Friday 3 April 2020

American Beer In Great Britain

This is a particularly weird article. It's based on something written by the American consul in Newcastle-upon-Tyne about the prospects for American Lager in the UK.

It starts with some observations about the brewing trade in Britian, in particular which types of beer were produced in which locarions:

"American Beer In Great Britain.
Mr. Evan R. Jones of the American consulate at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, has published what he calls some observations and statistics relative to the beer trade in this country, with a view to induce American brewers and exporters to establish in the United Kingdom a trade in lager beer. He states that the consumption of malt liqours is very large in this country, and includes every variety and strength of ale and beer, stout and porter. Upon the principle which governs other branches of manufacture, different localities are noted for special marks of beer, &c, and Mr. Jones mentions that Edinburgh is considered the leading town in the production of strong ales, that London and Dublin monopolize the porter and stout trade, and that the superior lighter ales and beers, such as India pale ale and bitter beer, are for the most part brewed at Burton-upon-Trent. But the tendency of the beer drinking community is, according to Mr. Jones, decidedly towards the lighter class article — the bitter beer, which is manufactured of excellent quality, and in immense quantities, and it is with this brand that American lager beer would come into competition."
Holmes' Brewing Trade Gazette - Saturday 01 October 1881, page 12.

The first thing that strikes me is what's missing. Did you notice? There's no mention of the most popular type of beer, Mild Ale. Perhaps it's because, as the standard beer, it was brewed everywhere in the country.

I suppose it's fair enough to highlight Edinburgh as a producer of Strong Ales, but they actually brewed far more Pale Ale. London and Dublin might have dominated the Porter and Stout trade, but they by no means monopolised it. In the 1880s just about every brewery made a Stout, though Porter was starting to fade outside London and Ireland.

Fascinating that Pale Ale is identified as the beer with which Ammerican Lager would compete. It does specifically say the lighter type, by which I take him to mean either draught Light Bitter, such as AK, or bottled Dinner or Luncheon Ales. At around 5% ABV, they would have been of a similar strength to American Lager. I suppose it's fair enough to assume that Lager would be unlikely to tempt a Stout drinker.

The used of this phrase shocked me: "the beer drinking community". I thought calling very group of people a community was an invention of the last decade or so.

Mr. Jones based his assumption of a ready market for Lager in the UK based on the reaction of his British friends when they tried it.

"Mr. Jones states that last summer he became possessed of several dozens of bottled lager beer, distributed most of it among his friends and their report waa most favourable; they pronounced it superior to British made beer, in lightness, sparkling qualities, and freedom from sediment. Some of these gentlemen have since imported lager beer for their private use on their own account. The subject was mentioned to an enterprising Englishman engaged in importing American canned goods. He made inquiries concerning the trade, and reported that the price of lager beer was too high for successful competition with British light beer, and that, therefore, he did not feel warranted in giving the trade a trial."
Holmes' Brewing Trade Gazette - Saturday 01 October 1881, pages 12 - 13.

The importer's reaction doesn't surpise me. Shipping beer from the Midwest of the USA to the UK was likely to be an expensive proposition. Especially when there were breweries in the UK capable of producing light beers at a much cheaper price.

Next time we'll see how Mr. Jones though this problem could be overcome.

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