there aren’t many descendants of Dreher’s Vienna beer, they are at least relatively easy to find, and not just in the West End of London.

Even near us, in deepest Cornwall, there are several pubs selling kegged Brooklyn Lager (5.2%), while bottles can be found in your local Wetherspoon, and most supermarkets. It’s one of the first self-declared ‘craft beers’ many people drink — it certainly was for us. Is it a convincing Vienna beer? Without going back to 1870, we can’t be sure, but we can’t believe its flowery hop aroma is remotely authentic. It is Dreher’s beer, via the 19th century New York beer hall, via the ‘real ale revolution’, via US ‘craft beer’.

Another widely available example is Negra Modelo (5.4%) from Mexico. In production since the 1920s, it is a lingering reminder of the country’s historic connections with Austria. It’s been a while since we drank one but our recollection is of a lager already lacking bitterness into which someone had then stirred a teaspoon of refined brown sugar. The brewery themselves sometimes call it a ‘Munich Dunkel’ — it is certainly darker than amber.

Finally, there’s Thornbridge’s Kill Your Darlings (5%), a case of which we have been working on for a couple of months. Smooth and clean almost to the point of blandness, it certainly tastes authentically Continental, and makes a change from pale lager while offering a similar kind of straightforward refreshment. It, too, is perhaps rather too Munich-dark to be quite authentic. Still, we’d like to drink a pint or two of this at the Craft Beer Co in Covent Garden, which isn’t far from the Strand – epicentre of the original Vienna beer craze.

On balance, the least authentic of the three, Brooklyn Lager, with its distinctly English dry-hopping regime, is probably the tastiest.

One of the projects we’re working on now is about lager in London in the 19th century — probably for a short e-book. In the meantime, we wholeheartedly recommend Ron Pattinson’s book Lager.

Session #88 Announcement

Illustration by Robert Wykes, 1938.
Illustration by Robert Wykes from What’s Yours? (1938). They’re laughing because ordering ‘bitter and mild’ is a faux pas — it should always be ‘mild and bitter’.

We haven’t hosted the monthly beer blogging Session since 2008 and, noticing that there was still a vacancy for 6 June with only weeks to go, decided it was time for another go.

The beer blogging Session logo.The topic we’ve chosen is traditional beer mixes.

In his 1976 book Beer and Skittles early beer writer Richard Boston lists several:

  • Lightplater – bitter and light ale.
  • Mother-in-law — old and bitter.
  • Granny — old and mild.
  • Boilermaker — brown and mild.
  • Blacksmith –stout and barley wine.
  • Half-and-half – bitter and stout, or bitter and mild.

We’d like you to drink one or more from that list and write about it on Friday 6 June… and that’s it.

We’re deliberately aiming for something broad and accessible, but there is one rule — no ‘beer cocktails’! It’s been done, for starters. So, mix two beers, not four; and steer clear of syrups, spirits, flavourings and crushed ice.

If you need further inspiration…

  • Try ordering them in a pub — do bar staff still know the ropes?
  • Use your own sources to find a traditional mix not on Boston’s list, e.g. Ram’n’Spesh in Young’s London pubs.
  • Make the same mix with several different beers — are there rules for the optimal Granny?
  • Experiment — Blacksmith IPA with black IPA, anyone?

And here’s more food for thought, from T.E.B. Clarke’s What’s Yours? (1938):

If, as usually occurs, you have found bitter too bitter and mild too sweet (as well as too uneconomic), you might well resort to “mild and bitter”…. Should you have discovered that you like Burton, or “old”, except for its slightly metallic flavour — another verdict common among beginners — make “B.B.” your next order.

Let us know when your post is up either by commenting here, emailing us at boakandbailey@gmail.com, or Tweeting at us.

UPDATE 12/05/2014

More inspiration from Twitter, some people have suggested beer mixes that have worked for them in the past:

  • Matthew Curtis — “Mikkeller beer geek breakfast with Odell IPA has been my greatest success.”
  • Ghost Drinker — “mix a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout with a Mort Subite Kriek…”.
  • Martyn Griffin — “Oakham Citra and Sarah Hughes Ruby (or a clone I HB’d) is an absolute winner.”
  • Al ‘Hopsinjoor’ – “The aforementioned Hardcore and Paradox… [Brewdog] Hardcore and Riptide (a RipCore if you will- thanks to ) [Magic Rock] Unhuman & [Buxton] Tsar Bomba, [Magic Rock Cannonball & Bearded Lady... [Summer Wine] Diablo & (again) Bearded Lady, all good mixes. [Buxton] Axe Edge & any good stout!”
  • Alan McLeod had some success with a 50/50 mix of Orval “as sort of a brett concentrate” with a ‘farmhouse cream ale’.
  • Rowan Molyneux — “Best mix I’ve found: 1/2 Hardcore IPA with 1/3 Paradox Heaven Hill (both BrewDog). Not tried with low ABVs yet…”

St Austell Tamar Creek

St Austell Tamar Creek.

St Austell have continued their exploration of ‘world beer’ styles with a Belgian-style sour cherry beer.

We’ve met Roger Ryman, head brewer at St Austell, a few times, and he has always struck us as rather sensible — the kind of bloke who keeps a very tidy glove box. Get him on to the subject of Belgian beer, however, and he becomes positively giddy.

Last time we bumped into him, in a pub in Penzance, he’d just come back from a trip to Poperinge accompanied by the latest edition of Stange and Webb’s Good Beer Guide to Belgium, and was excited to have re-stocked his cellar with multiple cases of De Ranke XX Bitter.

So when he brews Belgian-style beers at St Austell, it isn’t a text-book exercise or a mere marketing gimmick — there is a certain amount of passion (sorry) behind it.

The base beer for Tamar Creek was brewed on a tiny experimental brew kit, inoculated with wild yeast and brettanomyces, and then aged in wooden barrels on a bed of cherries from the Tamar Valley for six months. It comes in 750ml corked bottles wrapped in printed paper, in a tribute to Liefman’s — a better marketing manoeuvre than this rather gory PR photo:

Cherries being squashed by feet at St Austell.

We bought our bottle at the brewery shop for £9, but the online price is £14 including delivery. Is it worth the money?

Tasting

On opening, we got hit by an immediate nostril-curling sting of ‘funk’ which reminded us specifically of apples rotting in an orchard. (Brace yourselves — this review is all about ‘the erotics of disgust’.)

Poured into squeaky clean glasses, a soapy rose-tinted head rose up and over the lip of the glass before prickling away to nothing after 30 seconds or so, leaving what looked like a glass of well-aged red wine.

Despite a rather thin body, it tasted convincingly Belgian, the funky aroma matched by an acidic note not unlike (brace…) bile. It took us a while to pin down exactly which taste memories were being triggered, then it clicked: it had the skull-dissolving tang of pink grapefruit juice.

There was a dry tannic note, too, which wasn’t unlike biting into a grape seed.

On the whole, we’ll call it a grower. Though, at first, it seemed thin and one dimensional, the texture and sweetness built as it coated our mouths, and ‘ho-hum’ eventually turned to ‘yum yum’.

We didn’t regret spending £9 on it — about the same price as an imported Belgian equivalent — but whether you reach the same conclusion will probably depend on your interest in the exercise, the value you place on ‘buying local’, and your knowledge of the style.

We certainly look forward to future iterations of this brew, and to more heartfelt Belgian-inspired experiments from St Austell.