Category Archives: History

Wrapped up in Mumme bier

This past weekend, my son and I had the good sense to work our way through the Beau’s 2016 Oktoberfest Mix Pack. Although the Vienna Lager was my favourite (such a nice one), I was most intrigued by Return of the Mumme.

vienna-lager
Beau’s Vienna-style Lager, from the 2016 Oktoberfest Mix Pack

A few years ago, when I started developing an interest in historical brewing, I came across Mom (or Mum, or Mumme) as a style once popular in The Netherlands and England.

Originally from Brunswick (Braunschweig), in the German state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), it’s a style of ale that most likely dates back to the 14th century. The earliest known record, from 1390, refers to Mumm being provided for a local feast.

Predictably, the style not only varied from one brewer to the next, but also evolved over time. The traits that seemed to be consistent however, were its dark brown appearance, the addition of hops, and a sugary, malt-forward character, sometimes to the point of being syrupy sweet. Old German records speak of a lovely and pure beer, suggesting no additives. English records, as well as later German ones, list off different ingredients being added, from spices like cloves, cardamon or cinnamon, to more surprising additions like birch, pine, beans or even eggs.

Mumme beer became the city’s most lucrative export, which was a pretty big deal considering Brunswick was part of the Hanseatic League, a network of European cities that largely controlled trade across the continent. To be the chief export of such a major trading centre is testimony to mumme’s massive popularity in other regions. Making that even more interesting, Brunswick isn’t a port city. The beer would have to very durable to survive being carted in barrels over some 200 kilometres of rough road before being loaded onto ships. Eventually it would travel as far as the Caribbean and India.

1893-double-strength-ship-mumme
An 1893 ad for Ship Mumme, brewed stronger for long voyages to distant ports. The Nettelbeck brewery (1492) is the oldest surviving producer of the style. 

In England, which had its own robust brewing community, Mom imports from Brunswick were banned for a few years to give locals a chance to sell their own interpretations of the style without the inconvenience of the genuine product competing in the same market. In the 17th century there were even dedicated Mom Houses in London. There’s speculation that what was produced in Brunswick was the more pure style, whereas the English brewers were sold false recipes with plenty of additives.

Brunswick beer would have taken on some of its barrel’s characteristics on the journey to England as well, which would explain why the English palate would have expected more ingredients than simply malt, water and hops.

mum-making-of-mum-1811b
An 1811 English recipe for Mum, from witteklaviervier.nl

Here’s where we jump ahead to Beau’s Return of the Mumme. The Vankleek Hill crew are a rather clever bunch and seem to put a good amount of thought into pretty much everything. Mumme translates to “disguise” or “wrap up” in German. The mummy on the label is more than simply a play on the word mumme.

mixpack
Beau’s Oktoberfest Mix Pack, 2016

True to what I’ve been able to learn out about the style, Beau’s version is quite a dark pour, rich and malty, and does contain hops (which is not a given with Beau’s). They’ve chosen to go with a more playful interpretation of the style, adding “organic black tea from India, Sri Lankan cloves and a blend of Egyptian spices including caraway seed, marjoram and thyme.” Thankfully, no eggs.

Admittedly, I didn’t spend much time trying to figure out all the aromas and flavours. This was more about sharing beer with my son than dissecting a style that isn’t clearly defined in the first place. What I did notice was a metallic bite to its malty, burnt caramel body, a sweet molasses-like aftertaste, and a soy sauce quality that lingered. After reading Return of the Mumme shares characteristics of a modern Altbier, that makes sense. I often find myself describing Alts in a similar manner.

This weekend I’ll be in Düsseldorf, specifically because I’m curious to try Altbier in its native environment. I won’t make it to Brunswick, as I’m cycling and my schedule doesn’t allow for it, but I’ve already started looking for craft beer shops where I hope to find a vessel or two of Braunschweiger Mumme.

Beau’s Oktoberfest Mix Pack is in stores now. Beau’s Oktoberfest (the epic party) runs this weekend in Vankleek Hill, Ontario.

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Dutch Beer in Canada

Belgium to the south. Germany to the east. It’s not difficult to understand why The Netherlands doesn’t get much recognition for its beer, considering its entire land border is up against the world’s two most renowned brewing nations. Heineken, Grolsch, Amstel, Bavaria and La Trappe are well known, but even the more astute beer drinkers outside that region would have a hard time naming three more Dutch breweries.

Jopen Brewery, Haarlem
Jopen Brewery, Haarlem – from my 2013 cycling tour

Historically however, the Dutch were among the foremost producers of beer, exporting as far as Russia and even to colonies in the Pacific. Now several of the country’s new generation of craft brewers are working to put traditional Dutch beer back to into the mainstream and their research is bringing into question the origins of certain other well-known styles.

