Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Scotland's Brewing Industry in 1938

Another copout post as I can't be arsed to write anything properly. Damn being ill.

This is a nice little overview of Scottish brewing on the eve of WW II. Its not a bad article.

High Reputation for "Quality"

POPULAR conception of Scotland and its products is very apt to identify the country with distilling of whisky, ignoring what, after all, is a very stable and important industry — the brewing of beer — which has contributed to Scotland's social and industrial life since the time of the great abbeys and monasteries of years ago.

A specialised industry such as this does not, as rule, establish itself without special reasons and advantages, and brewing centres in Scotland (Edinburgh, Alloa, &c.) are particularly favoured by the type of water which is available from their special wells, which provide naturally perfect water for the production of the first quality of beers. In addition, the broad acres of farm land in the Lowlands of Scotland provide barleys of the high grade essential for the production of malt liquors.

As the centuries rolled on breweries were enlarged and modernised. The somewhat slipshod methods of old were replaced by highly specialised technical methods assisted by the most meticulous scientific control, with the object, of not only maintaining quality but also of improving the stability, flavour and character of the product. This, combined with modern transport, has enabled Scotland to send its ales broadcast throughout the world and the reputation once purely local is now not only national but world-wide. As an example of the progress made in this industry, it is estimated that between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 is paid annually in duty to the Exchequer.

The Local Trade
Trade in Scotland may be termed "local trade" inasmuch as it is trade competed for by Scottish brewers only for all practical purposes. The main sale here is for beer sold to the public on draught, and naturally the largest output is in the industrial areas such as the coalfields of the Lothians, Fife, and West of Scotland, and the engineering and shipbuilding districts of the Clyde. This trade is dependent on volume of wages very largely and, therefore, fluctuates considerably with the trade barometer, and as this barometer has been rising of late so sales have been recovering from the low levels of recent years in these districts . During the last few years there has been a very important development in the practice of brewers bottling their own article and this has, to a certain extent, displaced the sale of beer bottled by independent bottlers. This has only been to a certain degree, however, as there is no doubt that the sale of bottled beer has increased very materially of recent years. This is especially true of the present time as, with increased spending power, the sale of bottled beer has shown a marked rise, which seems to point to the fact that this class of trade will tend to show extreme fluctuations, depending upon the relative prosperity. There is, of course, a very important trade still done in beers bottled by outside bottlers, especially in districts at a distance from the source of supply.

In England
The trade here consists almost entirely of bulk beer — either to be consumed as draught beer or to be  bottled by outside bottlers, the exception to this being lager beer. While beer is sent to every district, even to the extreme South, the great volume is despatched to the North of England with its vast population employed in the heavy and other industries, and this district may be termed a veritable "cockpit", for brewers as it is open to intensive competition by Scottish, Burton, and local brewers.

While a certain number of licensed premises are owned by brewers, as is allowed by the Licensing Laws of England, there is nevertheless a large volume of trade which is at most competitive prices, and the rapidly rising costs may have a very important bearing on the financial results of this trading. So far as output is concerned, however, the prosperous conditions in heavy industries have played their part and, with the large share they hold of this trade, proportionate benefit has accrued to Scotland.

Export Trade
This is of special concern to Scotland as over 50 per cent of Great Britain's beer exports, and practically the whole of the bulk beer consumed by our troops abroad, is exported from Scotland.

Conditions have changed materially during recent years, local breweries have been established in many countries, and this, combined with adverse tariffs, has curtailed opportunities of profitable trade, Australia and South Africa — at one time our largest customers — have practically ceased to import, and local breweries in the Straits Settlements, Egypt, India, &c. are all combining to diminish the trade done in the various markets. In addition, there is a very intensive competition from other countries, especially in the case of lager beer. Notwithstanding this, the improvement in world conditions and spending power have their effect on the consumption of bottled beer and, with plentiful money, the extra cost of imported beer is overlooked, and what may be in the nature of a luxury is indulged in more freely.

The Outlook
The future is more difficult to forecast; the conditions referred to will continue to exist and, in the case of export, competition will increase rather than decrease. One serious problem is the increase of costs, which have risen consistently of late, and even now the full effect of this has not yet been felt and unfortunately there is no sign of any decreasebut on the contrary, every likelihood of further continued increases. As outstanding examples peculiar to brewing, the cost of barley has risen 80 per cent and of casks 60 per cent; these, combined with rising freights, carriage, coal, &c, all mean the profitable margin being reduced, and, in certain cases where heavy carriage is involved, may even mean the impossibility of doing business on a profitable basis. In view of this it is the more essential that output should be kept up and, given favourable conditions, it is hoped that this will be achieved, though probably at a sacrifice of profit for out-turn. Certainly no effort will be spared to ensure that the high reputation of the product will be maintained and that "quality" will be the watchword."
The Scotsman - Friday 29 April 1938, page 60.
It's weird how often the availability of good Scottish barley is mentioned as a reason for there to be ea big brewing industry in Scotland. Yet I don't see a great amount of it in brewing records. Edinburgh brewers got a lot of theirs from East Anglia. It's not uncommon to find beers in the breweing records where the only Scottish ingredients are the yeast and water.

Bottled beer certainly boomed in popularity between the wars. Not always for positive reasons. After the WW I gravity drop, publicans often struggled to keep the new, weaker beers in good condition. In response, drinkers became wary of draught beer and drank either bottled beer or draught and bottled mixed.

The Northeast of England was a hugely important market for Scottish brewers, whi tended to look more aggressively for export markets than their Englsih counterparts. It made sense. Brewers in London, for example, had an emormous market on their doorstep.

Scottish brewers had sold enormous a,ounts of beer to Australia. Around 1900 almost all the beer being imported into Australia came from Scotland. The only exexceptions being the odd London Stout an Burton Pale Ale. Heavy important duties introduced after confederation to protect Australian brewers totally destroyed this trade.

It's true that 50% - or even more - of British exports came from Scotland between the wars. Considering Scotland only accounts for about 10% of the UK population, that was enormously out of proportion.

The future was certainly difficult to forecast. Another World War and the loss of Empire would have a hige impact on the Scottish brewing industry. No-one could really see them coming in 1938.

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