Category Archives: History

More Details about Keesmann and Mahr, A New Little Mystery Around Schlenkerla

I couldn’t let go of the little mystery of Keesmann and Mahr that I had come across recently: an 1876 address book of Bamberg and the surrounding area connected the two breweries as both belonging to “Brenner” brewery. The brewery nowadays known as Mahrs Bräu in the Wunderburg area of Bamberg used to bear exactly that name and was commonly known as “Zum Brenner” already in a book about brewing in Bamberg from 1818.

A second little mystery was that I had found the name “Ambros Mahr” in two contexts: once in connection with “Zum Brenner” at Wunderburg, and once as liqueur and vinegar manufacturer on Dominikanergasse, in the building of modern-day Ambräusianum, and I was wondering whether these were the same person or two different ones.

Let’s start with the second mystery first: I searched for the name in the city archive of Bamberg, and even though I wasn’t able to get full files (nothing digitized yet other than the catalogue and some photos, it seems), I found that there exists a marriage document for “Mahr Ambros, Bierbrauer” from 1864 and another marriage document for “Mahr Ambros, Liqueurfabrikant” from 1869. To me, the impression is that these are two different persons, not only because of two marriages in distinct years but still close together, but also because the profession is mentioned in addition to the name.

When it came to a possible connection between Keesmann and Mahr, this wasn’t quite as easy. One thing I noticed was that Keesmann was generally referred to “Keesmann’sche Wirthschaft” (meaning something like “Keesmann’s public house”) before November 1867, but starting in that month, mentions of “Keesmann’sche Brauerei” (Keesmann’s brewery) also start appearing. The term “Wirthschaft” is still being used later on. 1867 matches up exactly with the “official” foundation date of Keesmann brewery. In later years, it becomes very obvious that Keesmann is most definitely a brewery: Georg Keesmann is listed with the profession “brewer” as candidate for the fourth election district of Bamberg in 1869, while in previous elections, his profession was still “Wirth” (publican).

The earliest mention of Keesmann as a brewery, from Nov 23, 1867. “Keesmann’s brewery at Wunderburg, cordially invites to dance music tomorrow Sunday.”

Some evidence that Mahrs and Keesmann were not actually connected can be found in advertising: both Ambros Mahr and Adam Keesmann posted competing invitations to celebrate “Nachkirchweih” (a Kirchweih is the celebration of a church anniversary, often in the form of a fair, so a Nachkirchweih seems to be an after-party to that) in 1877 with similar offerings: both advertise Harmoniemusik (small ensembles of wind instruments), Krapfen, coffee and beer (Lagerbier at Mahr, Doppelbier at Keesmann), with Mahr also offering roast goose, duck and kid goat as food, while Keesmann only says “warm and cold dishes”. Harmoniemusik, Krapfen and coffee seemed to have been a standard offering as Murrmann, another brewery on the other side of the city, was also offering these in addition to roast venison.

Murrmann, Mahr and Keesmann all advertising Nachkirchweih celebrations, Aug 2, 1877.

While this is in no way conclusive, I still have not been able to find a second source that would associate Keesmann with Mahr or “zum Brenner” in any way. So the whole thing might as well just be a misunderstanding or a plain mistake in the 1876 source.

During my research, I also found a most likely incomplete list of beer cellars in Bamberg from 1834, in the tourist guide book Bamberg und seine Umgebungen. These were probably just the ones serving customers directly at the Keller and thus worth mentioning. It still delivered some interesting insight.

As most people who spent a beery time in Bamberg have probably noticed, the brewery/lagering cellar of Schlenkerla (Brauerei Heller) is on Oberer Stephansberg. It’s very hard to miss if you walk up to Wilde-Rose-Keller or take a left turn to Spezial-Keller.

So, the thing is, the 1834 source does not actually locate the Heller cellar in that building. The closest one to it is the cellar of Jäck, which is either part of or directly adjacent to the modern Heller building. Instead, the Heller cellar used to be located on Oberer Kaulberg, on modern-day Laurenzistraße, not too far away from Greifenklau. Schlenkerla’s official chronicle on their website mentions that when Johann Wolfgang Heller purchased the brewery, a “rock cellar on the highest Kaulberg” belonged to it.

Still, it’s not clear when the brewery even moved cellars: the brewery’s history page only mentions that the Schlenkerla beer cellar at Oberer Stephansberg was closed down in the 1920s for economic reasons, and that a new brewery building was erected in its stead in 1936. But that still leaves a gap of about 90 years where Brauerei Heller must have moved cellars. I will keep on researching.

In any case, I added the 1834 source to my map of historic breweries of Bamberg, as a third layer.

Historic Breweries of Bamberg, 1876

Back in July, I put in some effort into mapping the historic breweries of Bamberg as of 1818. Today, I added a second layer to the same map that now contains all the breweries of Bamberg as of 1876, at least according to an address book of Bamberg from that year (like last time, I used this historic map to identify the specific buildings by building number).

map data © OpenStreetMap contributors under ODbL

This allows for an easy comparison of the data from 1818 and 1876, and it shows a trend: of the 65 breweries of 1818, only 41 breweries remained. It was a time of industrialisation and rationalisation, so some breweries were merged, others just closed down. Most of the culling seem to have happened on Steinweg (modern Obere/Untere Königstraße): of the 21 breweries in 1818, only 8 still existed in 1876. One brewery appears new on the map, Zum Goldenen Löwen, but it looks like the brewery of the same name that was previously located at Holzmarkt simply moved to a different building on Steinweg.

