Beer history 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?

15 replies on “World Beer Style Guide 1901”

In my research on the history of the International Brewing Awards, I found out that at the 1906 Brewers Expo in Islington, a couple of the categories were for what was called black beers and competitors were asked to say whether their entries had a London or Dublin flavour…

That’s really interesting. I understand the difference in the London and Dublin flavour. Different grists, different brewing methods.

I’d elborate further, but I intend doing some living this evening. My plan is to harvest analyses of 19th-century German beers. Not really living, is it?

Who knows what Rich means by wine. It’s used mainly for lagers (so not esters), but is a vague term. This is a good example of why I don’t have any confidence we’ll ever really know what old beers tasted like. “Wine” is getting used to communicate something, but we don’t know if its 1) a singular quality and 2) a specific quality (as opposed to impressionistic or poetic). Flavors can only be suggested obliquely, metaphorically, and indirectly. Which means that the terms will vary generation to generation and country to country.

Just found another great one in the research material for ‘Gambrinus Waltz’ — Vienna beer was ‘brisk’, apparently. What the heck does that mean!?

Hmm, “American lager beers taste more like wine than the German ones”, “ales have chiefly a vinous character” and “stock ales, especially”. And while esters aren’t considered an important part of the character of lagers nowadays (at least according to the BJCP) , I don’t have any historical analyses to hand. It’s clear that the term is being used in making comparison between beer “styles”.
Also, reading over the piece again (I haven’t read the full text), it seems to be the German lager beers are reported as possessing this characteristic (whatever it is) least.

Based on the beers to which the term is applied, my money is on vinous referring to a pleasant level of acidity.

Been shocked in today’s trawl through 19th-century German Lagers at their high lactic acid content.

As a child, I never dreamed I’d be discussing historic acidity levels in beer one day. How could could that sad little boy have foreseen how well life would turn out?

On p. 37, banana beer! Not practical but very good, he says. And here I thought that throwing random fruit into beer was a newfangled notion.

Except the usual story about Dampfbier is bollocks. I’ve been around the brewery in the Bayerischer Wald and asked lots of questions. It’s really just a lightly-hopped version of Altbier.

So the names are just coincidence?

Plus, what do we/they mean by Altbier? Surely the name simply refers to the old-style beers found across the German states, originally top-fermented (as Dampfbier still is) but some now translated over to bottom-fermenting.

I had a Wild Evolver last night (“Hops + Brettanomyces + Hops”); it looked and tasted almost exactly like a pint of bitter that had gone off. (Almost.) It was an interesting enough flavour, once you tuned in to it, but I don’t think I’ll be having it again. I mention it because that was as ‘vinous’ as you like – sharp, but not in a citric way; that sour heaviness that you get in red wine. So I’m guessing brett.

I don’t think there is any doubt Jackson read this and quite possibly also Wahl & Henius’s book, a Handy-book of American Brewing, from about the same year. I believe Jackson actually quotes from the first book in one of his early books, possibly The World Guide To Beer.

Fruity clearly meant different things: dry, estery, Madeira, sometimes tart. The authors of 100 Years of Brewing were mainly distinguishing sweet dark Munich beer from dryish light Pilsner, by comparison, the pils could strike some people as winy. To this day some German pils have this character.


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