What were pre-1900 cave aged lagers like?

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beskinazi

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I brew mostly ales, mostly because I prefer them, but also because my equipment for cooling beer is limited. Yet sometimes I'll make an amber lager when winter temperatures bring my basement down to the low 50s Fahrenheit. I don't attempt pale lagers because I figure they won't be as good without refrigerated lagering.

Yet I wonder what traditional pale lagers aged without ice or refrigeration tasted like. Of course Pilsner Urquell was once lagered in caves. And I read that old lagering caves still exist underneath New York City, and were used even after refrigeration was introduced in the 1870s. How was the taste of those adjunct-laden American lagers influenced by the lack of cold lagering?

It's not a beer style I'd really want to replicate, but I'm curious because pale American lager with lots of adjuncts is considered one of the more difficult homebrew styles- any technical shortcoming is said to mar the desired clean flavor.
 

Dland

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I'm sure a lot of us wonder what beers of the past tasted like. One can try to brew an old recipe and try to replicate conditions, but even the basic ingredients are not the same, so it would just be an approximation.

As far as attempting pale lagers, all one needs is a refrigerator and some patience.
 

gunhaus

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They tasted EXACTLY like ambrosia nectar, delivered to the glass on gossamer like bubbles, scented with the vapors from the gates of heaven, ALL lightly seasoned with the sweet tears of baby Jesus. They inspired a nervonic ecstasy that bordered on earth moving, and they largely solved the primary problems of the wider world.

Too bad they can't be recreated and that they feel out of fashion in 1915 - we have been sliding down hill since.
 

Oleson M.D.

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Travel to the Pilsner Urquell brewery, in the Czech Republic, and you can taste for yourself.

They still brew the original recipe, unfiltered, non-pasteurized, open air fermented. This is for the guests of the brewery, and not sold in stores. 100% traditional.

00-6SVVrpqL4aGVN8crLXyphWl_j1hzwcUEpndmB0aupaG-bMUU-faqsHtWwGZFdHa3ldMTLfbtJ__wYVBQ_4iTow
 

Beermeister32

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Great article. Last year I brewed the 1912 recipe for Olympia Beer and compared it to recent production from Milwaukee or Irwindale. They were so close, I really couldn’t tell any difference. Used rice as an adjunct, Cluster and Saaz hops. The old Tumwater brewery is in shambles, I believe they finally suspended the off-site production last year. Just a guess, I used W34/70 on this.
 

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Beermeister32

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If you were to make an early lager yeast, you should probably do a mix of both lager and ale yeasts, then ferment COLD.

Jacobsen at Carlsberg separated lager yeasts and made them available in 1883, so anything before that would have been a mix of yeast types.

When it was fermented cold, the lager yeasts would dominate the pitch and you ended up with a clean lager profile. If fermented too warm probably a bunch of fusel alcohols and esters. That’s why the German laws regarding brew dates.

In the late 1800’s Lager brewing became all the rage, largely helped by the first big ammonia refrigeration plants which were becoming available.
 
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madscientist451

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Great article. Last year I brewed the 1912 recipe for Olympia Beer and compared it to recent production from Milwaukee or Irwindale. They were so close, I really couldn’t tell any difference. Used rice as an adjunct, Cluster and Saaz hops.
I've got some Cluster and Saaz I've been wondering what to do with; I found the 1912 recipe on Brewer's friend, 80% 2 row, 20% rice, is that what you went with?
 

Witherby

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If you are looking for a time machine to the 19th century and earlier you need to travel to Franconia in northern Bavaria and especially places like Bamberg and Forchheim where beer caves are still in use. Franconian Kellerbier (pale or amber) is in many ways the closest modern style to those mid 19th century lagers (and Rauchbier for an even earlier style).

Brewing TV had an episode about American beer caves and a visit to an old beer cave in Wisconsin:


I read some speculation that some 19th century American breweries that had an ale tradition but had become mostly lager breweries would brew an ale but then kräusened the beer with fresh fermenting wort of pale lager (which is what they mostly brewed) and this would be their cream ale. I think something like that would be interesting to try and might be close to some of these 19th century American beers.
 

Murph4231

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Travel to the Pilsner Urquell brewery, in the Czech Republic, and you can taste for yourself.

They still brew the original recipe, unfiltered, non-pasteurized, open air fermented. This is for the guests of the brewery, and not sold in stores. 100% traditional.

