Dead soldiers

LIKE DINOSAURS, the dodo and disco, some beer goes extinct, too.

It’s a result of evolution, of course: The fittest survive while the weak disappear. Typically, the lost ones were obscure regional varieties that fell under the weight of widely distributed brands. Others were best-sellers that simply lost favor as tastes and customs changed.

Dortmund Adambier, Pennsylvania Swankey, Grodziski, Broyhan, Kentucky Common – one can’t help feel a bit of nostalgic regret for the forgotten names.

We’ll never get a true taste of these lost beers, for the historian’s words fall short of describing flavor. As they say, extinction is forever.
Adambier

This ale, brewed in the German city of Dortmund around the 1880s, might be considered an “extreme” beer by today’s standards. It was strong (about 10 percent alcohol by volume), dark, hoppy and noticeably tart, thanks to its exposure to lactic acid (think Berliner Weisse). It was aged as long as 10 years in wooden casks.

Legend has it that King William Frederick IV of Prussia, unaware of its strength, downed a tankard of Adambier during a visit to Dortmund in the mid-1800s and promptly fell unconscious for 24 hours.

Closest modern example: Hair of the Dog Adam (Oregon).
Pennsylvania Swankey

The name supposedly stems from schwenke, a German term for low-alcohol beer. At the time of its popularity in the late 1800s, breweries had been responding to growing temperance forces by producing very weak beers with various spices (think root beer).

Swankey, popular in the western Allegheny region, was a dark ale spiced with aniseed for a licoricelike flavor.

Closest modern example: None. But with the low-alcohol “session” beer trend continuing to rage, it’s only a matter of time.
Grodziski

These days, Polish brews are as generic as any other Euro lager. A century ago, however, when you said Polish beer, this is what you meant: a cloudy, smoked wheat beer that made a marvelous accompaniment to smoked kielbasa and other meats.

Grodziski, known also as Gratz, might be thought of as a fuller-bodied Belgian white beer, like Hoegaarden, with the citrus flavor replaced by smokiness.

Historians say it was probably first brewed in the 15th century. Two world wars devastated Poland’s brewing industry, and the style has not been widely brewed for half a century.

Closest modern example: Yards Tadeusz Kosciuszko Smoked Pol (Philadelphia), brewed sporadically.
Broyhan

Not to be confused with the (now-defunct) imported German pilsner brand, Broyhan was the pale ale of Hanover in Northern Germany. Dating to 1526, it was one of Germany’s most popular styles for three centuries.

Like most German ales, Broyhan disappeared in the 19th century with the rising tide of light-bodied lagers. Beer historian Ron Pattinson guesses that the last true Broyhan was brewed around 1900.

Closest modern example: None.
Kentucky Common

Known also as Dark Cream, this cheap draft is said to have accounted for more than three-quarters of all beer sold in Louisville, Ky., in the early 1900s.

It was made with barley malt and either corn grits or sugar. That sounds like it might have been a precursor to today’s light-bodied macro lagers – except that this style was somewhat darker and, interestingly, blended with a sour mash infected with lactobacillus bacteria. The sour mash likely would’ve given the beer a crispy tang, not unlike the flavor of Bell’s Oarsman wheat beer.

Closest modern example: New Albanian Phoenix Kentucky Kommon (Indiana).

 

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