Friday’s ad is for Carling’s Red Cap Ale, from 1950. In this ad, part of a series featuring well-known celebrities of the day and the tagline “I’ve found out,” it features “American film actor” Randolph Scott holding a beer and giving his testimonial about why he loves Red Cap Ale. Is it me, or does that glass in his hand look really tiny, as if it was photoshopped in (or whatever they did before Photoshop)?
Today is the day that Charles Engel died (1811-June 2, 1900). His exact date of birth is apparently unknown, though it took place in Stadtgemeinde Bremen, in Bremen, Germany. He emigrated to Philadelphia when he was 29, in 1840, and began brewing there, first as Engel and Wolf’s, and later as Bergner & Engel’s.
Here’s his story, from “100 Years of Brewing,” recounting his role in brewing some of the first lagers in Ameria:
His first partnership was with Charles Wolf, but after he retired, Gustavus Bergner joined the company and it became known as the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company.
“100 Years of Brewing” also has an entry for the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company:
And this similar account is by Pennsylvania beer historian Rich Wagner:
Charles Wolf, a sugar refiner in the neighborhood, had an employee named George Manger, who was a brewer by trade. Manger obtained some of the yeast and began making larger batches in a brewery on New Street near Second. Around the same time, Charles Engel, also a brewer, emigrated and found work in Wolf’s refinery. In 1844 Engel and Wolf brewed their first batch of lager beer in the sugar pan and stored it in sugar hogsheads to be shared with their friends.
The same year, the refinery was destroyed by fire and Mr. Wolf went into the brewing and distilling business at 354 Dillwyn Street. Engel & Wolf’s brewery became a popular resort of the Germans of Philadelphia who were known to “drink the brewery dry.” Since lager yeast requires colder fermenting and aging (lagering) conditions than ale yeast, ice houses became more important than ever. Vaults were dug in 1845, and with the increasing number of German immigrants, Mr. Wolf expanded the brewery. In 1849 he purchased a property on the Schuylkill River known as Fountain Green where lager beer vaults extending over 200 feet were dug. For several years wort was hauled by ox teams from Northern Liberties to the vaults at Fountain Green, a distance of about three miles. Over the next few years a new brewery was erected on the site, modern and complete in every way. It was the first large-scale lager brewery in the United States.
Fountain Green was an ideal location. It was out in the country where there was plenty of room. There were springs on the property. Wolf’s farm was just up the road. The banks of the river are composed of Wissahickon Schist, which is fairly soft and easy to dig. In winter, being right on the river was an advantage when harvesting ice for refrigeration. In addition, the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad served the brewery with the “Engel Side” spur.
Philadelphia developed along both of it’s rivers, but along the more navigable Delaware, ship building, shad fishing, industry and commerce were most abundant. Philadelphia’s reputation as “The Workshop of the World” was earned in large part by the “river wards” of Northern Liberties, Kensington, and Frankford. These neighborhoods were literally teaming with breweries. When lager beer began to catch on, many brewers rented beer vaults along the Schuylkill River, and in the area that came to be known as Brewerytown.
Engel & Wolf enjoyed success, but in 1870 the property was acquired by the Fairmount Park Association. The city had just built the Fairmount Water Works, the most technologically sophisticated, state of the art municipal water pumping facility in the nation, and to ensure water quality, removed all industry from the Schuylkill River for a distance of five miles upstream. At this time Mr. Wolf retired and his partner joined Gustavus Bergner to create the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company.
Gustavus’ father Charles had started a brewery on North Seventh Street in the Northern Liberties in 1852 which Gustavus took over upon his father’s death. In 1857, Gustavus erected a brewery at 32nd & Thompson Streets, an address that would become the heart of Brewerytown. Interestingly enough, Brewerytown was essentially up and over the river bank from the old Engel and Wolf brewery.
The earliest picture of Brewerytown that I have been able to uncover is based on four Hexamer Surveys that were made in 1868. They show thirteen breweries, one of which had a distillery, three “lager beer vaults,” including one owned by Peter Schemm, a row of dwellinghouses with beer vaults beneath them, a number of stables and at least three or four brewery saloons.
Beginning in the 1870’s ice-making and artificial refrigeration technology radically altered the equation. It made proximity to river ice of little importance. Huge fermenting and storage houses could be constructed anywhere and they could maintain cold temperatures year round. Where brewers had been bound to brew only during the colder months, it was now possible to brew year round. With the exponential increase in popularity of lager beer, artificial refrigeration was the answer to a dream.
