Monday, 31 December 2012

The year in beer

Just some photos today of random beers and places this year. Otherwise known as some of the random pictures I took on my phone and never used.

There’s a prize (a can of Sweetheart Stout) if anyone can name all the beers and all the places. 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Golden Pints 2012

Yes, I got my Golden Pints finalised! Here are ze results from ze jury at mine:

Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer

There are too many to name one. I’m going to do a top ten instead, of beers I thought were a just a little bit more special or out of the ordinary. In no particular order, and not limited to ten: Williams Bros Impale IPA (Simcoe dry hopped version), Fyne Zombier, Fyne Fladda Rock, West Unkölsch, WEST Wild West unfiltered lager, Tempest Unforgiven, Cromarty Hit The Lip, Kernel Table Beer, Stewart Coconut Porter, Alechemy Cairnpapple, Tryst Citra Hop Trial. The Clockwork’s special foraged beer made during Beer Week was something of a risk, but the result was splendidly fresh and aromatic.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer

People drink bottled beer?? I haven’t been out of the pub enough to drink bottles this year. At least that’s what I say. The pile of empties tells a different story. Let’s see. I have drunk a fair bit of Redchurch beer, nice stuff, kind of Kernel-a-like with less sediment. But not enough to judge an award on. Hang on, there is one bottled beer I bought as much of as I could get my hands on: Fuller’s Past Masters Double Stout. It is fantastic. They must make it a regular. I don’t care that they have two stouts already.

Best Overseas Draught Beer

This is always a tricky one as I don't really drink overseas beer and when I do, it’s bottled. Umm. I can only even remember two – some free Maisel’s Weisse and some Sierra Nevada Summerfest lager. Both were drinkable… but the Jever Pils at the Paisley Beer Festival was better than I was expecting it to be, and unlike some of the other beers, lasted long enough for me to get some!

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer

I really enjoyed the Russian River Damnation that a friend brought back from America. Very nicely done, balanced beer.

Best Overall Beer

There can’t really be a “best beer”. But there can be perfect beer moments. Though they are something rare, just like hot days in Scotland. The two combined one afternoon when I dropped into the State Bar and had a spectacular pint of Fyne Hurricane Jack. The condition of the beer couldn’t have been better, nor could the ambience as the sun streamed in through the window, just missing my preciously cold pint of golden beer. Pale ’n’ hoppy at its peak.

Best Pumpclip or Label

I haven’t really been wowed by any, though the Loch Lomond Brewery’s branding is quite nice and I really like Offbeat from Crewe’s look. I liked Fyne’s IPA Project artwork a lot too. More and more brewers seem to be moving away from the dull old oval pumpclip, which is nice, but it’s only to be expected that some will make regrettable decisions on the way.

Best UK Brewery

I am going to sound like such a sook; but I’ve thought about it and there is no reasonable excuse I can find not to give the award to Fyne Ales. We have been completely bombarded with new beers this year – Rune, Earra, Cloud Burst, Roxy and some I don’t even remember. There was also the ambitious IPA Project of three pairs of IPAs, each produced in pale and dark versions, with the additional Fladda Rock blonde thrown in just for the hell of it. Not to mention the deadly Zombier stout. Did I mention that all the new beers were fab? All this while continuing to produce their core beers, opening a new bar at the brewery, planning expansion and dealing with the departure of their head brewer. Hats off!

As far as runners-up go, I haven’t had a bad beer from Moor or Tempest this year. They always cause a thrill of anticipation when I enter a pub and see their beers on offer.

Best Overseas Brewery

August Schell, not for their beer, which I have never tasted, but for publicly calling out “craft beer” wankery in the belly of the beast.

Pub/Bar of the Year

I have on occasion considered giving up trailing around town in search of beer, and just doing all my drinking in The Laurieston. I don’t think I will actually go that far, but it is a lovely place.

Beer Festival of the Year

I didn’t make it to SRAF or GBBF this year due to illness. But I really enjoyed working at CAMRA Forth Valley’s Alloa festival. The beer was in top nick and volunteers are well looked after there. A novel kind of distributed festival was the Edinburgh Independents’ Beer Festival with some of Edinburgh’s top bars pulling out all the stops to get avant garde beers on sale. At times it seemed more like a walking festival, and my best pint of the day was a Cromarty Hit The Lip in the Diggers, which wasn’t actually taking part, but it was terrific fun.

Supermarket of the Year

I very rarely buy beer in supermarkets now. When I do, it’s likely to be Tesco or Morrisons as they’re on my way to work. I suppose Morrisons as they now sell three types of Mild.

Independent Retailer of the Year

It’s been a good year for Glasgow bottle shops. The range at the established outlets Peckhams and The Cave has noticeably improved. But the award has to go to The Good Spirits Company – really a specialist spirits shop as the name suggests, but they have a small beer section, and frankly with that small section they have kicked everyone else’s arses.

Mention must be made of Hippo Beers, which looks very promising indeed, but since they only opened at the end of November it’s too early to start giving them awards. Really, it is.

Online Retailer of the Year

I don’t buy beer online.

Best Beer Book or Magazine

There have been several important beer books published this year: Beaumont and Webb’s World Atlas of Beer, Mitch Steele’s IPA, Stan Hieronymous’ For The Love of Hops; but I haven’t yet read any of them. And I hear Mark Dredge’s book is complete and awaiting publication, which should be very good too despite having the C-word in the title, so I can see myself binge-buying books in the New Year.

