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Oakes Weekly - April 1, 2005
In Praise of a Brewing Pioneer
April 1, 2005
Written by Oakes
Canadians are considered a shy and retiring bunch, not apt to braggadocio or boastfulness when it comes to their accomplishments. And so it is that one of the world’s greatest brewmasters – a true pioneer in the field – has gone largely unheralded by the beer world at large. Today, we try to change that.
Only in his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia does the great Alexander Keith get the respect he truly deserves. His name is spoken with reverence at licensed establishments across this city and its hinterlands. While less civilized denizens will order their inferior beer with calls like “Gimme an effin’ Moosehead, eh!” and “Yo be-yotch, Bud me!” the Honourable Mr. Keith’s product is ordered likewise: “I will have another of Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, please,” to which the wait staff will reply in unison “Those who like it, like it a lot!” This refrain is repeated countless times throughout each and every evening in fine establishments across Nova Scotia.
It is not the purpose of this article to delve into the obvious international plot to keep the Honourable Mr. Keith from enjoying his due legacy. That is not to say that we haven’t amassed evidence of a conspiracy involving the beady-eyed Czechs, those snaggletoothed degenerates the English, cheese-eatin’ surrender-monkeys the French and the cash-whore known as the scientific community. But we are but a humble beer website, and as such will do nothing more than pay full homage to one of the brewing industry’s greatest figures.
It is established fact, as confirmed on bottles of Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale and the Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale website, that the Honourable Alexander Keith was brewing his famous India Pale Ale as of 1820, and that the Alexander Keith’s Brewery still brews the beer that bears his name his way, using a secret recipe developed by the Honourable Mr. Keith and unchanged over time.
So how has it come to pass that the Czech Republic, of all places, gets credit for producing the first pale golden beer? Surely they must jest, these “historians”, for they make the claim that Pilsner Urquell was the world’s first golden beer. Yet, the research conducted by these same self-appointed “experts” states that this Pilsner Urquell beer was first brewed in 1842. That is a full 22 years after the Honourable Alexander Keith first brought his India Pale Ale to the taverns of Halifax! They still brew his beer his way, after all, so it is high time that he was credited for inventing golden beer.
Some smart-ass know-it-alls might go so far as to suggest that it would not have been possible to produce golden beer in 1820, because kilning techniques were not sophisticated enough until 1842 to produce golden malt. I would direct these intellectually-deficient buffoons to the Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale website, which clearly states that “only the lightest and finest of barleys that produce a pale malt” are used in the production. So kilning temperature and technique may have stymied the Czechs, but the Honourable Mr. Keith found a way around that through a more careful selection of his raw ingredients. It didn’t matter how long, or at how high a temperature, his barley was kilned because it was so fine and light.
Moreover, while it is understood that the Honourable Mr. Keith did not invent India Pale Ale, he was brewing it in 1820 just as every advertisement for Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale confirms. Yet strangely, every brewing historian talks only about Hodgson and Allsopp as brewing IPA in those days. That Hodgson made IPA first and one Job Goodhead of Allsopp re-created his recipe in a teapot. Nice bit of b.s., laddy. The Honourable Mr. Keith was brewing his IPA in 1820. That’s before Allsopp. We all know this. So what happened? Well, it’s my theory that Queen Victoria was probably shagging one of the Allsopp lads on the side and had all records of the Honourable Mr. Keith’s achievements stricken from the record books. Bitch.
As stated on the Alexander Keith’s website, it was the quality of the ingredients and preservative effect of the hops that kept the beer in good condition on the long voyage to India. But that is just an example of the type of modesty that has kept this great brewing pioneer off the world’s radar screen for too long. While that claim is of course true, we know that Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale is today brewed his way, and that means that the Honourable Mr. Keith also preserved his beer through the use of pasteurization.
Now, it is well-documented that a Frenchman named Louis Pasteur was born in 1822 and claims to have invented pasteurization. How can this be, when Alexander Keith was preserving his beer in this way two years before this Pasteur character was even born? Clearly, this Pasteur had got wind of the Honourable Mr. Keith’s secret technique – then known as alexanderization - and claimed it as his own in 1862, appropriated the process and renamed it in his own honour, with the assistance of French secret agents and the complicity of a global scientific community eager for French research grants.
If these outstanding accomplishments weren’t enough, the Honourable Mr. Keith was a master of the mystic art of being in two places at the same time. His beer was, too, because it seems that today, the Alexander Keith’s Brewery on Lower Water Street in Halifax is where this fine beer is made, and yet it is really actually made not that in quaint brick building but in a large industrial plant on Agricola Street in Halifax. While modesty - or perhaps fear of being burned at the stake for witchcraft - once again prevented the Honourable Mr. Keith from bragging about his mystical powers, thankfully in this instance nobody else has tried to take credit for his accomplishments. He passed his secrets on in classified brewery archives, and today his brew is still able to be brewed in two places at the same time, exactly as he and his brew were back in 1820!
This is not at all the sum-total of Mr. Keith’s accomplishments, either! It would be folly to imagine that a man with such an impressive track record of scientific achievement in the field of brewing could have left us with just this legacy. Indeed, one only has to look at today’s Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale to realize that the Honourable Mr. Keith is also responsible for the development of high gravity brewing, and was the first brewmaster to artificially carbonate his beer. He also was the first brewmaster to puts his beer in cans, over 100 years before the next brewery did so. The technique of lagering an ale at warm temperatures to induce esters is but another of the Honourable Mr. Keith’s gifts to the world of kick-ass beer.
But surely, the full list is too long to be repeated here. All we wish to do is to point out that so much misinformation is floating around out there surrounding the Honourable Mr. Keith and especially his India Pale Ale, that you would be well advised to view what you read and hear with skepticism. Multinational forces – from places as far-flung as Belgium and Brazil - will say anything to gain your trust, and you must resist the urge to believe blindly.
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