Some brewers who had rented vaults in or near Brewerytown built breweries there. Others refrigerated their breweries and no longer needed to rent vaults. According to the list of projects executed by brewery architect Otto Wolf, the breweries were continually being altered and enlarged to accommodate the trade. The trend was for the brewers to go west to Brewerytown from the river wards, but some left Brewerytown and went into business in Kensington.
The Bergner & Engel B.C. was one of the largest brewers in the country. B & E won the Grand Prize at the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876 and the Grand Prize at the Paris Exposition in 1878. Their beer was shipped across the country, and around the world. Gustavus Bergner was very active in the United States Brewers Association, the Philadelphia Lager Beer Brewers Association, and the Philadelphia Brewmasters Association. B & E was the largest brewer in Philadelphia, and eventually absorbed three other Brewerytown breweries: Mueller, Eble & Herter, and Rothacker.
When prohibition loomed on the horizon, Mr. Bergner had significant political clout and did everything humanly possible to prevent severe trauma to the brewing industry, not only in Philadelphia, but throughout the nation. At first, the brewers thought they would not be affected. After all, beer was hardly intoxicating when compared with liquor. Then they thought if they reduced the alcohol to 2.75% they could still sell their product. Anti-dry forces in Congress attempted to make beer available by physicians’ prescription. But in the end the Federal Government established the legal limit for “near beer” at one half of one per cent alcohol.
Prohibition devastated the brewing industry. It was such an unpopular law, that for some time, things just went on as they had before. Most of the city’s brewers were law-abiding German Americans. They could not fathom a world without a foamy seidel of beer. Not only that, but they would have to become criminals in order to make beer, their “staff of life.” Legally, they brewed “near bear,” and made soda. They made malt extract for the malt shop as well as for the home brewer, and sold yeast and ice. The Poth brewery became home to the Cereal Beverage Company, the local distributor of Anheuser-Busch’s Bevo. Due to demand and profitability, however, many continued to produce “high-octane” beer, even after being raided several times, sometimes while they were involved in litigation.
The government targeted the biggest guy on the block and made an example of B & E. After being raided, B & E continued to make beer. It was a case of the public and business community defying a terribly unpopular law and the government responded with a vengeance. And while B & E had lots of legal tricks up its sleeve, in the end the government prevailed and shut them down. Breweries throughout the city were padlocked. And in December of 1928, as police sewered nearly a million gallons of B & E beer, officers were quoted as saying “B & E made the best beer in the city.”
Today is also the birthday of Atlanta Journal-Constitution beer columnist Bob Townsend. Although he wouldn’t tell me how old he is when I met him in Boston several years ago, I suspect it’s because he’s even older than me. Regardless, we hit it off immediately; kindred souls, to be sure, and have since traveled together on numerous press junkets. Join me in wishing Bob a very happy birthday.
After judging the finals for the Longshot Homebrew Competition in Boston. From left: Jason Alstrom (from Beer Advocate), Tony Forder (from Ale Street News), Bob, Jim Koch (founder of the Boston Beer Co.), yours truly, Julie Johnson (from All About Beer magazine), and Todd Alstrom (also from Beer Advocate).
Today is the birthday of English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (June 2, 1840-January 11, 1928). Hardy is best known for his novels Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).
So what does he have to do with beer. Well besides mentioning it in his work, it’s because there’s a Thomas Hardy Ale that was originally created in 1968 by the Eldridge Pope Brewery to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Thomas Hardy’s death, which happened to coincide with the renovation of a pub in Dorchester named for one of Hardy’s novels, the “Trumpet Major,” first published in 1880.
The 1968 nip bottle.
There’s a great quote in the book, which describes a beer, and that was what they used as inspiration to create the beer that bears Hardy’s name. A portion of the quote was on the original 1968 label, but here’s a fuller version of it.
“It was of the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset; free from streakiness of taste; but, finally, rather heady. The masses worshipped it, the minor gentry loved it more than wine, and by the most illustrious county families it was not despised. Anybody brought up for being drunk and disorderly in the streets of its natal borough, had only to prove that he was a stranger to the place and its liquor to be honourably dismissed by the magistrates, as one overtaken in a fault that no man could guard against who entered the town unawares.”
Eldridge Pope created “an ale matured in oak casks, very strong, capable of improving better taste with age.” After the first vintage in 1968, beginning in 1974 the second was brewed and a vintage-dated version was made each subsequent year until 1999.