But the award goes to a magazine I have only just discovered: Doghouse. I haven’t even read the latest issue yet but I can say this is a must-read for anyone who loves pubs.

Best Beer Blog or Website

There is no competition this year. Boak & Bailey. Just read the heaps of fascinating stuff they keep coming up with.

Best Beer Twitterer

Twitter doesn’t really work like that does it? I don’t keep an eye out for tweets from my favourite twitterers. Tweets are judged on merit!

Best Online Brewery presence

I was very impressed by the recently relaunched Marble Beers website. The branding appears effortlessly stylish, which generally means an awful lot of effort has been expended in making it appear simple.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year

Redchurch Great Eastern IPA & Ossau Iraty is a good match. I’ve been practising roasting pork shanks too lately. Still have to find the sweet spot where the skin is just right to eat, has lost its rubberiness but isn’t crunchy yet. At any rate a nice amber Vollbier or two goes down very well with one of those.

In 2013 I’d Most Like To…

Drink more good beer and less shite beer. I am also really looking forward to my trip to Dudley to drink Dark Mild.

Open Category: You Choose

My wish for 2013 is that the pretensions of some new microbreweries will be matched by basic competence in brewing. I’ve drunk possibly more great beer this year than ever before, but I’ve also encountered some real stinkers served up by brewers and bars who – I know – know what they’re doing and who should know better. This applies to some brewers I really like as well as those I don’t. Get the beer right. Especially if you’re charging a fiver for it.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Doing it for the kids

I guess you can’t buy soul.

I’ve been in some quite different bars this week.

I dropped into a relatively new place in the Merchant City, well hidden from passing trade. Brutti Compadres it’s called, whatever that means. It’s a glossy bar with low lighting, attractive staff and the blockbusting premium brands that consumers love.

I hated it, obviously.

But I am seduced by the recherché cachet of Riegeler Export, a beer I’ve only ever seen in one other place in Glasgow. I don’t know why. I didn’t think much of it when I lived in Germany, and I don’t think much of it now; and if you want a beer from Baden-Württemberg it’s much inferior to both its local rivals Fürstenberg and Rothaus.

Then it’s back to Rutherglen for the first day of operation of An Ruadh Gleann. It is absolutely heaving. I think everyone in Rutherglen is here, possibly including a large number of people who haven’t been out in their home town for years. Half a dozen or more Christmas ales with corny names are on offer, but the locals seem keener on the Stella and Kopparberg.

It’s too busy for me, so I retreat to the Victoria at the other end of town, which I have decided is my favourite. Here there is cold Tennent’s. And, as I discover, a secret stash of Sweetheart Stout for a regular who comes in and orders a can of “the stuff”, as if it were heroin. Despite my obsession with Sweetheart Stout, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone drinking it in a pub before. Someone other than me, someone I don’t know, I mean. He’s one of the guys playing cards in the big group occupying the two large tables behind me. In the corner the women’s darts team are having their Christmas get-together. I’ve stumbled on a bastion of women’s darts, something else I find endearing about this pub.

On Wednesday a surprise tweet alerted me to the opening of The Sparkle Horse. This was formerly a jakey pub called The Dowanhill which has been noted over the last year only for closing and reopening again. The pub is now run by Steven Clark, better known as Sci-Fi Steven of locally revered indie outfit Bis.

As might be expected, it’s one of those old-pub-converted-to-scenester-places. From the surroundings it’s not terribly different from how it was before. In an appealingly adolescent sort of way the major change is that all the walls have been painted black. The WEST St Mungo is much nicer than Riegeler, too.

I don’t imagine the Dowanhill played much David Bowie. The old Dowanhill regular doesn’t seem to mind it though, he’s stayed for a second pint. I see lots of plaid shirts. Pubs attract the customers that feel at home there, I suppose. Whereas in Edinburgh’s Hanging Bat the clientele are young prematurely balding men talking about Cantillon, here there are serious young women discussing the film that Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian has been working on.

When I was a scenester nobody had any money and we congregated in the cheapest old men’s boozers in town, not feeling welcome in the ancestors of Brutti Compadres. I suspect Sci-Fi Steven remembers that well enough and wants to offer offer today’s kids an alternative. Nobody’s ever going to get rich catering to the women’s darts team, or to students who huddle over a pint of snakebite all night waiting for the band. In their own way, both the Victoria and Sparkle Horse are real community pubs (The Sparkle Horse still needs to order in the Sweetheart Stout, though).

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Arran expands – so does everyone else

Arran Brewery MD Gerald Michaluk,
and Skye Brewery MD Angus MacRuary.
Photo: Arran Brewery
The Arran Brewery has been in the news quite a bit recently with several ambitious new projects. There have been plans to expand production on the island for quite some time, but it came as a surprise to many when Arran and the Isle of Skye brewery announced a merger.

Arran boss Gerald Michaluk sees huge potential exports to the United States buoyed on the romanticism of the brands Skye and Arran. So he says both breweries will remain open and both will be expanded.

Michaluk is a busy man. The company has also recently purchased and relaunched the defunct Beers of the World magazine. And that’s not all. A brand new brewery is planned, on the site of the former Rosebank distillery in Falkirk.

Wait, there’s something else. As reported in the Scotsman, Arran/Skye has reached an agreement with the legendary Munich Hofbräuhaus to bottle and distribute their beer in Scotland.

