The Price Of A Beer: 1952-2016

beer-money
I saw a slideshow recently on a genealogy website that took data from the Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and showed the price of a pint beginning in 1952 through last year, along with what that price would be in today’s money, in other words adjusted for inflation. I took it from a slideshow and turned into a table so you could more easily see the changes over time. Perhaps most surprising is that the average price of a beer is one-third less now than it was 64 years ago.

1-drink-bill

According to the data, the adjusted price for a pint peaked in the mid-1950s, 1956-57 to be specific. After that, the price has been coming down slowly but surely (with a few blips here and there) ever since. Part of that is undoubtedly efficiencies in both brewing and distribution. The on-and-off price wars that the big brewers engaged in over the last few decades must certainly have played a roll, as it kept prices artificially low across the board. At any rate, it’s interesting to see the prices all laid out like this over six decades. I’m sure others will see a lot more in the data, too.

wooden-nickel

Year
Price of Beer
Adjusted for Inflation
1952
$0.65
$5.93
1953
$0.65
$5.80
1954
$0.67
$5.93
1955
$0.67
$5.91
1956
$0.68
$6.01
1957
$0.69
$6.01
1958
$0.69
$5.82
1959
$0.70
$5.74
1960
$0.71
$5.77
1961
$0.71
$5.68
1962
$0.71
$5.62
1963
$0.72
$5.64
1964
$0.73
$5.64
1965
$0.74
$5.65
1966
$0.75
$5.63
1967
$0.76
$5.54
1968
$0.79
$5.61
1969
$0.82
$5.58
1970
$0.86
$5.58
1971
$0.89
$5.43
1972
$0.91
$5.32
1973
$0.94
$5.32
1974
$1.01
$5.38
1975
$1.09
$5.23
1976
$1.12
$4.93
1977
$1.15
$4.78
1978
$1.22
$4.76
1979
$1.32
$4.79
1980
$1.42
$4.63
1981
$1.52
$4.37
1982
$1.59
$4.14
1983
$1.65
$4.05
1984
$1.70
$4.04
1985
$1.75
$3.99
1986
$1.83
$4.03
1987
$1.88
$4.06
1988
$1.95
$4.06
1989
$2.03
$4.06
1990
$2.13
$4.07
1991
$2.35
$4.26
1992
$2.43
$4.22
1993
$2.47
$4.17
1994
$2.50
$4.10
1995
$2.54
$4.06
1996
$2.61
$4.05
1997
$2.68
$4.04
1998
$2.73
$4.08
1999
$2.80
$4.07
2000
$2.88
$4.09
2001
$2.95
$4.06
2002
$3.02
$4.04
2003
$3.08
$4.05
2004
$3.17
$4.08
2005
$3.23
$4.05
2006
$3.31
$4.01
2007
$3.41
$4.00
2008
$3.53
$4.03
2009
$3.64
$4.00
2010
$3.68
$4.06
2011
$3.73
$4.05
2012
$3.88
$4.00
2013
$3.87
$3.99
2014
$3.91
$3.97
2015
$3.95
$3.95
2016
$3.99
$3.99

nickel-beer

Scrappy’s Beer Parade

tiny-toons
As regular readers will know, I’m a huge cartoon nerd. Today, March 8, 1933, the cartoon “Beer Parade” was released by Screen Gems, and created by the Charles Mintz Studio. It was a Scrappy cartoon.

Scrappy

Here’s more about Scrappy, from Wikipedia:

Scrappy is a cartoon character created by Dick Huemer for Charles Mintz’s Krazy Kat Studio (distributed by Columbia Pictures). A little round-headed boy, Scrappy often found himself involved in off-beat neighborhood adventures. Usually paired with his little brother Oopy (originally Vontzy), Scrappy also had an on-again, off-again girlfriend named Margy and a Scotty dog named Yippy. In later shorts the annoying little girl Brat and pesky pet Petey Parrot also appeared. Huemer created the character in 1931, and he remained aboard Mintz’s studio until 1933. With Huemer’s departure, his colleagues Sid Marcus and Art Davis assumed control of the series. The final Scrappy cartoon, The Little Theatre was released in 1941.

beerparade
Posters for the “Beer Parade”
beerparade_1933

Here’s the synopsis of the cartoon from its IMDb page:

Scrappy and Oopie, though little boys, happily celebrate the return of beer after fourteen years, with the help of brew-guzzling gnomes, apparently from the “Rip Van Winkle” story. They leave an allegorical “Prohibition” figure (ugly old man in stovepipe hat) stripped and chased off.

scrappy600

beer-parade-title

Here’s another description from a user review at IMDb:

Scrappy and Oopie are partying with some gnomes who are enjoying beer from barrels. A mean Prohibition Agent appears and attacks the barrels with an axe, but Oopie will defend the right of people to enjoy their lager in this cartoon released a month before beer sales were legalized.

It had been a long fight and this typically bizarre Scrappy cartoon has the two children strongly in support of drinking. Although they do not partake themselves, they certainly use startlingly strange methods typical of Dick Huemer’s series. It is a pretty good one because it does not ease up in the second half. Dick and his staff certainly made it clear where their sympathies lay!

beerparade

parade-2

beerparade2

This is from Scrappyland, a website dedicated to Scrappy:

Plot summary: Scrappy and Oopy joyfully serve beer by the barrelful to dozens of drunken elves until Old Man Prohibition shows up. The boys and the little men assault him from the ground and the air–even using explosives–until he chooses to bury himself. Whereupon the good times roll once more.

(I particularly like the moment when Oopy, having rigged up a rope to trip Old Man Prohibition, tugs at it to verify that it’s tight enough to do the job.)

The cartoon is an obvious allegory concerning prohibition and its repeal. But it was released on March 4, 1933, when the federal ban on alcoholic beverages was still in force, so its celebration of unrestrained imbibing was anticipatory.

FDR, who famously made repeal part of his campaign, had taken office in January; a couple of weeks after the cartoon debuted, he signed the Cullen-Harrison act, which permitted the sale of wine and 3.2 percent beer starting the following month. In December, prohibition on the federal level was fully repealed.

Prohibition was never enforced all that rigorously in cartoon land. The 1929 Silly Symphony The Merry Dwarfs presaged The Beer Parade by showing its title characters quaffing beer; 1931’s Lady Play Your Mandolin, the first Merrie Melody, takes place in a saloon and is full of tippling animals, although it’s possible that it’s set in Mexico. But the sheer quantity of beer in The Beer Parade–served by two small boys without any adult supervision–remains startling. It’s unimaginable that anyone would have made a cartoon with this theme a few years later. Or today.

(Scrappy and Oopy aren’t shown drinking in the cartoon, but they are depicted brandishing foamy mugs themselves, and do seem to be in an awfully exuberant good mood.)

He’s reviewing it from a YouTube video where someone at a public screening simply videotaped the cartoon and then uploaded it. But it’s subsequently been removed from YouTube. And as far as I can tell, Scrappy cartoons have not been released on either videotape or DVD. Which is a crying shame, because it looks like it was an amazing cartoon.

parade-1

parade-3

parade-5

parade-6

This is from Scrappyland, a website dedicated to Scrappy:

Dr. Richard Huemer–the son of Scrappy’s creator–shared this New Years’ card which was sent to his father by Joe De Nat, the Mintz studio’s musical director. The card depicts Scrappy and his Mintz stablemate Krazy Kat pumping beer into a mug inhabited by a piano player and a mermaid (presumably representing Mr. and Mrs. De Nat). Assuming that the references to 1933 and the new year mean that the De Nats distributed this card around January 1, 1933, prohibition was still in effect, but the recent election of FDR meant that its days were clearly numbered.

denatcard

The Kalevala Of Finland

finland
February 28 is Finnish Culture Day, more commonly known as Kalevala Day. According to the Finnish Embassy, “Kalevala Day is celebrated in Finland on the 28th of February, in honour of the day on which the Old Kalevala’s foreword was dated by Lönnrot (February 28, 1835). Kalevala Day is an official flag-raising day in Finland, and simultaneously the Day of Finnish culture.”

Kullervon_sotaanlähtö

Here’s one account about why the Kalevala is so important to Finland, and specifically Finnish identity:

The first edition of the Kalevala appeared in 1835, compiled and edited by Elias Lönnrot on the basis of the epic folk poems he had collected in Finland and Karelia. This poetic song tradition, sung in an unusual, archaic trochaic tetrametre, had been part of the oral tradition among speakers of Balto-Finnic languages for 2,000 years.