It wasn’t much better on Lange Gasse (modern Lange Straße), another cluster of breweries: of 8 breweries in 1818, only 2 remained.

The 1876 address book also cleared up a confusion I had with the 1818 source: the 1818 book lists “Zum Stern” at building 126, even though the brewpub “Zum Sternla” is located in building 144. In the 1876 book though, building 126 is listed as the brewery “Stöhr”, while “Stern” is listed as building 144 (not as a brewery though, only as a pub). To me, that just looks like a transcription error, where the author probably incorrectly wrote down “Stöhr” as “Stern”.

Other breweries seem to have moved: Mohrmann/Murmann (the latter is the 1876 spelling) moved a few houses up the street, Riegelhof brewery is listed at a different address two blocks up the street on Unterer Stephansberg (modern Concordiastraße), and Brenner brewery (modern Mahrs Bräu) seemed to have been in an entirely different building down the road, while the building of where Mahrs Bräu is located nowadays was only listed as a pub.

Talking about Mahrs Bräu in Wunderburg, I came across something strange: the Mahr pub (building 702) is listed as “Brenner” with owner Ambros Mahr, while the “Brenner” brewery is listed with owner Karl Mahr (building 736½ on modern Holzgartenstraße, probably no. 29). But there is a second pub with the name “Brenner” listed, building 708, across the road from Ambros Mahr’s pub, with owner Adam Keesmann. Interestingly, Keesmann is not listed as a brewery (it was officially founded in 1867), and I still don’t understand the supposed connection of Keesmann and Mahr.

Georg Keesmann, the person most often mentioned these days in connection with the foundation of Keesmann brewery (he was a butcher and allegedly finished his brewing education at age 51 to start his own brewery), is listed as a restaurant owner in a different section of the address book, not a brewery owner, for building 708. How are Georg and Adam related? At least based on that data, it looks Georg was running the restaurant, while Adam was running the brewery, both located in the same building. But why it is listed as “Brenner” is entirely unclear.

Interestingly, an Ambros Mahr is also mentioned as a liqueur and vinegar manufacturer, but in a completely different building, 1172, where modern Ambräusianum brewery is located. Is this the same person as the one listed for the “Brenner” pub, or a different one? On another page, the address book lists the brewery owner Ambros Mahr separately from the liqueur manufacturer Ambros Mahr, so that doesn’t exactly clear that up.

In any case, it shows that things were more complicated, breweries, pubs and restaurants were a bit more fluid, and not every historic brewery that still exists these days was always located in the same building. And most certainly, more research into the history of Keesmann seems necessary.

Danish Temperance Beer in 1905

While browsing Gambrinus (an old Austrian brewing industry newspaper), I came across an article discussing Danish temperance beers. At the time, Denmark had a significant amount of distilled spirit consumption (14.57 liters per capita per annum, allegedly the highest in the world at the time, compared to 9.8 liters in Austria-Hungary) as well as a significant beer consumption (91.39 liters, compared to 41.2 liters in Austria-Hungary) that was allegedly only topped by Belgium, the UK and Germany at the time.

In this environment, lower alcohol beers, so called temperance beers, were made tax-free: if a beer had less than 2.25% (the article isn’t clear whether this is by weight or by volume), no duty had to be paid on the beer itself.

Interestingly, these beers were brewed top-fermented, using different methods. The first method was to use a low-gravity wort that was then fully fermented, while the second method involved a regular-gravity wort that was fermented but fermentation was stopped early to only achieve a low attenuation. The article then compares the analytical data of five of these Danish temperance beers with the same data of a Viennese Abzugbier and a Bohemian Schankbier (výčepní).

Mörk Carlsberg Skattefri (Dark)
  • OG 7.47° Balling
  • Residual Extract 2.73°
  • Alcohol 1.92%
  • Apparent Attenuation 63.46%
Lys Carlsberg Skattefri (Pale)
  • OG 6.40° Balling
  • Residual Extract 1.71°
  • Alcohol 1.90%
  • Apparent Attenuation 73.28%
Aegte Kroneoel
  • OG 11.36° Balling
  • Residual Extract 7.51°
  • Alcohol 1.56%
  • Apparent Attenuation 33.89%
Export Dobbeltoel
  • OG 14.68° Balling
  • Residual Extract 10.90°
  • Alcohol 1.53%
  • Apparent Attenuation 25.75%
Krone Pilsener
  • OG 9.48° Balling
  • Residual Extract 5.76°
  • Alcohol 1.51%
  • Apparent Attenuation 39.24%
Wiener Abzugbier
  • OG 10.04° Balling
  • Residual Extract 3.46°
  • Alcohol 2.42%
  • Apparent Attenuation 65.54%
Böhmisches Schankbier
  • OG 10.09° Balling
  • Residual Extract 2.66°
  • Alcohol 3.02%
  • Apparent Attenuation 73.63%

In another article in Der Böhmische Bierbrauer from 1906, Krone-Oel-Bryggeriet is discussed in greater detail. They started brewing tax-free beers with the Kroneoel in 1895. Because of the product’s great success with just 1.5% alcohol by weight, a second product, Krone Pilsener was added in 1899, which was designed to be paler and lighter in original gravity, with a fine, mild hop bouquet. Just a year later, the portfolio was extended with Export Dobbeltoel, a dark beer very high in extract.