Not content with all that, Michaluk is planning a new bar in Glasgow city centre to retail the combined operation’s products. It will be over two floors and one floor will be Bavarian-themed, pushing the Hofbräu beers, roast pork shanks and the like. I am not sure the good folks at WEST will be too pleased by this competition on their own turf.

Arran/Skye is not the only brewery expanding, however. Brewdog’s new brewery has finally opened to pump out more beer for tossers. West has finally got plans and funding in place for their new operation in the north of Glasgow, which will free up the brewpub kit for new specials. Work has just begun on constructing Stewart Brewing’s major new brewery. Harviestoun, Cairngorm and Fyne Ales are both planning substantial expansions. There are even rumours that Innis & Gunn plan to establish their own brewing facility. That’s in addition to the new nano- and microbreweries that continue to pop up at an incredible rate.
The question is, who is going to drink all this beer? These new facilities combined are going to produce a serious amount of beer, not the amounts a new little micro brings onto the market. They are relying partially on exports, but must also also hoping the current beer boom in Scotland continues. Can the market absorb so much extra beer? That’s anybody’s guess, as things are still so volatile. But there is so much dynamism in Scottish beer right now that I think it’s possible. I really do.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Up and down the main street

Rutherglen. The town to the south-east of Glasgow has been a beer desert for decades. So much so that the arrival of a Wetherspoons outlet is a source of celebration for local beer drinkers.

It’s not the only town like this. In the summer the CAMRA branch finds itself moving its branch meetings from one depressed Lanarkshire town to the next, one Wetherspoons after another, simply because there are next to no other local pubs in these places that sell real ale, good, bad or indifferent. (Mention must be given to the exceptions, the stalwart George in Hamilton and the Rowan Tree in Uddingston).
I was passing through, but took the chance to have a look at the new Spoons, An Ruadh Gleann, and give the manager the branch’s best wishes. The new pub is a converted wallpaper store, and vast. The interior design is modern too, in a break from the now rather dated Wetherspoon format from the mid-90s. Some elements are Rennie Mackintosh-inspired, I am told.

A split-level beer garden provides basking possibilities should the sun ever come out. A real innovation are the viewing windows through which punters can gawp into the disco ball-equipped cellar (yes, really). I’m not sure how interesting this will be for the average visitor, but sad beer geeks like me find it exciting to look at rows of stillaged casks and kegs. There would seem to be an opportunity for ale theatre in the event of a cellarman getting an involuntary shower from a lively cask in full view of appreciative customers; but I am not sure how much venting of new casks actually goes on in pubs in the evenings.

It was time to look at the other pubs and guess whether An Ruadh Gleann is likely to kill them off. I admit I approached the task I’d set myself with prejudice. I grew up drinking in towns like these and as soon as I could I escaped to the big city with more interesting beer (like Theakstons, as I thought at the time).

The Picture House across the road is probably the pub with most to fear from the arrival of Wetherspoons. With its interior resembling what Spoons pubs were like five years ago, it doesn’t have much in the way of atmosphere. It’s a Belhaven pub and claims on a sign outside to purvey cask ale, though once I get inside I find out they haven’t sold any for some time. It’s odd that Belhaven, who brew cask beer (although it’s a tiny part of their output these days) and are part of one of the UK’s biggest producers of cask beer, seem so uninterested in punting it in their own pubs.

They do have West St Mungo on tap, alongside the rows of half a dozen “premium” lagers claiming continental heritage: Stella, Staropramen, Estrella Damm. I choose a half pint of Staropramen, as it’s years since I’ve had it and I used to quite like it when it was imported as “Prague Beer”. It has a very slight nose of pils malt and smells and tastes mostly of CO2.

From the outside, the Vogue is one of those no-windows, burly-men-smoking-in-the-doorway affairs that looks intimidating. Inside, it’s a lively Celtic pub and it’s mobbed. There seems to be some sort of Christmas party going on. Or maybe it’s like this every night, I don’t know. There’s karaoke on in the “Lisbon Lounge”. I’m swimming against the stream with my pint of Tennent’s Special; as I look around it’s wall-to-wall Tennent’s Lager.

Around the corner, judging by the Union Flag bunting that festoons the outside, the Burgh Bar caters for the other side of the sectarian divide. Still there are more people (i.e. two) people drinking Guinness here than there were in The Vogue. The feel is decidedly different, more sports on TV, more bottles of Budweiser. As I sip my Tennent’s Lager, I notice too late that they still have the old survivor Sweetheart Stout in the fridge.

Dr Gorman’s, a cosy corner pub. The bright lights at first make me think formica-clad jakey dive, but the pub has been sensitively renovated at some point with a gas fire to set off the chunky bolted-down tables. Whisky here, as the Monopoly fruit machine flickers in the corner.

The pubs seem to cluster around each end of Main Street. I like towns that still have this structure to them. Five minutes and I’m at the other end. The Victoria still has the Tennent’s Taverns livery from thirty years ago; the lettering on the signage looks even older, but it’s become too dark to get a picture. It might well date from Victoria’s time. In the time warp inside, it’s one of these L-shaped pubs with two entrances and high ceilings. Nothing seems to date from later than 1985. Young lads are playing darts in the corner as if Facebook or cable TV had never been invented. I almost expect to see the Flying Pickets sitting in the corner. It’s become rare to see Younger’s Tartan Special in the wild, but here it is, still on the bar. It’s slightly caramel-flavoured.

You know what I’ve noticed? The keg beer in these old bars isn’t served as brutally cold here as it is in the city centre. I have thought for some time that most pubs would benefit from serving their cask beer one or two degrees colder and their keg one or two degrees warmer.

