Monday, January 8, 2024

Rauchbier Revival?

Tis January, so 2 things must be true, I am taking the month off the booze, and I am diving into the Austrian National Library's online newspaper archives looking at the sometimes weird, but often wonderful world of brewing in Central Europe prior to World War 1.

I really don't take a structured approach to my, ahem, "research", usually preferring to just to enter a keyword or phrase, select the publication I want to look at, and start scanning through images. Just a side note, I find these kind of publications so enlightening about the brewing, and broader, world at the time, as opposed to reading technical brewing treatises. In particular I love trade ads in journals like Der Böhmisches Bierbrauer, Gambrinus Brauerei und Hopfen Zeitung, or Saazer Hopfenzeitung und Lokaler Anzeiger as they give you a picture of the ingredients, machinery, and assorted allied products being made and sold in Central Europe.

Anyway, purely on a whim, I decided to see what I would get if I typed "rauch" into the advanced search, pre-filtering to Der Böhmisches Bierbrauer. There were 115 results returned, and so I decided to sort further by searching on "rauchbier" specifically, which gave me this single result from October 26th 1909:

The headline in bold there declares there is a "Re-emergence of "self-malting"", going on, quoting an article from Bamberg in the "Allgemeine Anzeige für Brauer und Mälzer" which, assuming the translation is reasonable accurate goes on to say:
"The depressed situation of the small breweries is now leading them to return to the old arrangement of malting themselves. Over the years, people have gotten used to getting the malt ready from the malt factory. Today's cheap (?) barley price offers the hand for a return to the old system and so the old Bavarian smoked beer will soon appear again. Whether this will prove successful remains to be seen in the future."

If this report is correct, smaller breweries in Bavaria were going back to malting their own grains because the cost of the raw materials was sufficiently low to make this economical again, rather than buying their malt from the likes of Weyermann, whose maltings is massive pile right next to the railway station in Bamberg.

What jumped out most to me though was that the relative low cost of barley could lead to the return of "the old Bavarian smoked beer". This raises the question then, did rauchbier die out in Bavaria in the latter 19th century and only revive when breweries starting taking back the ability to make their own malt, as, for example, Schlenkerla continue to do so to this day?

Another question this raises is, were malting companies such as Weyermann not providing rauchmalz and thus the beer died out? Was there customer demand for rauchbier to the extent that any other malting company at the time was providing rauchmalz?

As ever, more questions than answers at this point, but if we can take this report at face value, it looks possible that rauchbier as we know it today could so easily have gone the way of grodziskie, broyhan, and Braunschweiger mumme, but for the alleged fact that barley was cheap in the years running up to World War 1.

1 comment:

  1. There is a new Brewer to Brewer podcast with Dan Suarez interviewing Matthias Trum which goes into great detail about the history of the brewery, the head brewers (especially his great grandfather) the Kellers, and all the facilities. I am a huge Schlenkerla fanboy and I learned a ton:

    Even if everyone else had let it die, his great grandfathers made sure that Rauchbier would continue at Schlenkerla.


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