Saturday, 13 July 2013

Breweries in British India

I told you I'd found more stuff in brewing in India. This newspaper report handily includes some figures relating to brewing in India.

According a memorandum received the Board of Trade from the Director-General Commercial Intelligence at Calcutta, the quantity of beer brewed in India in 1909 amounted 4,824,050 gallons. There are twenty-four breweries, of which one did not work. Seventeen are private property, and seven are owned joint-stock with nominal capital of Rs.29,06,000, of Rs.24,35,200 was at the end of 1909-10. Twelve of the breweries are situated at stations in the Himalayas from Murree to Darjeeling. The largest of the breweries is at Murree; the Bangalore, Kasaul, and breweries standing next. Production was largest in 1902, since when it has tended to decline, while imports of foreign beer have increased proportionally; in the year 1907 the process was reversed, internal production advancing slightly and imports decreasing; but 1908 the production again receded. In 1909 both production and imports further decreased.

The quantity of beer brewed India and imported was as follows :

Brewed in India. Gallons.  Imported. Gallons.  
1905 5,994,955 4,626,608
1906 5,599,930 5,153,751
1907 6,610,121 4,805,640
1908 5,185,619 4,384,938
1909 4,824,050 4,286,811

A substantial quantity of beer brewed in India is consumed British troops that country. In 1907 the Army Commissariat purchased some 38 per cent. of the total production, and the average purchases the years 1903-7 amounted to 2,633,616 gallons yearly. From 1st January, 1903, the general contracts with Indian breweries for the supply of malt liquor to British troops have been discontinued, each British regiment being left free to make its own arrangements to obtain the necessary supply; as a consequence the figures of Army consumption are no longer readily available.
Aberdeen Journal - Saturday 15 April 1911, page 9.

I was really pleased to find those statistics on imports and local production. I love me some numbers. But I find gallons an odd unit to use, so here they are converted to barrels:

Indian beer production and imports 1905 - 1909 (barrels)
Brewed in India Imported average output per brewery
1905 166,527 128,517 6,939
1906 155,554 143,160 6,481
1907 183,614 133,490 7,651
1908 144,045 121,804 6,002
1909 134,001 119,078 5,583
Aberdeen Journal - Saturday 15 April 1911, page 9.

You can see that I've also added the average output per brewery. It was pretty small. And a large proportion of it was consumed by British troops. Presumably the bulk of the remainder was also consumed by expats.

I was hypothesising that by the early 1900's foreign brewers had probably grabbed a fair chunk of the trade when I realised I had the figures. Turns out I was totally wrong. The vast majority of beer imported into India still came from the UK.

Beer imports into India 1900 - 1907 (barrels)
imports of British beer total imports % British
1900-01 83,724.00 89,625.94 93.41%
1902-03 99,487.33 106,137.17 93.73%
1904-05 127,986.94
1905-06 138,956.89
1906-07 125,170.69 136,563.72 91.66%
"The commercial products of India" by Sir George Watt, 1908, page 762

Over 90% of India's beer imports still came from Britain between 1900 and 1907. I was quite surprised at that.

When you look at the quantities of beer imported into India it's amazing the impact that IPA had. Between 1849 and 1897, the greatest quantity imported was 107,000 barrels in 1860. The average over that period was 58,000 barrels a year.

Let's put that into perspective. In 1900 the population of the UK (41.5 million) consumed about 37 million barrels of beer*. That's about 0.89 of a barrel each. So about 65,000 people would be needed to consume 58,000 barrels of beer. That's less than the population of Reading in 1901 (72,000).

But India was an important export market for British brewers. In 1905 Britain exported 521,746 barrels of beer**, meaning about 25% of exports went to India.

* Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 110.
** Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 115.

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