In Chapman’s, a large, looming building on the corner, the exterior is a strange exercise in cladding, while the interior remains Edwardian. From the interior, clearly this was once the posh pub in town. Established in the 1870s, I read behind the bar. The beer offering again drives me to whisky – though if I believe the clock still hanging in the bar, I could once have had Drybrough’s Heavy.

The Stirrup Cup is the last pub I visit. There is still a McEwan’s 70/– font, but there’s none. McEwan’s Export is on, though, so I have that in preference to the John Smith’s the landlord offers. It’s been one of the most popular keg beers for decades for a reason, in that it actually has a small amount of flavour to it, albeit mostly yeast and roast barley. Creamy texture too.

I was expecting a load of grotty, depressing pubs, and was pleasantly surprised to find that actually, most of them were pretty good and not remotely threatening. Rutherglen’s pubs have plenty of character and were full of people socialising over a glass of beer. I don’t think Spoons can compete with these places on community – in any case, they are so different they are surely serving different markets. I just wish the beer in the old bars were tastier.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Decoction and COMECON

Triple decoction. The only real decoction mash, to my mind. Three times a part of the mash is removed and boiled, then returned to the main mash to increase its temperature to the next stage.

Lager brewers have been moving away from decoction for years, as the cost of fuel to do it is ridiculous. It is, however, still proudly practised at Pilsner Urquell, at least, so they say.

A retired brewer told me of a visit to Pilsen shortly after the Iron Curtain came down. He saw the last train of Pilsner beer destined for Russia standing in the brewery yard. Apparently there was a deal with the Soviet Union to exchange Czech beer for cheap gas. Perhaps this was the reason there was no pressure on the Prazdroj brewery to move away from decoction.

I do not know enough about the peculiarities of trade within the Soviet bloc to say whether or not this story is plausible.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Quite a bit going on this weekend in town.
  • The cult pub the Halt Bar is having some sort of beer festival, though what exactly is involved I have no idea
  • Today (Thursday) the Pot Still is celebrating one year of management by the Murphy family by (among other things) having four different cask porters on tap.
  • Maclay’s pubs have a “Scottish Craft Beer Festival”, which they appear to interpret as selling lousy Caledonian seasonal beers
  • More promising is the launch of a new beer from Fyne Ales at the State Bar on Friday
  • Pint glass thieves can look forward to Tennent’s new limited edition glass in selected bars on Friday
  • Friday through Saturday the Granary on the south side is having a pub festival with a difference. There will be a temporary stillage set up in the pub. I was dubious about this idea at first, but having seen it at the Drum & Monkey (another Nicholson’s pub) a couple of weeks ago, I have to say it’s marketing genius. The stillage becomes a real talking point among customers and you feel like you’re in Dickens as the barperson disappears to pour you a pint from the cask. Can’t imagine the staff are too keen on it though, as it must involve a lot of walking to and fro.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Köstritzer Englisches Doppelbier

What about this then:

“Since the popular Köstritz English double beer has sold so well, I hereby make known that I have once again received a respectable quantity of best March brew (which is even higher in quality than the October beer), and [this] can be had in large and small containers and also in bottles. ” 

This ad from Johann Heinrich Meyer in the Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen Correspondenten of 12 May 1802 appears to be evidence that English-style beer was being traded, and possibly brewed, in Köstritz. I wonder what it was like?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Old Worthy

A while ago the new Old Worthy Brewing Co sent me a bottle of their (as yet) single product Old Worthy, described as a “Scottish Pale Ale.”

The beer is being contract brewed at the Isle of Skye brewery. I am told that the Isle of Skye plant is definitely staying open after the planned merger with Arran Brewery, so the beer’s production does not look to be in any danger.

I opened it with a few friends when we were sitting around tasting beers one night.

Subtle smoke, barbecue aroma, creamy and chewy with slight touches of butter, grass and manure. I rather liked it but nobody else in the group did.

Not chasing any of the current fashionable trends in beer and all the better for that.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Edinburgh beers in Glasgow pubs, 1916

A while back, as the crude timestamp shows, I took some pictures of a brewery sales ledger in the Scottish Brewing Archive. Lorimer & Clark (today’s Caledonian Brewery), despite being an Edinburgh operation, but in common with other Scottish brewers, had quite a bit of trade in the West of Scotland.

 Ron has been wondering about the standard draught beer in Scotland during the First World War. This document gives a clue. We’re in 1916 and the brewery is delivering beer to Glasgow pubs. And although I shouldn’t generalise from one document, I’m tempted to do that precisely because it is so unambiguous. From this, it doesn’t look like the commonly drunk beer was Mild as it was in England.

I was mainly interested in this because I like to see whether any of the pubs mentioned still exists (as far as I can see, none do in this case, sadly), and the handwriting is nice.

But it gets more useful on later pages where they start to note how much duty was payable on the amount of beer delivered to each pub.

Now I confess I have no idea why the brewery would record this information in a delivery ledger. Perhaps as some sort of cross-check to compare the total notional duty on beer delivered with what they actually paid on the beer they brewed.

Be that as it may, they did record it, and that enables us to calculate the gravity of the beer. We know the quantity delivered and the amount of duty, and we know the rate of beer duty at the time – 24 shillings per standard barrel.

Certainly this brewery’s big sellers were XP and XXP, which going by their names were probably Pale Ales. They don’t just appear more often, the quantities are bigger. Stupendous amounts by today’s standards. Who can imagine a pub today taking nine hogsheads as the Public House Trust in Stevenson did?

