Most “Historical-Tasting” AAL?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by EmperorBatman, Jan 16, 2021.

  1. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (130) Mar 16, 2018 District of Columbia

    Hello BAs,

    I wanted to get your insights on which AAL tastes the most like its original recipe, as in, which AAL is like a pre-Prohibition lager. I understand that the rush to brew after prohibition, the supply rationing in WW2, and general cost-cutting and market preferences have reduced the flavor of most national brand AALs, so which brewery has kept closest to its classic standards in flavor and ingredients? I understand that I risk this getting into a subjective conversation about which brand is better, though...

    I’ve especially been curious about this lately as I’ve been getting into the video game Red Dead Redemption, and like to have a few authentic beers while role playing a cowboy in the American West at the turn of the century. I normally drink Anchor Steam, Yuengling Traditional, Shiner Bock, or, sometimes, Pilsner Urquell, but I’m looking to expand my selection and learn more while doing so.
     
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  2. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,008) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota
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    Schell's Deer Brand.

    (I actually have no idea if this is correct - probably isn't; only going by the brewer's spiel ...)
     
  3. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,857) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
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    Know anyone who was around back then? Who has the same palate? And can really remember? :confused:

    I know you can base an assumption on recipes, but you can't really confirm it tastes the same.

    FWIW -- Shiner Bock has only been around since 1913, probably not a choice in the wild west. Maybe doughboys carried it into the trenches? :grin:
     
    #3 steveh, Jan 16, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
  4. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (130) Mar 16, 2018 District of Columbia

    I think the recipe is enough to get an idea. In DC, I drank Champagne Velvet a few times and that definitely has a different taste than a modern AAL like Bud.

    Basically, no corn syrup, use of European and Cluster hops rather than modern varietals, and hopping in larger quantities.
     
  5. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,857) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
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    Check out Anchor California Lager.
     
  6. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,267) Feb 15, 2010 New York
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    You might enjoy reading this:
    https://www.growlermag.com/glass-from-the-past-champagne-velvet/

    And here's some additional info:
     
  7. cryptichead

    cryptichead Poo-Bah (1,601) Jul 3, 2014 Illinois
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  8. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Poo-Bah (1,851) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey
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    I was not alive. I do very much like Anchor California Lager but unsure if it’s still around.
     
  9. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (7,525) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
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    It's in the current mixed 12pack.
     
  10. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,148) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    Sugars and syrups have been used in US adjunct lager brewing almost from the beginnning, as The Association of the United Lager Beer Brewers of New York City and Vicinity admitted in The New York Times' How Lager Beer is Made, August 1881:
    *Grape sugar was the term commonly used for what we call "dextrose" today. See also the recipes in Wahl & Henius' American Handy Book of Brewing.... (1901) ...
     
  11. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,689) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    That’s a tall task, most people who might know the answer are probably dead. :slight_smile:.

    But when I first started with the beers steel cans was the vessel, and church keys necessary. The popular AALs of the day depended on the local market, in Philly there was Schmidt’s, Ortliebs, maybe even Reading. Then the bigger regional/national beers like Schaefer, Miller, Budweiser, Pabst, Falstaff. Then if your closer to NY/ NJ, add Piels, and Knickerbocker, Reingold. Local AAL were really King because of availability and priced less than the National big shots.

    Same as today? I’d seriously seriously doubt it.
     
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  12. Urk1127

    Urk1127 Poo-Bah (1,851) Jul 2, 2014 New Jersey
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    I haven’t seen piels in soooo long. That and Schaefer were both very good.
     
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  13. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,148) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    That's because Pabst dropped the brand a few years back and the trademark reverted* to the heirs of a former Piel's executive (NOT an actual Piel family member). Supposedly it is being contract-brewed at Captain Lawrence but seeing only local NYS distribution.
    Piels Beer
    See also the thread Piels Beer - coming back to NY

    * Unlike most heritage brands that are now owned by other breweries, the Piel's brand after their breweries closed appears to have always been owned by the Hawkes family and succeeding brewers (Schaefer, Stroh and then Pabst) paid a royalty to them. Pabst apparently found that to be no longer worth it.
     
  14. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (7,525) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
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    I miss Schaefer too. It was distributed to Casper a long time ago. Last Schaefer I saw was the Light.
     
