Beer in westerns

Every western I’ve seen, From John Wayne movies to Gunsmoke & Bananza, cowboys would stand in the town saloon and drink beer. Seeing that these were all set in the mid 1800’s brings up a question: Wasn’t that beer warm as piss?
Did that many people really like warm beer, back then?

Establishments with cellars would have stored their beer there, and it would have been about 50ºF (more or less), the usual temperature for serving beer everywhere before refrigeration became common. Some establishments even pumped the beer directly up from the cellar, to avoid the work of lugging the kegs up the stairs.

>> Did that many people really like warm beer, back then?

You have obviously never beed to England. They drink warm beer and seem to like it.

Which is another reason we picked up guns and threw their warm beer drinking arshes outa here!:stuck_out_tongue:

Presumably the saloons would brew their own, so it would probably taste just fine warm. It’s only Budweiser that you have to serve at taste-bud-numbing temperatures.

Perhaps I shouldn’t state this, as I like the USA, and would like very much to stay here, but I like warm beer. When you drink it at 33 F, it just has no flavor. Gimme a warm stout at about 65 - 70 F. Mmmmmmmmmmm…

Usually it’s only bitters and stouts that are drunk “warm” (actually room temperature) here. Lagers (which are like your average American beer) are usually being served cold these days.

Of course, as has been stated on the SDMB before, the reason that American beer must be served chilled is to help distinguish it from urine.

Why focus on the American West? Beer has been drunk since the time of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and beer-makers were considered to be under divine protection.

So, lessee, what, about 4,000 years of drinking beer without refridgeration? and about 80 years of drinking lager iced so that you can’t tell it has no taste?

Give me British or German beers any time.

Q. Why is American beer like making love in a canoe?

A. Because it’s f***ing close to water!
>> the reason that American beer must be served chilled is to help distinguish it from urine.

I gather the brits need to make no distinction between beer and urine?

Suddenly I have this image of the urinal draining directly into the cellar where … oh no!

The American brewing traditions from the major and many minor breweries came from Czheck immigrants, whom I suppose had greater access to cold areas in the mother country then the mostly less mountainous, farther south U.S. I imagine the brews of old tasted different due to taste of the customers and freshness of the beer due to no pastuerizing. Beer had be drank shortly after brewing.

The biggest hassle and expense in brewing is the sterilization process, then and now. Sure the beer nowadays may be blander, but the odds of getting skunky beer is less.

–Actually, my memories of westerns was the cowpoke walking up to the bar and saying “Gimme Wheeskey.”

In “Rio Bravo”, Dean Martin plays an alcoholic who attempts to fight off his cravings for whiskey by drinking beer. He pulls them out of some sort of box and the beers were in bottles with some sort of metal ring that sealed them up.

I don’t think drinking beer to stay sober is endorsed by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Beer bottles with ‘metal rings’: You can still buy them today in some places. They are too cool! There is a ceramic ‘cap’ with a cork seal held on by this ingeniously simple steel wire rig. You seat the cap in the bottle mouth and pull down on a wire ‘lever’ which locks it in place. To drink, you push up on the lever, the cap pops up and you slide it out of the way on a pivoting wire rig! Simple applied lever principals and absolutely ingenious! Designed before there were bottle cappers, better than corks and reusable.

Back in the old days, during the winter, Bars stored tons of ice in their cellars under layers of sawdust and hay. Beer was stored around the ice to keep cool. If no ice, then the cellars were normally cooler than the blistering, dry outside. (I don’t think the Great American Cow Poke smelled very charming when he sauntered into the bar.)

Another technique, still available today, was to place bottles of beer in a thick, unglazed, fired clay crock. You first soak the crock in water for an hour or so, which allows the porous material to absorb the fluid. Then, you take it out, drain it, put your beer in and cover all with a damp towel. Evaporation can reduce the interior temperature tremendously, at least 20 degrees and some say if you soak it in alcohol, it can drop to almost freezing.

There are ‘quaint’ wine coolers on the market made of reddish, fired clay that do this. They cost about $5 to make and sell for like $50. Go to your local ceramics studio, tell 'em what you want and ask 'em to paint the greenware a brick color before firing. They’ll probably throw the pot by hand, slap on some glaze and fire it for $20. (The cruder it looks, the more ‘rustic’ it appears.)

In the 19th century, there was actually a fairly large ice industry. During winter, large amounts of ice were cut out of frozen lakes in Canada and the northern US and shipped south by rail where the ice was stored in sawdust.

Whether or not it was used to cool beer in saloons is another question entirely but cold beer was at least conceivable though.


I was under the impression the pilgrims where the first brewers…

They landed at Plymouth rock because they were out of beer. So I just assumed they stopped and brewed.

True. I can’t remember the name, but there is a small brewery out of Virginia that has been in operation since the 18th century. Very good beer. The macrobreweries, such as Budweiser, Pabst, who make the yellowish lagers come from the Czheck Pilsner tradition. If you drink a real Czheck beer though, it may look similar, but typically has a bolder taste.


Aside from the fact that it’s spelled “Czech” (why did you make the same spelling mistake three times?), American brewing traditions more likely came from German immigrants than from Czech ones.

There is a Czech beer called Budweiser which is the origin of the American one (or so I’ve heard).

If the big American brews do come from Czechs one then they’ve certainly changed. Czech beers taste nothing like what comes out of any North American macro or mico brewery that I know of. Some of them are so bitter that they’re almost undrinkable if you’re not used to it.

It would have been a worse mistake if I had misspelled only one, or spelled it differently each time. I wasn’t sure. I knew there was a Z in it. The region of Germany that had most of the immigrants were from the SE region. Bavaria and other states near the Czech homeland. Popular American beer is base on and most resembles Czech pilsner. The region in Texas west of Houston to San Antonio is full of old German and Czech towns and they all seem to hold big beer festivals in the fall.