Lorimer & Clark beers in 1916
Beer QualityDuty per barrelCalculated OG
XXXX 75/–25/–1.057
IP 42/–14/–1.032
TB 42/–14/31.032

Source: Daybook LC 9/5/9 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Alloa beer festival

Since I’ve been writing this blog the rhythm of Scottish beer festivals has kind of etched itself into my mind. The season starts in spring with Larbert, carries on with Paisley, SRAF in Edinburgh, Fyne Ales festival at the brewery, and then Alloa is the last before winter. There are some others, Helensburgh, Stonehaven, Troon, Black Isle’s jamboree and Bo’ness, but they are a bit further afield and I don’t make a point of going to them every year.

Alloa itself, as I’ve previously found, is pretty poor for beer but the area round about is relatively well served with breweries. As a result Alloa beer festival has some of Scotland’s best known breweries on its doorstep: Harviestoun, Tryst, Williams Bros, TSA and some rarely seen except in their own pubs: Devon, Tin Pot. I think Alloa is my favourite CAMRA festival now. Last year I was skint and couldn’t afford to go as a punter, so I volunteered to work on the door and behind the bar and had a great time. So much so I did it again this year.

What I like about this festival is that it’s so late in the year, the overnight temperature in the hall has dropped, so there are no problems with keeping the beer cool. As a result the beer is generally in fantastic nick. I was pouring ridiculously lively pints from gravity casks, giggling to myself as I thought about the idiots who occasionally try to tell me that gravity beer is always flat. Lovely fresh beer.

The first three pints I sold were from new-wave brewers Cromarty and Alechemy. Who says CAMRA only like dull bland beer? Both breweries had supplied intense pale ales with a heavy dry-hop character. Alechemy had their Cairnpapple served two different ways: one cask dry-hopped with Citra and the other with Galaxy. Both were stunning, the Galaxy version redolent of tropical fruit, the other dry and citrussy. Cromarty’s Hit The Lip was on the dank side, Rogue Wave similar, just stronger. Sadly the solitary cask from Fallen was stowed away and didn’t make it onto the bar.

Fyne Ales, Harviestoun and Tryst were all well represented with beers that were less perfumey and aromatic, but more bitter and satisfying. It’s a far cry from a couple of years ago when I complained about Scottish brewers making hopless bilge in the mistaken belief that it’s traditional. Or perhaps I’ve just learned to avoid those beers.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Josty Beer

Some time ago both Ron and I came across references to “Josty’sches Bier” in analyses of old German beers. As I didn’t know what it referred to, I spent a spare evening compiling everything that Google has to say about Josty’sches Bier. The first thing that can be said with some certainty is that Josty beer was the product of a particular brewery, and not a type of beer for itself – at least, not a type made by several competing producers.

The Josty brewery was founded sometime between 1812 and 1819 on Prenzlauer Strasse in Berlin. The owners were the same as the rather more successful enterprise Café Josty, founded by immigrants from Switzerland. By 1851 both were noteworthy – Alexander Cosmar, “Neuester und vollständigster Wegweiser durch Berlin und Potsdam für Fremde und Einheimische”, 1851 says:
Josty. Berliners associate both a sweet and a bitter taste with this name. A tourist seldom leaves the city without having tried at least one of the two. The Konditorei of Josty & Co., Unter der Stechbahn Nr 1, is equally as famous as the stomach-strengthening bitter beer that Herr Daniel Josty (Firm: Josty Bros., Prenzlauerstrasse Nr. 59) brews and serves in his taproom and restaurant at Markgrafenstrasse Nr. 43.
As well as running a brewery, Daniel Josty apparently also found time to write poetry and prose in the Rheto-Romansch language of his native Switzerland. At the time there was very little printed literature in the language at all, so this was enough to catapult him into the position of the leading Romansch writer, at least in the opinion of one contemporary commentator:
“One of the most significant authors and poets of the Romanic language must be the brewer Daniel Josty, who died in 1846 in Berlin and is known for the still existant beer. He had two works printed which contain examples of Romanic poetry.” 
(Berliner Gesellschaft für das Studium der neueren Sprachen, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, Volumes 31–32) 
 What was the beer like? It’s an interesting one. Ron has an analysis showing it containing just 2.68% alcohol in 1850. Another shows 3.10% in 1864 (The 2.68% figure may be alcohol by weight, which would (I think) result in an alcohol by volume figure close to 3.10%).

The contemporary tasting notes I posted some time ago describe it thus: “The beer was light brown, clear, very foamy, with a clean bitter taste, and with the exception of carbonic acid, almost free of any other acid. The Josty’sches beer is a weak-bodied beer. It is top-fermented, contains more hops and less sugar than the Werder beer, in addition to which the colour is lighter, and does not have a burnt taste. Adulteration was not evident.” Baedeker’s guidebook of 1862 calls Josty a “bitter, aromatic beer”. 

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer recommended Josty’s beer in an 1853 letter to a friend:
Take all due care, and do not drink the white beer, but the quassia-containing Josty beer, if that is still about. Here [in Frankfurt] I am withdrawn from any beer; Kant hated beer and never drank any.
(Ernst Otto Lindner, Arthur Schopenhauer, Julius Frauenstädt, Arthur Schopenhauer: von ihm, ueber ihn, Hayn, 1863) 
Schopenhauer had left Berlin for Frankfurt in 1831, so we can presume that Josty was producing a quassia beer during the 1820s. Or can we?

