This week we invited Tom our resident tour guide to share a story from his corner of the brewery. Tom says: As a history geek, I love discovering fascinating stories about the origins of beers. One of the things I like to touch upon on the Sambrook’s tour is the amount of European and American beers that are making their way to our fair shores. We take it for granted that they have travelled all this way and yet still taste perfect, but to understand how this became possible we need to go back more than a hundred years to Louis Pasteur, and one almighty grudge…
You see, following the Franco-Prussian war dear old Louis was viciously anti-German, so when he discovered that his annoyingly efficient enemy had created a new super-yeast, it bugged him somewhat. This new yeast allowed them to store the beer exceptionally well, and as a result its popularity was unprecedented. It was even named after the German word for ‘to store’ – lagen.
Yes, you guessed it, the German’s had just invented lager, and having to hear that dirty word uttered at every social gathering was the final straw for poor old Louis. He hatched an evil plan.
So he locked himself away and began studying the science of brewing. At this time it was believed that yeast was wholly uncontrollable and there was nothing you could do if a brew went wrong. Using his fair sized noggin’ Louis figured out a method to stabilise the yeasts, and therefore make them travel much further without spoiling. He was one up on the German’s, but he wasn’t finished there…
He took his body of work to Belgium, the Whitbread company, and to Denmark’s Carlsberg. But not Germany. In fact, he prohibited his work from being translated into German, ordering those who read it not to share the information with any German brewery. His aim was simple: collapse the German beer industry.
Queue a big smile from smug old Louis as the German’s drowned in all their unwanted beer.
Yeah, not quite. The German’s weren’t going to let a silly Frenchman stand in their way, so they simply did what they do best – get back to work and create something better. It’s why, throughout the ages, they have constantly been the pioneers of all things beer.
What happened next though, Pasteur could not have predicted. A German brewer by the name of Adolphus Busch was struggling to create a consistent beer. In fact, so terrible was his product that people often spat it straight out, and he survived only by virtue of being a damn good salesman. He left Germany looking for answers and it was then that he discovered Pasteur’s work. Jackpot, he thought, and set sale for America.
Armed with the know-how on yeast stabilisation, pasteurisation and his gift of the gab, Busch was the first person to create a beer that could move successfully from state to state. So dawned the age of the big beer brands in America.
And the name of his beer? Budweiser…
But this successful transportation had another knock-on effect. The early American beers were of course based on what the Europeans were doing, most notably the Germans. Now that beer could travel, however, the Europeans soon began learning from the Americans; and the Americans, in turn, learnt from the Europeans and so on and so forth. What Pasteur’s anti-German work on stable yeasts had done, ironically with the help of a German, was to not only create a much better product, but to ramp the evolution of brewing from first gear into fifth. They say we should love thy neighbour. Well it seems the beer industry would be a long, long way behind if the French hadn’t hated theirs.
So the next time you’re enjoying a continental lager or an American Pale Ale, raise your glass to the fantastically vengeful Louis Pasteur.
Do you know a great story from the brewing annals? Then come and join me for a tour of Sambrook’s; we’ll drink beer and be history geeks together.