Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Burton vs. London

Here's a fascinating insight into the rivalry between London and Burton brewers in the late 19th century. It's taken from evidence given by Mr. R. Bannister, Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry and of the Chemical and Microscopical Societies who had worked for more than 33 years in the Inland Revenue Laboratory.

"6246. (Chairman.) Then with respect to the percentage of sugar used in separate places. I take the case of Burton ; the Burton brewers used only 3.5% per cent, of sugar in 1886? —That is so.

6247. But in 1896 they used 9 per cent, of sugar ? —They did.

6248. If we take in the same way London brewers, they used about 12 per cent. in 1886? - 12.25 per cent.

6249. And in 1896 they used about 18.5 percent. ? —Yes, there has been a large increase in the quantity of sugar used in London.

6250. Is it not the case that there is a considerable competition between the London brewers and the Burton brewers? —In one particular kind of beer there is. In the ordinary London beer there is not such great competition, because what is called the London mild beer is all being manufactured in London, and sold cheaply to the public houses. In another description, bitter beer, there is competition, because the London brewers at the present time are very desirous if they can to produce a bitter beer of their own, instead of going to the Burton brewers for their supply.

6251. But this clientele outside the public-houses are rather bid for by the Burton brewers and the London brewers; and, therefore, there is a competition between these two sets of breweries for supplying this bitter beer ? —Yes, but a large number of London brewers confine themselves almost exclusively to the public-house trade, and not to the outside family trade.

6252. You think the Burton trade rather has the field, in spite of the competition of the London brewers in these bitter beers ? —I think so, on account of selling their beer through the bottlers, who supply grocers, and so get it into private consumption.

6253. You do not consider that the fact of the London men using a larger percentage of sugar prevents them from competing with the Burton brewers ? —They do not use a large percentage of sugar generally in the bitter beers because the bitter beers are beers that have to be kept a considerable time, and they depend upon the time these beers are kept in store for fining them.

6254. Do you think that if the London brewers used generally a less percentage of sugar they would he in a better position to defeat Bass and Allsopp and all these Burton brewers? —I do not think that at all. I think that competition would not come in with that particular beer of Bass's and other Burton brewers ; but the Bass and Allsopp class of brewers supply a very large quantity of mild beer apart from the bitter beer. Some of it — a small quantity, probably — contains sugar, no doubt."
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, pages 235-236.

I can't let the comment pass about London brewers not using much sugar in their Pale Ales. That's total bollocks. As we saw last week, the grists of the Pale Ales from Barclay Perkins and Whitbread in the 1890's were 20% sugar. Actually slightly more than the average sugar usage of London brewers in 1896, given as 18.5%.

Intriguing that there was little competition in Mild Ale, as that was distributed principally through tied houses. But there was competition between London and Burton brewers in the Pale Ale trade.

One other point worth noting: the use of the term "bitter beer" rather than "Pale Ale". Yet some will still try and tell you that Bitter and Pale Ale are different styles.

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