Rationing continued and there were shortages of many basic goods. Plus the country was broke, having to go cap in hand to the Americans and Canadians for loans to keep things going. It wasn’t the happiest or times.
It must have been particularly annoying to watch the strength of beer continue to fall after victory. While at the same time getting dearer through tax increases.
“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", pages 52 - 53.
Before WW I, the duty on beer was charged per standard barrel, a nominal 36 imperial gallons with an OG of 1055º. So a beer of 1100º would pay double the tax, one of 1027.5º half the tax and one of 1011º just 20% of the tax. But that was changed after the war and for beer, no matter how strong, the minimum tax was that for an OG of 1027º. For every degree above that, more tax was charged. It’s a good example of how legislation can change the type of beer brewed, because after that you never see a beer with a gravity lower than 1027º.
A penny a pint is quite a large percentage increase when an average-strength beer only cost around a shilling (12d).
There were also still restrictions on the supply of raw materials to brewers. Who were, of course, competing with food manufacturers for some items, such as sugar;
“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 it’s 85%, 82% and 78% of a brewery’s output in 1946. Which itself had been a percentage of the amount brewed in peacetime.
The government was forcing down beer production deliberately, but it had little option. There just weren’t enough raw materials to satisfy demand for beer and food.
This is one of the tables included in the article:
|Home-made Beer : Quantities charged with duty, Average Gravities and Net Receipts|
|Year (ended 31st March)||Quantities charged with duty-||Average Gravity||Net quantities duty-paid||Net Receipts £|
|Bulk Barrels||Standard Barrels||Bulk Barrels||Standard Barrels|
You can see that in 1949 average gravity was just starting to creep up a little.
“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.
They could just as easily have said Guinness as Eire. Because pretty much all of the imports, both from Ireland and the total amount, were Guinness Extra Stout.
Here are the remaining two tables, for imports and exports:
|Year (ended 31st March)||Quantities retained for Consumption||Net Receipts|
|Bulk Barrels||Standard Barrels||£|
|Home-made Beer : Exports*|
|Year (ended 31st March)||Quantities|
|Bulk Barrels||Standard Barrels||average OG|
* Excludes beer deposited or consigned under military control for H.M. Forces overseas.
Unsurprisingly, exports fell to almost nothing during the war. It’s a bigger shock that there were any at all. Especially as beer for the military is excluded from the figures.
The average OG column I’ve added. It was easy to calculate, given that both bulk and standard barrels are listed. You’ll note that export beer was quite a bit stronger than that sold domestically.