Beer history

Lager Beer in 19th Century Manchester

Manchester seems to have got a supply of Dreher’s Vienna Beer only a few months after it first arrived in London, in 1868, but it doesn’t seem to have quite taken.

Though the focus of our short e-book Gambrinus Waltz is London, during our research we picked up a few nuggets about the progress of lager beer elsewhere in Victorian Britain.

Here’s the earliest mention we can find of Vienna on sale in Manchester, we would guess via the enterprising Andres Brothers of London:

Tuesday 17 November 1868 , Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser.
Tuesday 17 November 1868 , Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser.

Here’s what we assume is the Albion Hotel in question in a 20th century postcard from the Manchester History Net archive via Pubs of Manchester:

Albion Hotel, Manchester.
Albion Hotel, Manchester.

In 1869, it was also being advertised for sale at a weirdly unnamed ‘Cafe & Restaurant’ at 19 Oxford Street.

Thereafter, mentions of Dreher and Vienna beer dry up — it does not seem to have found a foothold, perhaps because of the price (it was the crazily expensive craft beer of its day) or perhaps because of xenophobia. Here’s a comment from the Manchester Courier from 27/01/1869 that we also quoted in Gambrinus Waltz:

There is to many something approaching audacity in the notion of foreigners attempting to import their native beer and to sell it at a profit in the capital of England… It is natural, therefore, that Austrian beer should run the gauntlet of bibulous criticism when vended openly…

After a quiet 1879s, in the 1880s, if the number of mention in the papers are anything to go by, German style beers made something of a comeback in Manchester. Harry Liston’s Bar on Swan Court off Market Street advertised ‘Lager Beer’ (no brand specified) throughout the first half of the decade and a couple of bottled brands were available elsewhere. Still, there does not seem to have been great enthusiasm.

In 1905, the Midland Hotel in Manchester launched a German restaurant on the premises boasting a ‘fresh cask daily’ of beer from the Erste-Actien Brauerei. (Probably referring to the brewery founded in Eger, Bohemia (Czech Republic) in 1873). In 1906 what we would now call an advertorial ran in The Times (01/05) under the title ‘A Twentieth Century Palace’:

To the fame of its French cuisine, the Manchester Midland adds the more domestic virtues of German fare. There is a large German colony in Manchester, and for its residents, as for the Englishman who desires to experiment with foreign food, the Midland Hotel provides its German Restaurant, in every particular reproducing the accommodation and service of a Berlin Bierhalle. Here are such typical German dishes as Wiener Schnitzel, Frankfurter Wurst, Geroestete Vieren, Sauerkraut, and other Continental delicacies and plats imported and prepared by a German cook. For beer there is the true Pilsener, the renowned Erste-Actien Brauerei Bier, of which there are many imitations before the public, but of which the Manchester Midland has the sole English concession. There is also Munich Lowenbrau.

How long it lasted, or how popular it might have been, we haven’t been able to find out. As in London, however, World War I probably put paid to it if commercial realities didn’t.

This isn’t anything more than a roughly chronological list of bits and pieces we found during archive digging. With a month to spare, we might do a more thorough job but, in the meantime, there’s a line of enquiry here someone in Manchester might want to pick up: is our impression that lager didn’t take off there correct? And, if so, why was that?

4 replies on “Lager Beer in 19th Century Manchester”

The Wrexham Lager Beer Company was founded in 1881 by two German immigrants who, as it happens, both lived in Manchester and who wanted to recreate their own type of beer.

there’s a line of enquiry here someone in Manchester might want to pick up

You may be overestimating the age of your Mancunian readership slightly. When I first come to Chorlton-cum-‘Ardy I’d nobbut one clog, but soon I were sitting on high stools in craft beer bars…

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