In the final years of WW I there were strict controls on the gravity of beer and its retail price. But in 1918, these only applied to draught beer sold in pubs. It seems like one crafty publican had found away around the price restriction by buying in draught beer and bottling it himself.
"BOTTLED BEER TEST CASE.
Sheriff Shennan gave judgment at Hamilton yesterday in the test prosecution James Surgeoner, spirit merchant, Netherburn, for alleged contravention of the Beer Price Order by bottling draught beer and selling it under unrestricted conditions.
Respondent claimed this was bottled beer as recognised by the Order.
His Lordship dismissed the complaint as irrelevant. He said there was no definition of bottled beer in the Order, and though the term was printed with capital letters that did not carry them far. The procurator-fiscal had referred to other clauses of the Order with the view of showing that it would be nugatory unless a special meaning were attached to the term bottled beer.
If this was so, continued his Lordship, the Order had been bungled. If the Order did not itself effectively create an offence it was impossible for court of law do so with the view of giving effect to the probable intention of the framers."
Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 30 May 1918, page 4.
Here's the full Beer Prices Order mentioned in the prosecution. Having looked at it, I think the judge was wrong. It's the phrase "Where beer is delivered on or after the 1st April, 1918, in a barrel or cask" that's important. Surely, if the landlord was bottling himself, the beer must have been delivered in a cask? Therefore it was irrelevant whether the landlord bottled it before selling it. As the beer was delivered to him in a cask, the price restrictions should surely have applied.
Then again, clause 11 specifically excludes bottled beer from all the provisions except clause 11 forbidding the use of the term "Government Ale". I have to agree that the document is poorly worded.
Here's the full text of the order.
THE BEER (PRICES AND DESCRIPTION) ORDER, 1918. DATED MARCH 19, 1918.
1918. No. 343.
In exercise of the powers conferred upon him by the Defence of the Realm Regulations and all other powers enabling him in that behalf, the Food Controller hereby orders that except under the authority of the Food Controller, the following regulations shall be observed by all persons concerned :
1. A person shall not on or after the 1st April, 1918, sell or offer to sell any beer of the gravities mentioned in Clause 3, or any beverage containing any beer of such gravities, in any part of any licensed premises having a public bar or public bars unless"Food Supply Manual April 1918", pages 168-171.
(a) such beer at the time of such sale or offer for sale is on sale by imperial measure in the public bar or public bars of the licensed premises ; and also
(b) such beer when sold by imperial measure in the public bar or public bars is sold at prices not exceeding the maximum prices provided by this Order.
2. A person shall not on or after the 1st April, 1918, sell or offer to sell any beverage containing any beer of the gravities mentioned in Clause 3 in any public bar of any licensed premises unless beer of such gravity is on sale in that public bar.
3. Where beer is sold by imperial measure in a public bar, the maximum price for beer of an original gravity less than 1030º shall be at the rate of 4d. per imperial pint, and for beer of an original gravity not exceeding 1034º and not less than 1030º shall be at the rate of 5d. per imperial pint.
(a) Where beer is delivered on or after the 1st April, 1918, in a barrel or cask
(i) the brewer or dealer disposing of such beer shall state on the invoice, if such be the fact, that the original gravity of the beer exceeds 1034 and, in any other case, the maximum price at which the beer in each such barrel or cask may under this Order be sold in the public bar of licensed premises; and
(ii) the brewer shall also before permitting delivery out of his brewery plainly and durably mark on the head of any barrel or cask containing beer of an original gravity less than 1030º the mark "4d." and on any barrel or cask containing beer of an original gravity not exceeding 1034º and not less than 1030º the mark "5d.," the figures to be not less than two inches long.
(b) No dealer in or retailer of beer shall alter or deface such mark or permit such mark to be altered or defaced, or dilute or permit to be diluted the beer in any barrel or cask.
5. A person authorised in that behalf by the Food Controller or a Food Committee to procure for analysis samples of beer on sale in any licensed premises shall have all the powers of procuring samples conferred by the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, and a person selling beer by retail shall, on tender of the price for the quantity which he shall reasonably require for the purpose of analysis, sell the same to him accordingly.