The popularity of these tax-free beers (this article is clearer, they must have less than 2.25% alcohol content by weight in order to be tax-free) shows in the sales figures:

  • 1895/1896: 2,918,508 half liter bottles
  • 1896/1897: 5,702,032 -“-
  • 1897/1898: 7,750,032 -“-
  • 1898/1899: 9,281,958 -“-
  • 1899/1900: 10,018,905 -“-
  • 1900/1901: 10,939,750 -“-
  • 1901/1902: 11,430,867 -“-
  • 1902/1903: 13,638,806 -“-
  • 1903/1904: 13,665,237 -“-
  • 1904/1905: 14,704,359 -“-

That is an astonishing increase of the sales volume by 503% over the course of just 10 years, from 29,185 hl to 147,043 hl per year. For comparison, Kleinschwechater Brewery from Austria, one of the largest European breweries at the time, produced 441,490 hl of beer in 1905. Producing a third of that volume just in bottled low-alcohol temperance beer seems quite a feat.

After reading about Danish tax-free beer, naturally I wanted to know more about. After some searching I found this Facebook post that gives a brief overview over it. According to the article, in 1891 the first beer tax law was introduced in Denmark (please note that this was not actually the first beer tax law in Denmark, as the situation is a lot more complicated; in Beer and Brewing in Pre-Industrial Denmark by Kristof Glamann, taxation of beer in Denmark is attested at least since the 1620s). It divided beer between tax-free beers (under 2.25% ABW) and taxable beers. In 1917, this was further revised and only top-fermented beers remained tax free, while other types of beer under 2.25% ABW were put into tax class 2. Previously taxable beers were put into tax class 1.

During World War 1, breweries were restricted how strong beers could be. These restrictions were lifted in 1923 and taxation was again revised. In particular, tax class 1 was divided into 3 sub-categories: the new tax class 1 consisted of all beers with no more than 10.75 °Balling original gravity, tax class A more than 10.75° Balling and up to 13° Balling original gravity, and tax class B consisted applied to all beers with more than 13° Balling original gravity. The new classes 1, A and B again only applied to beers with more than 2.25% ABW, so low alcohol beers could have a higher OG without getting taxed. This was again only revised in 1993 to have different brackets of OG (<2.25% ABW/2.8% ABV beers still remained tax-free), and again in 2004 when it was changed to a sliding scale system (<2.8% ABV beers still tax-free).

Even though the “skattefri” category of beers doesn’t seem to be as obviously prominent in the Danish beer market, it still exists in tax law.

Bavarian Beer Halls in 19th Century Berlin

Just yesterday I was on a bit of a beer tour in Berlin together with my wife, Jess & Ray and Ben Palmer. After having been rejected at the door of the beer hall of a well-known Munich brewery, and then having had dinner in the beer hall of another well-known Munich brewery, I mentioned in passing that beer halls in Berlin serving Munich beer wasn’t even a new concept, but had already been popular during the second half of the 19th century.

An 1891 tourist guide to Berlin lists a number of “beer palaces”, many of which were owned by or at least serving beer from Bavarian breweries, among them:

  • Franziskaner-Leistbräu, on Leipziger Straße 128
  • Hackerbräu, on Belle-Alliance-Platz 15 (nowadays Mehringplatz on the south end of Friedrichstraße)
  • Löwenbräu on Charlottenstraße 50, on the corner of Französische Straße
  • Münchener Bürgerbräu on Friedrichstraße 59
  • Münchener Hofbräu on Französische Straße 21
  • Münchener Kindl on Potsdamer Straße 123a
  • Pschorrbräu on Friedrichstraße 164/165
  • Spatenbräu on Friedrichstraße 172, as well Spittelmarkt 14
  • Frankenbräu on Königstraße 33 (nowadays Reinhardtstraße); I suspect this to be Erste Bamberger Exportbrauerei Frankenbräu AG, later known as Bamberger Hofbräu AG.

Similarly, the 1898 Baedeker guide to Berlin lists several more:

  • Weihenstephaner on Friedrichstraße 176
  • Brauerei Tucher on Friedrichstraße 180
  • Kulmbacher (“Mönchshof”) on Charlottenstraße 65a
  • Augustiner on Potsdamer Straße 123

Some contemporary publications commented on this as a “Bier-Kulturkampf” (beer culture war) between the classic Berlin beer culture of top-fermented white and brown beer and the newfangled Bavarian beers that made an impact on Berlin architecture. The most prominent beer palace in that regard was probably Spatenbräu on Friedrichstraße 172.

Spatenbräu on Friedrichstraße 172, 1907 (source)
Bottom section of the Spatenbräu building on Friedrichstr. 172, 1886 (source)

The sheer number of beer halls and restaurants made the area around Unter den Linden/Friedrichstraße/Leipziger Straße the “entertainment quarter” of old Berlin. They even got nicknames: “Unter den Linden” was “Laufstraße” (walking street), Leipziger Straße was “Kaufstraße” (shopping street), while Friedrichstraße was “Saufstraße” (boozing street).

Mapping Historic Breweries in Bamberg

One of my favourite books about historic brewing in Bamberg is Das Bamberger Bier from 1818. It comes with an appendix that lists all the breweries at the time, including the name, their owner, the district, and the house number. Ron Pattinson published a digitalized version of that list.

Recently, as part of final research for my next book, I stumbled upon a historic map of Bamberg that also happened to include house numbers. Unlike modern numbering, houses back then weren’t just numbered by street, but had a unique number within the city, which makes it harder to associate historic addresses with modern ones. I did remember that the above-mentioned book contained house numbers, I looked up a few, and lo and behold, they actually matched.

My initial plan was to just send Ron an email with a few corrections, but very quickly I realized that I should turn these into a proper map, not just for myself, but for everyone to look at. And that’s what I did:

map data (c) OpenStreetMap contributors under ODbL

I created this map using uMap, an OpenStreetMap-based tool to create your own custom maps. Here’s a link to my map Historic Breweries of Bamberg.

