Thursday, 30 March 2017

UK beer exports in 1869

It’s been a while since I threw a few handfuls of numbers at you. Get ready to dodge.

The figures come from a random article I stumbled upon. Weirdly, it’s a review of a directory: Kelly's Post Office Guide to London in 1871. A rather odd book to review, but it has provided me with some handy statistics.

In the second half of the 19th century the UK exported around half a million barrels of beer a year. Which sounds like a lot. But given that beer production was 25 to 30 million barrels, it means exports were no more than 2% of the total.

Unsurprisingly, a majority of UK beer exports went to parts of the British Empire. The two biggest export markets – India and Australia and New Zealand – took more than half the total. The biggest markets outside of the empire were, unsurprisingly the USA and, rather more surprisingly, Brazil. Add the beer exported to former Spanish colonies in South America and you get close to 40,000 barrels. The figures for Uruguay, Argentina and Chile are approximate. The article just says 6,000 – 7,000 barrels a year for each.

The West Indies always imported a lot of beer compared to their modest size. The favourites here were Strong Ale (often from Scotland) and Strong Stout. To India, obviously, there was a lot of IPA sent, but also rather more Porter. While Australia imported a broad range of British beers.

Not a lot of British beer made its way to continental Europe. Not that it ever did, really, until after WW I when Belgium became a major destination.

London was a major source of exports, particularly in the form of Porter and Stout. The article states that in 1860 80% of exports left through London. Which isn’t to say that all of that beer was brewed in London. A large proportion would have been Pale Ale transported down to London by train and then loaded onto ships.

UK beer exports in 1869
destination barrels %
India 167,660 32.16%
Australia and New Zealand 109,466 21.00%
the Cape and Natal 12,054 2.31%
Mauritius 2,562 0.49%
British West Indies 26,833 5.15%
Ceylon 8,495 1.63%
Singapore 4,117 0.79%
Gibraltar 11,941 2.29%
Total British Empire 343,128 65.83%
USA 21,198 4.07%
China, including Hong Kong 13,623 2.61%
Brazil 18,895 3.62%
Japan 313 0.06%
France 8,754 1.68%
Russia 3,009 0.58%
Spain 0 0.00%
Spanish Colonies 4,327 0.83%
Uruguay 6,000 1.15%
Argentine Confederation 6,000 1.15%
Chili 6,000 1.15%
other 90,025 17.27%
Total 521,272
Brewers' Guardian, vol. 1, 1869, July 1871, page 205.


A Brew Rat said...

I wonder if the Brazil exports had anything to do with the beginning of the rubber trade?

Anonymous said...

There's no listing for Canada -- is that because they fall under "other" or because they didn't get any shipments of beer?

Gibraltar seems awfully high considering the population -- this page says the population in 1871 was 18,143.

Almost 12,000 barrels seems like a lot of beer for that population -- maybe a lot of it was actually going to the British military?

Ron Pattinson said...


I assume Canada is in other.

They might have been resupplying Royal Navy vessels with beer in Gibraltar.