Category Archives: History

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.

More about the Brewing Commune in Freistadt

Alistair Reece recently blogged about brewing communes in Bohemia during the 19th century. As we had a brief exchange about this topic, I thought it would be worth looking more closely into the history of Braucommune Freistadt, the last remaining brewing commune in Austria.

The history of the brewery in Freistadt is quite a fascinating one: officially founded in 1777 (we’ll get to that later), its company structure is a remnant of how old brewing rights used to be organized. As Alistair mentioned in his blog, another remnant is the Zoigl tradition in the Oberpfalz, but it has survived in a slightly different way.

As someone who has been socialized as a beer drinker in Upper Austria, everyone just knew about Freistädter brewery and what makes them unique: the company is owned by the real estate owners of the Old Town of Freistadt (i.e. what’s within the city walls), company shares are tied to specific houses, not their owners, and the owners of these houses still have an “Eimerrecht” (lit. “bucket right”, where the Eimer, about 56 litres, was an old measure for liquids such as beer), which nowadays means that the brewery pays out dividends.

The city of Freistadt has had the so-called “mile right” since 1363, that forced everyone up to a mile (longer than a modern mile; the 17th century definition in Austria was roughly 7.58 km but it may have been even longer as the mile right apparently extended up to Kerschbaum which is more than 9 km away from Freistadt) to have to buy their wine, mead and beer from Freistadt, no brewing on site was allowed. This was a powerful privilege, and guaranteed the citizens of Freistadt income from their beer brewing.

Speaking of the brewing itself, this was originally something that was done at home at the time. For practical reasons, the brewing was not necessarily done in the households, but in separate brew houses. In 1525, Freistadt had 12 dedicated brew houses, in 1637 still 5. One house was then set up as a dedicated white beer brew house (white beer was popular through the influence of Bohemian White Beer). From 1687 onwards, Freistadt only had two brew houses: the white brew house which was owned by the city and the brown brew house which was owned by the citizens. Every citizen had brewing rights, the amount of which was determined by the value of their house and noted in the city’s house registry.

Some houses were excluded from these brewing rights, either because they didn’t belong to citizens or because they were built much later (you couldn’t just buy yourself into it by building a new house within the city walls). Particular houses that were excluded were those owned by the church, which included one house (no. 11) which originally had brewing rights but was then bought by the church and donated to the Piarist religious order, thus losing that right, as well as the local school that was founded by the church. Houses owned by the city also didn’t have brewing rights for the brown brew house, which included the town hall, a tower of the city walls, the local city barracks, and the white brew house (well, it did have brewing rights, but they were separate from the citizens’ brewing rights); the same applied to houses owned by the state or nobility (e.g. the local salt authority building).

Before the new brew house was built, the brown brew house was also rented out, regularly for periods of 3 years. The tenants had to take on quite a bit of risk, they had to pay in a substantial deposit, and they had a number of responsibilities: the quality of the beer, they had to deliver Germ (baking yeast) to the local bakers (a strong indicator that the beer was top-fermented), they had to take care of selling the spent grains, they had to pay the brewer, the brewing workers, the coopers and the beer transporters. But they also had certain privileges: they were allowed to export beer on their own, and they were allowed to confiscate as contraband any beer or cider (Most) imported by innkeepers, of which they were allowed to keep 50%.

As for the ingredients, some of the barley was grown by the citizens themselves, while more barley was bought from local farmers around the city, and occasionally, when the local supply was used up, even from Bohemian cities such as Budweis/České Budějovice and Krumau/Český Krumlov with which Freistadt has had a close trade relationship. Hops were grown locally (Mühlviertel, the part of Upper Austria north of the river Danube, has historically been a minor hop growing region), but sometimes also brought in from as far as Saaz via Krumau traders.

The decision to build a new brewhouse was made for several reasons: the brown brew house was basically falling to bits and constantly needed repairs done, having an old brewery within the city walls always brought with it the danger of fire, the experience with renting it out hasn’t always been great and had caused some damages to the citizens in the past, and fear of competition (Bohemian beer from the North, beer from Linz from the South) and a possible loss of the exclusive “mile right” that required a consolidation and rationalization in the production of the local beer.

A precondition to build a new brewery was that the citizens had to buy the old white brew house including the brewing rights. One original idea was that that brew house would get modernized and the brown beer brewing would get moved there, but the alternative was to build an entirely new building outside the city walls. After some negotiations, the buying contract between the citizens and the city was finalized on December 31, 1770, when building works for a new brewery had already begun.