When the Kalevala appeared in print for the first time, Finland had been an autonomous Grand Duchy under Russia for a quarter of a century. Prior to this, until 1809, Finland had been a part of the Swedish empire.

The Kalevala marked an important turning point for Finnish-language culture and caused a stir abroad, as well. It brought a small, unknown people to the attention of other Europeans, and bolstered the Finns’ self-confidence and faith in the possibilities of the Finnish language and culture. The Kalevala began to be called the Finnish national epic.

Elias Lönnrot and his colleagues continued their efforts to collect folk poetry, and new material quickly accumulated. Using this new material, Lönnrot published a second, expanded version of the Kalevala in 1849. This New Kalevala is the version which has been read in Finland ever since and upon which most translations are based.

gallen_kallela_the_aino_triptych
Aino-Triptych by Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1891. Left: The first meeting of Aino and Väinämöinen. Right: Aino laments her woes and decides to end her life rather than marry an old man. Middle: The end of the story arc – Väinämöinen catches the Aino fish but is unable to keep hold of her.

And this is the introduction from the Kalevala page on Wikipedia:

The Kalevala or The Kalewala (/ˌkɑːləˈvɑːlə/; Finnish: [ˈkɑle̞ʋɑlɑ]) is a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology.

It is regarded as the national epic of Karelia and Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. The Kalevala played an instrumental role in the development of the Finnish national identity, the intensification of Finland’s language strife and the growing sense of nationality that ultimately led to Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917.

The first version of The Kalevala (called The Old Kalevala) was published in 1835. The version most commonly known today was first published in 1849 and consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty songs (Finnish: runot). The title can be interpreted as “The Land of Kaleva” or “Kalevia”.

kavella

I wrote about it several years ago, because one of the chapters, Chapter or Rune XX, is all about brewing beer for a wedding. The parts that talks about brewing begins after the art work from the Kalevala below, after the short post I did for a page here a while back. Enjoy.


The Kalevala

The Kalevala is a book and epic poem which the Finn Elias Lönnrot compiled from Finnish and Karelian folklore in the nineteenth century. It is held to be the national epic of Finland and is traditionally thought of as one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. Karelian citizens and other Balto-Finnic speakers also value the work. The Kalevala is credited with some of the inspiration for the national awakening that ultimately led to Finnish governments independence from that of Russia in 1917.

The name can be interpreted as the “lands of Kaleva” (by the Finnish suffix -la/lä for place). The epic consists of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty cantos or “chapters” (Finnish runo). Of those 22,795 verses, more lines were devoted to the oriins of beer than of the origins of mankind.

Virtual Finland also has some basic information about the epic poem. Below is Chapter or Rune XX, which is all about brewing beer for a wedding. The parts that talks about brewing begins after the second art work from the Kalevala below. If you’re keen to read the whole thing, it’s online at the Sacred Texts website.

kalevala-1

RUNE XX
THE BREWING OF BEER

Now we sing the wondrous legends,
Songs of wedding-feasts and dances,
Sing the melodies of wedlock,
Sing the songs of old tradition;
Sing of Ilmarinen’s marriage
To the Maiden of the Rainbow,
Fairest daughter of the Northland,
Sing the drinking-songs of Pohya.

Long prepared they for the wedding
In Pohyola’s halls and chambers,
In the courts of Sariola;
Many things that Louhi ordered,
Great indeed the preparations
For the marriage of the daughter,
For the feasting of the heroes,
For the drinking of the strangers,
For the feeding of the poor-folk,
For the people’s entertainment.

Grew an ox in far Karjala,
Not the largest, nor the smallest,
Was the ox that grew in Suomi;
But his size was all-sufficient,
For his tail was sweeping Jamen,
And his head was over Kemi,
Horns in length a hundred fathoms,
Longer than the horns his mouth was;
Seven days it took a weasel
To encircle neck and shoulders;
One whole day a swallow journeyed
From one horn-tip to the other,
Did not stop between for resting.
Thirty days the squirrel travelled
From the tail to reach the shoulders,
But he could not gain the horn-tip
Till the Moon had long passed over.

This young ox of huge dimensions,
This great calf of distant Suomi,
Was conducted from Karjala
To the meadows of Pohyola;
At each horn a hundred heroes,
At his head and neck a thousand.
When the mighty ox was lassoed,
Led away to Northland pastures,
Peacefully the monster journeyed
By the bays of Sariola,
Ate the pasture on the borders;
To the clouds arose his shoulders,
And his horns to highest heaven.
Not in all of Sariola
Could a butcher be discovered
That could kill the ox for Louhi,
None of all the sons of Northland,
In her hosts of giant people,
In her rising generation,
In the hosts of those grown older.

Came a hero from a distance,
Wirokannas from Karelen,
And these words the gray-beard uttered:
“Wait, O wait, thou ox of Suomi,
Till I bring my ancient war-club;
Then I’ll smite thee on thy forehead,
Break thy skull, thou willing victim!
Nevermore wilt thou in summer
Browse the woods of Sariola,
Bare our pastures, fields, and forests;
Thou, O ox, wilt feed no longer
Through the length and breadth of Northland,
On the borders of this ocean!”

When the ancient Wirokannas
Started out the ox to slaughter,
When Palwoinen swung his war-club,
Quick the victim turned his forehead,
Flashed his flaming eyes upon him;
To the fir-tree leaped the hero,
In the thicket hid Palwoinen,
Hid the gray-haired Wirokannas.

Everywhere they seek a butcher,
One to kill the ox of Suomi,
In the country of Karelen,
And among the Suomi-giants,
In the quiet fields of Ehstland,
On the battle-fields of Sweden,
Mid the mountaineers of Lapland,
In the magic fens of Turya;
Seek him in Tuoni’s empire,
In the death-courts of Manala.
Long the search, and unsuccessful,
On the blue back of the ocean,
On the far-outstretching pastures.

There arose from out the sea-waves,
Rose a hero from the waters,
On the white-capped, roaring breakers,
From the water’s broad expanses;
Nor belonged he to the largest,
Nor belonged he to the smallest;
Made his bed within a sea-shell,
Stood erect beneath a flour-sieve,
Hero old, with hands of iron,
And his face was copper-colored;
Quick the hero full unfolded,
Like the full corn from the kernel.
On his head a hat of flint-stone,
On his feet were sandstone-sandals,
In his hand a golden cleaver,
And the blade was copper-handled.
Thus at last they found a butcher,
Found the magic ox a slayer.
Nothing has been found so mighty
That it has not found a master.

As the sea-god saw his booty,
Quickly rushed he on his victim,
Hurled him to his knees before him,
Quickly felled the calf of Suomi,
Felled the young ox of Karelen.
Bountifully meat was furnished;
Filled at least a thousand hogsheads
Of his blood were seven boatfuls,
And a thousand weight of suet,
For the banquet of Pohyola,
For the marriage-feast of Northland.

In Pohyola was a guest-room,
Ample was the hall of Louhi,
Was in length a hundred furlongs,
And in breadth was nearly fifty;
When upon the roof a rooster
Crowed at break of early morning,
No one on the earth could hear him;
When the dog barked at one entrance,
None could hear him at the other.

kalevala-2

Louhi, hostess of Pohyola,
Hastens to the hall and court-room,
In the centre speaks as follows:
“Whence indeed will come the liquor,
Who will brew me beer from barley,
Who will make the mead abundant,
For the people of the Northland,
Coming to my daughter’s marriage,
To her drinking-feast and nuptials?
Cannot comprehend the malting,
Never have I learned the secret,
Nor the origin of brewing.”
Spake an old man from his corner:
“Beer arises from the barley,
Comes from barley, hops, and water,
And the fire gives no assistance.
Hop-vine was the son of Remu,
Small the seed in earth was planted,
Cultivated in the loose soil,
Scattered like the evil serpents
On the brink of Kalew-waters,
On the Osmo-fields and borders.
There the young plant grew and flourished,
There arose the climbing hop-vine,
Clinging to the rocks and alders.

“Man of good-luck sowed the barley
On the Osmo hills and lowlands,
And the barley grew and flourished,
Grew and spread in rich abundance,
Fed upon the air and water,
On the Osmo plains and highlands,
On the fields of Kalew-heroes.

“Time had travelled little distance,
Ere the hops in trees were humming,
Barley in the fields was singing,
And from Kalew’s well the water,
This the language of the trio:
‘Let us join our triple forces,
Join to each the other’s powers;
Sad alone to live and struggle,
Little use in working singly,
Better we should toil together.’