00-6SVVrpqL4aGVN8crLXyphWl_j1hzwcUEpndmB0aupaG-bMUU-faqsHtWwGZFdHa3ldMTLfbtJ__wYVBQ_4iTow
On my bucket list. Brewing Preprohibition lagers is my favorite style to make. I always add 20 percent maise but after reading this I think I will do a batch at 35 just to compare.
 

Oleson M.D.

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Interesting but not surprising. Leopold Schmidt, founder of Olympia: "The lighter the beer, the better it sells"...

And that is why adjunct laden beers were brewed after prohibition. They wanted to attract a larger audience, mainly going after women.
 

Witherby

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Drank lot’s and lot’s of German beer. Here at home, and in Mainz, Frankfurt, Munich, etc. Never had a German beer brewed with adjuncts.
Oh, me too. It is most of what I drink and I’ve lived in Germany twice. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t brew that way 120 years ago.
 

Oleson M.D.

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Oh, me too. It is most of what I drink and I’ve lived in Germany twice. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t brew that way 120 years ago.

It was in Bavaria that adjuncts were outlawed, until 1908, then outlawed in the entire country.
 

madscientist451

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Yep, 80/20. Also added 2.5 oz acidulated malt.
OK, thanks!
So now I'm wondering what kind of barley the Olympia brewery would be using in 1912?
The recipe I found simply said "pale malt". But was it 6-row? Some version of 2 row we don't have anymore? A blend?
 

Oleson M.D.

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Here is a question...a few years ago, Coors came out with their "Pre-Pro" beer. Batch-19.
What was the original grain bill? This was re-introduced in 2020, only in Colorado.

The article states (as we already know)..."but its lager beers began to change to fit the times once Coors began brewing again in the 1930s." That is a polite way of saying they wanted to attract a female audience, to increase sales.

 

rancocas

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Travel to the Pilsner Urquell brewery, in the Czech Republic, and you can taste for yourself.

They still brew the original recipe, unfiltered, non-pasteurized, open air fermented. This is for the guests of the brewery, and not sold in stores. 100% traditional.

00-6SVVrpqL4aGVN8crLXyphWl_j1hzwcUEpndmB0aupaG-bMUU-faqsHtWwGZFdHa3ldMTLfbtJ__wYVBQ_4iTow
Been there done that. Absolutely delicious. Freezing though. Wear a coat.
 

Beermeister32

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OK, thanks!
So now I'm wondering what kind of barley the Olympia brewery would be using in 1912?
The recipe I found simply said "pale malt". But was it 6-row? Some version of 2 row we don't have anymore? A blend?
Now that’s a good question. They did have a rail line nearby and the old plant was on the south point of Budd Inlet on the water, so they could have access to anything.

I used 2 row..!
FF149B70-D79B-4B61-BA7F-DBDF3FA9D1AA.jpeg
 
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patto1ro

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I brew mostly ales, mostly because I prefer them, but also because my equipment for cooling beer is limited. Yet sometimes I'll make an amber lager when winter temperatures bring my basement down to the low 50s Fahrenheit. I don't attempt pale lagers because I figure they won't be as good without refrigerated lagering.

Yet I wonder what traditional pale lagers aged without ice or refrigeration tasted like. Of course Pilsner Urquell was once lagered in caves. And I read that old lagering caves still exist underneath New York City, and were used even after refrigeration was introduced in the 1870s. How was the taste of those adjunct-laden American lagers influenced by the lack of cold lagering?

It's not a beer style I'd really want to replicate, but I'm curious because pale American lager with lots of adjuncts is considered one of the more difficult homebrew styles- any technical shortcoming is said to mar the desired clean flavor.
All Lagers were cold lagered, even before artificial refrigeration. They used a combination of naturally cold cellars and natural ice.
 

bwible

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Here’s 3 articles of interest. These were originally published in Brewing Techniques magazine. Great reading.



 

Oleson M.D.

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Based on the Coors website, their Batch 19, Pre-Pro, is an all malt beer. Were they the only one?
 

madscientist451

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I noticed Coors are not saying what actual malts were used. The article I saw said they used two malts, but did they specifically say they didn't use corn or rice? There were more than 700 small breweries before prohibition, Its very unlikely they all used the same corn and rice additions.
 

Oleson M.D.

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I doubt they used any rice, or corn. Most often they will list all the ingredients used.

Ingredients List (Coors Original): Water, Barley Malt, Corn Syrup*, Yeast, Hop Extract

The malt is a Moravian variety.
 

Beermeister32

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I suspect the crop seasonality had a lot to do with the materials brewed with back in the day. Probably the batch recipes changed based on what was available to them at a reasonable price throughout the year.
 
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