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  15. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,689) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    Schmitty tall boys was popular as is one I missed above, Rolling Rock, especially in the Pony bottles.
     
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  16. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,860) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    I really do love Champagne Velvet but don't think it's worth the NYC prices I was paying (like $3 a can :thinking_face:).

    It's not just the type of hops, but the amount used that makes all the difference, imo. The reason that most modern AALs come across as so insipid is due to the steady decline of IBUs over the past few decades; but compare one to a brand that still has a nice hop punch for the style (like Naragansett or Hamm's) and you'll see the difference right away.
     
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  17. papposilenus

    papposilenus Poo-Bah (1,680) Jun 21, 2014 New Hampshire
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    Pretty much this.

    It would have been the mid-1960’s when I first tasted beer. I was 5 or 6 years old and my Uncle Andy let me have a chug of his Schlitz while my mother’s back was turned.

    It’s a real stretch but I think Narragansett (hi neighbor!) tastes to me the most like I remember beer tasting in the mid-to-late twentieth century (thus spake the animated fossil).
     
  18. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,857) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
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    My dad let me have a drink when I was about 6 (1966) knowing full well how I'd react. (BTW -- probably either Falstaff or Drewery's)

    All I can remember is bitterness and harsh carbonation.

    But neither of us have tasted PRE-prohibition beer.
     
    #18 steveh, Jan 16, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
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  19. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (1,812) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
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  20. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,857) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
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    You calling Jack old enough to remember pre-prohibition beer? :joy:
     
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  21. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,689) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    I’m sure the recipes have changed, you went from owner brewing to huge computer controlled brewing. Components have changed, I’d bet the hops greatly reduced as well. But Jess is probably the expert here, he’s a historian of beer.
     
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  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,881) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Well, there was a variety of lagers being produced prior to Prohibition but the most popular (i.e., top selling) beer then would be a beer style we homebrewers call Classic American Pilsner (CAP).

    I have an article with a working title of "The Family of Pilsners" which will be published soon. Below are some extracts from that article:

    "Classic American Pilsner

    It was not just European beer drinkers that wanted to drink golden colored lagers. The challenge for producing a beer like Pilsner Urquell in America was a difference in barley. The predominant type of barley grown in North America was 6-row barley vs. the 2-row barley grown in Europe. The 6-row barley was better suited for growing in the climate of North America. The issue with 6-row barley when it comes to brewing a golden beer is that it is higher in protein as compared to 2-row. Brewing an all malt golden beer in the America would yield a beer that suffers from chill haze – a hazy appearance when the beer is cold. The American beer drinkers of that time preferred to drink their beers cold so this chill haze issue was a real problem. It should be noted that chill haze was not too much of a problem for the others beers being produced in America in the mid-1800s since they were typically darker in color (e.g., amber/dark ales, dark Bavarian Lagers, etc.).

    Thankfully there was a brewing scientist who came to the rescue. Anton Schwarz immigrated to America in 1868 from the Austrian Empire. “He was educated at the University of Vienna, where he studied law for two years, and at the Polytechnicum, Prague, where he studied chemistry.” The year after he immigrated to the US he wrote a seminal article entitled “Brewing with Raw Cereals, Especially Rice” in American Brewer magazine (1869). What Anton Schwarz recognized is that by adding some adjuncts (e.g., rice, corn) to the grain bill the overall content of protein was diluted since the adjuncts contained little protein and consequently the resulting beer would not suffer from chill haze. There was also the added benefit that the beer brewed using adjuncts would have improved beer stability. This improved beer stability was a great asset since American beer consumers drank quite a bit of bottled beer. The information that Anton Schwarz provided was quite an innovation for American brewers.

    Below is how Anton Schwarz is lauded in the book American Handy-Book of the Brewing, Malting, and Auxiliary Trades by Wahl & Henius, 1902, page 711:

    “It was Anton Schwarz who first advised the employment of rice and subsequently of Indian corn, which is so abundant in this country. The stubborn perseverance with which he sought to convert conservative brewers to his ideas and finally succeed in doing and, last, not least, the discovery of suitable methods to scientifically apply them, entitles him to be called the founder of raw cereal brewing in the United States.”