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Brewer of the drink refreshing,
Takes the golden grains of barley,
Taking six of barley-kernels,
Taking seven tips of hop-fruit,
Filling seven cups with water,
On the fire she sets the caldron,
Boils the barley, hops, and water,
Lets them steep, and seethe, and bubble
Brewing thus the beer delicious,
In the hottest days of summer,
On the foggy promontory,
On the island forest-covered;
Poured it into birch-wood barrels,
Into hogsheads made of oak-wood.

“Thus did Osmotar of Kalew
Brew together hops and barley,
Could not generate the ferment.
Thinking long and long debating,
Thus she spake in troubled accents:
‘What will bring the effervescence,
Who will add the needed factor,
That the beer may foam and sparkle,
May ferment and be delightful?’

Kalevatar, magic maiden,
Grace and beauty in her fingers,
Swiftly moving, lightly stepping,
In her trimly-buckled sandals,
Steps upon the birch-wood bottom,
Turns one way, and then another,
In the centre of the caldron;
Finds within a splinter lying
From the bottom lifts the fragment,
Turns it in her fingers, musing:
‘What may come of this I know not,
In the hands of magic maidens,
In the virgin hands of Kapo,
Snowy virgin of the Northland!’

“Kalevatar took the splinter
To the magic virgin, Kapo,
Who by unknown force and insight.
Rubbed her hands and knees together,
And produced a snow-white squirrel;
Thus instructed she her creature,
Gave the squirrel these directions:
‘Snow-white squirrel, mountain-jewel,
Flower of the field and forest,
Haste thee whither I would send thee,
Into Metsola’s wide limits,
Into Tapio’s seat of wisdom;
Hasten through the heavy tree-tops,
Wisely through the thickest branches,
That the eagle may not seize thee,
Thus escape the bird of heaven.
Bring me ripe cones from the fir-tree,
From the pine-tree bring me seedlings,
Bring them to the hands of Kapo,
For the beer of Osmo’s daughter.’

Quickly hastened forth the squirrel,
Quickly sped the nimble broad-tail,
Swiftly hopping on its journey
From one thicket to another,
From the birch-tree to the aspen,
From the pine-tree to the willow,
From the sorb-tree to the alder,
Jumping here and there with method,
Crossed the eagle-woods in safety,
Into Metsola’s wide limits,
Into Tapio’s seat of wisdom;
There perceived three magic pine-trees,
There perceived three smaller fir-trees,
Quickly climbed the dark-green branches,
Was not captured by the eagle,
Was not mangled in his talons;
Broke the young cones from the fir-tree,
Cut the shoots of pine-tree branches,
Hid the cones within his pouches,
Wrapped them in his fur-grown mittens
Brought them to the hands of Kapo,
To the magic virgin’s fingers.
Kapo took the cones selected,
Laid them in the beer for ferment,
But it brought no effervescence,
And the beer was cold and lifeless.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Kapo, brewer of the liquor,
Deeply thought and long considered:
‘What will bring the effervescence,
Who will lend me aid efficient,
That the beer may foam and sparkle,
May ferment and be refreshing?’

“Kalevatar, sparkling maiden,
Grace and beauty in her fingers,
Softly moving, lightly stepping,
In her trimly-buckled sandals,
Steps again upon the bottom,
Turns one way and then another,
In the centre of the caldron,
Sees a chip upon the bottom,
Takes it from its place of resting,
Looks upon the chip and muses
‘What may come of this I know not,
In the hands of mystic maidens,
In the hands of magic Kapo,
In the virgin’s snow-white fingers.’

“Kalevatar took the birch-chip
To the magic maiden, Kapo,
Gave it to the white-faced maiden.
Kapo, by the aid of magic,
Rubbed her hands and knees together,
And produced a magic marten,
And the marten, golden-breasted;
Thus instructed she her creature,
Gave the marten these directions.
‘Thou, my golden-breasted marten,
Thou my son of golden color,
Haste thou whither I may send thee,
To the bear-dens of the mountain,
To the grottoes of the growler,
Gather yeast upon thy fingers,
Gather foam from lips of anger,
From the lips of bears in battle,
Bring it to the hands of Kapo,
To the hands of Osmo’s daughter.’

“Then the marten golden-breasted,
Full consenting, hastened onward,
Quickly bounding on his journey,
Lightly leaping through the distance
Leaping o’er the widest rivers,
Leaping over rocky fissures,
To the bear-dens of the mountain,
To the grottoes of the growler,
Where the wild-bears fight each other,
Where they pass a dread existence,
Iron rocks, their softest pillows,
In the fastnesses of mountains;
From their lips the foam was dripping,
From their tongues the froth of anger;
This the marten deftly gathered,
Brought it to the maiden, Kapo,
Laid it in her dainty fingers.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Brewer of the beer of barley,
Used the beer-foam as a ferment;
But it brought no effervescence,
Did not make the liquor sparkle.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Thought again, and long debated:
‘Who or what will bring the ferment,
Th at my beer may not be lifeless?’

“Kalevatar, magic maiden,
Grace and beauty in her fingers,
Softly moving, lightly stepping,
In her trimly-buckled sandals,
Steps again upon the bottom,
Turns one way and then another,
In the centre of the caldron,
Sees a pod upon the bottom,
Lifts it in her snow-white fingers,
Turns it o’er and o’er, and muses:
‘What may come of this I know not,
In the hands of magic maidens,
In the hands of mystic Kapo,
In the snowy virgin’s fingers?’

“Kalevatar, sparkling maiden,
Gave the pod to magic Kapo;
Kapo, by the aid of magic,
Rubbed the pod upon her knee-cap,
And a honey-bee came flying
From the pod within her fingers,
Kapo thus addressed her birdling:
‘Little bee with honeyed winglets,
King of all the fragrant flowers,
Fly thou whither I direct thee,
To the islands in the ocean,
To the water-cliffs and grottoes,
Where asleep a maid has fallen,
Girdled with a belt of copper
By her side are honey-grasses,
By her lips are fragrant flowers,
Herbs and flowers honey-laden;
Gather there the sweetened juices,
Gather honey on thy winglets,
From the calyces of flowers,
From the tips of seven petals,
Bring it to the hands of Kapo,
To the hands of Osmo’s daughter.’

“Then the bee, the swift-winged birdling,
Flew away with lightning-swiftness
On his journey to the islands,
O’er the high waves of the ocean;
Journeyed one day, then a second,
Journeyed all the next day onward,
Till the third day evening brought him
To the islands in the ocean,
To the water-cliffs and grottoes;
Found the maiden sweetly sleeping,
In her silver-tinselled raiment,
Girdled with a belt of copper,
In a nameless meadow, sleeping,
In the honey-fields of magic;
By her side were honeyed grasses,
By her lips were fragrant flowers,
Silver stalks with golden petals;
Dipped its winglets in the honey,
Dipped its fingers in the juices
Of the sweetest of the flowers,
Brought the honey back to Kapo,
To the mystic maiden’s fingers.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Placed the honey in the liquor;
Kapo mixed the beer and honey,
And the wedding-beer fermented;
Rose the live beer upward, upward,
From the bottom of the vessels,
Upward in the tubs of birch-wood,
Foaming higher, higher, higher,
Till it touched the oaken handles,
Overflowing all the caldrons;
To the ground it foamed and sparkled,
Sank away in sand and gravel.

“Time had gone but little distance,
Scarce a moment had passed over,
Ere the heroes came in numbers
To the foaming beer of Northland,
Rushed to drink the sparkling liquor.
Ere all others Lemminkainen
Drank, and grew intoxicated
On the beer of Osmo’s daughter,
On the honey-drink of Kalew.

“Osmotar, the beer-preparer,
Kapo, brewer of the barley,
Spake these words in saddened accents:
‘Woe is me, my life hard-fated,
Badly have I brewed the liquor,
Have not brewed the beer in wisdom,
Will not live within its vessels,
Overflows and fills Pohyola!’

“From a tree-top sings the redbreast,
From the aspen calls the robin:
‘Do not grieve, thy beer is worthy,
Put it into oaken vessels,
Into strong and willing barrels
Firmly bound with hoops of copper.’