Building the brewery itself was a slow process, and it took 10 years until the brewery was completed. Where does the supposed founding date of 1777 come from then? That year was when the building works were the most active, and when most of the building was completed. The main gate of the brewery building bears the year 1777 because of it.

The old brew houses were emptied and equipment was moved over to the new brew house in 1780. Some of the old coppers were sold to the local copper smith to turn them into new coppers for the brewery. The white beer brew house was sold in 1781, and the buyer with his new house was admitted as a citizen of Freistadt, receiving the transferred brewing rights from the old brown beer brew house of 30 Eimer.

At what scale did this new brewery operate? For the early years, this is hard to tell, but we know from an 1886 ad that the brewery was selling a 48 hectolitre copper pan, an iron coolship of the same volume and a sparger “due to the conversion to machine operation”. From brewing statistics of the same time, we also know that the brewery was brewing about 10,000-11,000 hectolitres of beer a year, which pans out to 1 batch a day on 4 to 5 days a week. With that amount of brewing, they were considered a medium-sized brewery for Upper Austria. Other industrial breweries, like Dreher in Schwechat, brewed at an entirely different scale at the same time, around 450,000 hl per year. For Freistädter brewery, it was obviously good enough to satisfy the demand of the local market. A shift in production size seem to have happened in the 1890s, when the annual amount went from 11,150 hl in 1892 up to 19,861 hl in 1898. Up to 1930, this annual amount remained about the same (most likely interrupted by brewing restrictions during World War 1), at roughly 20,000 hl per year.

Ironically, the Braucommune in Freistadt was only added to the company registry at the commercial court in Linz in 1895. This registration clearly listed which house numbers were included as shareholders. It even very clearly says “Company owner is a society of the respective owners of the following houses located in Freistadt: 1, 2, 3, 4, […]”, cementing that the company ownership has been bound to the houses, not the citizens.

Nowadays, Freistädter brewery has the status of a local brewery serving the local market, brewing beer that generally has a good reputation. Distribution is limited, and within Austria, is mainly limited to Mühlviertel (i.e. Upper Austria north of the river Danube), a few major cities of Upper Austria including Linz, and then Vienna, Austria’s capital. As for the annual production volume, it has grown in recent years: for 2013, the brewery reported 65,000 hl per year, but by the end of 2018, more than 100,000 hl per year had been brewed.

Fun fact: thanks a former work colleague of mine who lives in Freistadt (though outside the city walls), I visited the brewery a few times in 2007/2008, for a monthly event called “Abpiff” (lit. blowing the final whistle) at the brewery: for a modest fee of €8, you would get a snack and about 2 hours time to pour (and drink!) as much beer as you wanted from gravity-dispensed serving casks (designated drivers were of course provided with non-alcoholic drinks). This continued until the final whistle was blown, and no more new serving casks were tapped. According to my former work colleague, this wasn’t just an event for the local beer lovers to get together, but also an opportunity for the brewery to try out new beers and one-offs. I loved the concept of it, and whenever The Event™ is over, I’d love to go back to it.

(As a source for this article, I mainly used the 1937 book 160 Jahre Braucommune Freistadt as well as various statistics from Gambrinus, the Austrian “brewing and hop newspaper”)

Who was Meindl?

People who have read my book about Vienna Lager will probably remember the rather formative trip of Anton Dreher to England and Scotland. He went on that journey with Gabriel Sedlmayr as well as two other people, Georg Lederer from Nuremberg and a guy only mentioned by his surname, Meindl, and that he was a brewer’s son from Braunau. At the time of writing the book, I couldn’t find out who that Meindl guy was, and I didn’t really bother as he didn’t seem to have any further influence on Anton Dreher’s brewing experiments and ventures. But recently, my thoughts kept coming back to him, and I decided to find out more who Meindl was.

Searching for beer brewers named Meindl from Braunau first got me to a list of members of the “association for the support and promotion of industry and commerce in Inner and Upper Austria”, listing a “Meindl Georg”, a “civil beer brewer” from Braunau. So we now have a first name, Georg, that should help us quite a bit more.

(in case you’re confused, it’s an Austrian practice to sometimes list the surname before the first name; I myself didn’t realize this was strange until German colleagues of mine commented on it)

My first findings when searching for that name weren’t particularly cheerful, though: Georg Meindl, brewer from Braunau, was put under legal guardianship in July 1840 because of his “proven stupidity”. It’s not clear when this ended or what the exact root cause for this court decision was. At least in 1847 though, he was clearly active as a brewer and seemingly worked on technical improvements to his brewery, when he presented a “beer mashing apparatus” (likely a mash stirrer) constructed according to an “English method” at an industrial exhibition in Linz.