    And:

    "Examples of Classic American Pilsners

    There are few examples of commercially brewed CAP beers. They tend to be only available in limited regions and sometimes on a rotating basis: Straub 1872 Pre-Prohibition Lager (Pennsylvania), Fort George 1811 Pre-Prohibition Lager (Oregon), Short’s Pontius Road Pilsner (Michigan), Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. Rocket 100 (Texas), Upland Champagne Velvet (Indiana), and Fullstream Paycheck Pilsner (North Carolina)."

    If you could obtain some Straub 1872 Pre-Prohibition Lager I would strongly recommend that beer to you. I discussed this beer in a past NBS thread:

    [​IMG]

    https://www.beeradvocate.com/community/threads/new-beer-sunday-week-678.559974/#post-5884158

    This beer is a seasonal (Nov - Dec) and may still be available? Last November I sent a message to Straub Brewing asking them to help me locate this beer. They couldn't be bothered to respond to me.

    Cheers!
     
    #22 JackHorzempa, Jan 16, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
  23. Cstamp3084

    Cstamp3084 Initiate (26) May 3, 2020 Maryland

    Schlitz claims it’s the original recipe. It’s probably my favorite AAL I would like to try hamms to compare.
     
  24. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,824) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
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    Every now and then I come across a craft brewery making something like a CAP. I homebrew one per year. My friend Jeff Renner wrote a few articles about the style after researching it. I've had many of his CAPs at the club meetings.

    A couple three years I had one in ABQ NM. Bow and Arrow Brewings Denim Tux. On the menu it stated that it used Blue Corn. The owners are Native American, so that was a connection. I had to try it. There was no color from the corn, but the corn flavor was there. The hop rate was enough the the aroma was inviting, and the finish was crisp and clean. Too bad I was only having one that day.
     
  25. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Poo-Bah (1,812) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado
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    You said it, not me...:sunglasses:
     
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  26. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (269) Jun 4, 2005 California
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    Pretty sure you need to do that
    Perhaps add another or two
     
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  27. Tucquan

    Tucquan Poo-Bah (3,139) Oct 11, 2007 Pennsylvania
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    Really enjoyed this. Looking forward to the full article!
     
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  28. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,857) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
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    Guilt by allusion! :wink:
     
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  29. HammsMeASAP

    HammsMeASAP Initiate (121) Jun 14, 2012 Minnesota

    I always wondered what the beer tasted like in the old west days drinking in the saloon.
     
  30. papposilenus

    papposilenus Poo-Bah (1,680) Jun 21, 2014 New Hampshire
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    Warm microbial soup?
     
  31. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,148) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    The Pabst's revival version, initially referred to as the "Gusto" recipe? That's was based* on the version from the 1960s not the 1860s - granted, the can didn't exactly make that clear . :grin:
    [​IMG]
    And that was mostly a way to say "Not the !@#$ 1970s formula that helped sink what had been one the largest US breweries for nearly a century...".

    * Yeah, "based". Even though Schlitz only went out of business (bought by Stroh) in the early 1980s, no one had the recipe so Pabst contacted former Schlitz brewmasters who sorta guessed at it. (I mean, I'm only retired less than 20 years, and I can't remember the names of the people I worked with...).
    Perhaps folks are confused, and not thinking of the Capital P - Prohibition, National (it was in all the papers). I mean, people under 21 - or 18 or 19, it got confusing there for a while - were prohibited from buying alcohol... as I understand it, they still might be. Don't know anyone that age and can't read the fine print on the sign behind the cashier in the liquor stores. It's like original sin. We all start out with our personal "Prohibition Era".
     
  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,881) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Michael, that is a good point to emphasize. The CAP beers (Pre-Prohibition AALs) would have been hoppier in all three phases: bitterness, flavor and aroma. Of those three aspects only one can be quantified (today) and that is bitterness (i.e., IBUs). The IBU was not defined until 1968 so needless to say this metric was not published for the CAP beers. If there was a conscientious logbook which specified hop varieties, amounts utilized per addition and exact hopping schedule you could guesstimate an Alpha Acid content per hop variety and estimate the IBUs of a given brand. What little I have seen of old logbooks they tended to be kinda sloppy with just entries like "Domestic Hops" or "Imported Hops" and this would make the the estimating more of a crap shoot.

