Thursday, 7 July 2011

Why lager conquered Northern Germany

This anonymous English author has a simple explanation: because what they had before was crap.
Conservatism has many peculiar ways of displaying itself. In Berlin it is shown by drinking white beer, and ignoring the claims of the Bayerisch, which has almost entirely ousted that pernicious beverage from the market. For our part, we are not surprised a bit, for the beer in North Germany was really atrocious. During our residence there, we suffered from these atrocities in the shape of beer. First there was Brunswick Mumm—eugh! tasting for all the world like treacle and vinegar badly mixed: then came Schwarzbier, which you were flatteringly told was like English porter, and at which a pauper would turn up his nose; and last came white beer, which was just endurable, and that was all. Perhaps, though, the great fault was that you were served by men. After living for years in and around Bavaria, and listening with delight to the “Wos Schoffens” of the pretty beer girls, as plump and hearty as their barrels, it caused a sudden revulsion to be waited on by a male creature, who talked excruciatingly polite German that set your teeth on edge. But, we still maintain it, the white beer in itself and apart from the waiter, was a mockery, delusion and a snare. You took a heavy pull, and about a yard of froth adhered to your moustache, and you found that the pretentious Seidel was only half full. Perhaps, though, regard being had to the nature of the beverage, that was a mercy. Still, there are patriots in Berlin who stick to this stuff, when they can procure the delicious Salvator beer! It evidently emanates from the same feeling that made the women for a time drink that villainous acorn coffee, and give the difference towards the German fleet. The oak trees were not cut down to build it, and yet the ladies soon recovered from their folly. But the white beer houses are few and far between in Berlin, and they are already beginning to be regarded as antiquities. Ten years hence and guide-books will describe them with the same reverence as the Coliseum in Rome, or the Palace of the Doges in Venice. Ten years later there will be a case in the Berlin Museum containing the mysterious goblets, representing a “white or a half white” and the so called “cool blonde.” Yet, in our own knowledge, time was when a large class of deep thinkers and clever orators was known in Athens on the Spree by the name of the “white beer Philistines” and the brewers of that beverage were regarded by the thirsty populace as unapproachable Brahmins. Alas, sic transit even the glory of beer! Pale ale is destined to become the great mistress of the world. Imagine the Great Eastern chartered by an Alsopp solely to carry XXX to our pining brethren in the East! We really should not be surprised if the leviathan were eventually employed for that purpose; but, even then, the old argument may be applied—her untimely shipwreck would prove a national calamity!
Of course a stranger rarely puts an unhallowed foot in these few surviving white beer refuges. If a pedlar or a hurdy-gurdy boy dare to enter, the whole establishment takes up arms to repulse the invader. The guests are all respectable old gentlemen who have met together for years, and play their customary game of cards. But enough—perhaps too much—on so vulgar a subject: we only allude to it as a characteristic of social life in Berlin.
(Bentley’s Miscellany, London 1859)

One important point there. “The Bayerisch” — Bavarian beer, i.e. lager — had “almost entirely ousted” white beer by the 1860s.


  1. And, of course, that "Bayerisch" would have been Dunkel, ie dark.

    Bit out with the prophesy about which beer would triumph, too: "Pale ale is destined to become the great mistress of the world." Alas, no - 'twas a beer not even on the radar in Berlin in 1859, it appears, and from territory then owned by the hated Hapsburgs …

  2. It would have seemed a likely enough prediction when he was writing it, though...