Friday, 18 July 2008

Irish breweries

Whilst researching British beer, I come across quite a bit about Ireland. Not surprising, as it was part of the UK before 1922. Irish beer is also one of my side interests. That partly stems from a fascination with Guinness. Not the crappy standard Guinness spouting out of nitro fonts at sub-zero temperatures. Proper Guinness. The (sadly now deceased) bottle-conditioned version and the Special Export Stout reserved for us lucky bastards in the Benelux.

Today I've got two more tables for you. The first shows beers from Ireland's other two Stout breweries, Murphy's and Beamish & Crawford:

If you compare this with the figures I've already published for Guinness gravities, you'll see that they're generally similar.

The second table shows the number of brewers and beer retailers in the divisions of the UK in 1838:

Don't you just love numbers? These ones tell us so much about the differences between the regions.

First, the number of breweries varies hugely. England has far more than either Scotland or Ireland. This isn't just because of the greater population of England. At this period, before the Irish famine, the difference between the population of England and Ireland was much, much smaller. Why are there so many more breweries in England?

Here are the population figures from the 1841 census:

England: 15,002,000
Scotland: 2,621,854
Ireland: 8,199,853

(How many other countries in Europe have a population much lower than in 1841? My guess is none. A demonstration of the terrible impact of the famine in Ireland.)

Take a look at the spread across the output categories. More than half the English breweries were producing less than 100 barrels a year, or around 166 hectolitres. That's bugger all. Few modern brewpubs produce less than 300-400 hl annually. In the 1830's in most of England, except for London, a large proportion of pubs still brewed. And a lot of them were pretty small. Only brewers in the last category, making more than a 1,000 barrels a year, were really operating on a commercial scale.

This is probably about the maximum number of breweries ever operating at one time in England. Publican brewers were already well on their way out in London, and the same was about to haoppen in much of the rest of the country. Though in some areas, such as the Black Country and part of Yorkshire, there were still considerabnle numbers of pub breweris well into the 20th century (the last one in Leeds, the Lord Nelson, ceased brewing in the 1950's)

The figures show a very different situation in Scotland and Ireland, where very few breweries were in the smallest three categories. This tells us that brewing was already mainly a commercial industry, carried out in stand-alone breweries. This feature is most apparent in Ireland.

You'll notice that when it comes to beer retailers, the figures are much closer. These undoubtedly more closely reflect the relative populations of the three regions. The greater wealth of England is reflected in the much higher proportion of retailers whose premises had a rateable value greater than 20 quid.

I'll doubtless post more soon about Ireland. I've just ordered a book published in 1902 about Irish agriculture and industry. It'll make a change for you from decoction and the Gravity Books.


Anonymous said...

Why are there so many more breweries in England?
The answer appears to be that pre-famine Ireland, outside the cities, wasn't a money economy, but a barter one, and it's easier to barter a pig, say, for a small cask of whiskey than a pig for a large amount of beer that will speedily turn sour. So the economic conditions weren't there to encourage brewers to set up. The famine, while a terrible tragedy, did mean that the rural economy of Ireland became monetised after 1849. However, what then seems to have happened is that Guinness was speedily off the mark to capture this new market, leaving its rivals in Dublin and Cork standing and smothering any fledgling new brewers in the rural areas.

Kristen England said...

I haven't seen any sort of brewers logs out of Ireland. Have you guys seen anything? I have a brewer buddy who's Irish and brewed at Guinness and said that he had never seen an old brewing log from anywhere. What about you guys? Are they much more closely guarded or just not as prevalent as the UK counterparts?

Ron Pattinson said...

Good points. But one thing I noticed when looking at the relationship between the duty paid and the total duty. While for the lower output bands it's easy to see a linear relationship, under 20 barrels 10/- a year, 20-50 barrels 20/-, 50-100 barrels 30/-, 100-1,000 barrels 30/-. For the highest category listed there must have been more bands than are listed in the table.

The duty per brewery for the highest band is as follows:

England: 8.65
Scotland: 8.38
Ireland: 10.68

Which implies that, in this class, the Irish breweries had a larger average output.

Fascinating, aren't they, all these numbers?

Ron Pattinson said...

Kristen, the Guinness archive must contain brewing logs, judging by things I've seen published. When I asked them, they said I wasn't allowed to look at them. If they had said yes, I would have been on the next plane to Dublin.