“Thus was brewed the beer or Northland,
At the hands of Osmo’s daughter;
This the origin of brewing
Beer from Kalew-hops and barley;
Great indeed the reputation
Of the ancient beer of Kalew,
Said to make the feeble hardy,
Famed to dry the tears of women,
Famed to cheer the broken-hearted,
Make the aged young and supple,
Make the timid brave and mighty,
Make the brave men ever braver,
Fill the heart with joy and gladness,
Fill the mind with wisdom-sayings,
Fill the tongue with ancient legends,
Only makes the fool more foolish.”

When the hostess of Pohyola
Heard how beer was first fermented,
Heard the origin of brewing,
Straightway did she fill with water
Many oaken tubs and barrels;
Filled but half the largest vessels,
Mixed the barley with the water,
Added also hops abundant;
Well she mixed the triple forces
In her tubs of oak and birch-wood,
Heated stones for months succeeding,
Thus to boil the magic mixture,
Steeped it through the days of summer,
Burned the wood of many forests,
Emptied all the, springs of Pohya;
Daily did the, forests lesson,
And the wells gave up their waters,
Thus to aid the hostess, Louhi,
In the brewing of the liquors,
From the water, hops, and barley,
And from honey of the islands,
For the wedding-feast of Northland,
For Pohyola’s great carousal
And rejoicings at the marriage
Of the Malden of the Rainbow
To the blacksmith, Ilmarinen,
Metal-worker of Wainola.

Smoke is seen upon the island,
Fire, upon the promontory,
Black smoke rising to the heavens
From the fire upon the island;
Fills with clouds the half of Pohya,
Fills Karelen’s many hamlets;
All the people look and wonder,
This the chorus of the women:
“Whence are rising all these smoke-clouds,
Why this dreadful fire in Northland?
Is not like the smoke of camp-fires,
Is too large for fires of shepherds!”

Lemminkainen’s ancient mother
Journeyed in the early morning
For some water to the fountain,
Saw the smoke arise to heaven,
In the region of Pohyola,
These the words the mother uttered:
“‘Tis the smoke of battle-heroes,
From the beat of warring armies!”

Even Ahti, island-hero,
Ancient wizard, Lemminkainen,
Also known as Kaukomieli,
Looked upon the scene in wonder,
Thought awhile and spake as follows:
“I would like to see this nearer,
Learn the cause of all this trouble,
Whence this smoke and great confusion,
Whether smoke from heat of battle,
Or the bonfires of the shepherds.”

Kaukomieli gazed and pondered,
Studied long the rising smoke-clouds;
Came not from the heat of battle,
Came not from the shepherd bonfires;
Heard they were the fires of Louhi
Brewing beer in Sariola,
On Pohyola’s promontory;
Long and oft looked Lemminkainen,
Strained in eagerness his vision,
Stared, and peered, and thought, and wondered,
Looked abashed and envy-swollen,
“O beloved, second mother,
Northland’s well-intentioned hostess,
Brew thy beer of honey-flavor,
Make thy liquors foam and sparkle,
For thy many friends invited,
Brew it well for Lemminkainen,
For his marriage in Pohyola
With the Maiden of the Rainbow.”

Finally the beer was ready,
Beverage of noble heroes,
Stored away in casks and barrels,
There to rest awhile in silence,
In the cellars of the Northland,
In the copper-banded vessels,
In the magic oaken hogsheads,
Plugs and faucets made of copper.
Then the hostess of Pohyola
Skilfully prepared the dishes,
Laid them all with careful fingers
In the boiling-pans and kettles,
Ordered countless loaves of barley,
Ordered many liquid dishes,
All the delicacies of Northland,
For the feasting of her people,
For their richest entertainment,
For the nuptial songs and dances,
At the marriage of her daughter
With the blacksmith, Ilmarinen.

When the loaves were baked and ready.
When the dishes all were seasoned,
Time had gone but little distance,
Scarce a moment had passed over,
Ere the beer, in casks imprisoned,
Loudly rapped, and sang, and murmured:
“Come, ye heroes, come and take me,
Come and let me cheer your spirits,
Make you sing the songs of wisdom,
That with honor ye may praise me,
Sing the songs of beer immortal!”

Straightway Louhi sought a minstrel,
Magic bard and artist-singer,
That the beer might well be lauded,
Might be praised in song and honor.
First as bard they brought a salmon,
Also brought a pike from ocean,
But the salmon had no talent,
And the pike had little wisdom;
Teeth of pike and gills of salmon
Were not made for singing legends.

Then again they sought a singer,
Magic minstrel, beer-enchanter,
Thus to praise the drink of heroes,
Sing the songs of joy and gladness;
And a boy was brought for singing;
But the boy had little knowledge,
Could not praise the beer in honor;
Children’s tongues are filled with questions,
Children cannot speak in wisdom,
Cannot sing the ancient legends.

Stronger grew the beer imprisoned
In the copper-banded vessels,
Locked behind the copper faucets,
Boiled, and foamed, and sang, and murmured:
“If ye do not bring a singer,
That will sing my worth immortal,
That will sing my praise deserving,
I will burst these bands of copper,
Burst the heads of all these barrels;
Will not serve the best of heroes
Till he sings my many virtues.”

Louhi, hostess of Pohyola,
Called a trusted maiden-servant,
Sent her to invite the people
To the marriage of her daughter,
These the words that Louhi uttered:
“O my trusted, truthful maiden,
Servant-maid to me belonging,
Call together all my people,
Call the heroes to my banquet,
Ask the rich, and ask the needy,
Ask the blind and deaf, and crippled,
Ask the young, and ask the aged;
Go thou to the hills, and hedges,
To the highways, and the by-ways,
Urge them to my daughter’s wedding;
Bring the blind, and sorely troubled,
In my boats upon the waters,
In my sledges bring the halting,
With the old, and sick, and needy;
Ask the whole of Sariola,
Ask the people of Karelen,
Ask the ancient Wainamoinen,
Famous bard and wisdom-singer;
But I give command explicit
Not to ask wild Lemminkainen,
Not the island-dweller, Ahti!”
This the question of the servant:
“Why not ask wild Lemminkainen,
Ancient islander and minstrel?”

Louhi gave this simple answer:
“Good the reasons that I give thee
Why the wizard, Lemminkainen,
Must not have an invitation
To my daughter’s feast and marriage
Ahti courts the heat of battle,
Lemminkainen fosters trouble,
Skilful fighter of the virtues;
Evil thinking, acting evil,
He would bring but pain and sorrow,
He would jest and jeer at maidens
In their trimly buckled raiment,
Cannot ask the evil-minded!”
Thus again the servant questions:
“Tell me how to know this Ahti,
Also known as Lemminkainen,
That I may not ask him hither;
Do not know the isle of Ahti,
Nor the home of Kaukomieli
Spake the hostess of Pohyola:
“Easy ’tis to know the wizard,
Easy find the Ahti-dwelling:
Ahti lives on yonder island,
On that point dwells Lemminkainen,
In his mansion near the water,
Far at sea his home and dwelling.”

Thereupon the trusted maiden
Spread the wedding-invitations
To the people of Pohyola,
To the tribes of Kalevala;
Asked the friendless, asked the homeless
Asked the laborers and shepherds,
Asked the fishermen and hunters,
Asked the deaf, the dumb, the crippled,
Asked the young, and asked the aged,
Asked the rich, and asked the needy;
Did not give an invitation
To the reckless Lemminkainen,
Island-dweller of the ocean.

Beer In Miniature

miniature-cans
A Japanese photographer, Tatsuya Tanaka, started a daily project back in 2011, photographing a miniature diorama scene every single day, and he’s been at it now non-stop since April 20 of that year, producing (so far) 2,161 pictures. He’s posted them in calendar form, showing a month of thumbnails on a page, at his website, Miniature Calendar. He’s even collected some of them into books, which are available online.

With over 2,000 dioramas created and photographed so far, it’s probably no surprise that some of them are beer-themed. So here’s a sample of some of his photographs. These are not necessarily some of the best ones he’s done, but they’re still pretty awesome, and have something to do with beer. Go over to his website and lose yourself in the rest for a few hours. They’re pretty awesome. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016
161102wed

Friday, October 10, 2014
141010fri

Saturday, September 12, 2015
150912sat

Sunday, April 13, 2014
140413sun

Friday, November 27, 2015
151127fri

Saturday, August 10, 2013
130810sat

Sunday, April 7, 2013
130407sun

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
141126wed

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
151028wed

Monday, August 4, 2014
140804mon

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
161129tue

And because life isn’t all beer and skittles, here are two more featuring other passions of mine.

