Friday, 7 June 2013

Brewing in Denmark in WW I (part one)

Just because Denmark was neutral in WW I, doesn't mean the war had no impact on the country's brewing industry. It did. And in some ways developments parallel what happened in Britain.

The main cause was the disruption caused to world trade by the war. Some of this was direct, as in the destruction of shipping and difficulties in sourcing goods from abroad. Some was indirect, such as increased prices. These factors also influenced British brewing, but you'll see that the effect in Denmark was less extreme.

"The great expansion of the bottled beer trade in Denmark during the last year is very remarkable in view of the enormous handicap imposed in almost every direction by high prices and war conditions. High prices are world-wide and affect neutral countries equally and in special cases even more than belligerents. Such a special case occurred in Denmark in respect of coal. Imports were practically brought to a standstill and prices soared from their pre-war level of Kr. 20 per 1,000 kilos, to Kr. 150 in 1918, since when the increase has gone steadily on till they now stand at Kr. 230 per 1,000 kilos. (£1 per ton to £11 10s. per ton at normal exchange Kr. 20 = £I). The price of bottles may be given as another example of the constantly increasing burden of expenses borne by the trade during the period under review. Bottles of 330 capacity (about 14 oz.) bought before the war at 5.5 ore (about 0.5.) now cost 30 ore (about 3d.).

Wages also have increased from Kr. 26 (26s.) per week in 1914 to an average now of Kr. 89.24 (£4 10s.), while working hours have fallen from 9.5 to 8 per day."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 1921, pages 25 - 26.

I can understand why coal would have become more expensive, as Denmark would have imported it. But I don't quite see why wages should have increased so much. There was a simple reason why wages had risen in Britain during the war: shortage of manpower. With so many men serving in the armed forces, employers struggled to find anyone to work for them. Why did wages almost quadruple in Denmark? Was it just inflation or was there an underlying structural change?

As in Britain, shortages in food supplies prompted the Danish government to intervene in the brewing industry:

"Restrictions on brewing were also imposed as national necessity demanded, the following regulations being successively brought into force:—

April 3rd. 1917.— Restriction of brewing material to not more than 80 per cent, of the normal consumption.

Nov. 9th, 1917.— Prohibition of the use of Danish barley for malting.

Nov. 24th, 1917.— Prohibition of export of beers and yeast. This regulation is not yet withdrawn, but it is possible to obtain permits for export. the restrictions on the use of brewing materials and on the employment of Danish barley for malting have, on the other hand, been recently withdrawn, but economies are still enforced by the prohibition since Feb. 6th, 1920, of the sale in Denmark of beer containing more than 3 per cent, by weight of absolute alcohol."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 1921, page 26.

This is freaky. April 1917 is exactly when the first big restrictions on beer output were introduced, reducing the number of standard barrels brewed to about a third of its pre-war level. It's not really a coincidence. In February 1917 German U-boats began unrestricted attacks on merchant shipping and it initially had a huge impact. Large numbers of merchant ships were sunk in the spring  of 1917 and food supplies began to dwindle in Britain.

Before the war, Danish breweries like Carlsberg had been big exporters. It's only logical that exports should be restricted at a time when raw materials were in short supply. A ban on the export of yeast is stranger. Though, again through Carlsberg and its yeast labs, Denmark exported lots of yeast, too.

In yet another parallel with Britain, new restrictions continued after the war's end. 3% ABW is about 3.75% ABV. The strictest restrictions on beer strength in Britain were in 1918, when the average of all beer brewed was capped at 1030º. Though by 1920 the situation in Britain had improved and the limit on average gravity had been raised to 1044º.

Just as in Britain, restrictions caused the range of beers brewed to be drastically reduced:

Average Original Gravities of Danish Beers 1914 - 1920
October 1st 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
September 30th 1915 1916 1917 1916 1919 1920
Lager beer 1052 1051 1048 1045 0 0
Pilsener beer 1044 1044 1041.5 1032 1038 1038
Stout, taxclass I 1076 1076 1072 0 0 0
Stout, taxclass II 1068 1068 1065 1058 1055 1056
Munich beer 1056 1056 1055 0 0 0
Export beer 1052 1050 1049.5 0 0 0
New Pilsener, taxclass II 1032 1032 1032 1030 1031 1031
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 1921, page 27.

For comparison purposed, here's what happened to Whitbread's beers during the war:

Whitbread beers 1914 - 1920
beer style 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 1920
FA Pale Ale 1048.5 1045.3 1035.2 1032.6 1032.4
IPA IPA 1049.9 1046.8 1038.8 1033 1036 1034
PA Pale Ale 1061.1 1056.5 1044.3 1035.1 1047.4 1047.5
KK Stock Ale 1072.7 - - - - -
KKK Stock Ale 1082 1069.6 - - - -
X Mild 1055.1 1047.9 - - 1040 1043
MA Mild - - - - 1022.7 1028.4 1027.8
ES Stout 1066.8 - - - - 1055 1055.3
LS Stout 1055.7 1054.7 1050.4 1041.7 1042.9 1047.8
P Porter 1052.4 1052.4 1050.4 1049 1036.1 1042.6 1041.4
SS Stout 1081.7 1075 1074.9 - - - -
SSS Stout 1096.1 1094.5 1091.2 - - - -
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/09/109, LMA/4453/D/09/111, LMA/4453/D/09/112, LMA/4453/D/09/113, LMA/4453/D/01/080, LMA/4453/D/01/081, LMA/4453/D/01/082, LMA/4453/D/01/083, LMA/4453/D/01/084 and LMA/4453/D/01/085.

Next time we'll be looking at wartime taxation in Denmark and learning a little more about the country's beer styles.

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