Friday, 22 January 2016

The 1952 hop crop

1952 seems to have been a difficult year for the European hop industry. Particularly on the Continent.

As I’ve said many times, hops are a delicate crop, easily damaged by bad weather or disease. Which means that the harvest can vary enormously from one year to the next.

At the time, the price of British hops was set by a committee:

The Permanent Joint  Hops Committee states that the new price is a very satisfactory one. The price is founded on a definite relation to the costs of production, which was an agreed method of computation.

The costs this season were somewhat lower than in 1951 but the total crop of hops harvested showed a decrease of 13 per cent compared with last year. Thus, when the figure of increased costs was applied as a divisor to the reduced crop the result was an increase in the average price per cwt.”
"Brewer's Guardian 1953", 1953, February page 11.

See what I mean about the crop being variable? A drop of 13% is considerable. Let’s take a look at the prices for the different types of hops in 1952:

Grade Prices
Grade prices for the 1952 crop have been fixed as follows, per cwt. :—

Grade £ s.
Goldings 1 33 0
2 31 10
3 28 0
4 20 0
Goldings Varieties 1 30 15
2 29 5
3 27 5
Fuggles 1 29 15
2 28 10
3 26 0
4 19 0
Brewer's Gold C9A 1 30 0
2 28 0
3 22 0
Bullion Q43 1 30 5
2 29 5
Early Promise X35 1 26 10
2 21 0
Key worth's Midseason OR55 1 29 0
2 27 0
3 17 0

With a maximum of 10s. above Grade 1 of all varieties.”
"Brewer's Guardian 1953", 1953, February page 11.

Unsurprisingly, the top grade of Goldings was the most expensive. Though not that much more expensive. Goldings Varieties were only 6.8% cheaper, Fuggles Brewers’ Gold a little less than 10%. Only Early Promise, at nearly 20% cheaper, showed a significantly lower price.

How do those prices relate to the price of beer? In 1953, Whitbread IPA contained 1.31 lbs of hops per barrel. If they were all grade 1 Goldings, that works out to around  a third of a penny per pint. Given that it retailed for 21d per pint (it as a bottled beer), that isn’t so significant. Their Best Ale, with 0.71 lbs of hops per barrel had, assuming it used lower grade Fuggles, about an eighth of a penny’s worth of hops  per pint. While it sold for 14d a pint.

Next we’ll be looking at continental hops.

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