Monday, October 27, 2014
141027mon

Monday, June 22, 2015
150622mon

Beer Word: Symposium

beer-word
Last year, for the members of the North American Guild of Beer Writers, I set up a post-CBC symposium the day after the Craft Brewers Conference ended in Philadelphia. We’ll be doing it again in DC this year, on Friday, April 14. Essentially it’s a mini-CBC and we had six speakers, one hour each, including one panel of three, over the course of the day. When I was putting it together, I wasn’t sure what to call it, but liked the sound of symposium. Merriam-Webster defines “symposium” as “a formal meeting at which several specialists deliver short addresses on a topic or on related topics” and Dictionary.com states it’s “a meeting or conference for the discussion of some subject, especially a meeting at which several speakers talk on or discuss a topic before an audience.”

symposium-drinking-party
Symposium scene: a reclining youth holds aulos in one hand and gives another one to a female dancer. Tondo from an Attic red-figured Kylix, c. 490-480 BC. From Vulci.

But I just learned that it has an older, original meaning that made my choice of naming our symposium even more perfect than I’d realized. That meaning, according to Merriam-Webster is “a drinking party; especially: one following a banquet and providing music, singing, and conversation.” And dictionary.com defines it “(in ancient Greece and Rome) a convivial meeting, usually following a dinner, for drinking and intellectual conversation.”

Here’s the Etymology:

Borrowing from Latin symposium, from Ancient Greek συμπόσιον ‎(sumpósion, “drinking party”) from συμπίνω ‎(sumpínō, “drink together”) συν- ‎(sun-, “together-”) + πίνω ‎(pínō, “drink”).

Symposiumnorthwall
A fresco taken from the north wall of the Tomb of the Diver
(from Paestum, Italy, c. 475 BC): a symposium scene.

This is from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

n. 1580s, “account of a gathering or party,” from Latin symposium “drinking party, symposium,” from Greek symposion “convivial gathering of the educated” (related to sympotes “drinking companion”), from syn- “together” (see syn- ) + posis “a drinking,” from a stem of Aeolic ponen “to drink,” cognate with Latin potare “to drink” (see potion ). The sense of “meeting on some subject” is from 1784. Reflecting the Greek fondness for mixing wine and intellectual discussion, the modern sense is especially from the word being used as a title for one of Plato’s dialogues. Greek plural is symposia, and the leader of one is a symposiarch (c.1600 in English).

And this is the “Did You Know?” section of Merriam-Webster:

It was drinking more than thinking that drew people to the original symposia and that gave us the word symposium. The ancient Greeks would often follow a banquet with a drinking party they called a “symposion.” That name came from “sympinein,” a verb that combines pinein, meaning “to drink,” with the prefix syn-, meaning “together.” Originally, English speakers only used “symposium” to refer to such an ancient Greek party, but in the 18th century British gentlemen’s clubs started using the word for gatherings in which intellectual conversation was fueled by drinking. By the 19th century, “symposium” had gained the more sober sense we know today, describing meetings in which the focus is more on the exchange of ideas and less on imbibing.

So that sounds about right, but with more emphasis on the imbibing, at least that was the goal. But I think I need to attend a lot more symposiums.

Tondo_of_a_Kylix_by_the_Brogos_Painter

The 8 Kinds Of Drunks

thomas-nashe
There are a bewildering number of words to describe that someone has been drinking a bit to much. I’ve collected over 3,000 slang terms, or Drunk Words. There are modern terms, of course, and slang from almost every age of man. Even Ben Franklin had his own list. Another literary take on over-indulging came from Thomas Nashe, who “was a playwright, poet, and satirist. He is best known for his novel The Unfortunate Traveller.” He lived from 1567 until around 1601, and was also “considered the greatest of the English Elizabethan pamphleteers.” One of his pamphlets was entitled the Pierce Penniless, His Suppliction to the Devil, published in 1592. “It was among the most popular of the Elizabethan pamphlets.”

It is written from the point of view of Pierce, a man who has not met with good fortune, who now bitterly complains of the world’s wickedness, and addresses his complaints to the devil. At times the identity of Pierce seems to conflate with Nashe’s own. But Nashe also portrays Pierce as something of an arrogant and prodigal fool. The story is told in a style that is complex, witty, fulminating, extemporaneous, digressive, anecdotal, filled with wicked descriptions, and peppered with newly minted words and Latin phrases. The satire can be mocking and bitingly sharp, and at times Nashe’s style seems to relish its own obscurity.

pierce-penniless

And this is the sort of introduction of the list, that paragraphs that precede it.

King Edgar, because his subjects should not offend in swilling, and bibbing, as they did, caused certaine iron cups to be chayned to everie fountaine and wells fide, and at euery Vintner’s doore, with iron pins in them, to stint euery man how much he should drinke; and he that went beyond one of those pins forfeited a penny for euery draught. And, if stories were well searcht, I belieue hoopes in quart pots were inuented to that ende, that eury man should take his hoope, and no more. I haue heard it justified for a truth by great personages, that the olde Marquesse of Pisana (who yet liues) drinkes not once in feauen years; and I haue read of one Andron of Argos, that was so sildome thirstie, that hee trauailed ouer the hot, burning sands of Lybia, and neuer dranke. Then, why should our colde Clime bring forth such fierie throats? Are we more thivstie than Spaine and Italy, where the sunnes force is doubled? The Germaines and lowe Dutch, me thinkes, should bee continually kept moyst with the foggie ayre and stincking mystes that aryse out of theyr fennie soyle; but as their countrey is ouer-flowed with water, so are their heads alwayes ouer-flowen with wine, and in their bellyes they haue standing quag-myres and bogs of English beere.

One of their breede it was that writ the booke, De Arte Bibendi, a worshipfull treatise, fitte for none but Silenus and his asse to set forth : besides that volume, wee haue generall rules and injunctions, as good as printed precepts, or statutes set downe by Acte of Parliament, that goe from drunkard to drunkard; as still to keepe your first man, not to leaue anie flockes in the bottonie of the cup, to knock the glasse on your thumbe when you haue done, to haue some shooing home to pul on your wine, as a rasher of the coles, or a redde herring, to stirre it about with a candle’s ende to make it taste better, and not to hold your peace whiles the pot is stirring.

Nor haue we one or two kinde of drunkards onely, but eight kindes.

THE EIGHT KINDES OF DRUNKENNES

Below are the eight types of drunks, as articulated by Nashe, along with commentary by the staff of Merriam-Webster.

  1. Ape Drunk
    ape
    The first is ape drunke; and he leapes, and singes, and hollowes, and danceth for the heavens;

    From Merriam-Webster: A number of the animals referenced in Nashe’s list have found themselves commonly used in compound nouns, or functioning as a figurative adjective. Ape, however, appears to have largely escaped this fate. It does come up in the expression go ape (“to become very excited or angry”), which is somewhat similar in meaning to the actions of the drunk described by Nashe but as this is not recorded until the middle of the 20th century it is unlikely to have a connection to ape drunk.

  2. Lion Drunk
    lion
    The second is lion drunke; and he flings the pots about the house, calls his hostesse whore, breakes the glasse windowes with his dagger, and is apt to quarrell with anie man that speaks to him;

    From Merriam-Webster: When considering how often one encounters another person who might best be described as “drunk and mean,” it is rather odd that we should have lost more than one useful ways of referring to such a person in our language. For in addition to Nashe’s lion drunk a number of Scottish dictionaries make note of barley-hood, which is an episode of bad temper brought about by imbibing. A variant of this word, barlikhood, is memorably defined in the glossary to a collection of British plays from the late 18th century: “a fit of drunken angry passion.”

  3. Swine Drunk
    swine
    The third is swine drunke; heavie, lumpish, and sleepie, and cries for a little more drinke, and a fewe more cloathes;

    From Merriam-Webster: Some people think that swine have received a bad rap, what with the whole secondary meaning of “contemptible person,” large portions of the world’s population considering them unclean animals, and the general pejorative meanings of the word pig; others think that they likely don’t care much, save to be relieved that some people do not want to eat them. It is unclear to most lexicographers what connection exists between the members of the family Suidae and Nashe’s idea that a swine drunk wants a “fewe more cloathes.”

  4. Sheep Drunk
    sheep
    The fourth is sheepe drunk; wise in his conceipt, when he cannot bring foorth a right word;

    From Merriam-Webster: Sheep are not an animal that is traditionally associated with drunkenness, or misbehavior of any sort, come to think of it. The word for this particular animal has been used to indicate that a person, or group or people, is timid, meek, or in some other fashion unassertive. If you would like to describe someone as sheepish, meaning “resembling a sheep”, but would like to not have to explain that you don’t mean the sense of sheepish that is tied to embarrassment, you may use the word ovine.