While still working as a beer brewer, Meindl’s personal interests seem to have turned more towards breeding animals, though: he was actively involved in organizing the agricultural fair in Braunau, providing space for the festivities both on his land and in his inn. He also participated in 1855 in the exhibition and prize competitions, showing his Cochin, Brazilian and English breeds of chicken, and placing fourth for a bull of his. At the agricultural exhibition in Linz in 1858, he also exhibited Essex pigs.

In an index of businesses of Upper Austria from 1865, we also see Georg Meindl listed as one of 11 active brewers in Braunau. Beyond that, there’s not much more to be found. When we continue to search further, it seems like we might going full circle: in August 1888, Hermann Meindl, a brewer’s son from Braunau, was put under legal guardianship due an “officially determined mental disorder”. The legal guardian put in place by the court was his brother, Georg Meindl, a railway station restaurateur. Both were likely sons of Georg Meindl, the brewer.

Today, Meindl brewery in Braunau doesn’t exist anymore. I have not been able to find out when exactly Georg Meindl’s brewery closed down. As a brewer and businessman, Georg Meindl certainly must have been successful enough, but unlike his travel companions to England in 1833, his work did not have the same impact on the beer industry.

The Struggle Between Top- And Bottom-Fermented Beer In Cologne

This was supposed to be an article about Wiess, the legendary white beer predecessor of Kölsch. In a discussion with my friend Ben a few months ago we came to the topic of how little is actually known about Wiess and its history. So I tried my hands at researching it, and couldn’t really find anything through my usual sources. My next step was to go the Schultze-Bernd library at VLB Berlin, a vast collection of historic material about beer and brewing, curated by Gesellschaft für Geschichte des Brauwesens (GGB; lit. “Society for the History of Brewing”). I got to talk with their librarian, and she told me that she had done some research herself, but wasn’t really able to find much. I nevertheless tried to see what I could find. I didn’t find out much, either, but instead, I was able to dig up some interesting details about the history of brewing in Cologne during the 19th and early 20th century, including the struggle between top- and bottom-fermented beers in the city.

When the guilds were disbanded in Cologne in 1798 and the occupying French introduced freedom of trade, breweries in the city started exploding, from 52 in 1794 to 128 breweries in 1828. The city also grew massively, and the conflict from before the freedom of trade of outside brewers trying to sell their beer in Cologne was less noticeable as the demand in beer increased massively, as well. And while outside breweries were seen as a nuisance in the 1830s, they were of little significance: in 1839, only 2190 hl of Bavarian beer were imported into the city, from places like Bamberg, Kulmbach and Würzburg.

The first attempt of brewing bottom-fermented beer in Cologne was conducted in 1831 by a Bavarian Jewish brewer named Rothschild. The brewery failed, though, and was turned into a sugar factory only 6 years later. The second bottom-fermenting brewery was owned by a brewer called Ehemann, and formed the foundation for the later Adler brewery. In total, bottom-fermenting only grew slowly in these times, with two breweries in 1850, and four in 1869.

A major issue for them was to build reliably cool lagering cellars. Already the top-fermenting breweries had similar issues. To keep the cool air somewhat in, beer cellars were only opened during the night. Some of the beer still got sour. When it was an early stage of souring, it actually was a popular drink, and got sold under the name Steckenalt. Beer that got too sour was unrecoverable, and sometimes had to be poured out, causing substantial losses to some brewers.

Proper ice cellars only started being built in the 1850s, and in winters with very little ice, ice was brought to Cologne from as far as Norway.

From 1870 to 1900, the beer market was consolidated, and the number of breweries fell from 135 to just 68. This was due to technological improvements in beer brewing, giving an advantage to the more mechanized and automated breweries and those who could produce their own ice through the use of artificial refrigeration. Bottom-fermented beers were so successful that even some of the largest top-fermenting breweries in Cologne switched to bottom-fermentation. For some time it looked like top fermentation in Cologne was doomed.

Interestingly, the smaller brewers managed to overcome their crisis by introducing some automation and refrigeration on a smaller scale, while the growth of bottom fermentation stopped around 1900, and large breweries now faced the issue that their breweries were oversized for the production amounts, causing increased production costs.

