Saturday, 22 November 2008

British brewing in WW I and WW II

It's your lucky day. If you like numbers like me. You're getting little else.

I've an incredible amount of British beer statistics. Courtesy of The Brewers' Almanack. As I've told you several times, my favourite book. These ones turned up during the work I've been doing this week on the WW II chapter of my book.

This is what I want to share with you. An overview of British beer during the two World Wars.

You'll see that in both case average gravities bottomed out after war's end. The fall in gravities was much quicker in WW I, as was their recovery. Five years after the end of WW II, average OG was still below its wartime level.

Taxation was considerable during both wars and was never rolled back to its pre-war levels. Typical, eh?

I'm still thinking about Brown Ale, in case you were wondering. I haven't forgotten my promise to pass on what I'd discovered. Just need to fiddle with some tables.


jonbrazie said...

It's interesting to see that the OG's were higher before WWI and then dropped and recovered more, but before WWII, they started out lower, dropped less significantly, but also didn't return to pre-WWI gravities. Do you think it was that people developed a taste for lower gravity beers, and didn't feel the need to increase the gravities? Or was it just from high taxation?

Ron Pattinson said...

rabbi, yes.

Anonymous said...

Ron, you tease ... to answer your question properly, Rabbi, would require copying out the whole of The Britsh Brewing Industry 1830-1980 by Gourvish and Wilson, pp 356-372, but to try to summarise, high taxes, restrictions on the supply of grain and sugar and government limitations on the strength of beer and the amount that could be brewed lasted until 1950. By this time, British brewers had become very good at brewing tasty low-gravity beers. and although higher-gravity beers were introduced at the beginning of the 1950s (Greene King Abbot and Tennant's Gold Label, for example), these were inevitably expensive and the beer-drinking public seemed happy to stick to low-gravioty but tasty brews.