A ridiculous percentage of the retail price of beer was the tax. As I will demonstrate in my usual way - with a table. Having lots and lots of numbers to hand, I can magic up how much of the money you handed over the bar was going straight into the chancellor's pocket.
A note about how I've come up with the figures. To calculate the average tax per pint, I've simply divided the total tax paid by the number of bulk barrels brewed that year. For the average price of a pint, I've used the price of Barclay Perkins Ordinary Bitter, XLK, which was about average gravity. Not totally precise, but close enough.
A standard barrel, in case you're wondering was a nominal unit for calculating tax, that is 36 Imperial gallons with an OG of 1055º. Bulk barrels are the actual volume of beer produced.
From an already high 30% of the retail price at the start of the war, by its end it was pushing double that. Truly eye-watering.
What effect did the high rate of tax have on the industry? It certainly couldn't have done much for competition. Unless you were operating on a vast scale, any small economies in production or raw materials were going to be an insignificant part of the retail price.
It also incentivised getting beer tax-free. Either by reusing ullage (returned beer) or any grotty bits of beer left at the bottom of fermenters, etc. Brewers were allowed a 6% loss on the volume put into fermenting vessels. If you could cut your wastage to just 2%, you got 4% of your beer free of tax. This was the major advantage large brewers had over their smaller competitors.
|UK tax and price per pint 1939 - 1949|
|Year||Total Tax £||Bulk Barrels||Tax/Std. Brl||Av. OG||price pint||tax pint||Tax (% retail price)|
|1940||75,157,022||25,366,782||80s / 104s||1040.62||8d||2.47d||30.86%|
|1941||133,450,205||26,203,803||135s / 165s||1038.51||10d||4.24d||42.44%|
|1942||157,254,430||29,860,798||165s /240s 7.5d||1035.53||12d||4.39d||36.57%|
|1943||209,584,343||29,296,672||240s 7.5d / 281s 10.5d||1034.34||13d||5.96d||45.86%|
|1944||263,170,703||30,478,289||281s 10.5d / 286s 5.5d||1034.63||13d||7.20d||55.35%|
|1949||294,678,035||26,990,144||364s 4.5d / 343s 4.5d||1033.43||16d||9.10d||56.86%|
|1955 Brewers' Almanack, pages 50 & 80.|
|1971 Brewers' Almanack, pages 45 & 75.|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.|