This actually gave the small top-fermenting breweries a slight advantage: they managed to slightly cool their cellars by putting ice in containers hanging down from the ceiling, producing the perfect conditions to store top-fermented beers. Through that, they got rid of much of the dangers of beer spoilage, could brew weaker beers even during the summer (that otherwise would have spoilt), had a shorter turnaround time on their beers (virtually no lagering), and were able to achieve a more consistent quality.

Beer taxation was reformed in the early 20th century, and that had some impact on brewing in Cologne as well: the brewing tax law of 1906 introduced consistent beer taxation for all of North Germany. It contained some provisions that were helpful to the small breweries of Cologne, in particular a progressive tax based on the amount of malt used by the brewery. The law also introduced a prohibition of “malt surrogates” (such as unmalted grains, sugar or other starch sources) for bottom-fermented beers. Suddenly, the large bottom-fermenting breweries couldn’t use some of their classic ingredients like rice, maize and sugar, which at the time were cheaper than malted barley. One local beer type in particular, Knuppbier, a bottom-fermented beer sweetened with sugar, couldn’t be brewed the same way and had to be switched to top fermentation, so some of the breweries had to set up separate top-fermenting brewing departments just for that beer type.

World War I changed everything again and brewing ingredients were strictly rationed. The malt surrogate prohibition for bottom-fermented beers was still in effect, while for top-fermented beers, artificial sweeteners, food colouring and non-beer-derived CO2 for carbonation were allowed. The restrictions were tightened several times which made brewing even weak beers entirely unprofitable, so several small breweries ceased operations.

The detrimental effect on top fermentation in Cologne was noticeable after the war: while in 1913, 41% of all the beer brewed in Cologne was still top-fermented, that share had dropped to just 6.7% in 1922. Of 53 top-fermenting breweries before the war, 29 had shut down after the war, while 4 had switched to bottom fermentation. The main reason why not more of these small breweries folded was often the direct connection of the brewery with a brewery tap, a pub of sorts that only sold that brewery’s beer as well as food, of course with the idea that people would drink even more if they had something to eat with it. These pubs were often set up to look rustic, which combined as their status as small Hausbrauerei gave it a certain charm that attracted the people of Cologne.

Of course, credit where credit is due: this article is mostly based on the PhD thesis of Hans Trinius at the University of Cologne, written in 1924. Not only does it give quite detailed insight into the brewing industry and its ups and downs from the 19th century up to ~1922 (it also contains lots and lots of statistics related to production, import&export, taxation, etc.), it also very obviously influenced a number of other books and publication surrounding the topic of beer and Cologne.

An Incomplete History of Schönramer’s Ownership

Some time ago, my wife and I started collecting Steinkrüge, German-style stoneware mugs for beer drinking. I don’t know what exactly started our interest, but what played into it was a historic Steinkrug of Franziskaner-Leistbräu that I got to photograph for my most recent book about Vienna Lager.

Most recently, we managed to win an online auction for a historic Steinkrug of one of our favourite breweries, Brauerei Schönram located in the Bavarian municipality of Petting, in particular a small settlement of it called Schönram. The Steinkrug that we got said “Franz Köllerer & Cie Brauerei Schönram” on it. From Schönramer’s own history on their website, I knew that the Köllerer surname has been connected with the brewery since 1780, the brewery’s official year of foundation when Jakob Köllerer bought the place, and only changed shortly before World War 2 when a daughter from the Köllerer family, Lisa, got married to Alfred Oberlindober.

So who was Franz Köllerer, and what does “Franz Köllerer & Cie” mean anyway? That whole thing got me down a bit of a rabbithole when I checked all my usual sources to see what I was able to find.

The earliest person named Franz Köllerer that I was able to identify was Franz Seraphim Köllerer, born on Sept 14, 1839 in Schönram. The Köllerer family must have been reasonably wealthy, as Franz was able to attend grammar school in nearby Salzburg. Schönram and Salzburg had been well-connected for quite some time, as Schönram was located on postal routes between Salzburg and Munich as well as Salzburg and Regensburg. According to a 1815 post manual for the kingdom of Bavaria, the local postman in Schönram was a certain Anton Köllerer.

Another sign of Franz Köllerer’s wealth is how well-travelled he was. Not only can his name be found in public records that he stayed in Salzburg, Linz and Graz several times during the 1860s and 1870s, a book titled “Deutscher Parlaments-Almanach” (German Parliament Almanac) credited him with having travelled abroad to Hungary, the principalities along the river Danube, Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Greece and Italy.

