Tuesday, 23 October 2012

World beer production at the start of WW I

This must rank as one of the simplest predictions of all time: that WW I would knock back beer production. It certainly did that. Probably to an even greater extent than the author anticipated.

The ultimate effects upon the brewing industry are difficult estimate, states the Allied Brewery Traders' Circular. The consumption of beer in the country must almost certainly diminish as money is spent on the war. There will probably be no sudden drop, but the heavy national expenditure and the increased prices of food must be reflected in a decreased barrelage.

The Excise returns the output of beer for the first three months of the current financial year show an increase for the United Kingdom of 324,403 barrels, equal to 3.6 per cent., as compared with the output the corresponding quarter of the previous year.

In the world production of beer Germany ranks second to the United States, and the United Kingdom takes a third place. According to a Viennese calculation, 5,552,000 more hectolitres were produced throughout the world last year than in 1912, an increase which exceeded by 4,119.000 hectolitres, the production of 1911. The total figures for 1913 are:— 336,630,000 hectolitres of 22 gallons each, equal 205,718,000 English barrels, a quantity which is nearly six times as great as the production of the United Kingdom.

The taxes or duties levied the beer produced are estimated at £60,000,000, and this points to an average about of about 6s per barrel, which seems to be an over-estimate, says the circular.

It is claimed behalf of the brewing industry that it has contributed more men to the forces in the field than any other single industry. One Midland firm has sent 300 employes service. In every case situations are kept open, and the difference between army pay and the usual wages have been made up to dependents at an annual cost to the firm of £13,000."
Newcastle Journal - Saturday 03 October 1914, page 7.
Fascinating that the UK produced one sixth of the world's beer in 1913. It's not hard for us, with hindsight, to see what a dramatic impact the war would have on beer production in the top three producers: the USA, Germany and the UK. Compared to the other two - in both Germany and the USA beer production came to a complete stop, though for very different reasons - Britain got off lightly.

An average of 6s tax per barrel? Oh right, that's taken over the whole world. Here's the beer tax in Britain around WW I:

UK beer tax before, during and after WW I
Year Total Tax £ Tax/Bulk Brl. Tax/Std. Brl price pint tax pint Tax (% retail price)
1914 13,622,971 7s 4d 7s 9d 3d 0.30d 10.08
1915 15,856,412 9s 1d 23s 3d 0.38d 12.67
1916 33,747,269 21s  23s 3d 0.88d 29.19
1917 31,567,940 20s 11d 24s 4d 0.87d 21.80
1918 19,108,663 20s 25s 4.5d 0.83d 18.54
1919 25,423,393 21s 10d 50s 5d 0.91d 18.21
1920 71,276,230 40s 8d 70s 6d 1.69d 28.25
1921 123,406,257 71s 6d 100s 7d 2.98d 42.58
1928 Brewers' Almanack

By 1921 British brewers were paying twice as much beer tax as the whole world had in 1913. Almost 10 times tax as much as they had paid in 1914. That's a huge increase in anybody's terms.

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