Monday, 30 July 2018

Adulteration and duty fraud

More on dodgy practices by brewers and publicans.

I get the impression that increased checks by the authorities were having a deterrent effect. There were certainly a lot of samples of beer and wort being analysed at the government laboratory.

"The report of the Principal of the laboratory, Dr. Bell, F.R.S., contains much interesting matter. We reproduce the following extracts :—

The total number of samples analysed during the year has amounted to 48,566, which is 130 more than in the previous year.

The number of prosecutions in which the analysts have been required to attend in Court to give scientific evidence was 138, and the penalties have amounted in the aggregate to £3,316. The cases have comprised 94 against publicans, of which 93 were for dilution of beer, and 1 for the use of saccharin; 10 against brewers for untrue or non-entry of materials used, or for concealed wort. A conviction was obtained for dilution of beer in all cases but three; in these the magistrate was of opinion that the chain of evidence was not sufficiently complete, and gave the defendant the benefit of the doubt."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 296.

That's not a huge number of prosecutions. Does that mean most of the samples were unadulterated? Or that analysts were only required to give evidence in a small number of cases? Statistics on the percentage of adulterated samples would have been useful.

This seems to refer to checks by a different organisation:

"In connection with the revenue from beer 2,044 samples of finished beer taken from 885 publicans have been examined, and in 392 cases evidence was obtained that the beer had been tampered with, either by dilution with water, or by addition of sugar, or by both these illegal practices. It is satisfactory to note that the proportion of sophisticated samples is 4 per cent. lower than last year, and 10 per cent. lower than in 1889."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 296.

These are much more useful figures. I make that around 19% had been tampered with. Which is a big improvement ion the 1850s, when pretty much all beer, with the exception of brewery taps, was adulterated.

Though there seemes to have been quite a lot of fiddling going on in breweries. As tax was paid on the strength of the wort, declaring a lower gravity than was really the case was a way of dodging tax.

"To control the operations of common brewers there have been examined 7,227 samples of wort in various stages of fermentation to check the gravity declared by the trader, or found by the officer; 685 samples of unfermented wort to ascertain if sugar or other materials had been used, either without entry or in excess of the quantity entered; and 1,326 samples of various materials to determine their wort producing value, when the results of the working of the brewery appeared unsatisfactory and suggested possible fraud.

Of the examples examined for original gravity the charge for duty has been raised on the brewers in 1,040 instances, or 14 per cent. This percentage is 3 per cent. lower than that of the previous year, and 4 per cent. lower than in 1889, in both of which years the percentage was considerably above the average. In 960 of these cases the charge was raised less than 5 degrees; in 62 cases, 5 degrees, but less than 10; and in 18 cases, 10 degrees or more."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 296.
Less than 3º isn't a big deal, but over 10º is. Most cases appear to have been just a few degrees here and there. Only 80 cases seem to have been a fraud of any size. 14% declared incrrectly isn't too bad. Cases of attempted duty fraud I believe declined as the number of breweries reduced and it was easier for excise men to keep an eye on thee ones that remained.

In the last 25 years the opposite has become true. As the number of breweries has rocketed, it's become impossible to really monitor all of them. I'm sure there's more duty fraud now than there was 50 or 100 years ago.

And finally, a sort of reverse fiddling, with non-alcoholic drinks that were too strong.
"There have also been analysed 165 samples sold as non-intoxicating beverages without licence under the names of herb, botanic, ginger, &c., beer. Here, also, there has been found a more general conformity to the law than in former years. In 24 of these samples the percentage of proof spirit was over 3, but less than 5; in eight samples over 5, but less than 7; and only 1 sample exceeded 7 per cent."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 296.
5% proof spirit is 2.85% ABV, 7% is 4% ABV. Anything over 5% proof is intoxicating.

1 comment:

Edd Mather said...

Hi Ron,
Nice post, I wonder what happened to the E U B brewing books and records of production after their MASSIVE duty fraud was finally exposed ?, as the Scottish Brewing Archives haven't got any of them