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 thoughts on “World Beer Style Guide 1901”

  1. 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…

    1. 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?

  2. 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.

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

    2. 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.

    3. 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?

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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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