Category Archives: History

Vienna Lager: Another Piece of the Puzzle

In several previous postings, I wrote about various details in my effort to reconstruct historic Vienna lager as it was brewed in the 19th century by Viennese breweries, in particular Anton Dreher’s Kleinschwechater Brauerei, and exported all over Europe.

In a posting about a month ago, I discerned various mashing methods as they were described in the 1887 book “Die Dampf-Brauerei. Eine Darstellung des gesammten Brauwesens nach dem neuesten Stande des Gewerbes” by Franz Cassian. Despite all the interesting information that I was able to get out of that book, I missed one particular table much earlier in the book that shows a brief but informative overview over how Munich lager, Vienna lager, and Bohemian lager are brewed.

(click on the image to expand)

While much of this information was already known to me, there are a few more interestings bits and pieces in there: it lists a hopping rate of 1.5 kg per 100 kg of malt (which, after some calculation, should be roughly equivalent to between 3.45 g/L and 3.75 g/L). We get a hop boil time (2 hours), and a more detailed hopping schedule: 1/3 of the hops are added to the first runnings (so-called first wort hopping), while the remaining hops are added 45 minutes before the end of the boil. Unfortunately, the same book describes this just a few pages afterwards in words, and there it says that 2/3 of the hops are added 45 minutes after the beginning of the boil. At a 2 hours boil, that would be 75 minutes before the end of the boil. Personally, I find the latter a bit more convincing.

It also lists 13° as the OG of Vienna lager. Both the OG and the hopping rate corroborate previous findings from other pieces of literature. While not exactly new information, it adds much more confidence to this information.

All in all, we’ve now got the following information about historic Vienna lager:

  • Original gravity: about 13 °P
  • ABV: about 4.6%
  • Final gravity: about 4 °P
  • Hopping rate: 3.3 to 3.6 g/L
  • Boil time 2 hours, with hop schedule as described above
  • Hop variety: Saaz
  • Base malt: Vienna malt
  • Mashing schedule: triple decoction (more details here)

This information is pretty complete, and in fact quite detailed. The only things I would say are not 100% clear are the exact specs of historic Vienna malt such as colour, modification and barley variety (which means we need to trust commercially available modern Vienna malt), and the brewing water that was used. To give you a hint about what the ground water in Schwechat is like, you can find current water analysis data online. This is of course not a guarantee that the water profile is authentic. The water may have changed through 150 years of modern farming, and the brewery could have treated the local water, which would change everything. In any case, the important point about the water is that Viennese water is not necessarily right, as Schwechat’s water source is separate from Vienna’s, and Vienna’s water sources have changed in the last 150 years.

Nevertheless, quite a lot of information about Vienna lager has now been confirmed through historic sources, some of them even through multiple sources, which gives me greater confidence than ever before that Vienna lager brewed based on the specs above is as close to the historic original as possible.

#BeeryLongReads2018: Revisiting Brewing Methods

More than two years ago, I wrote an article discerning accounts from 1834 about various brewing methods as they were practiced in Germany and Austria, in particular Munich, Augsburg, Prague and Vienna, as part of #BeeryLongReads. I even won great prizes for it:

A lot has happened since then, not only did I gain more experience in blogging, I also published a book about historic beer stuff. So this time, I want to follow up on the theme and discuss the specific differences in decoction mashing from a late 19th century point of view.

Franz Cassian published a book named “Die Dampf-Brauerei. Eine Darstellung des gesammten Brauwesens nach dem neuesten Stande des Gewerbes.” in 1887 in which he talks about the state of the art of brewing at that time. I only came across this book recently, and found it particularly interesting because it contains a whole section with nothing but detailed descriptions of various types of decoction mashing and their differences.

Now, if you’ve never heard of decoction mashing before, let me just quickly describe it to you: when brewing a beer, the brewer uses the enzymes in the malt combined with hot water to convert the starches in the malt to sugar. In order for the enzymes to work under optimal conditions, this needs to happen at certain temperatures. Different enzymes do their stuff at different temperatures, so if you wanted to activate the enzymes to do their thing, you’d go through these different temperature steps so that each of them can work under optimal conditions. There are essentially three different ways of doing this:

  1. by adding more hot or boiling water (which can make the mash very thin)
  2. by heating up the mash until the right temperature is reached (which can be tricky if you don’t have exact temperature control)
  3. by taking a part of the mash, boiling it, and mixing it back (which takes a long time and uses up a lot of energy and fuel)

Some brewing traditions even just keep a single temperature, but in some ways, they’re just a simplification of methods (1) and (2), which nowadays are called infusion mashing. Method (3) on the other hand is called decoction mashing and is very traditional in Bavaria, Bohemia and Austria to a certain extent, and only used to be practiced there. At the time, brewers swore by it and exclaimed that decoction mashing was absolutely essential for their local beer style. Even today, decoction mashing is necessary in the Czech Republic if a brewer wants to call their beer a Czech beer.

Modern German breweries have gone off it for various reasons though: energy efficiency is one of them, as infusion mashing doesn’t use up nearly as much energy. Another reason is the perceived lack of impact on quality. This is relatively controversial, but there exist studies that claim that the difference of decoction mashing and infusion mashing cannot be smelled or tasted by your average Joe beer consumer, while some brewers still swear by it. An experiment at Brulosophy that compared whether people could taste a difference between triple-decocted beer and one produced by single infusion mash failed to gain significance. Upon closer analytical examination, differences between worts and beers produced through infusion mashing resp. single, double and triple decoction mashing can be measured.

Decoction mashing nowadays is mostly distinguished by how many decoctions are pulled (1, 2 or 3), the consistency of the decoctions (thick or thin), and which temperature steps you’re going through. With modern brewing science as a helpful tool, we exactly know what’s happening at each temperature step and which enzymes will be the most active, and we know about the destructive force boiling a decoction wields on the diastatic power (the ability to convert starches to sugar) of the partial mash. Even though brewing science in the late 19th century had already made great progress, brewing as such was still a craft and findings of brewing science were not necessarily immediately incorporated into the knowledge and toolset of a brewer.

With this context, let’s look at what Franz Cassian wrote about the specific styles of decoction mashing. He distinguishes three main methods, the Munich method, the Viennese method, and the Bohemian method. He identifies two main differences between those three methods: first, the type of malt that is used in mashing, and second, the way the mash is treated in relation to temperature, the number and consistency of individual decoctions, as well as boiling durations. The rest of the operation, like boiling and chilling the wort as well as fermenting and lagering the beer, he says, are essentially the same.

He then goes on to describe the different malts that are used for each of these methods: for the Munich method, highly kilned malts are being used, while for the Viennese method, the malt used produces a beer with reddish-brown colour that is lighter than Munich beers. The malt itself is very aromatic. The typical malt for Bohemian beers, he writes, is very pale, leading to an almost wine-like colour of the beer. The malt is kilned as such low temperatures that the author describes them more as dried than kilned. He also mentions an interesting detail: some Munich breweries at that time had started kilning their malt to a lower temperature, and then adjusted the colour of the beer with Farbebier.

Farbebier, literally “colouring beer”, is an extremely dark beer made from large amounts of debittered roasted malt that can be used to adjust the colour of beer without imparting the beer with too much roasted aroma and flavour. Since it’s just beer, mixing Farbebier with pale beer was compliant with the Bavarian prohibition on adulterating beer or substituting its ingredients. It was the only legal food colouring for beer at that time, and still is to this day if you want to advertise your beer as being compliant to the Reinheitsgebot.

Kilning at lower temperatures has a good technical reason: it destroys fewer of the enzymes that are required for starch conversion, and makes the malt more convertible, which in turn makes it easier for brewers to work with it. Using Farbebier was really just for matching customer expectations. This is what some Munich breweries allegedly still do nowadays: American beer consumers expect an Oktoberfest beer to be amber-coloured instead of the golden colour of modern Festbier, so Farbebier is used to adjust the colour for the American exports without impacting the flavour.