When I created this, certain patterns became apparent very quickly. The 65 breweries were not just spread out over the city, but they formed clusters.

If you’ve ever been to Bamberg, you may remember how the breweries Spezial and Fässla are opposite of each other. This is not a happy accident, but rather a remnant of basically one big street full of breweries. Only these two breweries remain nowadays, back 200 years ago, the road that was then called Steinweg and is nowadays Untere and Obere Königstraße was home to a whopping 21 (!!) breweries, spanning over just ~400 metres. Bear in mind that the whole city had 65 breweries, so basically a third of them were on the same street, within a few hundred metres of each other.

map data (c) OpenStreetMap contributors under ODbL

I have no clue what it was that attracted this many breweries to just a single road. Maybe the quality of the well water, the vicinity to the Regnitz river, or the social acceptance of smelly breweries on that one street? I don’t know, all I can do is wildly speculate. It nevertheless was something fascinating to see, information that you wouldn’t just get from a list of breweries and their respective house numbers.

It certainly makes me wonder how it would have been to wander around there 200 years ago…

Other notable clusters of breweries in Bamberg that I won’t discuss in detail are:

  • Judengasse (modern Judenstraße), with 6 breweries within ~60 metres,
  • Lange Gasse (modern Lange Straße), with 8 breweries on a street, all within about 100 metres,
  • The east-south-eastern side of Maximiliansplatz and a bit of Hauptwachstraße, with 4 breweries,
  • A total of 5 breweries on Obere Sandgasse to Dominikanergasse, basically from Zum Einhorn im Sand (modern-day/revived Ahörnla) to Zum Heller (the modern-day Schlenkerla pub).

I hope this map will also be useful to others. It is by no means a complete map of all (historic) breweries in Bamberg, but it should accurately reflect the state of the year 1818.

Here’s what I used to research this:

One caveat, though: the house number for “Zum Stern” in the source is 126. Modern Sternla is on the same street, but further down. The name would suggest that this is the same entity, but I have not been able to verify that, hence why I put the marker for “Zum Stern” on house 126 and not house 144 (modern-day Lange Straße 46).

How the Hofbräuhäuser of Bavaria were established

Even if you’ve only ever dabbled a little bit in Bavarian beer, you will have stumbled upon the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, owned by the State of Bavaria, and with a beer hall in the heart of the city. But then you look further, and realise that there’s also a Hofbräuhaus Traunstein 75 minutes outside of Munich, and then there’s of course Weißes Bräuhaus. But how were these “court brew houses” established?

It all actually started with a bit of a brewing crisis. Starting from 3 September 1571, brewing in Munich was totally banned. That year’s rye harvest was rather poor, and barley was needed as a substitute to feed the population. Brewing white or brown beer was seen as a waste, and thus completely stopped through a Ducal order.

This brewing ban remained in place until 1580 when it was partially lifted. Of course, the Duke and his court still needed beer. So for the Duke, beer from Zschopau in Saxony was ordered, and the Nuremberg-based trading house Unterholzer facilitated the delivery of Ainpöckischpier from Einbeck from 1573 until 1589.

The court servants though got different beer: grain from the Duke’s storehouse was given to breweries, in particular the religious orders of the Franciscans and the Augustinians, and the brewer Georg Mänhart who held the title of “court brewer”. With that grain, these breweries were ordered to brew beer of the best quality to be delivered to the court.

Soon after Duke Wilhelm V. took office in 1579, he inquired about which breweries in the Bavarian Forest were brewing “white Bohemian beer” and where they got their brewing ingredients from. A commission of 4 people produced a report in 1581 that listed all the white beer breweries in the designated area as well as those that belonged to the Prince-Bishopric of Passau. In 1586, the Duke gave a brewing privilege to the Schwarzenberg family and their male descendants that allowed them to brew white wheat beer, a privilege that otherwise only the Degenberg family held. At the same time, he also inquired about the general profitability of white beer. An earlier report handed to him noted that brewing white beer was considered to be a waste, but could be turned into a profitable business.

In the end, Duke Wilhelm V. remained cautious and only founded one brewery in 1589, the Hofbräuhaus in Munich for brewing brown beer, but building works for it only started in 1591. When the new brew house started operating, the previous court brewer Mänhart lost much of his business and fell into poverty, but was compensated for it with an annual payment of 100 florin a year.

When the Degenberg family went extinct in 1602 through the death of Hans VIII. Sigmund of Degenberg, Duke Maximilian I. set a plan in motion to gain control over white beer brewing in Bavaria. He was much more ambitious and had already looked into white beer brewing before taking office in 1597, as Bavaria was close to bankruptcy and he saw white beer as a profitable way of making the Bavarian Duchy rich again.

Before even the Degenberg inheritance was settled, he immediately continued paying the brewers at the Degenberg brew houses to keep up brewing operation, even though he legally did not own them. Only in 1607, he came to an agreement with the heirs of the Degenberg family, in which he was allowed to purchase the Degenberg breweries for 82,000 florin while cancelling a debt of 20,000 florin of the heirs. Maximilian I. now owned 3 white brew houses, in Zwiesel, Schwarzach and Linden.

Already in 1602, brewers from the Schwarzach brewery were ordered to Munich to teach the Hofbräuhaus staff how to brew white beer and to brew the first batches. The first court-brewed white beer was then sold in Munich on 16 October 1602, directly from the Ducal cellar. A separate white brew house was finally built in 1607 and a dedicated brewmaster for white beer was hired.