“Why would he be mentioned in such a book?”, you wonder. Very simple: because he got elected as Member of Parliament to the German Reichstag in Berlin in 1874, for the district of Rosenheim, a role in which he served until he stepped down in 1877. According to Salzburger Chronik in 1874, he was “not a studied man” but a well-known man with a “healthy heart and mind from the midst of the German people”.

During his time as brewery owner, Brauerei Schönram must have been at a reasonable level of modernization. In 1870, it is cited as only one of two breweries in the region to have any sort of automation going on. In particular, the brewery had a steam engine, which not only was used for the brew kit, but also for crushing the malt. The brewery used an annual amount of about 2000 Scheffel of barley. The amount of beer that could be brewed from a certain quantity of barley was strictly regulated in Bavaria at the time, so we can roughly estimate how much beer was brewed annually, and it must have been roughly 7000 to 8000 hl. This is remarkably consistent with Schönramer’s “official” history on their website, which states that between 1900 and the 1960s, the brewery steadily produced about 7000 hl of beer every year.

Half of the barley that the brewery used was from the area, the other half was imported from Innviertel (Upper Austria), Moravia and Hungary. The hops that were bought were from the Bavarian hop regions as well as Bohemia, and more than 50 Zentner (2500 kg) were used every year. From that we can also derive the rough hopping rate of the typical beer brewed at Schönram, at 3 to 3.5 g/l.

Franz Köllerer died on January 26, 1879, in Schönram.

I was also able to find out about another Franz Köllerer. Unlike the previous one, he was indeed a studied man, an alumnus of Weihenstephan brewing school in 1894/1895. When he joined the alumni club of “Weihenstephaner” in 1903, he was credited as brewery owner in Schönram. He died from a stroke in 1915, aged only 41, which would make his year of birth 1874 or 1875. I haven’t been able to find out about how he was related to Franz Seraphim Köllerer, but it wouldn’t be unlikely if he was his son.

Franz Köllerer wasn’t the only brewery owner at the time, though. We know this because on August 1, 1900, the firm “Franz Köllerer & Cie Brauerei Schönram” was registered as a partnership, with a total of five business partners: Franz Köllerer, Anton Riedler, his wife Maria Riedler, and Wilhelmine and Seraphine Köllerer, the latter two described as adult brewery owner daughters. Judging from Franz Köllerer’s age, Wilhelmine and Seraphine were likely Franz Seraphim’s daughters.

And this is where we have the exact company name that is also on our Steinkrug. This at the very least helps us date it to the year 1900 or later.

After a bit of searching, I finally also understood was the “& Cie” stood for, it was short for “Compagnie”, and was used as a suffix for a particular type of company that was comprised of more than two business partners (five in Brauerei Schönram’s case). Nowadays, the suffix “& Co” would be more common in Germany.

Another partner, Anton Riedler, died in 1923, but only a few years later, in 1926, a new business partner makes his appearance in historic sources. Rudolf Nebinger, an Austrian retired cavalry officer of the Landwehrulanenregiment 4 stationed in Olomouc and veteran of World War I at Austria-Hungary’s Eastern front, who got engaged to Elsa Köllerer in 1917. His armed forces service is better documented than his work as brewery owner: in a registry book of regimental officers in 1911, he appears as First Lieutenant, when he got engaged in 1917, he had been promoted to Rittmeister (the cavalry’s equivalent to Captain), and he retired at some point, presumably at the end of World War I, as Lieutenant Colonel.

As a brewery owner, Rudolf Nebinger was wealthy enough to pay for a 30 meter long plane hangar at the newly opened Bad Reichenhall airfield in 1926. He died on October 18, 1934, from a heart attack.

Besides the brewing business itself, the brewery also owned a number of tied hotels and pubs, as well as land. Abtsdorfersee, a lake with an island near Schönram, was sold by the state to the brewery owner in 1869 for 3300 Gulden. The brewery ran a kind of pub or hotel there, named “Seebad”, which sounds like it was part of a lido. It burned down in February 1924, but was rebuilt and reopened in May 1927.

Another location they owned, Hotel Krone in Freilassing, also fell victim to fire: in the night of March 25-26, 1922, a defective oven caused the building to catch fire. Even the fire brigade from nearby Salzburg had to come and help extinguish.

Hotel Bavaria in Bad Reichenhall was also owned by the brewery and opened in 1890. They also owned two local train station restaurants, one in Piding (sold in 1926 to business man Matthias Schöndorfer), the other one in Hammerau.

And that was all I was able to find out in a few days research. While not representing a complete history of Schönramer brewery, I was still able to highlight a few more details about the owners over time, and in particular, was able to shed some light on the particular text on our Steinkrug.