Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Whitbread output by type 1837-1839

One of the dead useful features of Whitbread's brewing records are the tables at the back recording the amount of each beer brewed each week. Along with nice annual totals. It means that I know exactly how much of each beer Whitbread brewed for pretty much every year between 1835 and 1940, when they annoyingly dropped the tables.

It's allowed me to track the arc of Porter's decline in the second half of the 19th century and the seemingly unstoppable rise of Mild Ale. But nothing lasts forever. Not even little joys. I feel cheated that, because of Whitbread discontinuing the table, I couldn't pin down exactly when Mild Ale started to spiral into decline.

The table below shows a very different situation, when Porter was still ascendant, especially in London. I think it's important to demonstrate that, although the London Porter brewers turned their hands to Ale in the 1830's, it was just a tiny part of their business.

The vast majority of Whitbread's output - over 80% - was Porter. Sadly, they didn't differentiate between P (Mild Porter) and K (Keeping Porter) in the table. (KXX, KXXX and KXXXX are also lumped in with XX, XXX and XXXX, respectively.)  That would have been fascinating to see. Especially what the proportion was of each at different dates.

It's revealing how little Stout Whitbread brewed. Well under 10,000 barrels a year. Pretty much from the outset, they brewed more X Ale than all the Stouts combined. This set the trend for the later 19th century, where almost all Whitbread's output was either Porter or X Ale. It was only in the mid 1890's, when their Pale Ales started to gain popularity, that the combined share of Porter and X Ale fell below 75-80%.

Here's my table:

Whitbread output by type 1837 - 1839
1837 1838 1839
beer barrels brewed %age of total barrels brewed %age of total barrels brewed %age of total
X 8,702 4.88% 16,057 8.85% 17,787 9.27%
XL 999 0.52%
XX 3,319 1.86% 4,570 2.52% 4,750 2.47%
XXX 3,070 1.72% 4,315 2.38% 5,596 2.92%
XXXX 483 541 0.28%
Total Ale 15,091 8.46% 25,425 14.01% 29,673 15.46%
P 157,005 87.99% 147,206 81.11% 154,857 80.68%
S 4,329 2.43% 6,857 3.78% 6,266 3.26%
SS 1,894 1.16% 1,819 1.17% 502 0.31%
SSS 119 0.07% 183 0.10% 637 0.33%
Total Porter 163,347 91.54% 156,065 85.99% 162,262 84.54%
Total Ale & Porter 178,438 181,490 191,935
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/001, LMA/4453/D/01/002 and LMA/4453/D/01/003 .


Anonymous said...

What accounts for the doubling of the X ale over two years? Was it a new beer on the market (assuming not) was it expanding into new markets, lower price, best beer available, jumping on the mild bandwagon?

Ron Pattinson said...


X Ale was very much coming into fashion in the 1830's. The increas in these years is just Whitbread gearing up to the Mild market. The rate of increase flattened off after the first couple of years. In 1851 they only brewed 24,000 barrels of X Ale. Sales really took after 1860, going from 29,000 barrels in 1861 to 71,000 barrels in 1871.