A newly built brew house in Gossersdorf that opened in 1600 and interestingly had not been banned by the court (they only banned the brewer from using domestically grown wheat) was sold to Maximilian I. in 1602.

At that time, the court in Munich had already forgotten about the Schwarzenberg brewing privileges granted in 1586, but when their family was able to provide them with original documents, Maximilian I. offered to buy their brew house in Winzer which was finalized on 29 April 1603.

Now owning all the white brew houses of the Degenberg and the Schwarzenberg families, he was the exclusive brewer of white beer in Bavaria. Well, almost, because there were nine communal brew houses in Lower Bavaria (the remnants of the communal brew house system in parts of Bavaria are nowadays better known as Zoigl) that historically also had a customary right to brewing white beer. The Duke also managed to subjugate them and forced them to share their revenue through a duty they had to pay. These nine brew houses were located in Viechtach, Regen, Kötzting, Furth im Wald, Neukirchen bei Hl. Blut, Eschlkam, Schönberg, Grafenau and Hals.

On top of that, more white beer breweries were established: in Mattighofen, the brown brew house was converted to producing white beer in 1607. In the summer of the same year, building works started in Kelheim for a new brewery which started brewing white beer in April 1608, while in Traunstein, an existing building was bought and turned into a brewery in 1611.

By 1612, Duke Maximilian had established a formidable network of state-owned breweries: not only was there the Hofbräuhaus in Munich that produced brown beer, but he also directly owned nine white brew houses and received a passive income from nine more communal white brew houses. Technically speaking, these were all court brew houses, and a dense network of them stretched over Old Bavaria that only got extended with more breweries over the years.

Some of them are still around: the white beer brewery in Traunstein was destroyed in 1704, rebuilt and eventually sold in 1820. Since 1896, it has been owned by the Sailer family and run as Hofbräuhaus Traunstein.

The “white brew house” in Munich kept operating next to the Hofbräuhaus and was leased to brewers. The last one was Georg Schneider. When the buildings of the white brew house were to be repurposed in the 1870s, he simply bought the rights for it from the court and moved to another building, the former Maderbräu building on Im Tal, just a few hundred metres away from the old brewery, which made it easy for his existing customers to visit the new place. The old Maderbräu building was renamed Weißes Bräuhaus (white brew house) and became the headquarters for the Schneider family brewer. In 1928, the Schneider family bought the white brewhouse in Kelheim, another formerly state-owned brewhouse which became their main brewery after World War II, and which they now claim to be the oldest white brew house in Bavaria.

What remains though is that the Hofbräuhaus is still around, even though ownership has changed, as the Bavarian King transferred it to the Bavarian State in 1852. The white beer privilege has long been broken, but even of these formerly privileged white brew houses, some are still in operation, the one in Kelheim even still dedicated to the production of white wheat beer.

The Story of East-German “Motorist’s Beer”

Alcohol-free beers are a hot topic these days, both because of consumer demand and improvements in quality of this beer achieved through research.

When recently talking about the subject with my friend Ben, I brought up Aubi, the East-German “Autofahrerbier” (lit. “motorist’s beer”). When looking into the topic of Aubi more closely, I found out more about its history that I’d like to share here.

First the plain facts: in the GDR, beer brewing was guided by TGL 7764, an industry standard that defined which beer types could be brewed, how they could be brewed, which ingredients could be used for them, and under which parameters each of these types had to fall. In short, it was an early form of a beer style guideline, but specifically for the East-German brewing industry.

In the 1980 revision of TGL 7764, Aubi was listed as the only alcohol-free type of beer. In its production, at most 11 kg of brewing malt per hectolitre of sellable beer could be used, and at most 9 g of hop bittering compounds (i.e. alpha acid) per hectolitre. At most 70% of hop bittering compounds could be from hop extracts. It had to be matured for at least 3 days, with a recommended time of 6 days. Its original gravity was between 6.9 and 7.4 °P, its apparent attenuation 30 to 40%, its CO2 content at least 0.38% (i.e. 3.8g/l), and its bitterness 22 to 34 IBU. In terms of colour, it had to be about as pale as pale lager beer (I can’t translate the GDR colour scales to modern ones like SRM or EBC). In bottles, it had to last at least 90 days, the longest best-before dating of all beer types (together with the Pilsner Spezial type). And unlike most other GDR beer types, it had no specific beer label colour prescribed.

The development of the beer itself was a relatively surprising one: at the time, brewmaster Ulrich Wappler at VEB Engelhardt brewery in Berlin had an unexpected surplus capacity, as the Schultheiss brewery on Schönhauser Allee in Berlin was shut down and Wappler’s technicians managed to transfer tanks to his own brewery. In East Germany, the blood alcohol limit was at 0.0 since 1956, much stricter than other Western countries at the time. Truck drivers coming in from West Germany would bring their own, specifically Birell, a Swiss brand developed and brewed at Hürlimann, and at the time (as far as I could find out) the only alcohol-free beer on the German market (Clausthaler, the later dominant alcohol-free beer brand in West Germany, only launched in 1979). Birell was even specifically advertised near the border on the West-German side with the fact of the strict alcohol ban for drivers in East Germany.

The brewmasters in East Berlin were approached whether they would be able to develop a GDR-brewed alcohol-free beer. With the free capacity, Wappler would have been able to do it and agreed to it. His problem was rather finding a way how to brew an alcohol-free beer. In the GDR, he unfortunately had no access to Western brewing literature, nor any of the Western patents, and he wasn’t allowed to get in touch with West-German brewers either as he wasn’t a party member and his brothers had left the GDR for the West. He eventually managed to get access to Western patents through a source, and studied them for 6 months. Of the two methods of producing alcohol-free beer (biological, i.e. restricted fermentation, and mechanical, i.e. physical dealcoholisation), they decided that they could build the equipment to brew using restricted fermentation.