Another brewery, the O’Hanlon Brewery, picked up brewing Thomas Hardy Ale in 2003, and produced annual versions until 2008. Unfortunately, they went bankrupt in 2011, and reopened later as the Hanlon Brewery.
One of the last vintages, from 2007.
First produced in 1968, Thomas Hardy’s Ale is barley wine produced just once yearly, with annual vintages in limited quantities. It quickly became an icon among beer and took on legendary status due to its sudden disappearance. Now, the legend is back…
1968 bottle of Thomas Hardy’s Ale“At the moment, all rights are in the hands of the American importer George Saxon, who – we hope – won’t take long putting Thomas Hardy’s back on the market”, as stated by Adrian Tierney-Jones to conclude his comment on Thomas Hardy’s Ale in the book “1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die”. In the words of one of the most famous Anglo-Saxon beer writers, we can clearly perceive a bit of melancholy for the disappearance of Thomas Hardy’s Ale from the global market.
Why such melancholy? Each day, worldwide, tens or even hundreds of thousands of bottles of various beers are produced, yet Thomas Hardy’s was unique. A real, proper icon of beer drinking, almost a cult object.
The beer was created way back in 1968 with one clear intention: to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the dead of the brilliant writer Thomas Hardy, author of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and other important novels. In an equally famous tale, “The Trumpet Major”, Hardy spoke of a strong Dorchester beer, defining it “the most beautiful colour an artist could possibly desire, as bright as an autumn sunset”…
The Eldridge Pope brewery decided to try and create that beer Hardy mentioned in his writing. It had to be a special beer, with a high alcohol content, a consistent and sensuous body and long lasting and resilient aroma, or rather, capable of lasting over time (25 years, according to the brewery). Beer created for big occasions and therefore only produced once a year, left at length to mature in wood and lastly, brought to light in numbered bottles, with the year of production, the batch and the quantity produced clearly visible.
Thomas Hardy’s Ale quickly became hugely famous. The quality of the product combined with its exclusivity was an explosive mix. The individual years soon became the object of vertical tastings, like those held for important Langhe or Bordeaux wines and prices went sky high. However, producing Thomas Hardy’s was very expensive and making it meant sacrificing time and means for beer intentionally produced in limited quantities. In 1999 Eldridge Pope ceased production and, for the first time, Thomas Hardy’s appeared to have been confined to memory or auctions. Its disappearance, however, further reinforced its fame and lovers of this stylish leader of barley wines called for its return. And Thomas Hardy’s was back.
This time, starting in 2003, the O’Hanlon brewery created it. The same recipe, same immense work and the same exclusivity. Another six, prestigious years followed for a beer by now renowned around the world. Yet, for a second time, this excellent beer disappeared. And this time…
Forever? No, the good news is that Thomas Hardy’s Ale is to be revived in all its greatness, while maintaining all its extraordinary and unique peculiarities: vintage production is on English soil with limited quantities produced, its slight hints of dark fruit, turf and roast malt and its flavour that at times recalls a fine port or quality brandy.
The 1990 vintage bottle.
It was one of the earliest modern beers to be vintage dated, at least it’s one of the earliest I’m aware of. The earliest year I’ve tasted in 1977, and I was lucky enough once to do a vertical tasting of several vintages of the barley wine. I still have a few bottles from the early 1990s, including a 1990 bottle, in my cellar. I’m waiting for the perfect time to share them.
As for the future, it’s apparently coming back yet again, this time by an Italian brewery. Patrick Dawson wrote about it in April for Craft Beer & Brewing magazine, with an article entitled The Rebirth of Thomas Hardy Ale.
Thomas Hardy in 1911.
Today is my good friend Melissa Myers’ birthday. Though now several years ago, her most recent brewing gig was at Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro, California. She’s also brewed at Pyramid, Ross Brewing and Magnolia, among others, but now she owns and operates her own beer bar in Oakland, The Good Hop. There’s a stool there with my name on it, and after several years I finally took it out for a spin earlier this year. Join me in wishing Melissa a very happy birthday.
Arne Johnson, of Marin Brewing, and Melissa at the Boonville Beer Festival several years ago.
Melissa in high school, believe it or not. At a Super Bowl party she threw, Melissa made the mistake of showing me this photo while I had my camera in my hand. I snapped a quick picture of it in the photo album, which is why is looks out of proportion and a little fuzzy. I had to seriously crop it and straighten it out and generally fix it up. But I think the effort was worth it, don’t you?