Friday, 11 July 2014

British vesus foreign beer (part four)

We're finally on the last part of this serries. Which has some interesting stuff to say about the tied house system.

Intriguingly, it describes pubs being tied differently in London and the rest of the country.

"Then there is not the same amount of trade to be done from either Burton or London?"

"No; because the country brewers have bought up the houses to a very large extent in their own neighbourhood, and they let them to tenants who deal with them exclusively."

"Does that system of obtaining trade obtain in London?"

"London public-houses are much freer in one respect than those in the country. The tenant here generally has the lease of his premises in his own power, but he borrows from the brewer a large part of the money with which he takes up the business. So long as he owes his brewer the money, it is understood that he should deal with him for beer, but he is under no compulsion to remain the customer of the brewer, because if he is dissatisfied with the way in which he is served he has only to raise the money elsewhere and pay the brewer off. Of course, there are certain houses in London which belong to the brewers and which are let to tenants, but in nearly every case the tenant has a substantial interest in the property, because he has his own money invested in it, and has a lease of ten to forty years from the brewer, which leaves him free to deal with the house as he chooses, except in so far as the supply of beer is concerned. Thus, if we have the freehold or superior lease of a house we may grant a man a thirty years' lease, with the ordinary covenants, and the addition that he has to buy his beer of us. But the owning of publics houses by London brewers is not by any means becoming universal, and by far the larger number of houses in the metropolis are owned by the publicans themselves, subject to the loans which they have contracted."
Isle of Man Times - Tuesday 31 January 1893, page 3.
If I read that correctly, outside London brewers had bought the freeholds of pubs and let them to publicans who were their tenants. While in London brewers mostly didn't physically own the pubs but tied them through loans to the publican.

Those remain the two methods of tying pubs today. Though the dominance of loan ties in London was about to end. Not only did it become virtually impossible to obtain a new pub licence, magistrates began actively trying to close pubs by refusing to renew licences. London brewers had no choice but to buy pubs if they wanted outlets for their beer.

This advert is proof that pubs weren't necessarily tied for all types of beer:

SCARBOROUGH. - Full-Licensed PUBLIC to Let, free for everything but mild ales; turnover about £700: rent £25, ingoing about £300. - Apply L. S. Webb, Hotel Valuer, Scarbro'.
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 22 October 1895, page 2.
 Could London brewers keep Burton beer out of their pubs?

"Under the system you have described it seems possible for the London brewer to say to his publican, "You shall sell no Burton ale?"

"There is no compulsion upon the London publican to sell London rather than Burton beer; he sells according to the demand, purely and solely what the public require, and this notwithstanding the enormous production of beer in London, and the obligations of the publicans to the brewers. We do not force any particular beer upon the publican, and all we do say, even when the loan is a very heavy one, is: "You must take your beer from us" If Burton ale is wanted, our brewery at Burton supplies it, and those London firms without Burton breweries of their own buy the beer wholesale, and supply it to their customers in London."
Isle of Man Times - Tuesday 31 January 1893, page 3.
This is true. Several London brewers also had plant in Burton: Truman, Charrington and Mann, for example. And it's true that brewers would sell Bass, Allsopp or Worthington Pale Ales in their pubs. But mostly in bottled form, as that way they got some of the production profit. But as the draught Pale Ale trade became more important, London brewers either made it themselves or bought a brewery to make it. For example, Courage's brewery in Alton.

This independence in Pale Ale supply had a long-term impact on Burton brewers. They struggled to keep up output in the 1890's and early 1900's as most of the pubs became tied. Burton was never quite as important a brewing town again.

"Politically, how do you consider the trade likely to be affected by threatened legislation"

"It does not seem to me probable that the taste of the people of this country, indicated by an expenditure of £130,000,000 annually on a particular article of food, is at all likely to be affected by any sudden legislative action. The interference with the habits of the people to any wide extent would be an impossible task for Parliament to undertake. How far a modification in these habits may be brought about gradually it would be difficult to say, but it seems to me that the effort would be more likely to be successful if reformers looked ahead, and improved the general character of the trade by compelling a stricter observance of the licensing law, as it stands, and by the magistrates seeking on all occasions to abolish houses which have become unnecessary, and thus reducing the number of licences in districts which are congested with them, meanwhile granting fresh licences only where a positive want exists for their creation. I am personally of opinion that what is really needed is uniformity of practice with regard to licensing, which should hold good throughout the country. Area and population ought always to be the two great factors to be taken into account in dealing with licences and with the distribution of them, and upon this principle much might be done to correct many evils connected with the trade. A too drastic measure would merely encourage illegitimate drinking premises such as the bogus clubs. A popular veto as applied to any small area would be practically useless if the people themselves still required drink and insisted upon getting it. It might interfere with the existing trade of a particular locality, no doubt; but it would not diminish the total consumption. " Daily Telegraph.
Isle of Man Times - Tuesday 31 January 1893, page 3.
Such legislation was enacted and was the principle force behind the tied house system. When the number of licences was going to be permanently declining and obtaining a new licence almost impossible, breweries had no option. Without guaranteed tied outlets a brewery stood no chance, unless they had a very specific niche. Like clubs breweries, where effectively the publicans owned the brewery. And Guinness, who had a sufficient renown to get themselves into other brewers' pubs.

Now wasn't that fun? I'll have to find soemthing else to write about now.


Dan Klingman said...

You might try a "Let's Brew Wednesday" again some time :-)

Ron Pattinson said...


you should get on to Kristen about that. He's the one who has been too busy. I'm basically waiting for him.