This description with Bohemian malt being the palest, Munich malt being the darkest and Viennese malt being in-between these two also reflects modern base malts: many maltings in Germany will produce and trade at most three base malts: Munich malt, Vienna malt and Pilsner malt. Only a few specialty malt producers offer a wider range of base malts, from extra-pale malt even paler than Pilsner malt, to Pale Ale malts more suitable for British and American styles, to proprietary malt blends for producing wort with a distinct red hue.

Besides the malt, the even more important distinction in brewing methods was the mashing itself. For Bavarian mashing, the author distinguishes four types: the old Munich or old Bavarian method, the new Munich method, the Augsburg method, and the Franconian method.

Old Bavarian Method

At the time of the publication of this book, this method was barely in use anymore. It used to be common for primitive breweries with not a whole lot of equipment, so most of the work was manual labour: mashing and lautering was done in the same vessel, so mash tuns had a false bottom, stirring was only done by hand, and hot water was added through simple tubes attached on the side of the mash tun going underneath the false bottom. Underneath the mash/lauter tun, another vessel, the “Grand”, was installed, which was large enough to contain all the collected wort.

The brewing process worked like this: for every unit of malt (by weight), 8 times that amount in water was required. One third of the water is added to the mash tun, while the rest is slowly brought to a boil. While the water heats up, the malt is doughed in. Bringing the water to a boil could take 3 to 4 hours, so that’s how long the malt was doughed in at a cool temperature. When the water is boiling, it is added very slowly to the mash, and mixed thoroughly, so that when all the boiling water is mixed in, the mash is at a temperature of about 37 to 38 °C.

Immediately, one third of the volume (as a thick mash) is put back into the copper, and quickly brought to a boil, where it is boiled for half an hour and then slowly mixed back into the main mash while constantly stirring. The resulting temperature of the mash should then be at about 45 to 50 °C, and will be mashed (stirred) for another 15 minutes to liquefy the mash. Then again, a third of the volume (again a thick mash) is put into the copper, and boiled for 45 minutes, and again slowly mixed back to reach a mash temperature of 60 to 63 °C. More stirring happens for 15 minutes, until the the third decoction can happen:

A third of the mash, this time a thin mash, is put into the copper, boiled for 15 minutes, and – you should know the drill by now – slowly mix it back under constant stirring to reach 73 to 75 °C. With that, the mash boiling is concluded, but not the mash itself: it gets stirred until the mash is fully converted. Nowadays, this would be verified with an iodine test (an iodine solution turns from brown to blue if the mash still contains unconverted starches), but back then it was determined by how quickly the hard matter in a sample of the mash sinks down the bottom of the vessel.

When mashing is concluded, it rests so that the grains can sink to the bottom of the vessel, which usually takes 30 minutes. Then the tap of the lauter tun is opened and the first wort is drawn into buckets. The wort is poured back onto the mash until it runs clear, then the wort is collected in the Grand, from where it is transferred to the copper. The grains are then further rinsed by pouring hot water on top: 30 liters per 100 kg of malt. The resulting wort is added to the wort. More hot water is then poured on top of the grains, at 50 to 60 liters per 100 kg of malt, and the resulting wort is used to brew a weak beer called “Schöps”. The final runnings, at 30 to 40 liters per 100 kg of malt, are called the Glattwasser and are used for distilling.

New Munich Method

Unlike the old Bavarian method, the new Munich method employs more sophisticated equipment and a certain degree of automation using steam engines. Mash and lauter tuns are separate, and no full-sized Grand is used anymore. Doughing in happens with a pre-masher, and the initial mash temperature is reached by using water from a hot liquor tank. The Mash tun is set higher than other equipment so that decoctions can be transported using gravity, and mixed back using pumps. Like the old method, the new method still employs three decoctions, two thick ones and a final thin one. But due to the high degree of automation, exact timing, and a hot liquor tank that can be used for quick temperature corrections, the whole process is meant to be quicker and more precise and therefore more reproducible and repeatable.

The temperature steps are slightly different: the first decoction is drawn at 30 °C and boiled for 15 to 45 minutes to bring the mash to 55 °C. The second decoction is boiled for 15 to 45 minutes to bring the mash to 65 °C, and the final thin decoction is boiled for 30 to 45 minutes to bring the mash to 75 °C. The amount of sparge water that is used is two thirds of the initial water volume.

Augsburg Method

The typical method for Augsburg is “auf Satz brauen”, which is pretty unique and quite different from the class Bavarian or Munich decoction. The ratio of malt to water is 1:6 by weight. The mash tun has a false bottom, which gets covered with hop leafs to help prevent the mash from getting sour through lactic acid fermentation. Doughing in is done with so much cold water that the resulting mash is quite thin and easy to stir, and then rested for 4 to 5 hours. Then the cold malt extract (you probably can’t call it wort yet), called “kalter Satz”, is then drawn off and put aside. The rest of the water is brought to a boil, and then a few liters (unfortunately, the author is not very clear here) of the kalter Satz are added to the boiling water which makes the proteins in it coagulate. The proteins are removed, then the hot water is slowly mixed into the drained main mash that has been hacked up before. After all the hot water has been added, the kalter Satz is also mixed back into the main mash, after which it should have a temperature of 60 to 65 °C.

Then the mash is stirred until it has properly liquefied, only to rest 15 minutes before the “warmer Satz” is drawn off. This is just like lautering: first, wort is drawn off and poured back into the mash until it runs clear. Of all the wort, two thirds go into the copper, while one third is put aside. The wort in the copper is brought to a boil as slowly as possible to maximize the amount of hot break for a clearer wort. The boiling wort is poured back into the main mash, which again should have a temperature of about 65 °C. At that point, the mash shall be stirred to continue starch conversion.

Then, the thick portion of the mash is drawn off into the copper and boiled for up to 2 hours, until no more hot break appears on the surface. It is then mixed back into the main mash to get it up to 70 °C. Then, the wort that was set aside is added to the copper, hops are added, and the main mash is lautered and also added to the copper. This wort is then slowly brought to a boil.

In the late 19th century, this method was considered to be completely outdated, and only practiced in Augsburg. It was hard to scale it up to larger amounts, and suffered greatly from issues of the mash getting sour during the whole process. Beer made using it was described to be very full-bodied and less perishable than other Bavarian beers.

Franconian Method

The Franconian method, as described by Franz Cassian, is a single step decoction mash. The malt to wort ratio (by weight) is 1:6 to 1:7. Hot water of 80 to 85 °C is thoroughly mixed with the malt to reach about 60 to 65 °C and then rested until all hard matter has sunk to the bottom of the mash tun. Then, all the wort is drawn off and brought to a boil. All hot break is thoroughly removed, and the wort is boiled for 45 minutes. After that, it is mixed back into the mash to bring it up to 75 °C, and then thoroughly stirred and rested for an hour to continue conversion. Then a small amount of wort, about one tenth of the whole volume, is drawn off and used to boil the hops for about 30 minutes, then the rest of the wort is drawn off, added to the wort and hops, and boiled even longer (the author doesn’t specify how long, though).

Both beers brewed after the Augsburg and the Franconian method are sparged, but the resulting second runnings aren’t added to the first runnings, but rather made into a small beer called “Hansle” (if you’ve read my book, other sources also call this “Heinzele”).

Viennese Method

According to the author, this method may actually be used to produce more beer than with the Munich method, as it has been in use not only in Austria and Germany, but also in France, Norway, Russia, as well as breweries in North and South America. The method is described in very specific numbers:

To produce 100 liters of beer, 20 to 22 kg of malt are used. The total water amount is 200 liters, split up into the mash water (125 to 166 liters) and the sparge water (34 to 75 liters).