In the new issue of Taps Magazine I go into much more detail about the reawakening of Nederlandse Bier. The article was inspired by the best road trip of my life, cycling around the lowlands for two weeks in 2013.

There I learned that Poorterbier, which shows up in Dutch records as far back as 1301, may or may not have been the precursor to what we commonly call Porter. No one has unearthed a recipe for the older style so it’s impossible to compare the two, but while British beer history mostly neglects the period prior to the 18th century, it is known that most of the beer in England was produced by Dutch speaking “Strangers” who numbered 16,000, as far back as the 15th century.

Stranger beer was so popular in fact, that Edward VI brought a Dutchman by the name of Peter De Wolfe to England “for planting and setting of hoppes,” or basically, to teach hop farming to the locals.

And then there’s India Pale Ale, a more durable beverage first brewed by the English to withstand the long voyage across to India. Long before the first recorded use of the term IPA (1829), the Dutch were shipping stronger, hoppier beer to their colonies in the East.

Chief among exporters was Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (United East Indies Company), also known as the Dutch East Indies Company. Its beer had to survive the voyage to what we now know as Indonesia (then called Oost Indies).

Oat Malt
Oat Malt — about 50% of the grain bill.

In that spirit, Niagara Oast House Brewers has brewed the first known Oost Indie Bier by a Canadian brewery. This Dutch style Pale Ale makes its debut at WVRST, Tuesday, March 10th at 7:00 p.m., which will also be the launch party for TAPS new issue (more information here).

The wort, which will become Niagara Oast House's Oost Indie Bier (February, 2015)
The wort that became Niagara Oast House’s Oost Indie Bier

I had the privilege to sit in as Brewer Mike Pentesco whipped up this first batch, with imported oat malt and a variety of European hops (including Strisselspalt, which not only smell amazing, but are super fun to say when you’ve spent an afternoon sampling).

Strisselspalt Hops
Wonderfully aromatic Strisselspalt Hops

I hope you’ll join us at WVRST to celebrate the launch of this new beer, and pick up a copy of TAPS to learn more about two fascinating eras in Dutch brewing.

Oast House co-founder Andy Vanderkaay clearing  out the spent grain
Oast House co-founder and Dutch descendant Andy Vanderkaay clearing out the spent grain
Oast House Hockey Pucks
The most (m’oast?) Canadian beer coasters ever!
The Niagara Oast House taproom
The Niagara Oast House taproom
Bière de Garde, barrel-aging
Bière de Garde, barrel-aging like a pro.

LOVE ON BEER

Love Ontario Beer (#LoveONBeer)

Photo: Billie Chiasson
Prud’homme Beer Specialist DAN GRANT leading a session of #LoveONBeer. Photo: Billie Chiasson

This province is blessed with amazing craft beer, and I intend to prove it.

Once a month at Tequila Bookworm, I’m guiding lively, interactive and educational sessions, using Ontario craft beer as course material.

Over three hours we touch on everything from:

  • How to make beer part of your healthy lifestyle
  • Proper pouring, serving, tasting and storage
  • Beer as a kitchen ingredient
  • Ontario’s fascinating beer history
  • Why beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in Canada (by far)
  • How craft beer is reviving an otherwise sagging industry
  • This province’s beers, in context with what’s happening elsewhere
  • Beer as a crucial piece of the economy

Who is this geared towards:

  • Craft beer converts
  • Craft beer curious
  • Craft beer tourists

Location: Upstairs at Tequila Bookworm (512 Queen Street W., at the corner of Queen & Portland)
Price: $30.00 each, which includes:

  • eight excellent tasters of Ontario craft
  • samples of food made with Ontario craft beer
  • prize(s) for trivia winner(s)

NOTE: This is not a Tequila Bookworm event, so please be prepared to pay cash.

Upcoming Dates:
  • Thursday, July 24th – 6:30 p.m.

TO CONFIRM YOUR SPACE (limited to 15 participants per session), please email brewscribe @ gmail.com

Testimonials from past participants:

“Kind of fell in love with beer. As an avid wine drinker, that says quite a bit.” – Billie Chiasson, Toronto

“I’ve personally never met an individual with more passion for beer. From its emergence in ancient Mesopotamia right up to today, Dan has immersed himself in the history of beer and beer making and is driven to share his vast knowledge with the aim of improving everyone’s understanding and enjoyment.” – Paul Crivellari, Toronto

“A fun, informative session with a knowledgeable and personable host. Great for those who want insights into beer, while getting to sample some great brews.” – Yvonne Cheung – Toronto

“Knowledgeable and engaging. Dan gives just the right amount of material to be educational but allow for a lot of fun and beverage enjoyment” – Ben Somers, Toronto

“The session was very informative, I learned a lot about the history of brewing and the world of Ontario craft brews. Dan eagerly relayed his in-depth knowledge and was a fun and gracious host.”  – Paul Haynes, Toronto

About Me:

I’m the founder of Love ON Beer (#LoveONBeer) and the Toronto Beer Run (#RunTOBeer) and one of the most passionate advocates for opening up Ontario’s liquor retail system to fair and honest competition. I’m also a Prud’homme Certified Beer Specialist

The former Beer Writer for The Toronto Standard and Bamboo Magazine, my more recent work has appeared in NOW Magazine and The Opinion.

