One of the tables in the Brewers' Almanack that I particularly like is the one that lists the number of breweries by size. It gives a good insight into the structure of the UK brewing industry and how it changed around the turn of the 20th century.
The UK used to have a ridiculous of breweries. Most of them very small. Most the the ones in the under 1,000 barrels a year category would have been brewing well under it. For example, in 1842 26,817 of the 44,208 breweries in the UK brewed fewer than 100 barrels a year. Of those 26,817 8,180 produced fewer than 20 barrels a year.* Bugger all even for a pub brewery.
Even in 1914, the number of breweries producing more than 20,000 barrels a year was only 334. And just 54 more than 100,000 barrels. Meaning that the industry was still very fragmented, with a very large number of small producers. The vast majority of which were pub breweries. 2,357 in 1914, to be precise.**
I'm surprised to see the number in the half million barrels category go up and down in the late 19th century. I'd have expected it to keep increasing.
|Number of Persons in the UK licensed as Brewers for Sale|
|Year ended Sept. 30.||Under 1,000.||1,000 and under 10,000.||10.000 and under 20,000.||20,000 and under 100,000.||100,000 and under 500,000.||500,000 and over.|
|Brewers' Almanack 1922, page 117.|
Who were the breweries producing over half a million barrels? Some are pretty obvious, like Guinness, Bass and Allsopp. Others you may not have heard of. I happen to have the numbers for 1884.
Note that all but the top three were based in London.
|Largest UK breweries in 1884|
|Brewery||Beer Bands (barrels)|
|Document ACC/2305/8/246 part of the Courage archive held at the London Metropolitan Archive|
|Output based on the cost of the brewing licence which was based on bands of output, the figure given is the top of the band into which the brewery's output fell.|
Three of the breweries above, Watney, Combe and Reid, took part in the first big merger in 1898. Forming, er, Watney, Combe, Reid. A name which when I saw it on a pub door said "stay away" to me.
* "A Dictionary, Practical, Theoretical, and Historical, of Commerce and Commercial Navigation" by John Ramsay McCulloch, 1844, page 9.
** 1928 Brewers' Almanack, page 118.