Sunday, 24 January 2016

UK beer imports 1950 – 1952

I chanced upon a table in the Brewer’s Guardian which sheds some light on the British beer market in the 1950’s.

I say an interesting table. Actually, there were two of them.

UK beer imports 1950 - 1952
Month ended December Twelve Months ended December
1950 1951 1952 1950 1951 1952
Bulk- Barrels 92,432 110,068 114,488 1,053,293 1,056,240 1,064,788
Value £439,952 £533,341 £657,494 £4,941,434 £5,168,840 £6,138,665
Brewer's Guardian 1953, 1953, February page 80.

Looking at the bare figures, it seems that the UK was importing a considerable amount of beer – around four times as much as it exported. But the figures aren’t what they at first appear. That becomes obvious when you see the imports broken down by country of origin.

UK beer imports in November 1952
Country whence consigned Quantity Bulk Barrels Value £
Australia 6
Canada 3
Irish Republic 80,473 454,488
Germany (Western) 125 1,818
Sweden 5 85
Denmark 1,873 22,398
Netherlands 666 6,478
Belgium 107 1,931
Czechoslovakia 51 383
Total  83,300 487,590
Brewer's Guardian 1953, 1953, February page 83.

The overwhelming majority of the imports came from the Republic of Ireland, presumably almost all in the form of Guinness Extra Stout. Multiplying the November figure by 12, gives a rough idea of the figures on an annual basis. You’ll see that the total is pretty close to the real figure for 1952:

UK beer imports in 1952
Country bulk barrels %
Irish Republic 965,676 96.61%
Germany (Western) 1,500 0.15%
Sweden 60 0.01%
Denmark 22,476 2.25%
Netherlands 7,992 0.80%
Belgium 1,284 0.13%
Czechoslovakia 612 0.06%
Total  999,600
Brewer's Guardian 1953, 1953, February page 83.

The only countries that were exporting any sort of volume to the UK, other than Ireland, were Denmark and the Netherlands. This time in the form of Carlsberg, Tuborg and Heineken Pils. The total of European imports I get to be just under 34,000 annually. Presumably pretty much 100% Lager.

That gives you some idea of the small size of the UK Lager market at the time. Only a handful of British breweries produced Lager at this date: Wrexham, Tennent, Red Tower, Barclay Perkins and the Alloa Brewery. Total sales couldn’t have been more than a couple of hundred thousand barrels a year. At a time when consumption totalled almost 26 million barrels:

UK beer production 1950 - 1952 (bulk barrels)
UK 1950 1951 1952
Production 26,513,997 24,891,746 25,156,489
Consumption 27,311,390 25,597,793 25,850,381
Exports 221,210 275,433 267,390
Imports 1,018,603 981,480 961,282
Production Irish Republic 2,304,668 2,279,655 2,339,224
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 57
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p.107-110

You can see that getting on for 40% if the Republic of Ireland’s output of beer was exported to the UK. Impressive. Especially as Guinness had a brewery in London churning out almost 1 million barrels a year.


J. Karanka said...

What amazes me is that two generations of brewers in Wrexham brewed and advocated lagers and probably died of old age before ever seeing the most popular beer in Britain ever catch on...

The Beer Nut said...

Pet historical peeve: "The Irish Republic" was the name of the entity declared by the rebels in 1916 and was never a legal entity in any real sense, though was recognised retrospectively by subsequent Irish governments. It ceased to exist in any form in 1922 with the creation of the Irish Free State, which in turn was replaced by the Republic in 1949.

The BBC still uses "the Irish Republic" to describe the state. Bugs the hell out of me.