Mid-Atlantic Brewing News August/September 2007

Blast from the Past: Schmidt's Menu Tips

By Rich Wagner

Beer, for many, has achieved a level of sophistication rivaling that of fine wines. Connoisseur have developed more refined pallets and vocabulary to describe beer flavors, which is good for both consumer and brewer. There’s a lot being written these days about pairing food with beer, and with the great beer styles being produced by today’s craft brewers there have never been more tasty beer and food combinations to choose from.

As a researcher of Pennsylvania’s brewing industry I never cease to be amazed that “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Tastes and technology change, but from the very beginning of human civilization beer has been a nutritious potable beverage that people have enjoyed with meals and at celebrations. And so it comes as no surprise to me as I scan my files on Schmidt’s of Philadelphia that brewers back in the fifties and sixties launched advertising campaigns around the beer and food theme, especially during the summer months and holidays.

There was actually a privately-run restaurant called the “Brewery Tavern” across from the Schmidt’s keg loading platform on Edward St. It was described in the Schmidt’s house organ, The Case, in 1947 as follows: “Its waitresses beam with sparkling good nature, starched loveliness and Quaker demureness. The waiters in the basement rathskeller hustle and bustle throughout the meal, filling empty bellies like piece workers on a production line. The cooks are the envy of all the eating places in Philadelphia and New York. Gorgeous Ann reigns with queenly dignity as hostess in the ever-filled dining room. Anytime after 5 P.M., any day, you can find the Tavern crowded with people after a good steak or a cooling drink. The Brew - Schmidt's! What else?”

In February of 1960 the company launched a “beer with meals” advertising campaign and developed point-of-sale displays to support it. In the spring of 1961 The Case did a story on Schmidt’s success with delicatessens in the five-county region. Touted on the cover as “Delicatessen – Diner’s Delight” and explained in the title: “Imported & Domestic Cheese, White Fish-Lox-Schmaltz Herring, Corned Beef, Chopped Herring, Gefillte Fish + Schmidt’s = A Winning Combination!” the article went on to say there were 250 licensed deli’s, many of which served food and beer on premises, with specialties to rival today’s haute cuisine.

During the sixties The Case even had a regular column entitled “For the Ladies – Menu Tip of the Month” that showcased dishes prepared with beer, always illustrated with a “table shot” of the featured recipe along with frothing glasses of Schmidt’s Beer and Ale!

I’m sure the recipes reprinted below could be adapted to today’s craft beers, but some might enjoy them with a traditional American light lager, just like in the old days.

Hot Shrimp Cooked in Beer!

Shrimp and rice go well together! Not only do they taste delicious but they combine swiftly in a number of tasty dishes. A real gourmet treat is shrimp cooked in Schmidt’s beer. The shrimp are boiled in the beer just long enough to take on a piquant flavor and succulence and then removed from the liquid, which becomes part of the sauce. Schmidt’s beer and ale are interchangeable in the recipe so if you only stock one at home, don’t worry!

With seafood and hearty main dishes such as this, cold, freshly poured Schmidt’s is a wise beverage choice, particularly with beer-seasoned cookery.

12 ounces Schmidt’s beer or ale

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 sprig parsley

2 lemon slices

1 bay leaf

1½ pounds raw shrimp, shelled

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon sugar

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

¼ teaspoon Tabasco

Bring beer, onion, parsley, lemon slices and bay leaf to a boil in saucepan. Add shrimp. Bring to a boil again; reduce heat and cook 5 minutes. Strain liquid; reserve. Melt butter. Add flour and sugar; stir to a smooth paste. Add shrimp liquid, tomato sauce and Tabasco. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Add shrimp; heat to serving temperature. Serve on hot cooked rice.

YIELD: 6 servings


¼ cup butter or margarine

¼ cup minced onion

½ cup minced celery

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups bread cubes

¼ teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped parsley

½ cup Schmidt’s beer or ale

1 4-6 pound duckling

Succulent choice for a special dinner is roast duckling, stuffed with a beer dressing and garnished with orange slices and watercress. Serve with fresh asparagus and your favorite brew, sparkling, chilled Schmidt’s beer or ale.

Heat butter in a skillet. Add onion, celery and salt; sauté until tender. Toss bread cubes with onion mixture until bread is lightly toasted. Sprinkle with rosemary and parsley. Stir in beer. Place stuffing in cavity of duckling. Close body openings. Place duck, breast side up, on rack in shallow open pan. Roast in 325ºF (slow) oven about 2½ to 2¾ hours or until legs can be easily moved up and down. Carefully remove duckling from roasting pan; place on serving dish.

YIELD: 4 to 6 servings.