Friday, 17 April 2015

War and austerity

The years immediately after WW II were tough ones in Britain. The country was bust and the supply situation was even worse than in the war years.

I’ve been getting a good impression of the crap brewers had to deal with in the late 1940’s. As I’ve finally got around to looking at some of the post-war Brewing Trade Review volumes I bought in an IBD auction.

I’m quoting an article about the “The Report of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise for the year ended 31st March, 1949”. It’s basically a load of statistics. Just my sort of thing. But the text says a lot about the problems brewers faced just after the war.

As so often, the tax on beer was increasing:

“Beer.—The basic Excise duty on beer before April, 1948, was £7 19s. 9d. per barrel plus 5s. 11d. per degree. The Budget raised the duty to £8 18s. 10d. per barrel up to a gravity of 1027 degrees, plus a surtax of 6s. 7.5d. per degree above that strength. Corresponding changes were made in the Customs duties on imported beer. The increase in duty was approximately equivalent to 1d. per pint on beer of average strength.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

That price increase put up Mild from 11d to 12d per pint. Quite a large percentage rise.

Raw materials were no easier to get hold of in peacetime:

“The shortage of cereals and other brewing materials made it necessary to continue during 1947-48 the control imposed by the Ministry of Food on 1st May, 1946. Up to 31st December, 1947, the permitted rate of output of each brewer was equivalent in terms of standard barrels to 85% of production in the year ended 31st March, 1946. In order to save sugar the permitted rate of output was further reduced to 82% on 1st January, 1948. Owing to an uneven demand for beer during the summer months a redistribution of production was necessary and this was achieved by reducing from 1st January, 1949, the permitted level of production of each brewery to 78% of its standard barellage in the corresponding period of 1945-46 and arranging centrally for the balance of 4% to be allocated to brewers who could not meet their demand within 78%.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

Note that they were restricting beer output to a percentage of the 1945 figure. Which itself would have been fixed as a percentage of production in the last peacetime year. It must have been depressing for brewers to have their output still limited years after war’s end.

Unsurprisingly, there was a considerable fall in the amount of beer drunk:

“As a result of all these factors the quantity of home-produced beer retained for consumption in the United Kingdom in 1948-49 amounted to 27.05 million bulk barrels compared with 30.01 million barrels in 1947-48, the average strength being about the same as in the previous year. The quantity and strength of imported beer changed very little between the two years; imports from Continental countries continued during 1948-49 and substantial supplies continued to come from Eire.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

The accompanying tables tell us something about the strength of the beer imported and exported. Because they list both bulk and standard barrels. Meaning it’s simple to work out the average gravity.

First imported beer:

Imported Beer
Year (ended 31st March) Quantities retained for Consumption Net Receipts
Bulk Barrels Standard Barrels £ average OG
1939 838,269 793,516 3,210,822 1052.1
1940 822,678 780,129 3,593,330 1052.2
1941 789,787 726,614 5,603,976 1050.6
1942 1,047,374 877,840 7,307,597 1046.1
1943 837,788 670,521 8,017,919 1044.0
1944 572,389 436,179 6,430,268 1041.9
1945 765,602 615,361 8,854,345 1044.2
1946 929,028 749,795 10,797,531 1044.4
1947 860,161 650,365 9,369,294 1041.6
1948 863,855 651,275 9,943,145 1041.5
1949 875,548 690,090 12,639,747 1043.3
Brewing Trade Review, 1950, page 52.

The vast majority of that was Guinness from Ireland, especially during the war years. Post-war, increasing amounts of Lager from the Continent came into Britain.

Now exports:

Home-made Beer : Exports
Year (ended 31st March) Quantities
Bulk Barrels Standard Barrels average OG
1939 276,757 266,634 1053.0
1940 303,488 290,093 1052.6
1941 244,436 215,045 1048.4
1942 205,009 172,860 1046.4
1943 71,220 59,608 1046.0
1944 109,564 87,947 1044.1
1945 77,862 62,769 1044.3
1946 158,500 124,190 1043.1
1947 168,121 133,800 1043.8
1948 126,580 103,365 1044.9
1949 222,047 195,580 1048.4
* Excludes beer deposited or consigned under military control for H.M. Forces overseas.
Brewing Trade Review, 1950, page 52.

Note that the average OG of exports and imports were quite similar at the outbreak of the war, but by 1949 the OG of exports was 5 points higher. Both were still higher than the OG of beer brewed and consumed in the UK, which was 1041º in 1939 and 1033º in 1949.

Some more tables next, I think.

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