Monday, 28 February 2011

Raw materials in WW II

We're back in WW II again. With that very informative article from Wallenstein Laboratories Communications.

This time it's a quick overview of the situation with raw materials.

"Raw Materials

Broadly speaking, these problems of manufacturing have arisen from the attempt to brew as much beer as in prewar times, from greatly reduced quantities of the usual raw materials. Importation of barley, corn (maize) and hops has ceased, while the use of rice is prohibited and that of sugar considerably restricted. At the same time, home-grown supplies of brewing quality have not correspondingly increased. The quantities of such available supplies are limited by the Ministry of Food, which issues them under special license. Furthermore the Ministry of Agriculture regulations Wave the effect of prohibiting any increase in the acreage under hop cultivation, although a small increase, about 800 acres (i.e., about four per cent of existing acreage) has been allowed as a result of strong representations by the Brewers' Society.

As regards barley, the Government does not publish the facts, but it is generally considered that such acreage in 1942 rose to about 66 per cent above that in 1938. There are no indications of any further increase this year. If the brewer secured his full share of the increased crop, it would offset the loss of imported barleys. But he does not. Last season, from January onwards, the Ministry of Food bought by order one third of the barley on the market for milling purposes. Presumably something similar will happen this season.

From time to time, other factors have restricted the output of beer by introducing a bottleneck at some stage in production. About a year ago there was danger of such a bottleneck in the malting industry, in which an acute shortage of skilled labor had for some time been making itself felt. The use of flaked barley was introduced mainly to conserve the diminishing supplies of malt. But there had also been grave losses resulting from bomb damage to many maltings and their stocks. It so happens that the much-bombed areas of East Anglia are the chief barley growing and malting country."
"Wallenstein Laboratories Communications, December 1943, Volume VI, number 19" pages 153 - 154.

Point one: "the attempt to brew as much beer as in prewar times" is a big deviation from the policy in WW I. Then temperance elements in the government tried to reduce as much as possible the amount produced of all alcoholic drinks. A policy not based on reason, but blind prejudice. In WW II the approach was much more pragmatic. A good supply of beer was seen as vital for morale. Pubs played a vital role as a forum to discuss what was happening in the war.

WW I had taught the authorities much about dealing with problems in food supply. Whereas in WW I government only really stepped in after 1916, halfway through the war, in WW II they acted immediately. It was assumed the law would be long and food supplies threatened. This week, a programme on the TV showed aerial footage of London just after the end of WW II. Parks and other open spaces are filled with allotments. It's a indication of the organisation and determination to use every resource fully.

I'd noticed the flaked barley turning up in recipes and wondered why that was. It never occurred to me that it might be due to problems in the malting industry. I knew barley had been used in bread, but hadn't realised how much more barley had been grown during the war years. Britain hadn't been self-sufficient in malting barley since the early 19th century.

If 800 acres is 4% of the total, that makes about 20,000 acres in all dedicated to hops. That's a big reduction from 100 years earlier. In 1848, there were 49,000 acres of hops. But it reflects the way the British brewing industry became dependent on foreign supplies of hops in the second half of the 19th century.

There's still lots more fun to be squeezed from this dirty old mop. Next instalment: more detail on wartime grists. See you then.


Craig said...

This is fantastic! I just got done bottling the 1943 Truman recipe from Bitter! It's very pale and cloudy and so far has a very soft mouth feel and a nice hop bite.

It'll be the first of my, half-batch, "War Series" – 1939 Best Mild, 1940 London Stout, 1941 Burton, 1942 Mild and this one, the 1943 Bitter.

If you have any suggestions for 1944 and 1945, I'd love to hear them!

Ron Pattinson said...

Craig, I'll be devoting some time to WW II recipes soon. 1944 and 1945 sound like good years to investigate.

Craig said...

An IPA or a Brown Ale might be interesetng... just sayin'