Thursday 20 April 2023

Wrong end of the stick

We're back with Labour MP Mr. Bing. And he's banging on about beer gravity again.

It's a couple of years earlier than his private members bill intended to force breweries to reveal the gravity of their beers. This time he was complaining about the gravity of beers being too low. Though he seems to have completely got the wrong end of the stick about average gravity.

"Yorkshire Observer" Parliamentary Correspondent Westminster, Tuesday.
BREWERS and the tied-house system came under attack from Socialists when M.P.s returned to Westminster today. Beer was watered and sold in short measure by some of the most famous breweries in the country, declared Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Lab., Hornchurch).

He alleged that brewers were not only "selling water" and cheating the public, but also "pocketing money," which should go to the Inland Revenue.

His allegations brought the first clash between Government and Opposition, and were the only bitter element in what was an otherwise mild debate on public houses in the new towns.

From the Government Front Bench Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, Home Secretary rebuked Mr. Bing for making "serious accusations without producing evidence." 

He dismissed Mr. Bing's report on five bottles of beer as inadequate, accused him of hatred end malice toward the brewers, and said that without evidence of successful criminal prosecution for the offences alleged. Mr. Bing's case against the brewers could not be accepted.

The House then divided on an Opposition clause which sought on the Report stage of the Licensed Premises in New Towns Bill to prohibit tied houses in the new towns. The clause was defeated by 268 votes to 249. a Government majority of 19.

Mr. Bing, who, as chief architect of the clause, was pursuing a long campaign against tied houses, declared that the system was evil, and led to all the abuses he had mentioned.

He described how he bought five half pint bottles of beer in London — Watney's, Meux, Charringtons, Barclays and Taylor Walker.

They had been analysed and only one - Taylor Walker — gave the public full measure. All of them, except Charringtons, were below the average original gravity.

The beers had been watered to a fantastic degree, continued Mr. Bing, and to the extent that they were sold below the original gravity — the brewers were defrauding the Revenue.

There was a roar of laughter when Mr. Bing added, "Barclays India Pale Ale only exceeds by 0.6 of 1 Per cent of alcohol the strength of beer which was permitted in the United States during prohibition.”

There was more laughter when Mr. Leslie Hale (Lab., West Oldham) remarked that Mr. Bing had proved conclusively not only “That the nightingale does not sing in 'Barclays’ Square, but in point of fact that there is not even a good swallow there!"

An Opposition amendment to exclude Scotland from a clause in the Bill repealing State management of the liquor trade in the new towns was defeated by 263 votes to 239, a Government majority of 24.

When the guillotine fell on the Report stage at 9.30 p.m„ a number of amendments had not been discussed.

The Third Reading of the Bill, which will be taken tomorrow, is also subject to the operation of the guillotine, and will end at 7.30.

“No complaints from public”
Replying to Mr. Bing's accusations last night. Capt. A. J. Dyer, chairman of the Licensed Victuallers Defence League, said retailers had nothing at all to do with the gravity of beer, adding. "We have no knowledge of beer being weakened since the promise given to Sir Stafford Cripps.”

He said that most licensees sold bottled beers in glasses which held more than the half pint, so that all the contents could be poured out. The public accepted the quality and gravity of bottled beers and had made no complaints.

Mr. C. L. Shaw, an official of the Brewers’ Society, said the average strength of beer was three degrees higher than three years ago and was only 10 per cent, below pre-war strength.
Bradford Observer - Wednesday 15 October 1952, page 3.

Mr. Bing seems to have thought that average gravity was the minimum strength beer could be brewed to. Which is obvious nonsense. If any beer was brewed above average gravity, then obviously some also had to be brewed below it. Claiming that brewers were defrauding the revenue by brewing beer below average gravity is such obvious bollocks if you have even the slightest knowledge of how excise duty was levied on beer.

This quote from another article makes it clear that Mr. Bing was confusing standard gravity and average gravity:

He alleged that all the five beers except Charrington’s were below the average original gravity of 33 degrees. This compared with the Brewer’s Almanack pre-war figure of 55 degrees.

"It is a serious fraud on the Revenue,” declared Mr. Bing. “It is selling the public water and charging them the duty, and not paying it back to the State.”
Daily News (London) - Wednesday 15 October 1952, page 1.

1055 wasn't average gravity before WW II. That was the gravity of a standard barrel, a nominal 36 gallons of beer with an OG of 1055, which was used for the purposes of charging excise duty. Average OG before the war was actually 1041º.*

Though Captain Dyer isn't much better with assertions that the public wasn't complaining, so everything must be wonderful. In this period, consumers were happy to be able to get hold of anything and hence weren't all that fussy.

That's enough for today. Want some more details on those "watered" beers? Well, you're going to get them whether you want them or not. 

* Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is/was the tied house system that bad as here in Ireland we don’t really have tied houses but a tied market.