6. In any proceedings in respect of an infringement of this Order the production of the certificate of the principal chemist of the Government Laboratories or of an analyst appointed under the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, (a) shall be sufficient evidence of the facts therein stated unless the defendant require that the person who made the analysis be called as a witness. The certificate of the principal chemist or of the analyst shall, so far as circumstances permit, be in the form required by the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts.
7. If in any proceedings against a retailer of beer in respect of an infringement of this Order, it is proved that an offence has been committed but the person charged with the offence proves
(a) that he purchased the beer, in respect of which the offence was committed, from a person who sold the beer as or for beer which might lawfully be sold in a public bar at the price charged;
(b) that he had no reason to believe at the time of sale that the gravity of the beer was not such as permitted of it being- sold at the price charged or that the provisions of Clause 4 (b) of this Order had not been duly observed; and
(c) that he has given due notice to the prosecutor that he intended to rely on the provisions of this Clause; such person shall be entitled to be discharged from the
8. Where the Food Controller is of opinion that the price payable under any contract subsisting at the date of this Order for the sale of beer of a gravity not exceeding an original gravity of 1034º is such that the beer cannot at the prices permitted by this Order be sold or supplied by retail in a public bar at a reasonable profit, he may, if he thinks fit, cancel such contract or may modify the terms thereof in such manner as shall appear
to him to be just.
9. A person shall not, when selling any beer of an original gravity less than 1030º, or in any advertisement, circular, or placard relating to any such beer, describe the same as "Government Ale" or "Government Beer" or use any other form of words calculated to lead to the belief that such beer is brewed under the authority, or pursuant to the directions of His Majesty's Government, or any Government Department.
10. Where on or after the 1st April, 1918, Beer in respect of which a maximum price is fixed by this Order, is on sale in any part of the licensed premises other than a Public Bar the licensee of such premises shall cause to be conspicuously exhibited in such part of the premises a notice to the effect that Beer is on sale in the Public Bar or Public Bars at the prices permitted by this Order.
11. Except in Clause 9 the expression "Beer" shall not include Bottled Beer.
12. In this Order:-
"Food Committee" means in respect of any area in Great Britain the Food Control Committee established for the area pursuant to the Food Control Committee (Constitution) Order, 1917, and in respect of Ireland the Food Control Committee appointed for Ireland by the Food Controller.
"Beer" includes ale, porter, spruce beer, black beer and any other description of beer.
"Public Bar" means -
(a) where there is only one bar on the licensed premises such bar ;
(b) where there is more than one bar on the licensed premises, all such bars except that bar or those bars, if any, where prior to the 1st October, 1917, beer has customarily been sold at a higher rate than the rate charged for the like beer in some other bar on such premises; and
(c) any place where beer is sold under a retail off-licence. "Licensed Premises” shall not include any registered club, canteen, theatre, music-hall, passenger vessel, railway restaurant car, or any buffet at a railway station, but subject as aforesaid shall include any premises where the sale of intoxicating liquor is carried on under a licence.
13. Infringements of this Order are summary offences against the Defence of the Realm Regulations.
14. The Beer (Prices and Description) Order, 1917, is hereby revoked as on the 1st April, 1918, but without prejudice to any proceedings in respect of any contravention thereof.
15. This Order may be cited as the Beer (Prices and Description) Order, 1918.
The government learned their lesson, because in later Beer Prices Orders there were controls enacted on the price of bottled beer, too. These are the details of the final Order, which was in operation until April 1923:
|First Schedule.- Sales of Beer by Retail in a Public Bar or for Consumption off the Premises.|
|Beer by gravity||Non-bottled||Bottled Price per|
|price per pint||half pint||pint||quart|
|> 1020º < 1027º||4d.||3.5d.||7d.||11d.|
|> 1027º < 1033º||5d.||4d.||7.5d.||1/1d|
|> 1033º < 1039º||6d.||4.5d.||8d.||1/3d|
|> 1039º < 1046º||7d.||5.5d.||9d.||1/5d|
|> 1046º < 1054º||8d.||6.5d.||11d.||1/7d|
|Brewers' Almanack 1928.|