To malt is doughed in with 2/3 of the cold mash water, while 1/3 of the mash water is brought to a boil. It is stirred until it is completely smooth, and only then the boiling water is added to bring the mash to a temperature of 36 to 38 °C. The rest of the mash is done in a triple decoction fashion, with two thick decoctions and a thin decoction.

The first decoction is heated up, but not immediately brought to a boil: instead, it is rested at 70 to 75 °C for 10 to 35 minutes. After that, it is quickly brought to a boil, and boiled for 5 to 15 minutes. The boiling mash is then mixed back while thoroughly stirring to bring it to a temperature of 45 to 50 °C. After a rest of a few minutes, another third of the mash, again a thick mash, is drawn off and boiled for 20 to 50 minutes. It is then again mixed back. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t mention the expected temperature, but we can guess it to be in the range of 60 to 65 °C. For the final decoction, a larger amount of the whole mash, 40 to 50 %, is drawn off and brought to a boil so that the protein coagulates and the hot break settles. It is then mixed back into the main mash which should then have a temperature of about 75 °C. After some more stirring, the mash process is considered finished.

The mash is then lautered and sparged, and the wort is boiled with the hops. The stronger the beer, the more hops are used. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide any specific hopping rates. Original gravities are mentioned, though: lager beers are generally at around 13 °P, while low-gravity draught beers are at 10 °P.

Bohemian Method

The Bohemian beers at that time are characterized as less malty, but rather more hop-aromatic. With every 100 kg of malt, 700 liters of water were used: 562 liters in the mash, 188 for sparging. 435 liters of water are used for doughing in at a temperature of 40 °C in winter, or 30 °C in summer. After doughing in is completed, 108 liters of boiling water are added to raise temperature. After a few minutes of rest, about one quarter of the thick mash are removed and very slowly heated up to 55 to 60 °C so that the enzymes can convert starches into sugar. After that, the decoction is brought to a boil, while the hot break gets skimmed. After 30 minutes of mashing, it is mixed back into the main mash, and stirred thoroughly to ensure a consistent temperature throughout the mash. After that, a second and third decoction are drawn and conducted exactly like the first thick decoction. After the third decoction has been mixed back, the overall temperature of the mash should be at 70 to 75 °C, and the mash is rested.

Wort is then drawn off until it is clear. The turbid part of the wort is boiled together with about 19 liters of water for a few minutes, and poured back into the mash. The mash is then moved to the lauter tan, and lautered and sparged with the sparge water that was set aside. The resulting wort is boiled with relatively large amounts of hops. Some of the hops are kept back and only added at the end of the boil to increase the amount of volatile hop aromas. This is what the author considered to be very specific for Bohemian beers and what gives them their typical hoppy aroma and flavour.

Discussion

While I’ve been working with lots of different sources when I was writing my book about historic German and Austrian beers, finding such a detailed description and comparison of various types of decoction mashing was quite refreshing. The Old Bavarian method is closest to what I’ve seen in plenty of other sources. I would describe it as the most classic method, pretty much fully based on manual labour, and done with an approach that employs volume measurements so that when done properly, no temperature measurements would be necessary. The ratio of malt to water is crazy high, though. For decoction brewing, today’s literature recommends ratios of 1:4 to 1:5. The text is not totally clear in all details, and might mean the total amount of water needed for the brew, i.e. including sparge water.

The Augsburg method, “Satz brauen” is truly odd. I’ve actually seen several different ways of how this is done, and the description as summarized above is actually the clearest one I’ve seen so far. It is possible to see why this method works and how it gets all starch converted, but it seems horribly inefficient, even in comparison to classic decoction mashing.

The Franconian method is closest to modern brewing. Any lower temperatures are skipped, and the main temperature is right at saccharification temperature. Other descriptions of the method that I’ve read don’t even employ a final thin decoction, but this might probably just be a local historic Bamberg variation.

The Viennese method on the other hand can be considered to be very modern: the specific method of resting the first decoction at about 70 °C for a while to let starches convert before the diastatic power is destroyed in the boil is a technique that even modern literature recommends, e.g. Narziß, though his recommended temperature is closer to 65 °C. And that’s what differentiates it from the classic Bavarian method: while it follows the same general pattern, it is more intricate, more detailed, more informed. It is built on top of the information that enzymes (though the book only says “diastase” without knowing what exactly enzymes are) break down starches to sugars at certain temperatures, and in the Viennese method, this is used to maximize fermentability of the wort. It is what I would call a modern method, this modernity would also be a good explanation for its success that is indicated by the author’s comment how internationally widespread the Viennese method has become.

The Bohemian method does seem a little bit more rustic, and differentiates itself by only using thick decoctions. It already builds upon the knowledge that starch conversion happens at certain temperatures, and leverages this knowledge to facilitate conversion when heating up individual decoctions. The specific mention of certain amounts of water does show that this has been thought through more and indicates that it closely follows a tried and tested recipe.

While not strictly related to the mash, the author discusses what distinguished Bohemian beers from other lager beers: the pale colour as well as the unique hopping method. I am not surprised that the author points out the use of late hopping techniques to introduce a brighter and more intense hop aroma. While we nowadays know that it’s the way of producing hop-aromatic beers, it is not a technique commonly seen in old brewing literature, where hops were only added for their preservative qualities as well as their bitterness.

All in all, this historic comparison of various mashing techniques from Bavaria, Bohemia and Austria was a great find. It gives a good insight into the shift from brewing as a craft involving manual labour (Old Bavarian method) to the industrialization of beer production supported by automation (New Munich method) and scientific methods (Viennese method). It also gives a good explanation what made Bohemian beer so unique and special in the late 19th century, which was also a reason why pale lager beers became the most widespread and successful type of beer in the world. And last but not least, it is also a good lesson for homebrewers how the decoction mashing process can be varied, in a form that’s even usable on a relatively small scale.

If you’re a homebrewer and you’ve never done a decoction: try it out. It may seem scary, but after brewing several beers with decoction mashing, I can safely say that it’s really hard to screw things up if you just follow the principle of doughing in, heating it up to about 40 °C, and then repeatedly taking out roughly a third of the mash, boiling it, and mixing it back. The mash goes through saccharification temperatures multiple times, and especially with enzyme-rich, “hot” malt that we have available nowadays, most of the conversion happens fast. I am a proponent of decoction mashing, because conceptually, it is really hard to screw up.

Historic Vienna Lager: More Findings

During my preparations for #BeeryLongReads2018, I found more information regarding my historic Vienna lager. In particular, I found more information about one topic that has been quite difficult to find anything out about: hopping rates. I blogged about the hops used in Vienna lager previously.

In the book “Die Theorie und Praxis der Malzbereitung und Bierfabrikation“, published by Julius Thausing in 1888 (previous, less comprehensive editions, e.g. from 1877, are available), the author lists typical hopping rates for Vienna lager beers. The amount of hops varied depending on the original gravity:

  • 10.5%: 1.8 – 2.2 – 2.5 g/l
  • 11.5%: 2.5 – 2.8 – 3.0 g/l
  • 12.5%: 3.0 – 3.3 – 3.6 g/l
  • 13.5%: 3.3 – 3.6 – 3.8 g/l
  • 14.5%: 3.6 – 3.8 – 4.0 g/l
  • 15.5%: 4.0 – 5.0 – 6.0 g/l

Low-gravity beer was generally brewed with an OG of about 10% and sold after 6 to 8 weeks, while the regular Lagerbier was brewed with 13% OG and lagered for 4 to 8, sometimes even 10 months or more. This hopping rate is a bit lower than what I had found in other sources before, which prescribed a hopping rate of 4 g/l for Vienna lager.

