Monday, 21 November 2011

Illicit malting in early 19th-century Ireland

I tripped over this while running down the corridors of the past. Grazed my knee quite painfully.

See if you can guess why it caught my attention:

"Minutes Of Evidence taken before the Commissioners Of Excise Inquiry at Dublin.

Sir HENRY PARNELL, Bart., in the Chair.

Appendix No. 79.

2d December, 1833.
George Pape, Esq., Collector of Excise, Dublin, called in and examined.

What is the state of the case as to the duties on malt; are they well collected ?—Certainly not; illicit malting has been carried on, the last year particularly, in consequence, I dare say, of the extraordinary crop of grain, and the other causes I have referred to, as operating in Ireland to relax the laws to an enormous extent.

Are there dealers in malt for sale ?—No, there are not: it is a trade hardly known in Ireland. The malt goes from the maker to the consumer. There are such persons, in towns like Dublin, as factors, who have malt consigned to them by the makers; but it does not go into little petty shops, such as it is found in England. The person who consumes the malt is the distiller or brewer; it goes from the man who makes a trade of making malt to those persons.

Every brewer is not a maltster, or every distiller ?—They malt to a certain extent, but generally nothing like their own consumption; for their principal demand they rely on purchasing in the market, at least I find it so in Dublin.

What class of traders bring it to market ?—The maltsters; the men who are maltsters, without being either distillers or brewers; and I understand those maltsters are situate in the country—where illicit malting prevails—in Carlow, for instance, and Ardree, both great barley districts, who used to purchase barley of farmers last year, purchased the malt and mixed it with their own, and brought it to market as malt of their own making.

The farmers have turned maltsters ?—Yes; most of them have a kiln attached to their farms for drying their corn in a wet season, and that kiln they use also for drying their malt.

When did this first shew itself ?—It shewed itself to the greatest extent last year; but it has been creeping on ever since the old law was broken down, which subjected malt to seizure in removal, unless accompanied by a permit: the thing has never been in as healthy a state since that law was put an end to; but the lawless state of the country has, in many instances, no doubt, aggravated or led to the evil.

The smuggling is carried on not by the licensed maltster so much as by the persons not entered ?—More generally by persons who are not entered maltsters: there is no check upon the entered maltsters' dry malt now; there was a check by the officers stocking, formerly, under the permit system.

Is the fact that the farmer is making malt himself, known to his servants and family ?— Yes; but in this country they may trust with great confidence to their servants: it rarely happens that they give information.

It may be known in the neighbourhood that the farmer is violating the law, without the danger of his-being informed against?—Yes; I was told by'a very respectable maltster at Drogheda, who made malt for the Dublin market last year, that he must give up the market. I asked why? he said, I have been met by very decent malt, though not so good as I have, at a guinea a barrel; I cannot afford to sell at less than 27s.: I give 15s. for the barley, the duty is 10s. 4.d., and I must have a little profit for myself. He accounted for it in that way. There were two or three maltsters gave up the business also in Dublin collection last year, giving that as the reason, and I believe it was the sole cause.

Is the practice of illicit malting in any way general throughout Ireland ?—It is carried on to the greatest extent in those districts which produce barley.

Have any particular exertions been made by the Board to put it down ?—Yes; there have been seizures made, and there are prosecutions depending; but I may say, as to prosecutions in this country, they do not produce the effect which I have seen result from them, both in Scotland and England: they produce an effect only on the offender himself; they do not operate to deter the man who lives next door, who is going on with his frauds at the very time; if he is not discovered himself, that is all he looks to, and he feels that he has little else to fear.

That is pretty much the character of all other prosecutions in this country, is it not ?—Yes.

The character of the country, in point of fact, with regard to violating the law, and prosecution and punishment, is that which is common to all the laws ?—Yes, so I conceive; and the feeling is that the prosecution only operates upon those who are its immediate object, but does not prevent others, who are at the same time violating the law, from continuing their illicit practices.

The proper remedy against the violation of the Excise laws would be some change being effected in the country that should produce more generally a disposition to submit to the law ?—Yes; and as it regards the malt, I certainly must say that I do not think we shall ever do with any thing short of a document to accompany it, subjecting the farmer, for instance, when bringing his malt to market, or to the maltster who has bought it, to seizure. Formerly, if he was met by the officer, he was asked for the permit; if he had none, his malt was seized, and his cart and horse too; he would never take that risk, I am satisfied: he has nothing to fear now; the officer, though he knows the man is suspected of being an illicit malt-maker, cannot seize it.