Sharing the love…

Last week I had the opportunity to gather a bunch of friends together to talk about beer and what makes it so special. Over 2.5 hours we covered everything from porters to Prohibition, Pharaohs to phenolics, tasting seven Ontario craft beers as we chatted. It was a very fun night.

If you’re interested in attending something similar, the total cost of the evening is just $35.00, and that includes your beer.

Big thanks to Tequila Bookworm for letting me camp out “Upshtairs,” and to Billie Chiasson for capturing this photo of me being charming.

Photo: Billie Chiasson
Photo: Billie Chiasson

For more information, please write to me at brewscribe@gmail.com

From Märzrevolution to Miller-Coors

How 19th Century German Immigration Shaped The Current Environment in the U.S.

Fundamental to the psyche of the United States is the notion that it is a land of opportunity. The so-called “American Dream” is rooted in the principle that if you work hard enough, you can be successful. Today there are more than 2,500 breweries stateside and beer (directly or otherwise) employs more than 2,000,000 Americans, providing nearly $80 billion in wages and benefits. Despite a documented brewing history that stretches back more than 400 years, and a tumultuous last century that included two World Wars, Prohibition, The Depression and a flurry of acquisitions and mergers, it’s the immigration of Germans in the 1800s – and their pursuit of the American Dream – that planted the seeds of the industry as we know it today.

Pre-History

No written proof remains to back it up, but there’s a strong belief that sun-dried, sprouted maize (corn) was fermented in Mexico as early as the 16th century, long before Europeans started brewing in North America. This early product, called tesgüino, chica or izquiate, was mostly found in the Western and Northern parts of the country, and is likely the origin of tiswin (sometimes referred to as tulepai)the beer-like beverage concocted by Apaches in the Sonoran desert regions of Sonora State (Mexico) and up into Arizona (USA).

Though never commercially relevant, tiswin was the source of many alleged flare-ups in Native American history, leading to General George Crook banning its consumption in the early 1880s.

The First Commercial Breweries

The very first known brewery in the U.S. – in fact, in the entire New World – was established by Adrian Block and Hans Christiansen in 1612, at the south end of what is now Manhattan. Twenty years later the Dutch West India Company set up the first commercial brewery nearby. Several of America’s founding fathers were brewers, including George Washington (whose recipe called for molasses), Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Samuel Adams (cousin to John Adams).

British style ales, primarily drawn from local ingredients, dominated the young American landscape with few exceptions. One notable anomaly however, was the Eagle Brewery (Pottsville, PA), which was lagering beer in the coal-rich Pennsylvania mountains starting in 1829, Founded by David Gottlob Jüngling (also a German immigrant, who Anglicised his name after coming to America), the pioneering operation continues as D. G. Yuengling & Son, the oldest surviving brewery in the United States

German Migration

Other Germans also sought a new life in America, especially as the political climate became more tenuous at home. Following the Märzrevolution of 1848, a mass migration of 4,000,000 Germans came looking for opportunity on the American Frontier. Upon arriving on the already settled Eastern shores, most moved on to the more open climes of Illinois, Missouri and territories of Wisconsin and Iowa (comprising present day Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota). With them came family brewing recipes, most of which involved lagering. Next to the ales of the day, which were less palatable and could quickly become stale, lager found a welcome audience in the areas it was produced.

Among the pioneering German emigrées were Jacob Best, founder of Best Brewing Company (later to become Pabst, Milwaukee, WI); Eberhard Anheuser whose purchase of the Bavarian Brewery (St. Louis, MO) evolved into Anheuser-Busch; Valentin Blatz, who merged his own brewery with that of his deceased father-in-law to create Blatz Beer (Milwaulkee, WI), and was first to distribute beer nationally; Frederic Miller, who transformed the Plank Road Brewery (Milwaukee, WI) in 1855 into what would become Miller Brewing Company; Joseph Schlitz, whose marriage to the widow of a brewery/tavern owner led to the formation of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company (Milwaukee, WI), and Bernhard Stroh, founder of Stroh Brewery Company (Detroit, MI) in 1850.

Civil War & Transition

Having fled oppression in Europe, the German immigrants were generally opposed to slavery and quite concerned when South Carolinians chose to secede from the Union following the election of President Lincoln in 1860. The American Civil War began in 1861, and despite his consternation, Anheuser, whose St. Louis brewery was situated close to a key strategic transportation point of the Mississippi River, profited greatly. Not only did a massive presence of soldiers head to and from conflict, but with them came and went a sizable supporting force of tradesmen, clerks, suppliers and refugees. The demand for beer was enormous; with a population of 160,000 at the time, St. Louis consumed 200,000 barrels per year. At the time each barrel could be produced for about $1.00, and sold for $8.00.

In the decades that followed a new generation of industry leaders, mostly still of German extraction, replaced their forebears as economic drivers. Frederick Pabst married into the Best family and soon took charge of what would become the largest brewery in the world. Adolphus Busch took a similar path, and married Anheuser’s daughter to head up what would also one day become the world’s most successful brewery. August Uihlein left a brewery in St. Louis, and along with three brothers (one of whom had experience as a brewer), took over operations from his uncle, Joseph Schlitz, in Milwaukee. Further west, Adolph Coors and Jacob Schueler founded the Golden Brewery, precursor to Coors Brewing Company (Golden, CO).

Innovation & Expansion

The end of the Civil War began an era of industrialization in America. Innovations in mechanization meant increased efficiencies, most visibly on display at the Philadelphia World’s Fair in 1876. Officially a celebration to mark the country’s centennial, the six month exposition was as much a celebration of how far America had come since achieving independence as a distraction from its ugliest period. America felt good about itself and continued to welcome Europeans to its thriving nation.

To the good fortune of New York’s brewers the local population exploded, jumping from roughly half a million in 1850, to 1.2-million just 30 years later. For Manhattan’s major beer barons – primarily George Ehret (the largest brewer in the country in 1877), Jacob Rupert Sr., and brothers Frederick and Maximilian Schaefer – there was more demand than even their expanding breweries could meet.

But while New York’s brewing barons were struggling to keep up, their more Westerly counterparts were building riverside cold storage facilities – ice houses – to extend their brewing seasons. Expansion-minded tycoons were planning national sales forces and forecasts.

Railway lines were opening up new shipping routes and Adolphus Busch was starting to put beer into bottles, rather than simply into kegs. He was also first to adopt Pasteurization, ensuring the quality of Anheuser’s exports as they stretched into previously unreachable areas in refrigerated rail cars (another concept Busch pioneered).

In the 1870s, in order to justify the investment in brewery expansion, Best Brewing Company made its first foray into New York’s bustling populace. A separate branch was set up on the burgeoning Eastern port with an ice house, several delivery teams and dedicated sales agents.

Around the same time breweries were giving more thought to marketing, with Schlitz branding itself “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous,” while Busch was giving out branded bottle openers (Adolphus being such as early adopter of bottling) and former sea captain Pabst having salesmen show up to taverns to loudly announce “This round is on Captain Pabst!”

1873 was a milestone year in the American brewing industry. Not only did the number of breweries reach an all-time high, capping off at 4,131, but another style of beer was being discovered on the other side of the Atlantic. A confidante of Busch, Otto Lademan, travelled to Austria that year as Missouri’s representative to the Vienna Exposition. Note only did he note that Bohemian beers were capturing most of the top awards, but he also got his first taste of a lager from Budweis, which was different from the others in the region. Colloquially called “The Beer of Kings,” it was a shade lighter and more effervescent than the traditional Pilseners. Upon his return to the United States he shared his discoveries, including Moravian barley and Saaz hops. Budweiser was born.

The Decline of Local Breweries

Increased productivity, quality control, distribution and marketing made it difficult for smaller breweries to compete. The number of American breweries plummeted to 2,830 by 1880.

Over the next 20 years more breweries fell by the wayside, while others merged their operations. In 1889, 18 local breweries came together under the banner of the St. Louis Brewing Association. A year later six Louisiana breweries combined to become the New Orleans Brewing Co.

Best Brewing Company re-flagged itself Pabst that same year and by 1893 grew to become the first brewery in the world to produce one million barrels in a single pass of the calendar, thanks in part to its own purchase of two recently merged Milwaukee breweries.

Adolphus Busch developed Michelob in 1896, as a “draught beer for connoisseurs.” Following on the success of Budweiser, this beer was also brewed in the Bohemian style, using Saaz hops.

Enduring the New Age

The 20th Century altered the beer industry enormously, but most of the great breweries started by Germans in 1800s still dominate American beer fridge inventory today. Anheuser-Busch brews ten of the twenty best selling domestic beers in America, while the more recently merged Miller-Coors produces another eight. Pabst continues to produce the 14th best selling domestic in the U.S. (Pabst Blue Ribbon) and distributes modern day versions of Stroh’s, Blatz, Schlitz and Old Milwakee (part of the Schlitz portfolio). America’s oldest surviving brewery, D. G. Yuengling & Son, is tops among craft brews, with Yuengling’s Traditional Lager at #16.

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