Of course, with the absence of any information regarding alpha acid, the actual bitterness still remains a big miracle.

In the years 2006 to 2015, the alpha acid content of Saazer hops varied between 2.1% (2015) and 4.0% (2011); the average 3.15%, the median 2.9%. At a hopping rate of 3.6 g/l in a 13°P wort and 90 minute boil time, this can mean a bitterness between 19 IBU and 37 IBU! Most likely, the answer lies somewhere in-between, so for hops with 3.15% alpha acid, this would mean 29 IBU, which seems absolutely reasonable and is close enough to some of my previous estimations of 27 IBU. I take this as a confirmation that a hopping rate to achieve a bitterness of around 27 IBU to 30 IBU seems appropriate for Vienna lager, at least from a historical point of view.

Styrian Hops in the 1920’s

Recently, I came across “Handbuch der Brauerei und Mälzerei”, published as three books from 1930 to 1935 by author Franz Schönfeld, who some of you may know as the author of “Die Herstellung obergähriger Biere” from 1902 and its updated version “Obergärige Biere und ihre Herstellung” from 1939.

This “manual of brewing and malting” is more technical, and focuses on beer ingredients (first book, published in 1930), malting (second book, published in 1932), and brewing (third book, published in 1935). When going through all three, I found a list of common hop varieties and their distinction which I think reflects hop varieties around that time quite well.

What particularly caught my eye was the list of hop varieties that were derived from Saazer hops, which in this book is described as one of the finest hops, what is nowadays known as “Saazer Formenkreis”. According to these list, it includes the following hops:

  • Schwetzinger (from Schwetzingen in Baden-Württemberg)
  • Tettnanger (from Tettnang at Lake Constance)
  • Neutomischler (from Nowy Tomyśl in Poland)
  • Auschaer Rothopfen (from Úštěk/Auscha in Bohemia)
  • Steirer (from Styria, in particular Lower Styria in Slovenia)

The last one was particularly interesting, because it solved a big question that I asked in 2016, what hop varieties used to be grown in Austria (and formerly Austrian lands) before Styrian hops were replaced with Styrian Goldings due to an issue with hop disease, and before Upper Austrian hops were uprooted.  As it turns out, the hops grown in Styria were simply Saazer with local terroir!

There’s still another question surrounding Styrian hops, and that is when the change from Saaz-derived Styrian hops to Fuggles-derived Styrian Goldings due to an alleged hop disease issue happened. Many source say in the 1930’s, and at least major cases of downy mildew can be corroborated through the Joh.Barth&Sohn-issued annual hop reports: in the 1934/35 report, Poland and Yugoslavia are mentioned as two countries who have been indifferent about Peronospora (downy mildew) in the past and now have to pay the price for it through crop failures. But (Styrian) Goldings are mentioned in earlier issues of the same report: the 1931/32 report mentions both Goldings and “late hops” being picked in Slovenia. The 1926/27 report mentions both varieties, with the “late hops” only being grown on 90 hectares (ha) of a total of 1150 ha of hop gardens in Slovenia. The “late hops” suffered from Peronospora, while the quality of the Goldings was good. Earlier Barth reports give no insight into which hop varieties were grown.

So what we do know from these reports is that the change from the old Styrian variety to the newer Styrian Goldings variety must have happened in the years before 1926/1927. During that time, Slovenian hop farming went through huge changes: where Styria grew 1788 ha of hops in 1914, that area had shrunk to just 855 ha in 1917, and to a mere 400 ha in 1919. From then on, the hop acreage grew dramatically to 850 ha in 1924 and reached its peak of 3000 ha in 1928. In 1930, it took another drop to 1380 ha, but slowly recovered to 1850 ha in 1937, roughly the size before World War I. During these many ups and downs, it is very likely that new hop gardens were planted with Styrian Goldings, whereas old hop gardens that were abandoned were more likely old Styrian hops. But this is more speculation on my side, so that question when this change really happened is still unanswered.

How to build up the Prussian hop industry for 3 decades and implode it within a few years

Prussian king Frederick the Great was apparently very interested in the state of hops in Prussia. He noticed that most hops that Prussian brewers used in brewing was imported from surrounding hop growing regions like Bavaria, Franconia and Bohemia. Self-sufficiency was apparently an important economic principle at that time, if you could grow it locally it meant you didn’t need to spend time to import it from somewhere else.

So in 1743, Frederick the Great gradually ordered the various regions of his kingdom to start planting hop gardens and grow more hops: first Pomerania, then Saxony was ordered to become self-sufficient and if possible, export any surplus hops. In 1751, he ordered that experiments with Bohemian seedlings shall be undertaken in the regions of Altmark and Kurmark, as these hops were more popular on the hop markets due to “their greater strength and power”.

The Seven Years’ War stifled further initiatives, but in 1770, new orders were sent out to further promote growing hops for self-sufficiency. Hop poles were sold to new hop farmers for a very cheap price, and even a contest was started, with a cash prize of the farmer with the greatest hop production at the end of the year.

In 1775, hop gardens were introduced in Western Prussia, and the king’s chamber director was ordered to expand the hop gardens around Potsdam as the existing ones still couldn’t cover to demand from brewers in Berlin. In April 1776, imports into Prussia were completely prohibited due to a substantial surplus production of 2600 Wispel from 1775, about 1420 hecolitres in modern units (it is unknown whether this was in pressed or unpressed form), and enforcement of this law was supervised by the king himself.

There’s a story where allegedly Frederick the Great on one of his carriage rides through his kingdom noticed a carriage with a delivery of hops. Realising that from that particular street, it could have only come from Dessau, he suspected that the hops may have been smuggled in from the adjacent Principality of Anhalt. He immediately started an investigation that eventually found out that the hops were indeed contraband and illegally imported from Anhalt.

But the tides turned: due to a bad hop harvest in 1777, the king didn’t decide to allow imports, but he instead also forbade exports, to prefer the local market. And not just temporarily to deal with the hop shortage, no, this export ban was permanent, and the Prussian hop market was insular. Hop prices crashed, and by 1779, many hop farmers gave up the crop completely. The French period and the German campaign of 1813 didn’t help with developing Prussian hop gardens, either. Only in 1860, when Europe was hit by a terrible hop crop failure, Prussia had a temporary surge in new hop gradens: the Hallertau was the only region with a good harvest of high-quality hops, which sold for 6.5 times the normal rate. Farmers again started looking into hops as an attractive cash crop. By the end of the 19th century, much of the hop growing had shifted to Posen/Poznań, while both the acreage and the yield in the rest of Prussia steadily decreased: in 1898, Prussia only harvested a miserable 4.6 Zentner per hectare, while Bavaria reached 10.6, Baden 13.6, and Alsace 16.8.

If Frederick the Great had been more forward-thinking and less focused on self-sustenance, the current German landscape of major hop growing regions may have looked differently.

More Historic Beer at the Oktoberfest

As a followup to my last article on Beer Blogging Friday, “Beer at the Oktoberfest 120 years ago“, I looked more closely into which beers were advertised as being served at the Oktoberfest. This of course is not a comprehensive list of all beers that were served, but merely those that were advertised. Also, the list is not complete, but covers the years 1882, 1893-1900, 1903, 1905, 1910, 1926, 1929, 1932, 1935 and 1936.

Starting in 1882, the beers advertised then were Löwenaktien-Braubier, aka Löwenbräu (without being more specific about the style), a Doppel-Bier from Bürgerliche Brauerei Munich, and the Märzen-Export-Bier from the brewery “zum Franziskaner und Leist”, later better known als Franziskaner-Leist-Bräu, besides Spaten one of the breweries owned by the Sedlmayrs, and allegedly the first brewery to brew a 16°P Vienna-style Märzen especially for Oktoberfest in 1872. The Märzen-Export was also served in a beer tent that is still around nowadays: Schottenhamel.