  5. Maudlin Drunk
    maudlin
    The fifth is mawdlen drunke; when a fellowe will weepe for kindnes in the midst of ale, and kisse you, saying, “By God, captaine, I love thee. Goe thy wayes; thou dost not thinke so often of me as I doo thee; I would (if it pleased God) I could not love thee as well as I doo;” and then he puts his finger in his eye, and cryes;

    From Merriam-Webster: We have all met the maudlin drunk; in fact, the word maudlin began with the express meaning of “drunk enough to be emotionally silly,” and later took on the sense of “effusively sentimental.” The word comes from Mary Magdalene, the name of the woman who is often thought to be represented as washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Through this representation (which some people think is not necessarily Mary Magdalene) the name came to be associated with tears, teariness, and a general state of lachrymosity.

  6. Martin Drunk
    martin
    The sixt is Martin drunke; when a man is drunke, and drinkes himselfe sober ere he stirre;

    From Merriam-Webster: There are a number of animals which are called martin; the name is applied to a wide variety of swallows and flycatchers (these are birds), to a kind of female calf that is born simultaneous with a male (and which is usually sterile and sexually imperfect), and also was formerly used to refer to an ape or monkey. Nashe’s martin drunk most likely is concerned with the last of these three possibilities. The Oxford English Dictionary, one of the few that records any of these kinds of drunkards, suggests that the martin in question was chosen by Nashe as a means of referring to Martin Marprelate, the pseudonym of a rival pamphleteer in the late 16th century.

    While I think Merriam-Webster got most of these right, I think their analysis of Martin was a bit of a stretch, and I think there’s a simpler explanation. The “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,” from 1894, includes the following definition for “Martin Drunk:”

    Very intoxicated indeed; a drunken man “sobered” by drinking more. The feast of St. Martin (November 11) used to be held as a day of great debauch.

    St. Martin’s Day is still an important holiday in several countries, and I think that Martin being used in that sense makes a great deal more sense than the other, seemingly flimsier explanation.

  7. Goat Drunk
    goate
    The seventh is goate drunke; when, in his drunkennes, he hath no minde but on lecherie;

    From Merriam-Webster: The goat has long been associated with lechery, so it it not surprising that Nashe’s list should reserve this animal for the category of “drunk and horny.” Goat itself has had the meaning of “lecher” since the late 16th century, and a number of words meaning “resembling a goat” (such as rammish and hircine) have also taken on the meaning of “lustful.”

  8. Fox Drunk
    fox
    The eighth is fox drunke—when he is craftie drunke, as manie of the Dutchmen bee, that will never bargaine but when they are drunke.

    From Merriam-Webster: Many of us are somewhat familiar with the extended uses of fox, often implying slyness or craftiness, and which range from being used in expressions (crazy like a fox) to simply being on of the figurative meanings of the word itself (“a clever crafty person”). Less commonly known is the sense of fox (which is now somewhat archaic), meaning “drunk” (although, it should be noted, without any connotations of craftiness). And even less commonly known than this is that Dutchmen will not bargain unless they are drunk … we think Nashe may have made this one up. 


So what do you think of his list. It’s over 400 years old, but still seems to hold some universal truth. Although perhaps a more modern list might look a little different. We may have to look into that.

Hulk Smashes Beer Cans

hulk
Here’s a fun series of photographs by a Japanese photographer who goes by hot kenobi on Instagram. Apparently he likes action figures, especially of super heroes, quite a bit. Both his Instagram and Twitter feed are filled with photos he’s taken of them in all sorts of situations. But lately, several of his works have involved superheroes, mostly from Marvel, having some fun with beer cans and bottles. Enjoy.

hotkenobi-superheroes-2
Hulk smashes beer cans.

hotkenobi-superheroes-1
Captain America holds a can of Asahi like a punching bag while Iron Man takes a swing at it.

hotkenobi-superheroes-4
Spider-Man takes down a beer can with his web.

hotkenobi-superheroes-3
Superman easily crushes his can, while the mortal Batman has made only a small dent in his.

hotkenobi-superheroes-5
Just to mix things up, Wolverine opens a beer bottle with his adamantium claws, as Spider-Man holds on to it so it won’t fall over and spill.

Pretzels In America

pretzel
While the exact origin of the pretzel is unknown, the best guess is that they originated in Europe, most likely among monks during the early Middle Ages.

Within the Christian Church, pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. The knot shape has been claimed to represent hands in prayer. Moreover, the three holes within the pretzel represent the three persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter. As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter. Pretzels were hidden on Easter morning just as eggs are hidden today, and are particularly associated with Lent, fasting, and prayers before Easter.

Not surprisingly, it was Germany — where they drink a lot of beer — that pretzels really came into their own. “Pretzel baking has most firmly taken root in the region of Franconia (modern German states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) and adjoining Upper German-speaking areas, and pretzels have been an integral part of German baking traditions for centuries.” In fact, while the origin of the name “pretzel” is also uncertain, “the German name “Brezel” may derive also from Latin bracellus (a medieval term for ‘bracelet’), or bracchiola (‘little arms’),” and this is one theory of where the word came from.

But it wasn’t long before they arrived in America, too. “The Palantine Germans, later known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, brought pretzels to America in 1710. German children wore the pretzels around their necks on New Year’s for good luck.” According to Wikipedia, “In the late 18th century, southern German and Swiss German immigrants introduced the pretzel to North America. The immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and in time, many handmade pretzel bakeries populated the central Pennsylvania countryside, and the pretzel’s popularity spread.”

Sturgis-Pretzels-Julius-Sturgis-pretzel-sign

On February 8, 1861, Julius Sturgis opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S., in Lititz, and Julius Sturgis Pretzels is still open today, and still owned by the Sturgis family. Pennsylvania. Lititz is in Lancaster County, which is the next county over from Berks County, whose biggest city is Reading. I grew up near Reading, Pennsylvania, in the small town of Shillington, which was also the home of Tom Sturgis Pretzels, started by a relative of Julius.

julius-sturgis-pretzel-factory
The Julius Sturgis pretzel factory today.

According to the pretzel company website:

The Sturgis family continues to bake pretzels today, using the same old-fashioned recipe and methods established by Julius Sturgis in 1861. Marriott Sturgis, grandson to Julius, was born in 1910 and learned much of the pretzel baking trade in the original Lititz bakery, working for the family business before and after school. One of the bakers he worked alongside was his uncle Tom Keller, and because their mannerisms and baking styles were so similar, the other bakers began calling Marriott “Tom Sturgis”.

julius-sturgis-logo

When he was 14, “Tom’s” family moved from Lititz to Reading, Pennsylvania, where he continued to work in pretzel bakeries, including one run by his cousin Victor Sturgis. In 1936, he opened a pretzel bakery with his brother Correll called “Sturgis Brothers”, but World War II conscription took their entire workforce and by 1942 they were forced to close their doors.

Sturgis_family_tree

In 1946, after working at a munitions factory during the War, Tom Sturgis established another bakery, which he called Tom Sturgis Pretzels.

tom-sturgis-logo

Tom Sturgis Pretzels continues to operate today, run by his son, Tom Sturgis, Jr. and his grandson, Bruce Sturgis. The Sturgis family also now manages the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.

tom-sturgis-building
Tom Sturgis Pretzels in Shillington, Pennsylvania.

The grandson they mentioned, Bruce Sturgis, was a classmate of mine in high school. Though we weren’t close friends, we knew one another and later when I was the beer buyer at Beverages & more, I helped arrange for us to buy a truck of Tom Sturgis Pretzels for our stores. Bruce’s wife used to be married to the brother of a close friend of mine, and was also the sister of another classmate, and she came to stay with me in California for a couple of weeks before she remarried.

J-Sturgis-1800s
The Julius Sturgis preztel factory in the late-1800s.

My hometown of Reading, which has billed itself as the “Pretzel Capital of the World,” had an article entitled “Reading, Pretzel Capital of the World,” which originally appeared in the April 1948 issue of the Historical Review of Berks County:

A year or two before the Civil War, a pretzel baker moved with his family from the Moravian Village, Lititz, to Reading, then a city of some 20,000 inhabitants. And today, just 88 years later, Reading is the pretzel capital of the world.