There may have been quassia beers – no Reinheitsgebot in Berlin at that time – or did Schopenhauer just assume that it contained quassia because it was so bitter? We do know three things: the fad for “medicinal” beverages was as strong in 19th century Berlin as it was in Victorian England; the public health inspectors of the time were concerned with the use of non-hop bittering agents; and as late as 1900 Josty Bros. themselves were advertising “Medicinal and Sanitary Beer”. So it doesn’t seem impossible.

One modern article credits Josty with having invented the custom of adding woodruff to Berliner Weisse. I am strongly inclined to treat this as folklore, as I have not encountered any evidence indicating that Josty ever even brewed Berliner Weisse. Then again, it’s given me the idea of trying to find out when people did start putting syrup into it.

At this time the brewery was at Prenzlauer Strasse 59. Curiously, the street perpendicular to Prenzlauer Strasse was later named Jostystrasse, but not until the brewery had already moved out in 1890, occupying swish new premises at Bergstrasse 23–24. Both Prenzlauer Str. and Jostystr. were flattened in the 1960s or 1970s when the city extended and straightened Karl-Liebknecht-Str. northwards to join up with today’s Prenzlauer Allee. But the building in Bergstrasse is still there. It must have cost a pretty penny at the time. Here it is:

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An advertisement in a trade fair catalogue shows that at Bergstrasse Josty had at least five products: Goldperle table beer, Trinkwürze (an only slightly fermented wort, possibly similar to today’s Malzbier, a similar product allegedly containing iron, Porter, and — “Smoked Beer, brewed according to the Graetz process.”
Josty’s Goldperle. This beer is a light, bright excellent Lagerbeer of pleasant pure taste, and as it contains but little alcohol, it is very wholesome for the stomach.
Josty’s Trinkwürze. The so-called Trinkwürze is a lightly fermented Maltbeer, highly nourishing, brewed from wort, free from surrogates, at 18–19 degrees, distinguished by a relatively large proportion of unfermented malt and dextrins.
Josty’s Eisenmalz-Extract (Iron malt extract). According to the analysis this is a strong pure Maltbeer, but slightly fermented, containing but little iron. This beer is equal to an original wort of about 17 degrees, and containing much maltose, dextrine and nitrogen, it is of a relatively high nutritive value.
Josty’s Porter (pasteurised according to Gronwald’s process) has a very strong taste, contains a plentiful supply of hops and, according to the analysis, is brewed without surrogates and is an excellent substitute for the genuine English Porter.
I wonder how the chemist’s observation that the “iron malt extract” didn't actually contain much iron made it into an advert. Possibly the management didn’t check foreign-language copy as carefully as they might have done.

On the Grätzer, sadly, we have no report from a disarmingly honest chemist, but only the platitudes we have grown to love from brewers:
Josty’s Rauchbier nach Grätzer Art (brewed according to the Graetz process) is prepared from the best raw materials and is in all respects superior to all similar kinds of beer.
The move to Bergstr. does not seem to have been a success, with the brewery continuing only until 1903–1910 before being sold and was already closed by the time the First World War broke out. It was renamed “Bergbrauerei Nacher” after the managing director of the purchaser, the Engelhardt brewery, and produced Caramelmalzbier for the group. Engelhardt was supposedly the largest producer of Caramelmalzbier at the time and is also credited with introducing the returnable deposit bottle. Herr Nacher was Jewish and when Hitler came to power Nacher’s brewery was expropriated and handed over to the Dresdner Bank.

The Café Josty continued after the sale of the brewery, its most notable address being on Potsdamer Platz, with Erich Kästner setting part of his Emil and the Detectives there, and Expressionist poet Paul Blodt immortalised it in his “Auf der Terasse des Café Josty”. But the café business was hit hard by the economic crisis and declined in the 1930s. I’ll leave the detailed story of what happened to the café enterprise to cake historians.

Lots of questions unanswered still. Why did the Josty family sell up? When did they start brewing Porter and Grätzer, and what did they taste like? As all their other brews were top-fermented, was their Lagerbeer, too? What happened to the original light brown Josty’sches Bier that may or may not have contained quassia and was good for the stomach?

Friday, 12 October 2012

German export beers in 1900

The Official Catalogue of the Collective Exhibition of the German Industry in Articles of Food at the Paris Exhibition 1900 is a great document. Twenty pages of adverts from German breweries, in English. Despite the slightly odd English in places, you can get an idea of the kinds of beers they had to sell.

Brewers like boasting about the output of their brewhouses. Many of the adverts name a figure, which is great. Sadly they are not all comparable; some of the breweries only state how much of their beer they export, not their total production. Others are still touting for business and only mention their capacity; how much beer they could be making if anyone wanted to buy it.

Two breweries have something in their portfolio called “F.F.”. I’d love to know what that stood for.

I’m fairly sure the brewers who describe their beers as mild and stout weren’t really brewing mild and stout, just using the closest English expressions they could find. Probably they mean pale and dark. Or maybe weak and strong. It’s anybody’s guess. Saloon beer is possibly a translation of the German Schankbier, so maybe a low-gravity product.

Although tomorrow we will have a brewery which did make Deutscher Porter. Watch this space.