In the 1890’s, the number of breweries advertising their beer and the tents and stalls at which they’re served increases, and even breweries from outside Munich serve their beer, like Anton Dreher‘s Kleinschwechater Brauerei, or Bürgerliches Bräuhaus Budweis. Most breweries served Märzenbier, like Pschorr, Bergbräu (a relatively short-lived 19th century brewery located in Giesing), Kochelbräu, Thomasbräu, Münchner Kindl, Hacker, Franziskaner-Leistbräu, Bürger-Bräu, Eberlbräu, and Löwenbräu. Some breweries, like Thomasbräu or Bürgerbräu, also served more than one beer, like Thomasbräu-Pilsner and Bürgerbräu Doppel-Bier.

Also, fancier large beer tents were established. Besides the well-known Schottenhamel, others like Wintzerer Fähndl.

In the early 20th century, the breweries advertising their Oktoberfest is consolidating towards Munich breweries. Augustiner for the first time is advertising their Märzenbier in 1903. In 1905, 6 Munich breweries can be found in ads, offering a total of 9 different beers. In 1910, it’s 10 breweries with 13 different beers. Some breweries sold a Märzen and a pale lager (like Thomasbräu), others, like Wagnerbräu, had a Märzen and their Auer-Kirta-Bier, which is mentioned as being a dark lager, and, as the name suggests, was brewed for the Kirta in Au, a south-eastern district of Munich.

In the 1920’s, this diversity seems to have disappeared, as 8 different breweries advertise one beer each in 1926, mostly Märzen, with only two exceptions: Thomasbräu Hell-Urtyp and Schramm’s Fest-Weizenbier. Fischer-Vroni, another well-known beer tent, makes its first appearance in advertising, serving Augustiner Märzen. In 1929, Wagnerbräu is again seen with their Märzen and the Auer-Kirta-Bier, Schneider & Sohn have a Wiesen-Edel-Weiße, and Augustiner for the first time advertises their Edelstoff hell.

In the 1930’s, beer diversity, at least in advertising, seems to go up again: Wagnerbräu offers 4 (!!) different beers in 1932: Oktoberfest-Märzen, Auer-Kirta-Bier, “Weißbier Münchener Weizengold”, and helles Export. In 1935, a large amount of breweries advertise two different beers, and Fischer-Vroni must have switched from Augustiner to Wagnerbräu between 1929 and then.

If you’re interested in the complete list that I compiled, here’s all beers that I found being advertised in official and unofficial Oktoberfest programme guides from the time between 1882 and 1936:

Beers served at Oktoberfest

1882

  • Löwenaktien-Braubier (Wirthsbude 3)
  • Bürgerliche Brauerei München Doppel-Bier (Bude 10)
  • Brauerei “zum Franziskaner und Leist” Märzen-Export-Bier (Bude 17 Schottenhammel)

1893

  • Hackerbräu-Märzen-Bier (Bude 15)
  • Export-Bergbräubier (Bude 10)
  • Thomasbräu Märzenbier (Bude 16)
  • Kochelbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 14)

1894

  • Pschorr Märzenbier (Bude 5)
  • Export-Bergbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 10)
  • Zacherlbrauerei (Bude 12)
  • Kochelbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 16)

1895

  • Klein-Schwechater Märzenbier (Bude 9)
  • Thomasbräu-Pilsner (Burg zum Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Märzenbier (Burg zum Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Waizenbier aus der Waizenbierbrauerei von Schneider & Sohn (Waizenbierbude)
  • Pschorrbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 5)
  • Pschorrbräu-Lagerbier (Bude 22, 23, 25, 26)
  • Münchner Kindl Märzenbier (Bude 11 & 7)
  • Bergbräu-Export-Bier (Bude 10)
  • Kochelbräu Märzenbier (Bude 13)
  • Hacker Märzen-Bier (Bude 15)
  • Kraft-Bier aus der Spaten-Brauerei (Bude 8)
  • Märzen-Löwenbräubier (Bude 6)

1896

  • Bürgerliches Bräuhaus Budweis (Bude 4)
  • Pschorrbräu (Bude 5, 16, 27, Grosse Almhütte)
  • Thomasbräu-Pilnser (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Franziskanerkeller (Leistbräu) Märzen-Bier (Bude 1, Schottenhamel, Schützenwirth)
  • Märzen-Lowenbräubier (Bude 6)
  • Kochelbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 3, 13)
  • Kraft-Bier aus der Spaten-Brauerei (Bude 8)
  • Bürger-Bräu Märzen-Bier (Bude 18)
  • Bürger-Bräu Doppel-Bier (Bude 26)

1897

  • Pschorrbräu (Bude 4, 5, 19, Grosse Almhütte)
  • Klosterbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 2, 21)
  • Thomasbräu-Pilnser (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Franziskaner-Leistbräu Märzenbier (Schottenhamel)
  • Bürger-Bräu Märzenbier (Bude 18)

1898

  • Pschorrbräu (Bude 6, 19, Grosse Almhütte)
  • Thomasbräu-Pilnser (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Bürger-Bräu Märzen-Bier (Bude 18)
  • Bürger-Bräu Doppel-Bier (Bude 16)
  • Franziskaner-Leistbräu Märzenbier (Schottenhamel)
  • Münchner Kindl Märzenbier (Bude 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)

1899

  • Thomasbräu-Pilnser (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Pschorrbräu (Bude 19, Grosse Almhütte, M. Wohlmuth)
  • Bürger-Bräu Märzenbier (Bude 18)
  • Münchner Kindl (Bude 20, 21)
  • Franziskaner-Leistbräu-Märzenbier (Schottenhamel)

1900

  • Thomasbräu-Pilnser (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Pschorrbräu (Bude 20, 21, Wohlmuth, 17, 24)
  • Klosterbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 11)
  • Franziskaner-Leistbräu-Märzenbier (Schottenhamel)
  • Eberlbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 13)
  • Bürger-Bräu Märzenbier (Bude 18)

1903

  • Franziskaner-Leistbräu-Märzenbier (Schottenhamel)
  • Augustiner-Märzenbier (Bude 10, Lang)
  • Hackerbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 1, 2)
  • Kraftbier aus der Spatenbrauerei (Bude 7, 8)

1905

  • Thomasbräu-Pilsner (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 14, Burg zum Wintzerer Fähndl)
  • Augustiner-Märzenbier (Bude 10, 11)
  • Hackerbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 1, 2)
  • Hackerbräu-Bier (Bude 4)
  • Löwenbräu-Märzenbier (Bude 3, 5, 6)
  • Löwenbräu-Sommerbier (Bude 3, 5, 6)
  • Wagnerbräu Märzenbier (Bude 12, 13)
  • Franziskaner-Leistbräu-Märzenbier (Schottenhamel)

1910

  • Thomasbräu-Märzenbier (Wintzerer-Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu Hell-Urtyp (Wintzerer-Fähndl)
  • Hackerbräu-Märzenbier (Halle 4)
  • Wagnerbräu Jubiläums-Märzen (Halle 5)
  • Wagnerbräu Auer-Kirta-Bier (Halle 5)
  • Spatenbräu Märzenbier (Bude 3)
  • Löwenbräu-Märzen-Bier (Löwenbräu-Bude, Schützen-Bude)
  • Franziskaner-Leist-Bräu-Märzenbier (Schottenhamel)
  • Pschorrbräu-Märzenbier (Brau-Rosl)
  • Augustiner-Märzenbier (Augustiner-Burg)
  • Unionsbräu Märzen-Bier (Bude 2)
  • Bürgerbräu Märzenbier (Bude 1)
  • Bürgerbräu Lagerbier (Bude 1)