    Cheers!
     
  33. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,857) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois
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    Yeah, I'm not sure "legal drinking age" can officially be referred to as prohibition -- no matter how the sub-21ers may feel about their oppression. :wink:
     
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  34. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (269) Jun 4, 2005 California
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    So drinking that 60s formula (courtesy of good old dad) brought me here, as opposed to the 70s edition would've been wrong?
     
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  35. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (648) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    First regarding the "no corn syrup"... It's hard to imagine the American Adjunct Lager without corn. The 6-row barley that could be grown in America doesn't make the same kind of beer as the 2-row barley from Europe. As @JackHorzempa described above early US brewers (mainly Anton Schwarz) experimented and discovered that adding adjuncts, like corn or rice, lightened the 6-row barley beer into something more similar to the 2-row barley beer of Europe, and the "American Adjunct Lager" was born.

    Also regarding corn... We shouldn't look down on it. Thousands of years before Europeans "discovered" America, indigenous peoples first cultivated corn in the area that is now Mexico, then spread and selectively bred it across the North and South American continents. Not surprisingly, corn is the key ingredient in a vast array of American cuisines and dishes...and beer. When early American brewers looked around for potential brewing ingredients corn was an obvious choice to experiment with. Regardless of people's opinions of the AAL, the corn in it is connected to a long history of the American continent. Corn is more American than apple pie.

    Regarding original recipes, getting an original recipe is only half of it. The trickier part is getting original ingredients as they would have been. Even if you had the exact same ingredients you would not make the same beer. Agricultural methods, crop quality, distribution, mechanization, refrigeration, brewing equipment, packaging methods, etc. are so different today that even if you could get the same recipe and ingredients the beer wouldn't be the same. Not we can't try.
     
  36. ZAP

    ZAP Poo-Bah (4,454) Dec 1, 2001 Minnesota
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    This is an interesting thread..I wish I could lend some first hand knowledge but I can't.

    The earliest beer memories for me was as a kid in the 70's in Milwaukee. Uncle owned a Schlitz branded bar, another Uncle was all about Blatz, my Dad didn't drink much but enjoyed Pabst. We moved to Minnesota when I was 12 and I worked on a Miller distributor truck during college and always preferred Miller products.

    I've always been curious about the old time Hamms, Grain Belt, and Schmidt and what the differences were (not counting the real old time brands).

    But to be honest I don't know. And I'm not sure what would be closest now....someone mentioned this but Schells Deer brand is billed as Pre-Prohibition. To me it tastes corny with a little more hoppiness than you usually find...But I have no idea if that is consistent with beers from way back.
     
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  37. muck1979

    muck1979 Initiate (54) Jul 3, 2005 Minnesota

    I always throw a plug in for Leinenkugel's Original on these thread topics: six-row, Cluster hops, corn grits and hopped at a respectable 17 IBUs. I know the brewery went to hop pellets instead of whole-cone hops at some point and I assume the Chippewa Falls brewery force-carbonates now, so not totally authentic. No open fermenters either. But good luck finding it outside the upper Midwest, regardless.
     
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  38. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (7,525) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
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    The Schlitz Gusto, to me, was far more enjoyable to me than the current Hamms.
    In the past, Hamms Draft, in the keg shaped cans, would have been a better contender.

    Reformulated AALS Schlitz Gusto and Olympia 95% Malt, were favorites of mine that hit local shelves.

    Edit: oh, there's another batch of Batch 19? That one really impressed me.
     
    #38 Bitterbill, Jan 17, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2021
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  39. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (130) Mar 16, 2018 District of Columbia

    Operative term: syrup. Flaked corn or grits are definitely part of the flavor profile of historical American beer, and there’s no problem with it. Those will create different flavors than the pure sugar extracted from corn. Similarly, there’s no issue with rice, sugar, or other adjuncts.
     
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  40. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (3,173) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
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    Yeah, there is a sort of romanticism that beers in a Wild West saloon would be tasty, but I’m sure they would most likely be nasty compared to 99% of beers brewed today of any style. I always think “give me a red eye!” Is the better Wild West saloon fantasy drink over a beer option. Now Old world Europe pub in 1800’s, I’d go for the beer option. .
     
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