Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Guinness Porter II

You may have noticed that my obsession isn't limited to Barclay Perkins. It extends to all large Porter breweries. Hence all the Guinness stuff.

Output of Guinness Porter peaked in 1913 at 930,449 barrels. A decade later, fewer than 400,000 barrels were brewed. (In England, Porter production had peaked 50 years or more earlier.) Sales gradually ebbed away and were under 100,000 barrels a year by 1960. Most was sold in Northern Ireland (in 1964 59,000 barrels of the 72,000 brewed) . It was finally discontinued in the early 1970's.

I haven't forgotten the figures for UK beer imports. How could I? Here's a table comparing Guinness consumption with total beer imports in the years between Irish independence and the opening of the Park Royal brewery in London in 1937.

An incredible percentage of the beer imported into Britain was Guinness. The London brewery was built in response to a tarif war between Britain and the Irish Republic in the early 1930's.

In case you overlook it, I'll repeat a comment made by Zythophile in response to my last Guinness Porter post:

"Lynch and Vaizey (Guinness's Brewery in the Irish Economy: 1759-1876) offer somew reasons for all these, as I recall - one effect of the Potato Famine was that rural Ireland did, as it recovered from the disaster, at least change from a subsistence economy to a money economy, which meant people now had the cash to buy beer - previously they'd have had to swap a pig for (a) an unfeasibly large quantity of beer that would go off before it eran out or (b) a reasonable quantity of whiskey. So beer sales went up in rural areas, and Guinness seems to have been the Dublin brewer that took advantage of this. IIRC, funnily, the rural market was largely stout rather than porter, and Dublin was the big porter market - even in the 1950s, aparently, barmen in Dublin would recognise you were a culchee if you ordered stout ...

Guinness didn't export much porter to England because they were worried it wiould be passed off as stout, or mixed with stout - Liverpool was about the only place porter went to, apparently ..."
Zythophile has also recently posted on his own blog about the Guinness family.

I find it fascinating how out of phase Ireland was with, say, London. The rapid expansion of Guinness (1850-1870) coincided with the beginning of the decline in the London Porter trade. Did Guinness deliberately choose to concentrate on a niche other brewers were turning their backs on?


The Beer Nut said...

I'd say only because the stuff was still selling in large quantities in Ireland, because Ireland, as usual, was behind in fashion (we have some great Victorian "Georgian" architecture, and plenty of "Victorian" Edwardian buildings as well). If they had the output, and there was enough of an export market for it, then it makes sense for them to "concentrate" on it. Before long the product becomes especially closely associated with that particular brewery, much like Guinness and stout are today.

Ron Pattinson said...

Any explanation why Porter lasted longest in Northern Ireland? I'm intrigued by that.

I take your point about Ireland being behind fashion, but it seems that the numbers show something more complex. The earliest figures show Guinness producing more Stout than Porter. This wasn't the case with London brewers: Porter outsold Stout until the early 1900's, when Porter was on its last legs.

The Beer Nut said...

On Northern Ireland and porter, it's presumably related to Zythophile's observation of porter being an urban drink. The north was urbanised and industrialised in way the south, apart from Dublin, wasn't. Why this preference should exist I haven't a notion. I do know that my immediate ancestors, from rural mid and south Tyrone, were bottled stout drinkers to a man (and woman, in several cases).

Zythophile said...

There seems to have been a general preference in regions where heavy manual labour was the norm for low-gravity, often dark "thirst quenchers", so porter for the Belfast shipworkers and the Dublin railway workers, mild for South Wales miners, and so on. I wouldn't be surprised to find similar trends in the Belgian coal fields, the Ruhr steel works and so on. Of course, once the heavy industry disappeared, the demand for that style of beer disappeared as well ...