This was still not without problems: they did not have any special yeast, so a special apparatus to quickly chill down the beer that had only just started fermenting had to be built. Then higher-ups had heard about the efforts and the supposed progress, and basically forced them to send out unfinished beer that had not fully matured, which was actually well-received.

An area where this new beer was particularly successful were the heavy industries, in particular glass blowers and steel mills. In these jobs, workers were of the opinion that they needed to drink beer to help with salivating. They refused to just drink water, while at the same time, the union had strictly banned alcohol. So they tested the alcohol-free beer (at less than 0.5% ABV) in some of these factories, and the workers liked it. Also price-wise, at 75 Pfennig per bottle it was cheaper to buy than imported Birell, and also cheaper than other domestic beers. So their alcohol-free beer filled a gap, even more so in the heavy industries than for motorists. It took some tweaking of the recipe, including hop oils, to make it a really good beer, and in the end, the product also piqued the interest of other countries of the Eastern Bloc like Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia, who also tried to brew similar beer but all had over 1% ABV and none of them tasted nice.

The cheap domestic price of just 75 Pfennig also became a problem in terms of economics: while it required fewer ingredients, brewing Aubi was much more energy-intense, because mashing involved a special mashing schedule (more on that later) and restricted fermentation required more energy on top of that for chilling down the beer. Because of this, production volumes were lowered.

The beer itself was brewing like this: the grist contained 20 to 50% (sic!) unmalted adjuncts and was mashed using a special type of decoction mashing that specifically skipped the optimal temperatures of beta amylase and rather inactivated them to then have alpha amylase saccharify the starches, resulting in a much less fermentable wort. After only briefly starting fermentation, the wort was chilled down quickly to restrict fermentation.

Internationally, the East German alcohol-free beer was also a success, and was exported from 1986 to the United States under the brand name “Foxy light”. If we can believe a tasting and ranking of alcohol-free beers in the Chicago Tribune from 1988, Foxy light couldn’t exactly compete in terms of flavour with other European imported alcohol-free beers at the time, but fared well compared to domestic alcohol-free beers, while also being one of the cheapest ones. In England, the same beer was sold under the brand “Berolina”.

With the end of the GDR, production of Aubi also ceased. Most East-German breweries were shut down as they were completely outdated compared to their West German counterparts. Brewmaster Wappler managed to get work in West Berlin breweries for his workers. Until his retirement, he helped conceptualising brew systems for other breweries and training people on them.


The Battle of the Beer Analysis Methods

When brewers measure the specific gravity of their wort or their finished beer, the two most common scales to use are either specific gravity (SG) which is particularly common in the UK and the US, and Plato which has found its way into the standard methods of beer analysis in Europe and much of the rest of the world.

John Richardson was the first one to come up with a method to measure extract in the late 18th century, and his measure of how many pounds per barrel wort was heavier than water found widespread use through devices like Long’s saccharometer.

Long’s saccharometer

When I recently went through Philipp Heiß’s “Die Bierbrauerei mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Dickmaisch-Brauerei” from 1853, I was surprised to see the use of 3 scales to measure extract. Philipp Heiß was the former brewmaster at Spaten brewery, and through Gabriel Sedlmayr’s journey through Great Britain, they had picked up the use of Long’s saccharometer (Spaten would continue using it up to the 1870s). Besides pounds per barrel, Heiß also listed two other measurements, Balling’s saccharometer, and one that was just called Kaiser’s Procent-Aräometer (Aräometer is another word for hydrometer). Interestingly, both the specific measurements and the calibration temperature for Balling and Kaiser were identical (14°Ré = 17.5°C), and both measured the amount of extract dissolved in terms of percentage of the overall weight. So that got me thinking: were there in fact two practically identical saccharometer systems around at the time? And why does every brewer know the Bohemian brewing scientist Karl Josef Napoleon Balling (at least by surname), and nobody Bavarian chemist Kajetan Georg von Kaiser?

Turns out, the field of beer analysis in German-speaking countries was far from settled in the 1840s and 1850s. The first method that can be found in brewing literature of the time was Prof. Fuchs’ hallymetric method which involved measuring how much pure sodium chloride could be dissolved in a sample and subsequently how much lighter it got when vaporizing all the alcohol in it. In terms of process, it took a relatively long time and required consumable supplies.

Prof. Kaiser constructed his Procent-Aräometer around 1838, while Prof. Steinheil followed another approach through this “optical-areometric” method which we first published in 1843. It involved a beam balance and a refractometer and was praised for being easier to use than Prof. Fuchs’ method.

In an article by Prof. Holzner of Weihenstephan from 1883, it is noted that while Steinheil’s method was widely quoted in contemporary brewing literature, it seems like nobody actually understood the method as nobody caught two miscalculations in Steinheil’s original publications.

Balling started his research of fermentation chemistry in 1833 and first published about the general use of hydrometers in 1837, followed in 1843 by a paper about using a saccharometer to analyze beer and in 1844 his first book about fermentation chemistry (n.b. the link is to a later edition from 1854).