You would suggest that there should be a separate state of law for Ireland from that for the other countries?—I think nothing short of that would do. If I had been in Ireland when the law was repealed, and had known as much as I do now, I should have felt it my duty to have made every objection to the repeal; and I believe that is the opinion of all the regular fair maltsters."
"Fifteenth Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the Excise Establishment. Malt", 1835, pages 184 - 185.

Ah, those unruly Irish and their disregard for the law. How was a government ever to collect its taxes properly?

It seems that the practice of farmers malting illegally was rampant in 1830's Ireland. Not being registered maltsters, they didn't pay the malt tax. Which, at the time, (along with a tax on hops) was the only tax on beer. Which meant that they could undercut the price of legal maltsters. Do you see where I'm going with this?

It specifically mentions this illicit malt getting into the Dublin market. Where there was a brewery run by a man called Guinness.

Yes, it's that hoary old tale of Guinness cleverly using roast barley to avoid the malt tax. That's where I'm going. Why would Guinness bother with roast barley? If they got caught with it on their premises, they'd be on the receiving end of a big fine. And it could only make up 5 or 10% of the grist. Much safer to buy some of the illicit malt that was flooding the market. That was perfectly legal to have in the brewery. And could be used for the bulk of the grist.

But that isn't going to stop the story doing the rounds of the interwebs. It'll be there until the end of time. At least I've pointed out what bollocks it is.

6 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

I get the impression from the whole UK-wide inquiry that just three years after the introduction of malt tax it was completely failing to do its job.

Why did they stick at it for 50 years?

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, that's a good question.

One reason is that the old system was also open to abuse. In particular, by mixing Strong and Table Beer. Because the tax per barrel had been a flat rate, a crafty brewer could brew a very strong beer, mix it with a barrel of Table Beer and get two barrels the same strength as "normal" Strong Beer. And paying only 12s 6d tax instead of a quid.

And I think most agreed that the system after 1880, where duty was charged on the OG, was fairer than either the post- or pre-1830 systems. But that only became practical when the number of breweries had been reduced sufficiently.

Virtually immediately after 1830 people starting complaining about the malt tax: farmer, maltsters, brewers. And there were several parliamentary commissions on the subject of malt and the malt tax. It just took them a while to come up with a better solution.

I can understand why they would be cautious. The malt tax was responsible for around a third of all tax income.

Anonymous said...

what ingredient or brewing process gives Irish Stout its 'dry' finish or is this a bit of a myth. I now assume (i know, never assume) that the term dry stout was used to differentiate between the sweet milk stouts.
Do you know when people started referring to Irish Stout as a separate "style" or was it when stout brewing died off in Britain?

Ron Pattinson said...

Anonymous, Stout brewing never has died out in Britain.

Michael Jackson invented the term Dry Stout in the 1970's. It's not a term brewers have ever used in the British Isles.

Guinness only really became a "Dry" Stout in the early 1950's when they bumped up the attenuation to around 85%.

The Guinness flavour used to be a combination of high attenuation, quite heavy hopping and whole dollop of roast from the roasted barley.

Oblivious said...

Anonymous it looks like some time in the 1960's-1970's Park Royal brewery stated brewing with a variation of the roasted barely, flake and pale malt

I wounder if the "Dry" term come from
Guinness having a lower FG and more lacto than its London equivalent?

"“Guinness is a respectable enough drink, but we must say that the ascendancy it has gained in many coffeehouses and taverns of London is anything but creditable to the taste of their frequenters. Its sub-acidity and soda-water briskness, when compared with the balmy character of London bottled stout from a crack brewery, are like the strained and shallow efforts of a professed joker compared with the unctuous, full-bodied wit of Shakspere. "London" by Charles Knight, 1842, page 14 "

Barm said...

Dry stout is the obvious, natural term to use when you need to distinguish between sweet stout and other kinds of stout. I found a couple of uses of it before Jackson: http://refreshingbeer.blogspot.com/search/label/dry%20stout

But I suspect he probably re-invented the term off his own bat when he started writing about it.