Previous to the years 1816 and 1817, the demand for beer in India was nothing, compared with what it has become during the last seven or eight years. The pressing calls of 1821 for an increased supply, led Hodgson, of London, to enlarge his brewery, and induced some to enter into arrangements for monopolising the market: this, as usual in such cases, ended in severe losses to all concerned. Beer has for many years been an article of extensive consumption in Bengal, and it is highly probable that a greater increase would take place, were it not for the very high price to which it has frequently risen: this, however, could not be guarded against, as long as Hodgson exclusively had the supplying of the market; but now that other brewers can furnish equally good beer, there is no fear of a short supply, or of being subject to monopolies, such as were tried some few years ago. The great fluctuation in the price of this article has been caused entirely by the irregularity of the supply, and the plans laid down by Hodgson and some of his moneyed neighbours, to keep the others out of the market. So entirely dependent were the public upon this brewer, that he in-a great degree regulated the price and the quantity imported. Others who attempted to introduce their beer into the market were compelled to withdraw, having lost very considerably by their speculations; for Hodgson, when he knew that other brewers were shipping, sent out large quantities, and thereby reduced prices to such low rates as to frighten his rivals from making second shipments; and having effected this, the following years he had the market to himself, and the prices rose occasionally under the short supply to 180 Rs., and even 200 Rs., a hogshead. He thereby made up for the sacrifice of the previous year, and effectually deterred others from prosecuting their speculations in this market. Another thing in his favour, and which operated for a long time, was the high repute to which his name stood for beer; so much so, that no other, even of a good quality, was bought by the retailers, as they could not dispose of it. The commanders and officers were, up till 1824, Hodgson's best customers ; his beer formed one of the principal articles in their investments, and it was customary for him to give them credit for twelve or eighteen months, if not for the whole amount of their purchase, at least for one-half of it; but about this time he not only raised his price from £20 to £24-, but refused to sell on any terms except for cash, even to parties of unexceptionable credit. This naturally drove many of his best customers to other brewers, but Hodgson and Co., confident of the power they had in the market, sent the beer out for sale on their own account; and thus they in a short time became Brewers, Shippers or Merchants, and even Retailers. These proceedings naturally and justly excited hostile feelings in those engaged in the India trade at home, whilst the public here, seeing the complete control which Hodgson endeavoured to maintain over the market, turned their faces against him, and gave encouragement to other brewers, who fortunately sent out excellent beer.
In 1825 and 26, several brewers tried the market, and as the spell had been broken, met with liberal and fair encouragement. The most successful of them were Alsop and Son, Bass and Ratcliff, Ind and Smith, and Charrington, with a few others. It being therefore clear that England must furnish the supply, and it being the interest of the brewers to keep the market steadily supplied, we shall now give some data to guide the brewer or shipper.
It will be perceived that since 1830-31, (the 30th of April terminating the Indian Commercial Year,) the imports of Beer and Porter into Calcutta have increased nearly 100 per cent.: this in a great measure arises from the moderate rate and little fluctuation there has been in prices, whereby a taste for beer has been more generally diffused throughout the poorer classes of British inhabitants, which having once acquired, they will continue to indulge as long as prices continue moderate.
Imports of Beer and Porter into Calcutta Year ending April 30th Butts Hogsheads Dozens 1831 418 5,566 2,105 1832 111 5,946 1,167 1833 252 7,916 2,293 1834 322 7,193 2,028 1835 244 6,282 2,632 1836 140 4,519 1,392 1837 404 9,544 3,241 1838 841 11,356 2,102 1839 606 8,937 719 1840 391 10,779 671 1841 824 11,808 2,989 1842 669 11,035 6,457
"The theory and practice of brewing illustrated" by William Littell Tizard, 1846, pages 521 - 525.
Once again, Martyn Cornell's point is proved: how many struggle with the spelling of Allsopp. I'd never heard before of Charrington having an India trade. I must look into that further.
Of most note is how IPA is described "clear, light, bitter, pale ale, of a moderate strength". Of moderate strength. Let me say it once more for the hard of hearing: IPA was not a strong beer. Get that? No? One more time then: IPA was not a strong beer.
Oh yes, and how Bass's beer was valued for being pale and bright. I wonder what the colour was? It would be easy to assume that it had the amber colour of later years. But did it? This isn't the first mention of the particular paleness of Bass. Could it have been more of a golden yellow colour in the 19th century? Unless I stumble on an analysis that includes the colour, that may be difficult to discover.
The bit about the feasibility of beer brewed in India struck me, too. This is in the pre-railway days, remember. Where it says that it would cost more to supply central and southern India with beer from the north of the country than it would to ship it from Britain. That's quite remarkable. It's no surprise that production of beer in India took off after the railway network had been built, presumably drastically reducing transport costs.
One last point: note that the figures are for Beer and Porter. It often gets forgotten that Pale Ale wasn't the only beer exported from Britain to India. Large quantities of Porter and Stout were shipped, too. I'll be returning to this theme soon. Once I've laid my hands on a few more numbers