Friday, 4 May 2012

Brewing in Edinburgh, Leith and district in 1899

Thank you Glasgow Herald. Thank you for this overview of brewing in the Edinburgh area. It contains some priceless information.

Let's take a look.

BREWING AND DISTILLING- The brewing trade during the year has been active. The beer duty paid in this district exceeded £523,000, which represents the substantial increase of over £4000 for the year as compared with the previous year. One small brewery has been discontinued temporarily, but, on the other hand, there have been important extensions, and, with the extensive new breweries in course of erection at Duddingston - one at least of which is expected shortly to be at work - a prosperous year may be looked for in 1900. To the almost tropical summer through which we passed this year, as well as to the generally prosperous state of trade, may be attributed the fact that the consumption of beer was greater than it ever has been previously. So far as the home trade is concerned, it is confidently believed that a record output was established by brewers this year. The export trade, on the other hand, suffered somewhat from foreign competition and increased freights. The foreigner has greatly improved the quality of his article, and in that way has contrived to make our brewers' export trade less profitable than in former years. Prices of raw materials were fairly cheap, and since the new season began, in October, quotations for barley are much the same as last year's, although the Scotch crop is one of the finest that has been grown for many years. This, of course, is all in favour of the brewer and distiller, but it is exceedingly hard upon the Scotch farmer, who is doubly hit owing to this, that the yield, on account of the dry season, is from 1.5 to 2 quarters per acre less than the average. The shutting down of many and the reduction of the output of other malt distilleries is without doubt the reason that the smaller but finer crop of Scotch barley this year has not secured the increased market price that was anticipated. The prices of hops ran from 100s to 80s per cwt., but when it was seen that an enormous crop had been grown in England the market completely collapsed, and the best English hops can now be bought at 60s and under, and the lowest quality at 40s and under. Continental hops, however, have fairly well maintained their level. "
Glasgow Herald - Wednesday 27 December 1899, page 9.

Having that beer duty figure is absolutely brilliant. Because I know what beer duty was in 1899: 6s 9d per standard barrel. As average gravity was pretty close to the standard barrel gravity of 1055º,  it's easy to calculate the volume of beer brewed. It's 1,549,629 barrels. That's a hefty percentage of the 2,179,000* barrels brewed in Scotland that year. 71%, to be precise. The increase in duty paid by £4000 equates to around a 12,000 barrel increase in output.

The small brewery that had temporarily stopped brewing could well be Pattison's. That closed in May 1899 and was purchased by Robert Deuchar in July the same year. I'm not sure when brewing resumed.

The future looked rosy for Edinburgh's brewing industry. The largest quantity ever brewed and more shinily modern breweries being built. Little did they know that Scottish beer production would peak the following year at 2,289,048** barrels. It would be all downhill from there.

That sneaky Johnny Foreigner, stealing Scottish export markets. That was only going to get worse, too. As you can see in the table below, British beer exports never fully recovered from WW I.

British beer exports 1905 - 1922
year Standard barrels
1905 521,476
1910 570,929
1915 481,183
1920 317,167
1922 260,914
Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 115

The details of Scottish barley growing are welcome, too. It's easy to forget that in Scotland a large proportion of the malt produced wasn't used in brewing, but in distilling. The slump in the whisky trade would have had a big impact on barley growers. Also, as we've seen before, Scottish brewers used large amounts of English barley. In some cases, to the exclusion of Scottish barley.

Hops. Yes, the Scots hated the English so much they wouldn't buy hops from them. Obviously nonsense. Scottish brewers were big purchasers of both English and foreign hops. William Younger loved Saaz, an essential ingredient in an authentic Scottish IPA.

* Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 110.
** “A History of the Brewing Industry in Scotland”  by Ian Donnachie, 1998, pages 147-148.

No comments: