Sunday, 13 September 2020

Tied houses in the 1890s (part two)

I intended a single post based on the parliamentary debate on tied houses. Too many words.

Bite-sized is my aim with blog posts. Not much more than a screenful. That's about as much as I can be arsed to read. I'm guessing not many of you have a much longer attention span.

But I digress. To sum up what's going on: MPs arguing the toss about tied houses:

"Mr. G. Russell said his hon. friends, the members for Newcastle-under-Lyme and Leicester, were to be congratulated upon having elicited from a most competent judge, the hon. member for Burton, emphatic testimony in favour of the virtue of beer sold in free houses as against that of beer sold in tied houses. That testimony, however, was contradicted by no less an authority than the hon. member for Essex. Who should decide when brewers disagreed?"
The Brewers' Guardian 1895, page 132.

Bit of vested interests going on there. Most of the trade becoming tied buggered the big Burton brewers, who had relied on quality and reputation to sell their beer, rather than owning the pubs. Bass and Allsopp got into the tied trade too late and suffered the financial consequences.

Though it seems that certain famous brewers could get their beer into some "foreign" houses:

"Mr. Usborne denied that the beer supplied in free houses was much superior to the beer supplied in tied houses. As to the number of tied houses, he believed that quite 95 percent, were practically tied. He meant that the brewer or wholesale tradesman supplied the publican or retail tradesman with the capital with which he conducted his business. The number of publichouses was so large, and the competition consequently so keen, that it was easy for a publican to leave one house, if he was dissatisfied with the quality of the beer supplied, and to remove to another. Country brewers did not compel their tenants to sell their own beers exclusively. Any tenant of the firm with which he was connected could keep Allsopp’s ales or Guinness’s stout in stock if he chose to do so. He hoped a committee would be appointed to inquire into the question, because he was satisfied, and the trade were satisfied, that then the already often-contradicted and refuted statements made with reference to the tied-house system would be absolutely and completely exploded."
The Brewers' Guardian 1895, page 132.

Guinness managed to continue the pub-free model of business right through the rise and fall of the brewery-owned pub model. No-one else did. Bass sold a lot of beer through the pubs of others, but had a tied estate of their own. 

Those two breweries had products so desirable that even Whitbread sold considerable quantities through their pubs - all bottled by Whitbread, of course.

Whitbread sales of Porter & Stout 1929 – 1938 (barrels)
  total Whitbread production Guinness & Bass total % Guinness & Bass
1929 481,663 45,595 527,258 8.65%
1930 492,605 50,064 542,669 9.23%
1931 466,218 45,245 511,463 8.85%
1932 416,623 37,977 454,600 8.35%
1933 437,102 39,192 476,294 8.23%
1934 476,205 41,528 517,733 8.02%
1935 494,715 41,773 536,488 7.79%
1936 510,260 41,344 551,604 7.50%
1937 528,725 41,353 570,078 7.25%
1938 538,914 39,077 577,991 6.76%
Whitbread archive document number LMA/4453/D/02/16
Whitbread brewing records

A bit later, I know. But 8% of Guinness or Bass? That's a lot of beer. Forty or fifty thousand barrels.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like Guiness and Bass ultimately benefitted from having so much business outside of tied pubs.

As an American i'm not very familiar with British brewing -- did any brewers which were originally lopsidedly committed to the tied house model eventually make a successful move to doing a big chunk of their business to the market outside of tied pubs?

Ron Pattinson said...


Guinness was the only brewery that could make a go of the pub-free model. Bass suffered from having its beers kept out of many pubs. They were never the same company after 1900.

Guinness was so worried about being shut out if tied houses that it basically grassed up the major brewers to the competition authorities in the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting about Bass, because for a long time in the US the standard Bass Ale bottle was the only English beer you would see. I assumed that meant they successfully sold a ton of bottled beer back home.

Ron Pattinson said...


by the late 1970s Bass wasn't available in bottle in the UK. Instead you got Worthington White Shield. Bass Red Triangle had been the same beer in different packaging, but was dropped when it came out that the two beers were identical. Bass was then only either keg or cask.

The beer for the US market was totally different from UK versions.