Monday 15 August 2016

UK beer exports average value per barrel 1950 – 1952

The title says it all. Believe me, it’s not quite as dull as it might sound.

As usual, I couldn’t resist extrapolating other figures from the table supplied. Having the value and volume of beer exported to each destination, it was simple enough to calculate the average price of each barrel.

I expected that the prices would be roughly similar for each destination. It turns out that’s way wide of the the mark. In a very surprising way. First though, a little contextualisation in terms of prices. At this time a pint of Ordinary Mild retailed for around 1s a pint. That comes to a bit over £14 for a 36-gallon barrel. Bitter retailing at 1s 4d per pint was around £19 per barrel.

Though obviously a big chunk of that was the tax. About £9 for a barrel of Mild at 1030º and £12 for Bitter at 1040º. The brewer would get the tax returned through “drawback” if were exported, of course.

Hopefully that makes these numbers more understandable.

UK beer exports average value per barrel 1950 - 1952
destination 1950 1951 1952
imports £4.69 £4.89 £5.77
To British West Africa  £12.31 £12.99 £13.59
Malaya  £12.34 £12.79 £14.38
Hong Kong £12.88 £13.18 £14.18
Australia £12.33 £12.98 £13.54
British West Indies £15.48 £15.86 £17.01
Other Commonwealth Countries and the Irish Republic £11.20 £12.70 £13.03
Belgium £6.65 £6.31 £6.62
Other Foreign Countries £13.35 £13.98 £14.68
Total £11.44 £12.11 £12.57
re-exports £16.95 £17.99 £18.59
"Brewers Guardian 1953" February, page 81.

See what the big surprise is? Belgium. The value per barrel is half what it was elsewhere. I’m still scratching my head trying to work out why.

I understand why the West Indies tops the list. The beer sent there was mostly Foreign Extra Stout or Strong Scotch Ale. Strong, expensibe beers. But hang on. Strong Scotch Ale was a lot of what went to Belgium. So wht was the average value of exports to there worth just half as much? It makes absolutely no sense to me.

It’s interesting to see how much cheaper imported beer was than that exported. Even cheaper than the beer sent to Belgium. Though I can sort of see some sense there. Most imports were Lager. But not full-stregnth Continental Lager. No, it was stuff brewed especially watery for the UK. Like the 3.2% ABV version of Heineken Pils.

I think I’ll end with another table. This time showing the price per pint of imports and exports.

UK beer exports averageprice per pint 1950 - 1952
destination 1950 1951 1952
imports 3.91 4.08 4.80
To British West Africa  10.25 10.82 11.32
Malaya  10.28 10.66 11.99
Hong Kong 10.73 10.98 11.81
Australia 10.28 10.82 11.28
British West Indies 12.90 13.22 14.18
Other Commonwealth Countries and the Irish Republic 9.33 10.58 10.86
Belgium 5.54 5.26 5.52
Other Foreign Countries 11.12 11.65 12.24
Total 9.53 10.10 10.47
re-exports 14.13 14.99 15.49

Remember, a pint of draught beer cost 12 – 18d down the pub.


Anonymous said...

Can you compare the Belgium results to another foreign (non Commonwealth) but close country?

Ron Pattinson said...


I don't have the figures for anywhere else, I'm afraid.

dyranian said...

John Martin, for example, imported British beer in bulk which was then bottled and some re-exported to other markets. Could that have an effect in reducing the net cost of the beer?

Tandleman said...

Is it not because Belgium is nearer?

Ron Pattinson said...


then why is it more expensive in West Africa than Australia? That's a way shorter journey.

Barm said...

Do you have figures for the proportion of exports to Belgium that were Scotch ale? Perhaps they were still sending an unexpectedly (to us) large amount of British-brewed pale ales too, the type of thing that informed beers like Vieux Temps and Palm and eventually turned into speciale belge.

Ron Pattinson said...


I don't have the figures broken down by type of beer. I'm sure quite a lot of it was Pale Ale. Some Stout, too.