An article in the Lancaster “Volksfreund” of July 30, 1879, states that “the first pretzel in the United States is said to have been baked in the city of Lancaster by one Scherle in the year 1827. He was followed by Ambrose Ranch in Lititz and later by a baker in Reading.”

The pretzel baker, Ambrose Ranch, had an apprentice, Julius Sturgis, who is generally credited as being first in America to establish pretzel baking as an industry, back in 1861, in Lititz. The Sturgis family has remained in the business ever since. There are two Sturgis pretzel plants in Reading today. Victor Sturgis, of West Lawn, was incorporated in 1924, followed by a cousin, Tom Sturgis, of South Second Street in 1928.

The baker in Reading, mentioned by “Der Volksfreund,” was Benjamin Lichtenthaler. He was born in Lititz on March 17, 1817. Lichtenthaler began baking pretzels which soon won great popularity throughout this and adjoining states. His factory was located at 37 Apple Street and later at 207 Cherry Alley. At the time of his death, in 1893, the factory output was 1,500,000 pretzels a year. The Lichtenthaler Bretzel Company was succeeded by the Pennsylvania Bretzel Company in 1900.

The local pretzel bakeries, incidentally, spelled their product “bretzels” as late as the early 1900’s. The only concern in Reading which has retained the original spelling is Billy’s Butter Bretzels, established in 1931 by William R. Edmundson at 242 Plum Street.

If Mr. Lichtenthaler established his bakery in 1860, the year he came to Reading, the where and when of the beginning of the pretzel industry in this country might be disputed and if “two teams constantly on the road,” comprise an industry, even Mr. Lichtenthaler may have to yield his laurels to John Sauermilch, Sr., of Boyertown, who started baking pretzels in that place about 1846.

In the Reading “Weekly Eagle,” of Feb. 25, 1893, there appears an interesting article, entitled “An Old Pretzel Baker.” From this source we learn that John Sauermilch, Sr., the subject of this article, was born in Germany in 1808 and that he learned the pretzel trade from his father, who was an expert baker in Germany. Sauermilch came to America when he was twenty years old. After working as a lime burner for eighteen years, he established a bakery in Boyertown, where he made pretzels just as his father had taught him in Germany. At the time the Eagle correspondent interviewed Mr. Sauermilch, the old, retired pretzel baker claimed that his pretzels had been in their day quite as popular as the Lichtenthaler pretzels of that time.

Mr. Sauermilch said at the time, “Americans are in many things ahead of the old country, but not so far as pretzels are concerned. In the United States it is much more difficult to find a good pretzel, than in Germany to find a bad one.”

Then the Eagle reporter asked why it was that so few bakers could make a first class pretzel. Mr. Sauermilch answered, “They don’t understand pretzel baking and yet think themselves proficient in the work. It is a trade by itself. Some bakers take only bread dough for their pretzel. The proper pretzel dough differs widely from bread dough.”

We leave Mr. Sauermilch and his reporter friend, discoursing upon the pleasant pastime of drinking beer (something which, according to Mr. Sauermilch, Americans did not know how to do either) and on eating pretzels in a beer garden along the Rhine.

Patriotism notwithstanding, Mr. Sauermilch was correct about the number of Americans who were not bona fide pretzel men. Often the bread bakers made left over pieces of dough into pretzels and gave them away with loaves of bread to encourage mothers to buy their product. True pretzel bakers, like Sturgis in Lititz and Lichtenthaler in Reading, had jealously guarded trade secrets and secret yeast formulas. In fact, both places at one time or another have seriously confided that the secret of the success of their pretzel lay in some special quality of the water found in their town. The pretzels were cooked in lye and there was also a great deal of secrecy observed as to where the lye was obtained. Lye from straw ashes was considered best, and next, the ashes of hardwoods. Hickory, walnut and maple were used by others. It is probable that the secret of the different flavors resided in the mixture of the various ashes.

While Benjamin Lichtenthaler has taken the place of most renown there were many others in Reading dedicated to the art of pretzel baking.

John S. Hendricks and John T. Adams, who operated as Hendricks and Adams, constantly referred to themselves in their advertisements, in the 1890’s as having formerly been with Lichtenthaler. The volume, “Reading, Its Representative Business Men and Its Points of Interest,” published in 1893, says of the Hendricks and Adams Firm: “The growth of their trade has already required the employment of six experienced men. The firm has a capacity of making 6,000 regular size bretzels per day, and their trade is constantly on the increase. They were located at 335 Cherry Street, began in business in 1893 and in 1898 employed eight men, operated two ovens and manufactured over 4,000 barrels of pretzels annually. Their investment was $5,000 and their annual product was worth $12,000. They were succeeded by J. T. Adams & Co., in 1907.

Another of the better known men of our town was Andrew Muntz, whose father, Augustus, began a bakery in 1856. He was located at 121 North Eight Street and, according to the personal recollection of Ira J. J. Reber, a well-known local collector, was well versed in the Bible and renowned for his wit and caustic tongue. In his daily selling trips about the county, he delighted in baiting all comers, local and “foreigner” alike. Mr. Reber recalls an occasion when lie asked a New Yorker why the people of New York never ate the cross in the pretzel, and after properly confounding the stranger, replied, “Because then they’d have nothing to sell.”

Mr. William A. Newmoyer, a baker at Quinlan’s, recalls that he learned pretzel baking at the Addison Guyer bakery, 435 N. Ninth Street, fifty-eight years ago. Other names that have long since disappeared are those of Daniel Mayer at 709 Penn St. and Christian Mayer at 52 N. Tenth St.; George May at 344 Locust St. and Charles Muntz at 1410 Muhlenberg St., who advertised his product: “200 for 1 dollar.” Frank P. Nistle started in 1903 on Walnut, above Locust, and William H. Behrle had a bakery on Fairview Avenue. The latter’s son, J. Behrle, is still associated with pretzel baking at the present Heller Bakery on North Ninth Street.

There is only one name, that, beginning many years ago, remains today as one of the largest representatives in the industry. In 1884, Joseph S. Bachman began baking pretzels in a small plant on Nicholas Street. The business prospered to such an extent that it was found necessary to take over additional space. On the death of Mr. Bachman, in 1923, the business was incorporated and moved to its present location in Hyde Park.

There are many types of pretzels available today. Many more have apparently disappeared with the years and new ones have taken their places. The popular butter pretzel, using shortening in addition to the other ingredients, seems to be a modern innovation. Also new are the pretzel sticks, extra thins and penny rods. The soft pretzel is considered one of the oldest types. The stamped cracker pretzel is popular. The sugar pretzel, similar to a sweet bun, has seemingly disappeared.

Mrs. Edith Rumbaugh recalls when Tom Hannahoe, Reading’s famous Mayor of Irishtown, kept three or four goats in the rear of his domicile. The neighbor children brought pails of potato peelings, apparently the mainstay of the animals’ diet, for which they were rewarded by Mr. Hannahoe’s housekeeper. The reward was an oblong pretzel-like cracker, known and remembered by the children as a “Tom Doodle.” Who made them, and how? There the trail of the “Tom Doodle” pretzel ends. We are not left in doubt concerning the close association between Reading and the pretzel, since even across the football field or basketball floor comes the derisive chant of the opponent’s cheering section:

“Pretzels and beer, pretzels and beer, Bach du lieber, Reading’s here!”

Pretzels are no longer, as they once were, necessarily the companions of beer. They are today served with ice cream and other delicacies. In fact, Quinlan’s claims the credit for bringing the pretzel out of the saloon into the parlor.

Although the process of manufacturing the pretzel is essentially unchanged today, modern machinery has speeded production from the “6,000 regular size bretzels per day” of the Hendricks and Adams era, to the 1,000,000 per day capacity of the present Quinlan Pretzel Co., which was started in 1923.

Today most of the pretzels are made from pure wheat flour to which is added only yeast, salt and water. After the dough is made, it is cut off into small pieces and rolled out into strips for twisting. This is done by hand or machinery according to the size of the bakery. The pretzel is let stand for a few minutes for the dough to rise and is then quickly placed in boiling water to which soda has been added. Here the pretzel is partly cooked, just as dumplings, noodles or other doughs are cooked in boiling water. After the pretzels are removed from the boiling solution, they are sprinkled with salt and placed in the oven, The heat of the oven prevents the salt from dissolving, and it clings tightly to the pretzel as it begins to bake. After being thoroughly baked, the pretzels are then placed in a drying or toasting oven to insure crispness.

