Friday, 19 July 2013

Beer in India in the 1890's

We've moved on a decade, but I'm still picking twitching silver fish out of my net. This is so much fun.

First, some more handy information about India's local brewing industry.

In the matter of beer, British India appears to be tolerably well off, since the brewings for the last five years average an annual production of 5,285,000 gallons, 55 per cent. of which are consumed by the troops, and 45 per cent. by civilians. This does not represent the total quantity absorbed by the army, since an average of 2,819,167 gallons have been imported yearly for the last five years. The industry dates from 1850, when the first brewery was established at Mussooree. Twelve out of the 22 breweries are located in ths Himalayas from Murree to Darjeeling. The largest is at Murree, where about 811,000 gallons were brewed last year. The next largest is at Poona, where the output last year was 795,000 gallons. Nearly one third of the total is brewed in the Punjab. It was for a long time supposed to be impossible to brew in the Plains, but last year the quantity brewed there exceeded 2,000,000 gallons.
Sheffield Independent - Friday 06 September 1895, page 6.
That 5,285,000 gallons of beer brewed is 146,806 barrels. Not an enormous amount for a country the size of India. And more than half of it went to the military. The civilians who drank the rest would mostly also have been Europeans, clerks, officials and the like.

By this time the India brewing industry had been around for more than 40 years, but was still tootling along at quite a small scale. I've converted those output figures into barrels so they make more sense:

Murree 22,528 barrels
Poona 22,083 barrels

In 1890, there were 293 breweries in Britain that brewed more beer than that*.

Before the introduction of artificial refrigeration, there was little option but to brew in the Himalayas wher the air temperature was naturally cool enough. Murree is at an altitude of 2,200 metres - I wonder if that caused any problems in brewing?

The Murree Brewery is - surprisingly as it's now in Pakistan - still going, though it now brews in Rawalpindi. It was founded in 1860 and brewing continued in Murree until the 1920's. The company, even more surprisingly, also makes whisky.

Beer imports continued their upward trend in the 1890's:

Beer imported into India 1891 - 1897
Year gallons barrels
1891 2,785,574 77,377.06
1892 2,973,943 82,609.53
1893 3,052,894 84,802.61
1894 2,787,672 77,435.33
1895 2,514,041 69,834.47
1896 3,048,743 84,687.31
1897 3,032,049 84,223.58
"Statistical abstract for the British Empire, Issue 34", 1897, pages 42-43.

British troops continued to be the main market for Indian-brewed beer, drinking about 50% of production:

A memorandum received tha Board Trade, through India Office, states that the quantity of beer brewed in 1901 amounted to 5,558,653 gallons, of about half was bought by army commissariat, the remainder being left for consumption by the civil population, or by soldiers independently of the arrangements under the army contracts with breweries. The average purchases of commissariat for the last five years have amounted to 2,727,163 gallons yearly, average production in the same period having been 5,481,122 gallons.

Fourteen of the breweries are situated at stations the Himalayas from Murree to Darjeeling, and much of the beer is brewed there. A large quantity is also brewed at Rawalpindi. Poona. Bangalore, Jubbapore, and near and Ootacamund and Mandalay. The largest of the breweries is Murree, the Poona brewery standing next. More than one-third of the whole production is brewed the Punjab.

The quantity beer brewed in India and imported is as follows:—Brewed India, 5,558,653 gallons; imported, 3,673,844 gallons.
Western Daily Press - Saturday 07 June 1902, page 9.
Time to pull some of that production information into a table:

Beer brewed in India 1888 - 1891
Brewed in India. Gallons.  Brewed in India. Barrels. 
1888 4,860,282 135,008
average 1890-1894 5,285,000 146,806
1893 179,030
1901 5,558,653 154,407
Derby Mercury - Wednesday 26 June 1889, page 7.
Grantham Journal - Saturday 18 August 1894, page 7.
Sheffield Independent - Friday 06 September 1895, page 6.
Western Daily Press - Saturday 07 June 1902, page 9.

You can see that beer production was ridsing along with imports, though even combined they only amounted to 220,000 to 250,000 barrels in the 1890's.

Murree Brewery Co. Ltd.
National Park Road,
Tel:(+92) 051-5567041-7,
Fax: (+92) 051-5584420

* 1928 Brewers' Almanack, page 118.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

Murree (per its website) follows some old-fashioned practices, including use of a Saladin box for malting and - if I read the description right - fermenting at circa-70 F. They use CCFs and I'm sure the yeast must be a bottom strain but perhaps an ale quality exists due to the warm fermentation.

At least in 2008-2009, they made a formidable-sounding stout:

(Colour photos of the bottles can be seen elsewhere online, nice-looking too).

So, an echo of its British Raj origins albeit sadly no pale ale seems to be made in recent generations.