Output of a few not necessarily representative German breweries in 1900
BreweryOutput (*capacity **export)EmployeesTypes produced/exhibited
Source: Official Catalogue of the Collective Exhibition of the German Industry in Articles of Food at the Paris Exhibition 1900 (Frankfurt, 1900), pp. 100–123.
Actienbrauerei Erlangen100000*40Erlanger Gold (Exquisite light Tablebeer)
Bergschlösschen, DortmundExport lagerbeers, mild (Pilsen) and stout (Munich), F.F. Kaiserbeer
Berliner Weissbier-Brauerei113000Berlin White Beer
Brauhaus Nürnberg165613
Bürgerliches Brauhaus München250000300Export-Beer
C. Breithaupt, BerlinBerlin White-Beer
Dortmunder Aktien-Brauerei150000**190light Dortmund Beer, gold coloured Dortmund Beer, dark Dortmund Beer, light bitter (Dortmunder Actien Bitterbier) a surrogate for Bohemian Pilsen.
Erste Culmbacher206000**290“vigorous dark beer”, “Light Saloon Table Beer”
Franziskaner375000450Lager, Märzen, Pale Lager, Bock
Kaiser-Brauerei, Bremen (Beck’s)Light coloured Export Beer, the so called “Pilsener”
Ketterer, Pforzheim28700Light Exportbeer, Dark Lagerbeer
Kochelbräu8000**Mild and stout Exportbeer, Bockbeer, Märzenbeer
Kulmbacher Rizzibräu100000
Löwenbräu, München594202770Dark and light Export-beer, Bock, Märzen
Mönchshof200000*Stout and mild Kulmbach Beer
Exportbierbrauerei Reichelbräu135000Strongest Export Beer dark prime quality, F.F. Goldlight Saloon-Beer choicest quality, F.F. Light brown Export-Beer
Spaten500000Brown and pale Lagerbeer
Tucher, NürnbergPale and light Beers
Wilhelmshavener Aktien-BrauereiPasteurized Export Beer
Zum Storchen154700Choicest Bavarian and pale Export Beers

I do like Rizzibräu’s trademark. It seems to say “Drink Rizzi, and you can be as completely pissed as me! Wahey!”

Like Löwenbräu, Reichelbräu from Kulmbach has figures showing its rapid growth over the previous twenty years:

Growth in output of Kulmbacher Reichelbräu, 1880–1900
Source: Official Catalogue of the Collective Exhibition of the German Industry in Articles of Food at the Paris Exhibition 1900 (Frankfurt, 1900), pp. 116.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Löwenbräu output 1873–1899

Löwenbräu presents here a list of the growth in the output of the brewery over the previous few years. Very useful. It was claiming to be the largest brewery in Germany at the time.

The Brewery “Zum Löwenbräu” existed already in 1765 on the Löwengrube in Munich; it was acquired by the previous possessor Mr. LUDWIG BREY in 1818, and by him removed to the Nymphenburger Str. at the place where it is still now.
In 1872 the Brewery passed over to the possession of the Joint Stock Company.
The Brewery employs to-day 770 workmen and functionaries. The motory power of the Brewery consists of 6 Steam Engines of together 1200 effective horse power, and the required steam is procured by 11 steam-boilers of 830qm heating surface.
There are 16 Double Malt-Kilns of 1170 qm basis in the clear to dry the produced malt.
With the five Brewing Works existing, 1220 Hectolitres of Malt can be brought to Brewing pr. day.
To provide the required quantities of cold, the powerful refrigerators with 10 Compressors No. VI Linde’s system provide for.
There are produced:—
Dark and light Export-Beer, Bockbier which is very vigorous, and Märzenbier highly distinguished by the delicacy of its taste.

YearSales in hectolitres

I wonder what happened between 1894 and 1899 to more than double sales?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Zombier staggers onward

Jake, departing head brewer of Fyne Ale Wil Wood, and Chris
It wasn’t intentional, but Zombier stole the show at Beer Week with a secret cask going on sale on Friday night at the Three Judges. This firkin sold out in three and a half hours, a record-breaking achievement for such a strong beer (6.9%).

There was more to celebrate for its creators, homebrewers Jake Griffin and Chris Lewis, the following weekend when between them they took the top two places in the Porter category at the National Homebrew Competition in Bristol. Jake additionally came third in the Specialty Beer section with a rye pale ale. Like the undead, these two seem unstoppable at the moment.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Hello, Goodbye

Wil Wood and Chris Lewis share a joke
As I left work on Friday a week of beer drinking was beginning to catch up with me, but the thought of the beers ahead was enough to keep me going. Fyne Ales were launching their latest pair of IPA Project beers at the Three Judges. All the beers have been good, some sensational, so I would have made an effort for this event anyway. This was head brewer Wil Wood’s swansong, so it was pleasant to catch up with him; he’s leaving Fyne to set up a new brewery in Great Yarmouth using the name of the defunct Lacon brewery, closed by Whitbread in 1968.

But Wil says he will not be reviving the historic beers, but giving the same pale’n’hoppy stamp to the brewery that’s been his trademark at Oakham and Fyne. There is a parting gift for Fyne: some of the very limited supply of the latest new high-alpha hop from Germany, Polaris, is at the brewery waiting to be made into beer.

 It will be a challenging period for Fyne dealing with a new head brewer and new brewery at the same time, and beer lovers will be wishing them every success.

As with every pair of IPAs in the series, I preferred the blonde Sanda to the darker version. The black beer is very nice, but the dark flavours just get in the way of the crisp, bitter finish common to all the blonde beers.

