Thursday, 13 November 2014

The beer Britain drinks

We're back with Sir William Harcourt's love of Pilsener. And a few more facts and figures.

In particular, it has numbers on the amount of beer imported into Britain and exported from Germany. To prove that in fact the amount of German beer entering Britain was tiny.

It is to be feared that Sir William Harcourt's reference to the partiality- of his friends for Pilsener beer will serve to increase the belief that this and other foreign-made beer 3 are popular in the United Kingdom. When one finds specialists making misleading statements the subject, it not surprising if the ordinary reader is led astray. Before the Beer Materials Committee one witness, Mr Gordon Salmond, a well-known consulting chemist, expressed the belief that the quantity of Continental beer imported was considerable, the fact being that only 45,000 barrels of beer of all kinds were imported in 1896, the year in which gave his evidence. was followed Dr Moritz, joint author with Morris of the leading text-book on brewing, who told the committee that Pilsener beer came from North Germany. As a matter of fact, it is made at Pilsen, fifty miles from Prague.

I have been favoured (writes a London correspondent) with a copy of the first monthly number of what promises to be most useful publication, the Revenue Review, edited by Mr J. T. Mulqueen, chief of the Revenue staff in Falkirk and Linlithgow, who is well known by repute to all who take interest revenue matters. The first article this review deals with lager beer. I find that the writer is inclined to foster the delusion, for he refers to German beers being in considerable favour here. As are having just little too much of this German competition bogey, it is as well perhaps once for all to slay it. In 1891 we imported 33,728 barrels of beer; the following year, 38,881; in 1897 the quantity was 45,752; and last year the small quantities include not only imports from the Isle of Man, Germany, Austria, and the United States, but British beer returned by foreign customers as unsuitable.

When it is remembered that our consumption of British-made beer amounts to 36.5 millions of barrels per annum, to speak of German beer, the trade in which probably never reached 30,000 barrels, being largely in favour here, is an exaggeration. As the late Chancellor of the Exchequer has given these lager beers an advertisement, is will probably be useful to widen the question and make a comparison. The German Empire total exports were 1,244,479 hundreds of kilogrammes of beer in 1888; -the year following and 776,845 in 1890. If we step forward ten years find her figures for were 910,445; for 1899 the quantity was 966,812; and for last year 1,113,790. I may add that her exports of beer in 1886 and 1887 were much larger than 1888. Where outside the German Empire the increasing popularity of German beer is to be discerned is not therefore very obvious, except it be in her new possession, Kiao-Chau, or possibly among the Boxers captured in and around Pekin.

As regards British exports, suffice it to say that in they totalled 503,000 barrels, and last year 509,000. Pilsener, which Sir William Harcourt's friends affect, is, like Japanese saki, made solely from rice. It is much more intoxicating than the bottled beers usually sold in this country. Last year the total exported by Austro-Hungary was 916,102 hundreds of kilogrammes. This was decrease of 11.3 cent, on the figures for 1899. " Dundee Evening Post - Monday 01 April 1901, page 2.

You can see from this table just how insignificant imported beer was:

UK beer production, consumption, imports and exports 1890 - 1914
Production (bulk barrels) Production (standard barrels) Consumption (bulk barrels) Exports (bulk barrels) Exports (standard barrels) Imports (bulk barrels) % of consumption imported
1890 30,808,315 30,340,175 503,221 502,921 35,081 0.12%
1891 31,927,053 30,868,315 33,728
1892 38,881
1895 31,678,486 31,290,143 432,742 44,399 0.14%
1897 34,203,049 45,752
1900 37,105,042 37,091,123 36,668,274 487,643 510,845 50,875 0.14%
1903 37,153,978 55,560
1905 35,415,523 34,404,287 34,979,824 487,643 521,476 51,944 0.15%
1910 34,299,914 32,947,252 33,779,912 570,929 590,346 50,927 0.15%
1914 37,558,767 36,057,913 74,205
Ireland Industrial and Agricultural, 1902, page 458.
Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 110
“The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 1988” page 7
Manchester Evening News - Thursday 28 November 1901, page 3.
Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 115
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 57
Dundee Evening Post - Monday 01 April 1901, page 2.

Imports increased a little in the years leading up to WW I, but still accounted for just 0.15% of consumption. And that's all imported beer, not just from Germany. Based on adverts of the period, I'd guess more beer was coming in from Scandinavia than from Germany.

Assuming a litre of beer weighs about a kilo, 100 kilos is about a hectolitre. Meaning you can take those numbers for German exports to be approximately the volume in hectolitres. 1,244,479 hl (the 1888 figure) is around 750,000 barrels, or about 50% more than Britain exported. The lowest figure quoted, 776,845 in 1890, is about 500,000 barrels, or about the same as UK exports.

Why did people think Pilsener was made from 100% rice? Just because it was so pale?

I love this sort of numbers fun.

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