The princess and the early Swedish lager

Like some stories, this one starts with a princess. Well, kind of — we’ll start a little earlier.

In the mid-1800s, Frederik Rosenquist, an ex-military captain, went to Germany to find a master brewer for the brewery he was planning to build on the southern Stockholm island of Södermalm. In Bavaria, he found Franz Adam Bechmann, and the two returned to Stockholm — bringing lager beer with them to Sweden for the first time — and Rosenquist’s Tyska (German) bryggeri was born.

The popularity of this new beer in Sweden soared due to its beer-drinking princess, Josephine of Leuchtenberg, who was King Oscar I’s consort. Josephine had lived in Bavaria as a child, and did not care for the top-fermented Swedish beer of the time. As such, something as simple as a beer could become in vogue if it was favored by monarchy (the Russian Imperial Stout is another example of a beer style that got a boost by its fancy, upper-class drinkers).

But, as Ron Pattinson points out, this Bavarian-style lager was slightly different than what Princess Josephine might have remembered from her Bavarian upbringing: it had a higher alcohol content; was less hopped with a sweeter flavor; was paler in color; and was more highly carbonated.

The most popular style in Sweden in the period 1870 to 1920 was, by a street, Bayerskt öl. I had been assuming that this was a dark lager in the Munich style. As so often is the case, it’s actually a little more complicated than that. According to the Svenska Bryggareföreningen’s magazine of January 1887, there were many differences between the Swedish version and the original. Bayerskt öl:

  • had a higher OG†
  • used lower quality hops so wasn’t as bitter*
  • was paler – between pale yellow and pale brown, where as the original was closer in colour to Porter
  • had a higher alcohol content because of the higher OG and because the paler malts used meant it was more highly attenuated
  • had a higher CO2 content because:
    • it was served directly from the barrel and not bottled
    • Swedes liked highly-carbonated drinks

There’s not much else found (on the Internet, at least) about Bayerskt—many breweries of the time made their own version, as you can see in some of the beer labels below. There seems to be only one or two commercial versions that have survived, its most famous being Falcon’s Bayerskt, currently produced by Carlsberg.

Samuel E Bring, who documented early Swedish beer, presumably wrote about Bayerskt in his book ‘Tyska Bryggeriet.’ I’d be curious to see if there’s more detailed information on the recipe formulation—so, jag söker information om Bayerskt — tack!

† average OG (13.9º) – max OG (18.4º) – min OG (10.5º)
* Hopping rates: 600 g hops per 100 kg malt