1926

  • Augustiner Märzen-Bier (Fischer-Vroni)
  • Wagner-Bräu Oktoberfest-Märzen (Wagner-Bräu-Festhalle)
  • Paulaner Märzen (Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu Hell-Urtyp (Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Franziskaner-Leistbräu (Schottenhamel)
  • Pschorrbräu-Märzenbier (Schützen-Cafe)
  • Schramm’s Fest-Weizenbier (Schützen-Cafe)
  • Löwenbräu (Löwenbräu-Festbude)

1929

  • Pschorrbräu-Märzenbier (Bräu-Rosl)
  • Spaten-Franziskaner-Leistbräu (Schottenhamel)
  • Paulaner-Märzen-Bier (Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Hell-Urtyp (Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Schneider & Sohn Wiesen-Edel-Weiße (Weißbräuhaus-Festhalle)
  • Löwenbräu (Löwenbräu-Festbude)
  • Wagnerbräu Oktoberfest-Märzen (Wagnerbräu-Festhalle)
  • Wagnerbräu Auer-Kirta-Bier (Wagnerbräu-Festhalle)
  • Augustiner Märzenbier (Augustiner-Bräu Festhalle)
  • Augustiner Edelstoff hell (Augustiner-Bräu Festhalle)

1932

  • Augustiner-Märzenbier (Augustiner-Festhalle)
  • Augustiner Edelstoff hell (Augustiner-Festhalle)
  • Wagnerbräu Oktoberfest-Märzen (Wagnerbräu-Festhalle, Schützenhalle Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Wagnerbräu Auer-Kirta-Bier (Wagnerbräu-Festhalle, Schützenhalle)
  • Wagnerbräu “Weißbier Münchener Weizengold” (Wagnerbräu-Festhalle)
  • Wagnerbräu helles Export (Schützenhalle Winzerer Fähndl)

1935

  • Augustiner-Märzenbier (Augustiner-Festhalle)
  • Augustiner Edelstoff-Hell (Augustiner-Festhalle)
  • Pschorrbräu-Märzen (Bräu-Rosl)
  • Pschorrbräu Edelhell (Bräu-Rosl)
  • Spaten-Franziskaner-Leistbräu Wiesen-Märzen (Schottenhamel)
  • Löwenbräu-Märzen (Löwenbräu)
  • Löwenbräu Hellquell-Export (Löwenbräu)
  • Paulaner-Märzen (Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu-Hell-Urtyp (Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Wagnerbräu Oktoberfest-Märzenbier (Wagnerbräu, Fischer Vroni)
  • Wagnerbräu Auer-Kirta-Bier (Wagnerbräu, Fischer Vroni)

1936

  • Paulaner Märzen (Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Thomasbräu Hell Urtyp (Winzerer Fähndl)
  • Spatenbräu-Leistbräu Urmärzen (Schottenhamel)
  • Augustiner-Märzenbier (Augustiner)
  • Augustiner Edelstoff-Hell (Augustiner)
  • Wagnerbräu Oktoberfest-Märzenbier (Wagnerbräu)
  • Wagnerbräu Auer-Kirta-Bier (Wagnerbräu)
  • Löwenbräu-Märzen (Löwenbräu)
  • Löwenbräu Hellquell-Export (Löwenbräu)
  • Pschorrbräu-Märzen (Bräurosl)
  • Pschorrbräu Edelhell (Bräurosl)

Beer at the Oktoberfest, 120 years ago

This is my short and quick contribution to Session 127. After Boak and Bailey asked me about my expectations of Festbier, I thought I should leave a few notes what beer was served at the Oktoberfest in the 19th century.

The Oktoberfest didn’t start out as a beer festival. The first one was a wedding celebration of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig I. and Princess Therese in 1810. In the years after that, it became an annual fair where things like horse racing, prize shooting, and an agricultural fair were the main attractions. Eventually, beer was being served, and the whole beer drinking eventually took over. The agricultural fair still exists, but is scheduled to only take place once every four years.

The beer served was, as far as I could find out, regular “Sommerbier” (i.e. lager beer) as it was consumed elsewhere in the city. In 1872, Michael Schottenhamel procured a 16° Vienna-style Märzen brewed at Franziskaner-Leistbräu, which eventually got established as the regular beer at Oktoberfest. But it was not the only beer being served at the Fest, as we know from festival programme advertising of that era.

In 1895, wheat beer from Schneider & Sohn was served, which was a novelty that year, as well as Märzenbier brewed at Klein-Schwechater Brauerei and imported from Vienna.
In 1896, beer from Bürgerliches Brauhaus Budweis was served at the Oktoberfest. The brewery was at that time a purveyour to the court of the King of Württemberg.

Some breweries, like Thomasbräu, served both a Pilsner and a Märzenbier.

Most of the other local breweries, like Franziskaner-Leistbräu, Pschorr, Hacker, Spaten, and Löwenbräu, only served a single type of beer, Märzen.

All in all, the variety of beer available at the Oktoberfest back then was not only greater in number, it was also more diverse in available beer styles, and more international. More like what you’d expect from a proper beer festival.

A little story about two historic mashing processes that didn’t quite work out

Let me tell you a little story about two historic mash processes that I discovered by pure chance, and how neither of them quite worked out. But there’s still stuff we can learn from them.

During some beer-related research, I stumbled upon a brewing book I hadn’t seen before, “Handbuch für den Amerikanischen Brauer und Mälzer” (“manual for the American brewer and maltster”), written by Ernst Hantke and published in 1897. This was odd, I thought, because it specifically referred to American brewing, and yet was published in German. Hantke was born in Silesia, and grew up in Germany. He studied chemistry, and landed a position as assistant of Dr. Delbrück at the “Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei”, better known as VLB Berlin. In 1893, he emigrated to the United States, where he first worked as instructor at the American Brewing Company, and later accepted a job at the Valentin Blatz Brewing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee at that time was the epicenter of German-American brewing, four of the largest American breweries at that time were based there, Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz, all of them founded by German immigrants to the US at some point during the 19th century. Among American brewers, Hantke’s book was well-received, his epitaph in “Letters on Brewing” says:

At the brewmasters’ convention in Pittsburgh in 1896, when the first few pages were offered for inspection, the whole assembly of brewmasters welcomed the book so heartilythat Dr. Ernst Hantke was encouraged to renewed activity. In 1897 at the brewmasters’ convention in Detroit, the first volume, comprising 668 pages, was ready for distribution in book form and 2 years later the second volume of 824 pages completed.

So Hantke was in the unique position to both have researched German brewing in scientific detail, but at the same time also witnessed large-scale beer production in the United States at the heart of American lager brewing. He discussed general differences, like the German preference of all-malt decoction mashing and the American preference of using adjuncts (unmalted grains) and infusion mashing. He even brought a specific rationalization for why this difference makes sense: decoction beers are more nutritious, but under the impression of the hot American climate during the summer, and the American habit of eating meat three times a day, it is easy to realize that customers will prefer a refreshing, pleasant-tasting, and fizzy drink to a nutritious one.

Also from a purely technological point he defended infusion mashing: he described American malts to be generally of high quality and usually kilned at low temperatures, so the available diastatic power was enough to reach the same level of extraction and efficiency as a decoction mash, but resulting in a more fermentable wort and a quicker process.

When I went through the book, I was especially excited to see descriptions of two mashing processes, one described as the “Wiener Maischverfahren”, the Viennese mashing process (essentially a 3 decoction mash with two thick and one thin decoction) as done by Schöneberger Schlossbrauerei from Berlin, while the other mash processes is the specific adjunct mashing process as practiced by Pabst. So not only contains this book general process descriptions of how German and American brewers were mashing, it even references the specific breweries that employed the respective techniques.

