Friday, 22 May 2009

Illicit Brewing of Beer

In a quiet moment yesterday evening I began flicking through a random old trade magazine. As you do. "Brewing Trade Review 1947" it was. One of my purchases from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling auction. Within 5 minutes I'd found half a dozen items I could post about. Or use in The Book.

I've chosen for your delectation an odd tale of illicit brewing. There's one thing I don't quite understand. How, during the war, could they get hold of brewing materials without the authorities knowing?

Lancaster Assizes
28th May, 1947
R. v. Houghton

Illicit Brewing of Beer

Mrs. Margaret A. Houghton, of Lulworth Avenue, Preston, was sent to prison for six months in the second division, and here son, Mr. Bernard Houghton, was sent to prison for 12 months, after they had pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the Customs and Excise of £4,520 in beer duty.

Mr. J. Robertson Crichton represented the prosecution and Mr. E. Rowson, K.C., represented the defendants.

Mr. Crichton said that Mrs. Houghton bought the Falcon Inn, Preston, which was a home-berwing house, in 1939. In August 1942, the house was not paying very well and a secret brewing plant was set up in the domestic quarters of the inn. In 1946 the inn was sold to a Mr. G.W. Shawcross, who discovered the secret plant and reported the matter to the Customs and Excise authorities. It was estimated that the equivalent of 350 barrels, or 12,600 gallons, of beer had been brewed secretly. The son, who joined the Army in 1939, was invalided out with a weak heart in 1941 and assisted his mother in the business.

Mr. Rowson said that when Mrs. Houghton took over the Falcon Inn she had no experience in the trade before. She had sold the inn for £6,000 and had paid off a mortgage of £3,200. What was left she was quite prepared to pay to the Treasury.

Mr. Justice Stable, passing sentence, said it was distressing to see a lady of Mrs. Houghton's age (67) in such a position, but he could not possibly let the matter pass.

"Brewing Trade Review 1947", page 478.


Barm said...

350 barrels over the course of four years isn't that much, is it (Leaving aside that Customs & Excise would have had an interest in over-estimating the amount)?

If the place was already a home-brew house it would have been easy to buy a bit more malt under the table and not put it on the books. Even during the war. I should think the authorities had more pressing examples of black marketeering to contend with.

Matt said...

How common were brewpubs in the 1940's? I'd assumed they disappeared in the 19th century as the big brewers established their estates of tied houses and only reappeared more recently

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, brewpubs never died out in Britain. There were still half a dozen in the early 1970's.

I don't know the number off the top of my head, but I would guess there were at least 100 brewpubs in the 1940's.

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, no 350 barrels isn't a great deal. But presumably that wasn't all the beer the pub was selling. That would have been a bit obvious.

I thought that the supply of malt was directly controlled by the government in WW II. Doesn't strike me as something that would be readily available on the black market. Breweries were allocated a ration of malt, based on the amount of beer they brewed pre-war. (This is the reason the Highgate Brewery still exists. It was scheduled to close in 1940 but M & B kept it open to keep its malt ration.)

Ed said...

What a git for dobbing them in.

Ron Pattinson said...

Ed, I'd also say: pretty stupid to leave a secret brewery in a pub you had sold.

Barm said...

But did the government actually physically collect the malt from the maltsters and then dole it out to the brewers, or did they rely on licences, permits and regulations? If the latter, scams would still be possible.

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, I'm not really sure. I haven't got to researching that aspect of WW II yet. In WW I the system worked with licences.