Karl Balling

Steinheil did not seem particularly happy about Balling’s method, as he published separate articles both about his own method and about Balling’s “saccharometric beer analysis” in 1846. Reading the article gives me the impression that Steinheil either didn’t understand Balling’s method, or misrepresented it on purpose. Steinheil claims that Balling requires the vaporization of alcohol in samples, accuses the method to be imprecise compared to other methods at the time, and in general sees no advantage in Balling’s method. The article finishes with Steinheil suggesting that Balling should work on topics in which he is knowledgable, and that in the future, should he ever publish again, should be less arrogant and show more humility.

Balling did not seem to have directly replied to this attack, but rather in a short article pointed out issues both in an article published by Prof. Fuchs as well as Steinheil’s article about the optical-aerometric method. According to Balling, what they were missing was an understanding of fermentation theory, but he still pointed out that Steinheil’s scales were potentially more precise than saccharometers.

Ultimately, Balling’s method became the standard over the years, not just because it was dead easy to use, but also because Balling had developed this whole theory of fermentation/attenuation theory (he seemed to have used the German terms Vergärungslehre und Attenuationslehre interchangeably) which made it very easy to calculate alcohol content and degree of fermentation of a beer from just two quick measurements, the original extract before fermentation and the apparent extract after fermentation had finished. In Austria, Balling’s work even very quickly found its use for taxation.

Steinheil’s downfall came when he was too aggressive in pushing his own method with Bavarian officials: while his beam balance was made an official method in Bavaria to measure extract, the optical part of his method was not. To show how useful his method was, he conducted some measurements on his own and in 1846 wrote a letter to a Bavarian ministry in which he claimed that his analyses showed that the beer of the season had a lower extract than expected, thus brewers must have illegally used lower amounts of malt than they had to (at the time, Bavaria strictly regulated how much malt a brewer had to use to brew a particular volume of either summer or winter beer), which according to Steinheil showed the necessity for a simple analysis method (i.e. his own). Not only did he accuse brewers of fraud, the publication of this letter also angered local beer drinkers. To avert another beer riot like in 1844, officials in Munich had to lower the beer price. The only problem was: the barley used for brewing the 1846 beer was of poor quality, the harvest had been bad, and the malt gave lower extract than usual.

Steinheil also had his findings co-signing by Prof. Kaiser, who did not oversee parts of the calculation and was only made aware of the letter after Steinheil had sent it off. The ministry of course immediately ordered a verification of Steinheil’s result, which was negative: all beers were well within their parameters and of excellent quality.

It was decided that local authorities were to be equipped with the means to conduct such beer analyses themselves in the future. To answer the question which method was the most suitable, the polytechnic association of Bavaria put together a committee to investigate it. This committee consisted of the leading brewing chemists at the time, like Prof. Fuchs, Prof. Kaiser and Prof. Steinheil, but also brewing practitioner Gabriel Sedlmayr.

During this work, Steinheil was very insistent that his method was the best, of course with the idea that he’d be able to sell his devices to the Bavarian State, but all his attempts to have his device put first were struck down by the rest of the committee. Gabriel Sedlmayr even said that it took him over a year from being instructed in the use of Steinheil’s method to getting results with it that were verifiably correct. In later experiments, it was shown that Steinheil’s method deviated from the others, so Steinheil kept submitting further undated analysis protocols which suddenly showed the right results that matched up with other analyses. The whole conflict escalated when Steinheil made further outrageous claims about devices he had invented for Prof. Fuchs, all of which were countered by sworn statements from other members of the committee that Steinheil is not telling the truth. This seems to have further deteriorated his already questionable reputation.

From Prof. Holzner we also learn why Kaiser’s method eventually disappeared: Prof. Kaiser had sold the rights to build his Aräometer to a company named Greiner. Unfortunately, the company lost the instructions how to build the device, and so production simply ceased.

Balling’s success though meant that his calculations were put under further scrutiny: in Bavaria, Dr. Reischauer helped with its popularization, which eventually got him to re-examine Balling’s tables as he came across some deviations in his own private experiments. Balling had not published all his data, but rather only finished conversion tables, and seemed to have made some mistakes in it. Another brewing scientist named Schultze also did his own experiments to come up with another conversion table. Ultimately, Dr. Holzner was able to show that any deviations between Balling, Schultze and Steinheil (who had also created similar conversion tables) could be simply explained by reading errors.

The rest is history. Balling’s work was later refined in 1900 by Dr. Fritz Plato, who built upon Balling’s publications but calibrated it to 20°C. Balling’s formula (that puts original extract (before fermentation), real extract (after fermentation) and alcohol content in a direct relationship to each other and allows the calculation of each of these if the two other values are known) can be found in every serious brewing text book, while Steinheil’s and Kaiser’s methods have drifted into obscurity.

What were English Kilns?

While it might seem like a minor, mundane detail, I keep getting asked what an “English kiln” was, particularly in the context of 19th century Continental beer brewing. English kilns are mentioned in the context of Anton Dreher (who personally witnessed British malting techniques), and the Burghers’ Brewery in Pilsen, nowadays better known as Pilsner Urquell, is also often mentioned as having used one since 1842 (just Google “english kiln” “pilsner urquell” and you will find plenty of sources). But what is usually not answered is: what actually was an English kiln? Any kiln designed or built in England, or rather a specific type, and where does the association with England come from anyway?

So when I started searching for sources, I was very surprised to find an 1785 book about fuel efficient stoves with a description of what is called an English malt kiln (“englische Malzdarre”), including technical drawings. Essentially, this English kiln used hot air to kiln the malt, and it generated this hot air by directing its hot smoke through a maze of pipes that would transmit the heat to the air, without the smoke ever touching the malt itself.