The descriptions were detailed enough to reconstruct the whole process and convert it to typical homebrewing sizes. The Viennese mashing process was first. The amount of beer produced 140 hectoliters, at an OG of 12° Balling (about the same as 12° Plato, OG 1.048). The amount of malt used was 2500 kg. So, to start scaling the whole recipe down to the typical homebrewer size of 20 liters, let’s see by which factor we need to scale it down. 140 hl / 0.2 hl = 700. Alright, then let’s convert the grist: 2500 kg / 700 = 3.571 kg. Wait… a 12° beer from just 3.571 kg of malt? That won’t work out, especially since the brewhouse efficiency is documented as 65.19 %. Something must have gone wrong there when the author transcribed the recipe or something. Nevermind, on to the second recipe, the Pabst adjunct mashing process.

In this process, 300 barrels of beer were produced from 10000 pounds of malt and 6000 pounds of grits. The grits are mashed in, boiled for 15 minutes, and then added to the main (malt) mash to raise the temperature to saccharification temperature. While we don’t know the exact OG of the wort that Pabst produced, another, very similar process mentioned in the paragraph right after the Pabst process, we can assume an OG of around 13.1° Balling (about the same in Plato, 1.053).

So, again for scaling: 300 barrels are 300 bbl * 117 l = 35100 liter. To scale down to 20 liters, we therefore need to divide by 35100 / 20 = 1755. 10000 pounds are 4536 kg, while 6000 pounds are 2721 kg, which means the grist consisted of 4536 kg / 1755 = 2.58 kg malt and 2721 kg / 1755 = 1.55 kg grits, in total a grist of 4.13 kg. To produce a 13° wort from just that amount of malt, you’d need to reach a high amount of extraction, especially so for home brewers, which I don’t think would be that easily doable with just an infusion mash. While slightly more believable than the numbers of the previous recipe, I’m still not quite sure whether this is 100 % correct or whether the author made a mistake of some sorts. Or maybe I made a mistake? I assumed 1 beer barrel to contain 31 gallons as is standard in the US (normally, 1 bbl contains 36 gallons), and I converted using US gallons (3.78541 liter), so my calculations should be sound.

Despite all these inconsistencies, we still learn valuable details: the grist of a late 19th century American lager as brewed by Pabst consisted of 62.5 % malt, 37.5 % corn grits, was mashed using an infusion mash with a separate adjunct mash/boil to gelatinize the grits, and the wort produced, if we can assume that most breweries at the time produced beer of about the same strength, was probably at an original gravity of about 13 °Balling (1.053). That’s a good start to formulate a recipe at least inspired by a lager of that era.

The mash process is also quite specific: dough in the grits into a liquor of 50 °C, the resulting mash should then have a temperature of 47.5 °C. Rest for 30 minutes, then heat up to 67.5 °C, rest for 20 minutes, then heat up to 75 °C over the course of 15 minutes. Then bring to a boil, and boil the adjunct mash for about 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, the malt is doughed in at a temperature of 45 to 47.5 °C. The adjunct mash is then added in two steps with 5 to 10 minutes inbetween, to raise the main mash temperature to 70 °C. From there on, the mash needs to convert the starches to sugar. When the mash is fully converted, the mash temperature is raised to 72.5 °C by adding more hot liquor, which concludes the mash. The first runnings of this mash should have an OG of 19° Balling (about 1.079). While not a complete recipe, with some additional calculation a homebrewer could work with that.

Compared to the adjunct infusion mash, the Viennese mash is more intricate: the 2500 kg of malt are doughed in so that the resulting mash is 92 hectoliters at a temperature of 17.5 °C. Then, 32 hectoliters of boiling water are slowly mixed in to bring the overall temperature of the mash to 37.5 °C. The first thick decoction of 30 hectoliters is then drawn and boiled for 30 minutes down to 26 hectoliters, then mixed back to the main mash to raise the temperature to 50 °C.

The next thick decoction, 40 hectoliters, is then drawn off, and boiled for 35 minutes down to 36 hectoliters. After mixing it back, the temperature of the main mash is at 61.25 °C. Then, the final decoction, 53 hectoliters of thin mash, are drawn off, and boiled for 35 minutes down to 49 hectoliters. After mixing it back, the main mash should be at a temperature of 75 °C, and the size of the mash in the mash tun should be 112 hectoliters. The whole process takes 4.75 hours.

After lautering and sparging, 152 hectoliters of wort are collected, which is boiled for 2.5 hours to get 140 hectoliters of wort at an OG of 12° Balling. The total work time for a single batch is described as 12.25 hours, surely a long brew day in Schöneberg, while Hantke mentions that brewing using the infusion method takes 5 to 7 hours, and not only saves time, but also lots of fuel that is otherwise required to boil the various decoctions.

So, what can we learn from this? First of all, always scrutinize historic recipes if it’s possible to check them for consistency (in this particular instance, we knew amounts of beer, grist, and OG). Second, we can still get a whole lot of information out of such historic records. We learned about the strength of American lager beer at the end of the 19th century, we learned about the grist composition in one particular instance, i.e. how Pabst used to brew their beer, and we even learned the specific method how Pabst used to conduct their mashes.

In my opinion, that is a whole lot to start developing a lager recipe: 13 °P, a ratio of malt and grits of 62.5/37.5, and mashed according to the infusion method described above. Hantke lists using about 1 pound of hops per barrel of beer for beers at 13° Balling. That’s a hopping rate of about 3.9 g per liter, which I find a bit too high, especially when using a classic American hop variety, such as Cluster. But then, with Cluster you should be able to achieve a bitterness and hop character that probably comes quite close to what American lager beer over a 100 years ago must have tasted like.

If you want to learn more about German-American brewing in the late 19th century (provided you can read German), here’s a link to the “Handbuch für den Amerikanischen Brauer und Mälzer“. For even more insight about 50 years later, there’s also the (English-language) “The Practical Brewer“, authored and edited in 1946 by the master brewers of Griesedick Bros. Brewery and Anheuser-Busch Brewery, both of St. Louis, Missouri. Even there, the great influence of Germans on American lager brewing is very noticeable, in particular in vocabulary.

When did hop alpha acid become relevant in recipe formulation?

This is one question that itched me a lot is the matter of hops and their contribution of bitterness in historic beers: when did the alpha acid content of hops become relevant in beer recipe formulation?

While the topic of bitterness in beer and the various contributing factors is a complex one to be discussed at another point, it is universally recognized that iso-alpha-acid, the isomerized form of alpha acid, is a major contributor to the overall bitterness of a beer. This isomerization happens when boiling the wort with hops. Even the quantification of bitterness in beer, often noted as IBU, International Bitterness Units, is essentially a determination of the amount of dissolved iso-alpha-acid by employing spectrophotometry.

One conclusion of the observation of the relationship between iso-alpha-acid and bitterness is that the higher the amount of alpha acid in a particular crop of hops is, the higher the contribution of bitterness will be in the resulting beer, assuming the same boil times and all. Brewers nowadays take the amount of alpha acid in hops into account when formulating beer recipes, and using formulas like Tinseth, Rager or Garetz, attempt to approximate the expected bitterness. Of course, this is very much only an approximation: lab analyses have shown that the calculated IBU can diverge quite a bit from measured IBU, in particular in amounts that are beyond the maximum solubility of iso-alpha-acid in aqueous solutions.

But what does this have to do with historic beer? Quite a lot: due to the lack of analytical methods to determine the bitterness contribution of a particular hop crop, it was essentially unknown how bitter a beer would end up with a new crop until it was brewed and taste-tested.

