Breweries had an explanation: money was tight and drinkers used what little money they had on cigarettes rather than beer.
“BEER SALES DOWN:
LACK OF MONEY
BREWERY SPOKESMEN in Hull today confirmed that beer sales are down in the city as well as in the country, and they all gave one reason —lack of money.
Current slump in Hull's fishing industry has had the biggest effect on Hull ale consumption. Home from sea the typical trawlerman spent a good slice of his big earnings on beer. Now the money has gone and the beer, though 10 per cent, stronger, stays unsold.
Sales of wines, spirits, and bottled beer are also down.
"I'm a non-smoker myself." said one brewery chief. " I've no prejudice against smoking, but if 1/- was taken off the price of a packet of cigarettes, our sales would go up. Most people insist on putting their fags first. Even if we could double the gravity of beer, they would still make cigarettes No. 1 and ale No. 2."
Another expert said. "Shortage of money has brought a four per cent decrease in beer sales, but the confirmed drinkers are still spending to the limit of their spare cash."
CLUBS DO WELL
A third said. Some clubs in Hull are doing very well on beer sales, but public-houses in the fish dock area are having a thin time." Even so, brewers are having to order more hops this year, because of the increased gravity, which is appreciated by the seasoned drinker and which sometimes puts the unseasoned under the table, or into court.”
Hull Daily Mail - Tuesday 08 August 1950, page 3.
You may not remember this, but the average gravity of beer only went up by 2º, or by about 0.2% ABV. Not really enough difference to put the unwary under the table or in hospital.
I can think of a good reason why people would choose fags first – they’re addicted to nicotine. Unless you’re a raging alcy, giving up beer would be way easier than going cold turkey on ciggies.
“spending to the limit of their spare cash" sounds very much like me in my younger days with regard to buying beer. A perfectly logical approach, if you ask me.
I’ll end with some figures that show it wasn’t just in Hull that beer consumption was falling. It was a national trend.
|UK beer production, consumption, average OG and tax 1947 - 1952|
|Production Irish Republic||1,952,583||1,988,580||2,119,583||2,304,668||2,279,655||2,339,224|
|Duty per standard barrel||286s 5.5d||325s 5d||364s 4.5d||343s 4.5d||321s||321s|
|Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 57|
|Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50|
|Brewers' Almanack 1955, p.107-110|