Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The triumph of Lager

It's been far too long since I last thrilled you with statistics. You must be so fed up with all the boring travel reports and dull articles about Mild. Yawnarooney. Time for some hard facts. Facts whose gaze you would avoid if they walked into your local. Facts that hammer in nails with the palm of their hands. Facts that open beer bottles with their teeth and shave with a blowtorch. That hard.

I've got a thing about the Gründerzeit. That's the period between 1870 and 1914. Modern Germany was forged at this time. An era of massive change and rapid population growth. When Germany was transformed into an industrial giant. The brewing industry was transformed, too.

"Brewing Tax Area" is the English translation. Though united under the Emperor, Germany was by no means a unified, centralised country. Amongst the many rights some some states retained, was that to tax beer. Northern Germany, much of which had already been under Prussian control before 1870, was subject to a single system of beer taxation. The Brausteuer. This covered all of the German Empire, with the exception of Bavaria, Baden, Württenberg, Alsace-Lorraine and Luxemburg. Beer mving between any of these states and the Brausteuergebiet was subject to customs duties.

The differing legal framework in the Brausteuergebiet can make and the other states makes old German brewing statistics complex. You rarely see any figures that cover the whole of Germany.

The information that follows only covers the Brausteuergebiet.

The decline in top-fermentation
In 1873, there was already more bottom- than top-fermenting beer produced, though not that much. Top-fermenting beer still accounted for 43% of production. Yet a good indication of how much of this was still produced in small, old-fashioned plants, is shown by the fact that 75% of the breweries brewed top-fermenting beer. There's a big difference in the average annual output per brewery: bottom-fermenting 3,313 hl, top-fermenting 828 hl. This gap grew even greater over time. By 1905 it was 14,744 hl and 1,897 hl respectively. We can deduce that lager brewers were operating ever larger and more modern plants, while change amongst the top-fermenting brewers was slower and more limited.

In the first few years while top-fermenting beer's share of sales declined, in absolute terms its production remained stable: in 1873 8,422,107 hl, in 1890 8,327,202 hl. However, over the same period, production of bottom-fermenting beer more than doubled from 11.2 million hl to almost 24 million hl. All the new trade generated by the expansion of the economy and population was for bottom-fermented beer. The split was now 75% to 25% in favour of bottom-fermented.

Between 1890 and 1905 the top-fermenting trade went into absolute decline, dropping from 8.3 million hl to 6.2 million hl. It was still boomtime for lager. Output increased from around 24 million hl to 40 million hl. In just over 30 years, production of lager had almost quadrupled.

I have to admit that there was a slight cockup with the figures for this post. After typing in a couple of hundred numbers, the file now appears unreadable. Great. Thankfully Andrew was on hand to quickly draw up two charts for me. Thanks Andrew. To reward him, please go and look at his blog.

Source of data: "Jahrbuch der Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin. 1907", page 750.


Kristen England said...

Hmmmm...makes me think about Köln and their own Reinheitsgebot. Any idea on their statistics. Im speaking on consumption. Im wondering how much 'imported' lagers are drank in the city vs the Κölsch produced therein.

Anonymous said...

It's all remarkably similar to the rise of the big porter brewers in London in the 18th century, and, indeed, the rise of the beer brewers over the ale brewers in the 16th century: all three (lager, porter, beer) were new technologies that brought large economies of scale to their users.

One point, Ron: do your stats show any breakdown between dark/Bavarian-style lager production and pale/Pilsner-atyle production?

Ron Pattinson said...

kriste, I don't have figures for Cologne, I'm afraid.

Zythophile, good point about the Porter brewers. I have no separate figures for the different styles of lager. However, I do have the first dates Munich-style lager and Pilsner-style lager were brewed in various cities.

Berlin: dark lager 1830; pils 1890
Hamburg: pils 1901

There was very little Pils brewed anywhere outside Bohemia before 1890. Everywhere the first lager was Münchner - Holland, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark. At least everywhere I have info on.

In the period the figures cover, Dortmund excepted, I would think almost all the bottom-fermenting beer was dark.

Hang on though, I'm just remembering the figures for the amount of rice used in the Brausteuergebiet in 1893. That was the deliberate use of a more expensive ingredient to produce a very pale-coloured beer.

Mostly dark is my best guest.