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For almost a century the pretzels were baked in the same old style hearth ovens. It was a tedious process to place the pretzels in rows in the oven with a long handled wooden shovel, called a peel, and then to remove them again by the same method. The baker was always under a constant pressure to hustle them out in time to prevent burning. In the early days dough was kneaded on the quarter oak, with a jumping rail. A man sat on a lever and jumped up and down until the dough was thoroughly mixed.

Gradually, each process was modernized. First the dough was mixed by a machine and then the correct quantity was cut off automatically and rolled; ready to be picked up and twisted by hand.

The Reading “Adler,” August 5, 1879, quotes from “Der Volksfreund” of Lancaster, July 30, 1879: “A skilled pretzel baker can form seven to eight pretzels out of dough in one minute and no more. However, three men in Lincoln [Lancaster County] have just invented an ingeniously constructed automatic pretzel machine and have had it patented. The names of the three men are Thomas K. Keller, Martin S. Keller and C. W. Myers. The new machine can form sixty to one hundred pretzels per minute or 3,000 to 6,000 an hour.”

Apparently “Der Volksfreund” was a bit premature with its announcement, for a check of the patent office in Washington reveals that no such patent was issued. From a Lititz newspaper clipping, dated October 1, 1942, in the possession of the Sturgis family, we learn that Thomas Keller had married one of Julius Sturgis’ daughters and was also a pretzel manufacturer. Although he had worked on a machine to twist the dough into the pretzel shape, he never succeeded. The trouble was that the dough was never the same consistency.

So the twisting itself stumped the inventors for many years and even Robert Ripley said, “believe it or not,” it couldn’t be done. Reading did it. In 1933 a pretzel machine was perfected by Quinlan’s and in the same year, Earl Curtis, of South Temple, now associated with the Bachman Bakeries, challenged by Mr. Ripley’s statement, also produced the impossible.

Mrs. Helen Hoffer, of Quinlan’s, also surpasses “Der Volksfrennd’s” statement of “seven to eight pretzels per minute and no more.” She deftly spins out the curleques at the rate of forty-five per minute. The rate on the machine varies with the type of pretzel and consistency of the dough, from about fifty to one hundred twenty per minute.

In 1943, the pretzel industry sent a brief to the VVar Manpower Commission, requesting that they be declared an essential industry. It was then that the Honorable Clair Booth Luce, in her usual vituperative manner, ran afoul of the industry by referring to pretzels and the W. M. C. as an indissolvable group of waltzing mice and pretzel benders.”

Congresswoman Luce promptly received her chastisement in the form of a letter from the National Pretzel Baker’s Institute and the “pretzel benders” were declared essential. In fact, it was proven that while bread trucks carry 60 per cent moisture, pretzels were the most perfectly dehydrated food made.

The pretzel industries of Reading ship their merchandise to all corners of the globe. Here is an excerpt from a Chamber of Commerce News Letter: “You perhaps are wondering just who it is that has a taste for pretzels in these [far away] places. Well, to be frank with you the Pretzel Industries are just as much mystified. The idea of a turbaned Hindu in India, or a saronged native in Batavia, munching on a pretzel is a bit hard to conceive. Nevertheless, if we are to believe the shipping addresses, that must be the case.

Reading produces one-third of all the pretzels baked in the United States. The production capabilities of our city’s industry are 15,000,000 pretzels per five-day week, using 900 barrels per week of winter wheat bought, we are informed, all in Berks County. According to the Department of Agriculture, twenty bushels of wheat is the yield per acre. Therefore, manufacturing the pretzels takes the output of 210 acres of farmland, week after week.

Aside from its unquestionable industrial importance, this oddly shaped little item has made for us a multitude of friends. It has been introduced to countless strangers by local concerns as Christmas gifts, and one of the first ideas for alleviating the lonesomeness and homesickness of a far away friend or relative, is the thought of sending some pretzels!

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One of my favorite memories as a child was being in downtown Reading with my stepfather. He took me down a side street, almost an alley, and I could smell baking pretzels. I think it may have been Unique Pretzels, which was Dad’s favorite brand, but I’m not sure. At any rate, it was a stone building, and my Dad went inside, while I peered in from the sidewalk, and could see the stone oven inside, with workers there using a large flat paddle to pull out freshly baked pretzels from it. Soon after, my father reappeared outside, handing me a hot, crunchy pretzel straight from that oven. Although I’m sure I’ve romanticized it over the years, that must have been the best-tasting pretzel I’ve ever had.

Although for everyday pretzels, I still do love the Tom Sturgis pretzels. They can be ordered mail order over the internet, and I treat myself to some every few years. I suppose it’s probably because they’re the ones I grew up with, but there were many others that were just as good, too. Sadly, we can’t get any decent pretzels here in California. Snyder’s used to be about it for anything decent, though I confess they’re about at the bottom of my list of edible pretzels. Happily, Cost Plus recently started carrying a large plastic tub of Utz Sourdough Specials that the family seems to go through at least one a month.

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New Beer Words: Snotter

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Here’s yet another new word that should be added to the beer lexicon. Well, it’s not exactly a new word, but has been around at least since 1824, and most likely earlier. It showed up today in my twitter feed, from Merriam-Webster, as part of their Words at Play series. The word is snotter and has several meanings, the most common being nautical — A fitting that holds the heel of a sprit close to the mast — and others along the lines of “to snivel; to cry or sob.” And more recently snotter is used as another word for snot.

But Merriam-Webster today highlighted an older, less-common meaning of the word in their Words at Play piece entitled “‘Snotter’, ‘Groak’, and 6 More Words Associated with Bad Habits.

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Michael Jackson nosing a beer, during GABF judging in 2002.

Here’s the definition that should be folded into our beer lexicon:

Snotter

Definition: to breathe noisily

Snotter is a dialectal British word, and, as is so often the case with dialect words, carries a certain trenchant charm. It also has a variety of closely-related meanings, as it may be used to refer to snoring, sniveling, sniffing, snorting, or simply as another way to say snot.

If you’ve ever been a beer judge, or even were in a room watching other people judge beer, then you’ve most likely encountered a snotter. There’s a whole lot of noisy breathing going on during beer judging, whether it’s one long draw or a series of short, quick sniffs. Frankly, if you’re not a snotter, you’re probably not doing it correctly.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Louis Camille Maillard

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Today is the birthday of French physician and chemist Louis Camille Maillard (February 4, 1878-May 12, 1936) who was the Doogie Howser of his era, joining the faculty of the University of Nancy when he was only sixteen. He rose to prominence thanks to his work on kidney disorders and later taught medicine at the prestigious University of Paris.

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But his biggest contribution, especially to brewing, was an accidental discovery he made in 1912, which today we call the Maillard Reaction, or Browning Reaction.

Here’s the basic description, from Wikipedia:

The Maillard Reaction a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its desirable flavor. Seared steaks, pan-fried dumplings, biscuits (widely known in North America as cookies), breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction. It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis.

The reaction is a form of non-enzymatic browning which typically proceeds rapidly from around 140 to 165 °C (284 to 329 °F). At higher temperatures, caramelization and subsequently pyrolysis become more pronounced.

The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and forms a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules responsible for a range of odors and flavors. This process is accelerated in an alkaline environment (e.g., lye applied to darken pretzels), as the amino groups (RNH3+) are deprotonated and, hence, have an increased nucleophilicity. The type of the amino acid determines the resulting flavor. This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry. At high temperatures, a potential carcinogen called acrylamide can be formed.

In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds, in turn, break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavor scientists have used over the years to make reaction flavors.

It was, and is, for food science and understanding how heat and cooking create flavors. If you want to dive deeper, the Warwick Medical School has an article on the Historical Development of the reaction, and NPR’s Food for Thought on the centenary of Malliard’s discovery posted 100 Years Ago, Maillard Taught Us Why Our Food Tastes Better Cooked.

But it was also very important to brewing, too, especially when it comes to malting and roasting malt to get different flavors and colors in the beer. For example, here’s UC Davis professor Charlie Bamforth writing about the Malliard Reaction in his book Grape vs. Grain.

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Not surprisingly, John Mallett, in his recent book Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse, mentions Malliard’s contributions to brewing science.

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The chemistry website Compound Interest has a good explanation with their post, Food Chemistry – The Maillard Reaction.

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And finally, Popular Science’s BeerSci series discusses the Maillard Reaction in How Beer Gets Its Color.