Depending on various factors like the weather, crops of the same hop variety grown in the same hop garden in different years can yield different amounts of alpha acid.  Chinook hops from 2016 can have e.g. 11.6 %, while the 2015 crop has 12.8 %, the 2014 crop 12.0 %, the 2013 crop 13.7 %, and so on. This aren’t just made-up numbers, I took these from the historic data of Chinook hops as provided by a German online homebrewing store.

When looking at the relative variability of the alpha acid content, you roughly get a +/- 10 % variation over the course of several years, which would also reflect the same in the overall bitterness contribution.

Now, in the context of historic beers, this variability is a lot more dramatic: early hop varieties and local land races are usually low in alpha acid. If we had the same absolute variability in alpha acid content in a land race as with Chinook in the example above, the impact on the relative variability would be much greater. Let’s look at another example: Hersbrucker Spät from 2016 with 3.2 % alpha acid, 2015 3 %, 2014 2.3 %, and 2013 a staggering 1.8 % alpha acid content. In terms of relative variability, this is more in the range of +/- 30 %.

In pretty much all historic recipes from the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th century, hop dosage is usually specified in weight per resulting beer, for example gram per hectolitre or pounds per barrel. If I were to brew a simple Munich Lagerbier according to typical first half of the 19th century gravity and hopping rates, a variability between 1.8 and 3.2 % alpha acid makes the difference between 27 IBU on the low end and 47 IBU on the high end. That’s about the difference in bitterness between e.g. a malty brown ale (e.g. Sam Smith Nut Brown Ale allegedly has 31 IBU) and an aggressively hopped Pilsner-style beer (Schönramer Pils allegedly has 45 IBU).

I actually haven’t found much evidence how brewers used to counteract these problems, but I have two theories:

Bavarian brewers employed blending methods prior to lagering their beer: several batches of beer were fermented one after the other, but were then evenly split up between a relatively large number of lagering barrels. This was done for consistency reasons, and would have allowed the brewmaster to adjust the hopping rate of the different batches according to the outcome of the first batch or first few batches.

To a certain extent, brewers also had a relatively good understanding how hops brought preservative qualities to the beer. In some literature, e.g. Ausführliches Lehrbuch der Bayrischen Bierbrauerei mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Dickmaischbrauerei by J.S. Schorer (published in 1863), different hopping rates and blends of hop varieties were proposed depending on how long the beer was to be lagered, and how late in the year the beer was to be served, in order to compensate for the slowly warming beer cellars (this was before modern refrigeration, when beer was still lagered in ice cellars). Some of these hop blends suggest blending hops from the latest harvest with older hops from previous years. Old hops still provide preservative qualities, but due to the degradation of the alpha acid content, don’t contribute nearly as much bitterness as younger hops. This effect is used even nowadays in Lambic brewing, where relatively large doses of aged hops are used.

But this still hasn’t answered the original question. So I went out and searched a bit. To cut this a bit short, I was not able to find a proper answer. I was not even able to find out when alpha acids were discovered, or when iso-alpha acid was first recognized as contributor of bitterness. But I was nevertheless able to at least find something:

An early analysis of different hop varieties regarding their alpha and beta acid contents (back then often called “alpha resin” and “beta resin”) are the two papers called “REPORTS RECEIVED FROM BREWERS ON RECENT BREWING TRIALS WITH CERTAIN NEW VARIETIES OF HOPS” by Prof. E. S. Salmon and H. H. Glasscock, M.Sc. (published 1944) and “REPORTS RECEIVED FROM BREWERS ON RECENT BREWING TRIALS WITH CERTAIN NEW VARIETIES OF HOPS; II“, by Prof. E. S. Salmon and Dr. A. H. Burgess (published 1947). These papers refer to analyses going back as far as 1932, and not just of new varieties as the titles would suggest, but also Fuggles from Worchestershire and Mid-Kent and Goldings from Mid-Kent and East-Kent. In case you’re wondering, “new” varieties discussed were hops like Brewer’s Gold, Quality Hop [sic!], Brewer’s Favourite, Bullion, Fillpocket, and Brewer’s Standby.

From what I could see from scanning the literature of that time, the analysis of different types of alpha acid was still an active research topic and the 1950’s and probably beyond that. It have not been able to find a definitive point in time where the relationship between iso-alpha-acid content and bitterness contribution was discovered or picked up as a tool to determine hop dosage sizes. So unfortunately, this question remains unanswered as of now.

What was the colour of brown beer in the 19th century?

When working on my upcoming e-book about historic beers, one particular aspect of recreating historic beers crept through my mind: how similar or different are modern malts compared to malts that were produced 100 to 200 years ago?

The biggest improvements in malting technologies, in particular kilning, happened in Continental Europe within the last 200 years: while smoke kilns used to be widespread, Bavarian breweries started adopting modern, smoke-free kilns about 200 years ago, and in the 1830’s, Gabriel Sedlmayr and Anton Dreher brought back more knowledge about how to produce pale malts from the UK back to Continental Europe. The 1840’s were the beginning of pale lager beers which eventually became the world-wide standard for mass beer production around the world.

But one particular aspect kept bugging me: what did the colour of brown beers use to be like 100, 200 years ago? Here, by brown beer, I mean all beer made from kilned malt. The romantic notion is of course a deep brown beer, made from a highly dried malt, almost bordering on porter. But how can we get closer to the truth? It’s not like we can just look up photos of beers back then. Or can we…?

Well, not photos, but there’s a similar source: let’s take a closer look at art of that time. If we assume that painters who focused on a certain realism in their paintings took care of getting their colours right, then we can expect a realistic and reasonably consistent portrayal of the colours of brown beer. So let’s go through a few examples.

This first example is from a painting depicting a Bavarian pub scene in 1855. One man holds a glass of reddish-brown beer with an off-white head. It’s not clear whether the glass on the table also contains beer, but if it is, looks slightly paler due to the smaller size of the glass.This example shows a Stammtisch scene from 1872 with the waitress handing the customer a glass of dark brown, almost black beer, with a distinctly white head.This picture from 1877 again shows a bright, reddish-brown beer, almost bordering on a dark amber. …and the same goes for these examples from 1885, 1888 and 1912.  Noticeable in all three is a kind of glow, coming from a bright beer served in glassware, which, in my opinion looks mouthwatering. I would happily want to try one of these beers! The last two examples are slightly different: both from 1916, they show Austrian-Hungarian soldiers being served beer. The beer has an amber to golden colour, and is distinctly paler than in the other pictures that I showed here. Both are from brewery ads (the top one from the Hungarian Dreher brewery, the bottom one from Hütteldorfer brewery, Vienna), and mostly reflect the ongoing change in beer fashion at that time, while the previous examples are mostly from pictures painted by artists situated in Bavaria, where brown beer remained fashionable for longer than in most other places.

When we compare modern dark beers (in particular Bavarian ones) with those from 100 to 150 years ago, visually it seems like there is not really a difference. If anything, I’d say that the old beers in these examples may even have been a tad paler than the modern varieties.

Now what conclusions can we take from that, in particular for recreating historic beers? Well, the number one takeaway for me is that brown beers back then were mostly the same colour as today, which means that if I wanted to recreate an old beer recipe from that era, I could assume within reason that the colour of dark (Munich) malt nowadays is the same or very similar to how it used to be 100, 150 years ago. For historicity’s sake, the beer would also need to be as bright as on the pictures above: no haze in these beers. And finally, but that’s more of a minor detail: look at the drinking vessels at that time. While the Steinkrug (earthenware mug) is classically associated with historic beer of previous centuries, the art in the 19th century suggests that glassware must have been quite common for beer to be served in. And of course, a lot of the beer mugs have metal lids on them.

So, if you think about rebrewing some historic Bavarian brown beer, don’t worry about the malt, just use Munich malt as a dark base malt,  and make the beer bright and haze-free, and you’ll be fine.