The next reference to a hot air kiln that I could find was Hermbstädt in 1826. He was a respected early brewing scientist in Berlin at the time, but admitted that he had never seen nor built a kiln that just uses hot air. The thought of it seemed important enough to him that he floated the idea in his book, which was basically an oven that would heat up a metal pipe to be glowing hot which would in turn heat up the surrounding air. This hot air would then flow through the green malt and carry its humidity with it and out the chimney.

But already in 1831, Leuchs mentioned two principal types of kilns: smoke kilns and hot air kilns, followed by a one sentence comment: “in England the latter types of malt kilns are often placed underneath the drying floors.” This is the first source I could find that directly associates hot air kilns with England, not just in name, but specifically as a place where these were being used.

Professor Balling, the legendary Bohemian brewing scientist, makes a similar point: hot air kilns were first built and used in England, and are thus also called English malt kilns.

All these authors recognized the advantages of hot air kilns, though: not only was the hot air dry and thus very effective in drying out the malt, it also prevented the smoke from touching any of the grains, thus not transmitting any smoke flavour into the malt. With smoke kilns, maltsters had to be careful which fuel to use, and generally, only properly dried and cured hardwood like beech or oak were used that would impart only a slight smokiness that was not unpleasant. With hot air kilns, it was possible to switch to other, cheaper fuels that could burn dirtier than old-fashioned smoke kilns, making malt production cheaper.

Interestingly, an 1846 brewing book by Julius Gumbinner discusses two different constructions of English malt kilns, but then also goes on to describe Bavarian kilns which apparently were still fairly widespread in Bavaria at the time, and were essentially what was called Dutch kilns, an advanced type of smoke kiln that tried to minimize the contact of smoke with the malt so that it imparts as little smoke flavour as possible.

In 1850, J. F. Schultze mentions hot air kilns and calls them English malt kilns, but also briefly describes a different type of malt kiln, the Brabant malt kiln but apparently (besides kilning malt) could also be used to pre-dry malt (something that German maltsters at the time would do at room temperatures over several days) as well as drying freshly harvested grains in general. The specific distinction in construction is not entirely clear to me, but Schultze claims both types had some disadvantages which could be alleviated by combining the English and Brabant malt kiln design.

Philipp Heiß, former brewmaster at Spaten, published a brewing book in 1853, and of course briefly mentioned kilns. He referenced Balling, but adds another detail for nuance: at the time, some English maltings still used very simple coke-fired smoke kilns. Heiß also corroborates Schultzes mention of Brabant hot air kilns, but he mentions the Netherlands as a place where maltings employed hot air kilns that used simple clay pipes to transmit heat from the smoke to the surrounding air (i.e. they have no connection to the Dutch kilns mentioned by Gumbinner).

Ladislaus von Wágner goes even further in his 1877 book where he claims that the term “English malt kiln” is inaccurate because England is the place were hot air kilns are used less often compared to Austria-Hungary and Bavaria where breweries had mostly switched from smoke to hot air kilns.

After reviewing all this literature, my impression of what an English kiln was during the 19th century has certainly improved: an English kiln was simply a hot air kiln that allowed smoke-free kilning of malt, and it was named an English kiln because the technique of hot air kilning seems to have first been applied in England, even though coke-fired smoke kilns remained in use there for a relatively long time.

There seemed to have been lots of different constructions of how these kilns were built, and German engineers surely quickly adapted and came up with lots of different designs. I even found one book from 1881 with a whole chapter on all the possible details how to construct kilns. But the idea of smoke-free hot air kilns seems to have been around for a long time, and at least somewhat documented in brewing literature of the first half of the 19th century. All it needed was young, curious brewers and maltster to pick up these books, learn about English kilns, and adopt them in their own breweries. None of that seemed secret or even involved industrial espionage (like some contemporary beer books suggest), nor did it require the import of kilns built in England.

Probably the most useless fact that I picked up during this research though was from a book that advertises different kiln constructions: what do the breweries Tetley & Sons (Leeds), Schultheiss and Landré (both Berlin) have in common? They all had the same specific model of hot air kiln installed, by E. Münnich & Co in Chemnitz. Remember that for beer history trivia night!

How did Whitbread’s fermentation cellar work?

While looking for a picture of a Burton Union in old German brewing literature as part of another beer history discussion on Twitter, I came across a source that described Whitbread’s fermentation cellar and its setup. So that’s what it looks like:


But how did it work? Fortunately, the drawing is accompanied by an explanation.

In the center, you see a large vessel marked M. This is the main fermenting vessel. From the left, a pipe leads into it, marked r on the very left. It is actually enveloped by another pipe x, through which cold water can flow at a regulated speed. Pipe r comes from various cooling tubs, and the chilling pipe was meant to allow temperature control at which the wort is filled into fermenter M.

In M, fermentation is then started, and what the description calls the first fermentation is conducted. I think this is a slight misunderstanding in the process or just a poor description of it, because the beer is then filled into the smaller vessels N where it will expel more yeast that collects in the troughs in the middle. As some beer is lost in this process, all the N vessels are automatically topped up from O with more beer. This is done through a float valve that automatically tops up N if the level is too low. This very much sounds like a cleansing apparatus. And since O is also producing yeast, it has an iron swimmer connected with a leather hose so that any yeast on the top of the beer can fall into this swimmer and down the leather hose, ensuring that also the beer in O is cleansed.

And finally, the arched cellars P underneath, built from stone and made watertight, are used to store and mature finished beer. According to Martyn Cornell, these were vaults used for maturing porter that were opened in 1784.

And, of course, he wrote about this all in great detail quite a few years ago on his own blog.