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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Yuengling Harlem?

Well...yeah. Thanks to my eagle-eyed, beer-loving brother-in-law Carl (who works in the Archives at the Library of Virginia in Richmond), I found out some stuff I didn't know about Yuengling today. Take a look at this entry in "Out of the Box," the Archives blog. It's a letter to Virginia governor James L. Kemper from David G. Yuengling Jr. -- yes, he's that Yuengling, the founder -- dated Sept. 28th, 1874. In it, Yuengling says he is sending the governor 
“one bbl. of old stout in bottles this has been brewed three years ago and considered the Best. Should you find it to [sic] strong[,] add water to suit your taste, and it will be a delicious stimulant. Hope it will do you good.”
Pleasantries out of the way, Yuengling moves on to business; the progress of the C&O Railroad. 

But the interesting thing is the letterhead: the Ryerson and Yuengling Champagne Ale Brewery, Harlem, NY. The archives blog says: "It was the junior Yuengling [David's son] who oversaw the construction of a new brewery in Richmond in 1866. Located at 912 East Main Street, the brewery became known as the James River Steam Brewery and was later sold to the Richmond Cedar Works in 1878. Yuengling’s letter does not originate from Richmond, but instead from Harlem, on Ryerson & Yuengling, Champagne Ale Brewery stationary."

Pretty interesting. 


Robert Smith said...

Wonder if they brewed Musty Ale from that Harlem plant?

Lew Bryson said...


Get the ghost repellent, they're back!

sam k said...

Heck, I figured the various Yuengling ghosts would have been way ahead of Robert Smith in this line.

Be cast out, ye damned spirits!

JessKidden said...

"100 Years of Brewing" (1903) listed "Yuengling & Co., NYC [two breweries]" as being the 18th largest brewing company in the US in 1877 with 62,740 bbl. (right behind the original Boston Beer Co., coincidentally).

NYC had 6 other breweries on the list, including #1 Ehret (at 138,449 bbl)- the most of any city.

Anheuser-Busch didn't even make the list of the Top 20.

Steven said...

I can only sit and muse over how a US Stout brewed in 1874 must have tasted.

Gary Gillman said...

Thanks for this Lew, very interesting. It shows expansion is not a new idea for the brewery. The reference to old stout is fascinating too. ( And one can see that adding water to strong beer to drop ABV is no new idea, I've been doing it for years). Barrel-aged stout 3 years old ... perhaps he even used an ex-whiskey barrel to age the beer. What's old is new again...


Lew Bryson said...

So you think this lends any credence to the British brewers (of today) who claim that IPA was brewed big to be diluted with water on arrival in India; a kind of shipping version of high-gravity brewing?

Gary Gillman said...

Lew, I have heard that suggestion (re adding water to IPA on arrival in India), but I have never read any period account that would substantiate it.

It seems unlikely to me that it happened, for a number of reasons. First, it would have been unlawful I believe to water beer after production, even when owned by the same person. Of course, publicans did often do so in the 1800's but it was contrary to regulations and many were fined for this.

Also, exporters of beer to India went to great trouble to ensure the right carbonation level on landing; this would have been upset by any scheme to add water (unless it was carbonated I guess).

Second, IPA was not that strong, Ron Pattinson has studied this as you know, and it seems to have been between 5.0% and 6.5% ABV - some was higher clearly but generally it was not strong enough to warrant dilution. Whereas an Imperial stout or double stout may have been 8-10% ABV and this would have justified perhaps letting down the strength to 5% but at consumer level. I.e., this brewer in the 1800's was advising addition of water to a consumer, not a trader - therein lies the difference.

I recall being taken to task some years ago on a beer board when I said I sometimes add water (maybe carbonated, but usually that is not needed) to strong beer to bring it down to a lower gravity. Some people were shocked, you shouldn't do that they said! Why not? It's just making the beer similar to what it would have been had the length (I am using an old expression here) been longer when it was originally made.

Heavy gravity brewing does it all the time today, that is true, but this is intra-producer and the laws of course allow this today.

Thanks again for this fascinating tidbit. I wonder if the brewery has the spec for that strong stout in its archives, it would be great to see a recreation.