 I could happily have drunk Sanda all night, but then it was round to Kelvinbridge to Inn Deep, the scene of the closing party. The two IBD-winning beers were head to head in Glasgow for the first time. Inn Deep had been busy all week and tonight it was rammed. It was nice to relax by the side of the Kelvin as people shared news, projects, ideas … just what happens in a proper pub.
Lacons plaque
Old Lacons sign in Cambridge, photo nicked from
the Brewery History Society website
Impale IPA and Zombier font badges
Impale, Jarl, Zombier from cask

Chris Williams pours samples of beer
Chris Williams of Inn Deep pours samples of the family brewery’s
22nd Anniversary Fraoch aged in Auchentoshan casks

Friday, 14 September 2012

Quiet night?

Thursday was the first night all week I didn't have any Beer Week events I was committed to going to. This was quite refreshing really and I was planning to go home, have a nice dinner and head out again to the Hippo Beers showcase at Brel.

Both outfits are kind of interesting. Brel was a style bar riding on the first Jackson-inspired wave of interest in Belgian beer back in the 1990s. More recently it's been taken over by the people behind one of Glasgow's top beer places, Blackfriars, and steered in a less explicitly Belgian direction with the introduction of cask ale and new beers coming from London and Sheffield rather than the Low Countries. They've also dropped the high price niveau which had made the old Brel notorious.
Hippo Beers is a new beer shop. More precisely, it's going to be a new beer shop. Their premises licence has got held up somewhere in the bureaucratic machine, hence the expediency of them having their event in a hospitable pub.

But I’m rushing ahead. The previous night Blackfriars had planned a meet-the-brewer and tap takeover with six Tempest beers. Unfortunately a sudden power cut put the pub out of action for the evening and the night had to be cancelled. We later saw the Tempest guys up at Inn Deep, so at least their journey from Kelso wasn't entirely wasted.

Suspecting the Tempest beers might be on the following night, I dropped in for a quick pint. Emanation is a lovely beer, essentially best bitter with New World hops. One of the brewery's most lusted after beers, Long White Cloud, a pungently Nelson Sauvin scented affair that's darker than its name suggests, was being enthusiastically tanned by a table of local CAMRAnauts, some with three pints of the precious liquid arrayed in front of them in case it ran out at the bar (this is not as obsessive as it seems as a Tempest beer can sell out very fast in this pub). I stayed in the pub longer than expected.

I did eventually make it up to Brel, but didn't stay long. Happily for Hippo, their guests didn't just sup the free samples and leave; they stayed to buy up the available stock. A promising start by anyone's standards.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Beer & cheese night

One of my favourite cheese books is “The complete book of cheese” by Bob Brown, who coincidentally also wrote one of my favourite beer books, “Let there be beer!” He spends a great portion of the book describing in methodical detail various kinds of Welsh rabbits, some of which are classically made with beer. So the recent growth of interest in combining the two isn’t any wacky new innovation.

Another bookish inspiration was a passage in E P Thompson’s “The making of the English working class” pointed out to me by a friend, in which Thompson goes on about London artisans dining on bread and cheese and porter. Bread and cheese has, sadly, become a byword for poverty; it shouldn’t be, as if you can get really good bread and cheese it becomes a feast. I quite often have bread and cheese and porter for dinner.

A beer and cheese tasting is something I’d wanted to do for quite a while, and Beer Week seemed the perfect opportunity. I was lucky to get a proper cheese expert, Phoebe Weller, as co-host, who was fortunately able to take a short time away from intensive preparation for the British Cheese Awards in Cardiff. We took over the same format and venue as Phoebe’s cheese and wine pairing nights – six combos.

Andechser Bergbock hell: We paired this with a Kilree goat’s cheese. This is a great lager if in good condition, really fresh and malty and grassy, like chewing the stalk of the barley the malt is made from. The cheese is musty and earthy, like the soil the barley grows in. Really nice. It was only after deciding this match that I remembered that bock means goat. Honest.

Orval with Comte.
Orval’s bitterness really gets dug in to the sweet, fudgy cheese. This was an easy one as Comte goes with everything.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with Ossau Iraty.
I kind of jumped over the classic ploughman’s lunch combination of cheddar and best bitter, partly due to the difficulty of getting a decent bitter in bottle. Instead we had two of its long-lost cousins, Orval on the one hand and then, fast-forwarding a few decades, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. We put them one after another chiefly to let people compare the two beers. The Pale Ale’s citrussy pithiness unleashes the cool, creamy butteriness of the cheese.

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (Märzen) with Taleggio. This is my favourite beer but the most difficult to find a match for. We tried a lot of combinations that didn’t work. This one did. This particularly smelly cheese is seduced by the sweet, smoky beer, filling the mouth with meaty flavours.

Meantime Porter with Epoisses. The beer relatively light-bodied with a big brown malt character; the cheese a salty, gooey puddle of horse-pee-scented vanilla pudding, resembling a Salvador Dali rendition of a Victoria sponge.

Harviestoun Old Engine Oil and Stilton.
One of the clichés of the cheese and wine world is port and Stilton. The reason it’s common enough to be a cliché is that it’s so damn good. I was originally looking for a nice strong barley wine that would be rich, heavy and sweet like port to counter the rich, salty cheese. Again, there are not enough of these about. I chose Old Engine Oil instead and it was serendipitous. As well as the sweetness and richness of the stout, its roast-coffee bitterness really brought out the cocoa notes in the cheese, a dry, bitter, properly grown-up chocolate milkshake.

The one thing I regret is that I was planning to use the word “empyreumatic” to describe the stout, but forgot.