Take a look at these numbers first. They're for the year ending September 1913. The last full year before the outbreak of war. None of the figures would ever be as large again until after WW II. Except for the amount of beer duty. That kept going up, but only because the rate per barrel kept increasing. It would be 1974 before beer production exceeded the 1913 figure.
"THE YEAR'S OUTPUT OF BEER.
A White Paper published yesterday states that the number barrels of beer produced the United Kingdom by brewers licensed for sale during the year ended September last was 37,078,760, and the amount beer duty charged was £13,771,802. The firms persons licensed numbered 3,846, the licence duty paid being £400,034, and the quantities of materials used were: Malt, 52,287,637 bushels ; unmalted corn, 91,068 bushels; rice, maize, etc., 1,611,366 cwt.; sugar, etc., 3,279,314 cwt. hops, 62,911,376 lbs.; hop substitutes. 18,885 lbs.
In addition there were 4,829 persons licensed as brewers, not for sale, 821 of these private brewers being liable to beer duty. There were 85,936 victuallers licensed, 26,939 persons licensed to sell beer on the premises and 22,217 off licenses. During the year 651,768 barrels of declared value of £2,118.379 were exported, our principal customers being the British East Indies, £453,968; Australia, £310,492; Belgium £289,691; and the United States, £269,986. Germany took £46,927 worth of beer, and France £31,659. Gibraltar accounted for £53,730, and Malta for £38,402, while British beer found its way also to Arabia, Siam, Papua, and Paraguay.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Friday 17 April 1914, page 12.
Here's a table to show what happened after WW I (I've converted the figures from the newspaper report into hundredweights so all the figures match):
|Brewing materials (cwt) 1914 - 1939|
|year||malt||unmalted corn||rice, maize, etc||sugar||total malt & adjuncts||hops||preparations of hops||hop substitutes||bulk barrels|
|1913: Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Friday 17 April 1914, page 12.|
|1914-1939: 1955 Brewers'Almanack, page 62|
|The figures for hops may exclude some hops used for dry-hopping|
The effect of the fall in malt usage must have been pretty dramatic on British maltsters. Although much of the grain was imported, all of it was malted in Britain. 37% less malt was used in 1922 than in 1914. And the decline didn't stop there. By 1932 malt usage was down by 57% compared to 1914.
Working out the effect on the hop industry is trickier because a large percentage of the hops used in Britain were imported. But such a big fall in demand for hops must have had an impact on domestic production.
You can see that beer output continued to fall throughout the 1920's before hitting a nadir in 1932. The decline in beer production is even more striking in terms of standard barrels because not only was the amount of beer brewed falling, but also its gravity. In terms of the amount of alcohol produced by brewing, the decrease was much larger. Which is exactly why we'll be looking at that - and some other exciting numbers - next time.