Thursday, 25 March 2021

Stoer's Irish Lager - Bavarian Beer from the 'Banks of the Dirty Dodder'

In late January of 1891 the licensed trade notes of The Sportsman - a London newspaper - carried the following snippet:
Next month the good burghers of Dublin will be sipping their own lager beer, a brewery having been started by Messrs. Stoer and Sons at Dartry on the banks of the dirty Dodder. Heretofore the Amstel Lager Beer Brewery held the Irish field pretty exclusively, but now the brewers of Amsterdam will have to tackle Pat on his own land.

Leaving aside the snide comments and latent racism, it is of interest that the news of an Irish brewed lager had made its way across the Irish Sea. This comment was probably taken from the following report from The Irish Times the 9th of January in that year, which is the first mention I've found regarding yet another chapter of Ireland's brewing history:

A new industry, capable of much development, has just been commenced in Dublin. During the present week Messrs. Stoer and Sons have started a Lager Beer Brewery at Dartry on the River Dodder, where they have been busy for the last four months rebuilding an old mill destroyed some ten years ago by fire. The premises have been fitted up with a view to meet the present demand for Lager beer in this country. A large water wheel, one of the largest, we believe, in the country, is attached to the brewery, and will be utilised to a considerable extent in working machinery. One of the special features claimed for the new beer will be its freedom from injurious clarifying ingredients which are so much used in many other beers and as the management have had large experience in Bavarian and American breweries they confidently expect to turn out a good article. As Lager beer takes some weeks to mature it will probably be the middle of February before the public are given an opportunity of sampling the new brew.

In April the same newspaper could give is a little more insight into the history of the owners and also the actual construction of the brewery itself. It was reported that a senior partner in the firm was a native of Bavaria and that this, 'the first brewery of its kind' in Ireland, occupied a 'highly desirable site on the outskirts of Upper Rathmines', as the proprietors wanted to get well away from the dust of the city to carry out their business in the 'pure air of that salubrious district.' A similar report was carried by the Dublin Daily Express on the 1st of May and from both of these write-ups a description of the brewery can be obtained.

The site itself consisted of a brewhouse with a mash tun and coppers 'of the newest and most improved patterns' in a 'large, square and lofty building.' An ice house adjoined this building with walls two and a half feet thick, which were packed in the centre with a 'non-conducting substance' for preserving the ice, and above this was a double-floored hop-room. Over this were the offices and above that again was a large twelve-windowed store that was used as a malt floor, store and grinding area. At the very top of this were the refrigerators for cooling the liquor, the report states. Much of the machinery and appliances were made in Ireland but some of equipment also came from Germany including a machine for filling the lager beer into 'casks and kegs' from Henry Stockheim, Manheim, Germany. The cellar that adjoined the kegging room was kept at about 36 degrees Fahrenheit and the beer was lagered in 300 gallon barrels. (As ever, we need to take care when assuming this was an exact description, as it may have been embellished or misreported.)

The writer of the piece had 'no reason to doubt that the [...] lager will hold its own in the Irish market with any beer [...] imported from Germany, Holland or elsewhere' and he goes on to say that it was made using the finest malt and hops without the addition of any ingredient to clarify or preserve the beer and that the result was 'a wholesome and nourishing drink'.

Newspaper advertisements from this period advertise it as an 'Irish Lager Beer' but also state perhaps a little contradictory sounding that it is a 'true German beer as consumed in Germany'. They were supplying hotels, grocers and wholesalers in the city and advertising quite heavily during this early period. By June of 1893 they were still advertising 'Stoer's Lager Beer' as being of home manufacture and as 'a good tonic' along with it being strong, refreshing and wholesome, and the purest drink on the market! In August of the same year John Bebe & Co. at 18 Thomas Street in the city was selling their Irish lager Beer at 1s 10d per dozen bottles, a little cheaper than its imported rivals Martlet, Amstel and Royal Pilsner that sold at 2s or 2s 2d per dozen bottles.

Unfortunately in that same month the brewery appears to be up for sale as a going concern - the previous week the company was still advertising its lager beer for sale - and being called 'The Dublin Lager Beer Brewery'. The tiny advertisement* in the back of the Irish Times goes on to say that:

... an enterprising party with capital would find it a very good investment. Half purchase money could remain, or would be taken in shares. For particulars apply to John Stoer, Hanover Quay, Dublin.

So what do we know about this John Stoer? 

John Michael Martin Stoer was born in 1824 in Bavaria. His father was called Martin - or John Martin perhaps - and was a brewer, perhaps around the Ansbach area where he was born. (It is possible he worked at the Hürner Brewery, as Martin married an Ursula Margaretha Hürner according to one ancestry website but this may be coincidental.) John junior was in business in London with his brothers before moving to Dublin some time after that partnership dissolved in 1860. His first wife Mary Gawler(?) died in 1873 and the sons referred to in the brewery name were Charles (Who worked in the Irish Times, which might explain the attention at its opening!) and Fredrick from that marriage, he also had a daughter Mary, and a son John who died young. He married again in 1874 to Emilie Hogan and had at least six more children with her. He was the manager of Bethel's Tar and Creosote Works at 6 & 7 Hanover Quay in 1885 and appears still had the same job in 1890 when Mary was born. My assumption is that he retained this job and operated the brewery with his sons as an ambitious side-line perhaps, with a manager and brewers installed from America and/or Germany as was mentioned in the early reports. (There was a John F. Stoer on the board of the Bergner & Engel Brewing Company of Philadelphia in the late 1800s and our John's other brother was a John Jacob Fredrich so I wonder is that another connection?) John Michael Martin Stoer died in 1907 at his home, Newgrove House, in Sandymount, Dublin in 1907 and is buried in Mount Jerome cemetery with his first wife and some of their children.

Curiously and somewhat morbidly, one of his nephews Hermann Stoer, a poet and son of another of John's Brothers - Charles Martin - killed himself and his wife in June of 1893, the facts of which were widely publicised in a number of newspapers both here and abroad. This dreadful event happened not long before he put the brewery up for sale, so I wonder did this tragedy have some affect on him, or was the sale just down to purely commercial reasons?

I am unsure of when the brewery actually ceased brewing but an Irish lager beer was still being offered for sale in advertisements in December 1894, so perhaps the brewery limped on for a while, as it appears no buyer or investor was found. It is also possible - and likely - that wholesalers were just clearing stock or not updating advertisements.

Where was the actual brewery situated? There is a clue in the description of the brewery I previously quoted from, where it says it is 'at the head of Upper Rathmines, immediately adjacent to the River Dodder.' which seems to point at this position, very close to the handsome Dartry Dye Works building from 1895, which ties in closely with our timeline too. Presumably this enterprise took over the site and perhaps used some of the buildings. Older Ordinance Survey maps show a mill on the river at this site too, which ties in with the comments above about it being renovated from a burned down mill. That mill was probably a three storey oil and colour mill owned by a Thomas Panter which burned down in December 1879 according to newspapers of that time.

As ever, I haven't succeeded in filling in all the blanks but at least it is another part of our brewing heritage that has a little more flesh on its bones - and we have a nice image of a lost label!

I may need to have an Irish lager this weekend...

Liam

*This I wouldn't have spotted except The Beer Nut Mentions it here. Thanks John!

(The facsimile of the label at the start of this post is one from a newspaper advertisement that I have cleaned up and enhanced as best I can...) 

As ever, if you can add to the story or spot any errors please let me know and I'll amend the post.

(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)

Newspaper image © The British Library Board - All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk from whom I have received permission to display here). 

1 comment:

The Beer Nut said...

Great work! That's really interesting about the Irish Times connection. From reading the contemporary reports (my bit on it is here) the whole thing had a bang of modern influencer culture about it. So there's a reason they were so media savvy, much good that it did them in the end.