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What Your Beer Tasted Like 100 Years Ago, Part Two

beer101logoIn September I started a series in my Beer 101 column exploring what some beer styles today might have tasted a couple hundred years ago. It is intended as a kind of thought experiment, using what historical knowledge I have combined with my understanding of brewing, ingredients and their effects, etc. I don’t claim my descriptions to be a guaranteed replication of historical beer – as it really is impossible for any of us to know. Consider it a fanciful moment to explore our beer past.

The first column (which you can find here) looked at some dark ales from England and Scotland. The second piece (which you can read here) looked at a wider range of styles. It starts with something easy and with better historical records than most – IPA. There are a few factors to contemplate in considering the flavour of a 1700s IPA, not the least the effect of the three month sea voyage to India. Without reproducing the whole column, I can tell you I predict the flavour profile fell somewhere in between today’s mild and sessionable English IPA and the bolder, brasher American IPA.

The most fun style to contemplate was the taste of North American Lager back when it was still beer, rather than fizzy yellow alco-pop. They key is realizing the American brewers of the 1700s and 1800s would most likely be European brewers and their descendants. They will have brought German, English or Bohemian traditions and methods with them. However, they would have had to rely (to a large extent) on indigenous barley and hops, which would have transformed the overall taste of the beer. So, again, consider it something of a new world-old world hybrid. Interesting to contemplate, eh?

The third beer I tossed in almost to be mischievous. Lambic has hardly changed at all – at least traditional Lambic. So, really, if you want to taste what a Gueuze tasted like in 1800s, just open a bottle of Cantillon or Tilquin and you will know.

Some things change and evolve. Others do not. I love the world of beer!

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