Lager Beer in 19th Century Manchester

Midland Hotel, 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 thoughts on “Lager Beer in 19th Century Manchester”

  1. 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.

  2. 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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