Monday, 11 March 2013

London Porter Breweries in the 1830's (part three)

Now we're getting on to something of real interest: the London tied house system. It was London where the system of tied house first developed. It was a result of the intense competition for trade amongst brewers in the capital.

"Barclay, Perkins, and Company, have the most extensive porter brew-house in London. Their establishment is one of old standing, being the same which formerly yielded a noble fortune to Samuel Johnson's friend, Thrale. The quantity of porter now annually brewed by this house amounts to between three and four hundred thousand barrels. The following brewing companies, Hanbury's, Reid's, Whitbread's, Meux's, Combe and Delafield's, and Calvert's, produce also very large quantities, the issue of none being less than one hundred thousand barrels a-year, while it is double that quantity in several of the cases. But neither a knowledge of the amount of the annual manufacture, nor an estimate of the stock and consumption of hops and malt, will lead us to any thing like a fair idea of the capital embarked in one of these concerns. The cause of this may be in part explained. The hop and malt rooms are natural and obvious quarters for the employment of the wealth of these brewing-houses. But the funds of the same parties are absorbed also in less obvious ways. The most of the licensed public-houses in the city are connected with some brewing company or another, and hence are called "tied houses." The brewers advance loans to the publican on the security of his lease, and from the moment that necessity or any other cause tempts him to accept such a loan, he is bound to the lending party. Indeed, the advance is made on the open and direct condition that he shall sell the lender's liquor, and his alone. The publican, in short, becomes a mere retail-agent, for the behoof of one particular company. They clap their sign above his door, and he can no longer fairly call the house his own. The quantity of money thus lent out by the London brewers is enormous. One house alone, we know from good authority, has more than two hundred thousand pounds so employed. Perhaps the reader will have a still better idea of the extent to which this system is carried, when he is told that a single brew-house has fifteen thousand pounds worth of signboards stuck up over London — rating these articles, of course, at their cost prices. This explains what a stranger in the metropolis is first very much struck with the number of large boards marked with "Whitbread's Entire," "Meux's Double Refined," or "Combe and Delafield's Brown Stout House," that meet the eye in every part of London. These signs are of such size extend usually from side to side of the building on which they are placed, and if house presents two ends, or even three, to public view, the massive letters adorn them all. Such boards cost from fifteen to twenty pounds a-piece, that eight or nine hundred of them will amount to the sum total stated; and some breweries have that number up, in one quarter and another of the great city. This mode of advertising may look expensive, but it has its advantages. It is permanent,, and readily points out to the favourers of particular brewing-houses where their favourite stout is to he found. One loves Meux's, another man Barclay's, a third Courage and Donaldson's, and these gilded placards show where the desired articles may had by all parties. What an idea this "tie" system in itself gives us of the wealth of these brewers! A handsome fortune laid out on sign-boards!

. . . .

Serious attempts have frequently been made to shake the businesses of the great porter breweries, but the system was too deeply rooted to permit of its easy overthrow. A heavy though indirect stroke of this kind came from the ale-brewers of London, who some time since commenced brewing an ale article so low price as to encroach on the sale of "entire." In retaliation, the porter-houses, with the exception of three only, were tempted to add a proportion of ale to their ordinary manufacture. They do not, however, carry this ale brewing to any great extent, and, on the other hand, their porter monopoly remains but little, if at all. impaired.
Kendal Mercury - Saturday 26 January 1839, page 4.
Here's confirmation of the enormous quantities brewed by London Porter brewers, led by our favourite Barclay Perkins:

London Porter breweries in 1839
Brewery Barrels brewed
Barclay Perkins 405,819
Whitbread 183,468
Truman, Hanbury 320,675
Reid and Co 171,650
"The British Brewing Industry, 1830-1980" T. R. Gourvish & R.G. Wilson, pages 610-611

This tied house system differed in important respects from the one at the end of the 19th century. While brewers did own the freehold of some pubs, the vast majority were tied as described in the text: through loans made to the publican. It was the publican who owned either the freehold or a lease for the pub. In the late 19th century breweries bought the freehold or long leases.

The article mentions how the Porter brewers had started to also brew Ale. This happened in the 1830's, probably as a reaction to the Beer Act and the new class of pubs, beer houses, created by it. There was a huge surge of beer house openings in the 1830's.

Thinking about it, the new liquid measures introduced in 1829 might have had an impact, too. Before then, Ale barrels had been 32 gallons and Beer barrels (Porter and Stout were beers) 36 gallons. The new measures set both at 36 gallons. A Porter brewery would have had to buy a stock of new barrels if it had wanted to brew Ale in the 1820's. In the 1830's the same barrels could be used for both Porter and Ale.

Eight or nine hundred tied pubs sounds a lot, but it's not unbelievable, given the quantity of beer being produced. I've figures for individual pub sales from Barclay Perkins from the early 20th century*. The most any pub sold was around 2,000 barrels a year. Many sold between 500 and 800 barrels. In general pubs had become larger in the intervening years and the 20th-century sales are for all beer, not just Porter. If we take 400 barrels a year as the average amount of Porter a pub sold, Barclay Perkins, brewing around 400,000 barrels a year, could easily have had 1,000 pubs.

I include the final paragraph of the article for your amusement. And for completeness.

"One point more about the London breweries, and have done with these loose hints. The stables of one of these establishments, when filled with their allotted tenants, constitute one of the very finest sights that can be seen on the whole premises. To Scotsmen, the powerful make and general beauty of the horses of burden that are seen traversing the streets of the metropolis, is always a subject of wonder. The little carts of his own country, and the comparatively puny though active creatures which draw them, sink into absolute insignificance in his eyes when contrasted with the colossal waggons and horses of the south. One horse to one cart is the way in Scotland, while in England you observe a train of six or eight gigantic creatures dragging along a large and heavily-loaded vehicle, resembling a goodly haystack in breadth, height, and compactness. A lengthened line of such waggons is one of the most imposing sights imaginable. As the brewers keep the very best of horses, it is in their stables that the beauty of the breed can be seen to most perfection. They are kept in the very highest condition, plump, sleek, and glossy. The order maintained throughout these large establishments extends to their stabling arrangements. In Whitbread's, we observed the name of each horse painted above his stall, and were told that every one of them knew its designation as well as any biped about the place. Some of the most extensive breweries employ above one hundred such horses, to disseminate their produce through all parts of the city and its suburbs.— Chambers's Edinburgh Journal."
Kendal Mercury - Saturday 26 January 1839, page 4.

That's this article done. Have to go and find another.

* Document ACC/2305/01/517 held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

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