Thursday, 23 April 2009

Beer houses (part two)

More stuff about beer houses. I find it fascinating. Especially the interviews with ordinary drinkers.

Though we start with Mr. Farren, a London brewer:

Mr. Farren's evidence is extremely interesting, in reference to various points connected with the operation of the new law. He states that he brews entirely for the beer- shops, and is the only brewer in London whose business is exclusively confined to that branch. Such is the revolution, however, that has been occasioned in the trade generally, that " Barclay and Perkins," he says, " and other great houses, finding that there is a decrease in the consumption of porter, and an increase of the consumption of ale, have gone into the ale trade ; nearly all the new trade is composed of mild ale."

Well there's this week's Barclay Perkins reference. Seamlessly worked in, I think. The quote is interesting because it puts the beginning of Porters decline back 20 years earlier than is normally supposed. 1850 is the date usually quoted for the switch to Ale.

Much of the beer house ale in London was brought in from outside the capital:

The ale sold in these houses is by no means all of London manufacture. This witness states that the average quantity of Scotch ale imported into London is 2,150 barrels a week; that there is hardly a beer-house but what takes in Scotch ale, in addition to the brewers' ale ; and that there is also ale brought from almost every county in England, and a vast quantity of porter from Dublin.
If you've been reading my posts on Scotch Ale, you'll be aware that much of that Scotch Ale came from Wm. Younger. I think you can probably work out for yourselves the source of the Dublin Porter.

It's hard to imagine now the impact of a huge number of new beer outlets:

It appears that in the first three months after the bill came into operation, 1508 licenses were taken out in London : in the year 1831 the number taken out was 1407 ; and in 1832 it was only 1200. " Of the 1503 licenses granted in the first quarter," says Mr. Farren, " I am of opinion that not less tnan 800 were taken out by chandler-shop keepers, who had previously been privileged to sell beer not exceeding a certain price, without license. Allowing then for the licenses applicable to that class of persons, there would remain 708 licenses taken out by individuals who went into the new trade. I apprehend that there has been little or no diminution in the number of licenses taken out by chandler-shop keepers ; and, therefore, deducting 800 for chandler-shops from the 1206 licenses granted in the year ending 5th January, 1833, there would remain only 406 licenses for beer-house keepers." Upon this calculation, then, we have a reduction on the number of the new retailers, in fifteen months, of 302 out of 708, or more than forty-two per cent. It is probable that the trade has now found its level.
More than 2,500 new licences in just two years. What happy times they must have been for the drinker.

Beer was cheaper uin the new beer houses, too:

It appears from the evidence of several of the witnesses, that many of the public-houses still charge their customers about a penny on the pot more than they would be charged for liquor of the same quality at the beer-shops. One beer-shop keeper says that he has got some at 6d. a pot that you cannot get for 7d. at a public- house. Another witness says that for a mixture of ale and porter for which before the remission of the tax he used to pay 7d. at the public-house, he now pays only 5d. at the beer-shop. Another, who is a dealer, states that he sells ale for 6d. a pot, for which, before the passing of the beer-bill, he used himself invariably to pay 9d.

Could you imagine something similar happening today? Slashing the price of beer and allowing thousands of new pubs to open. Not very likely, is it?

"The Companion to the Newspaper" By Society for the Diffusion of Political Knowledge
Published by Charles Knight, 1834, pages 152-156


Matt said...

So porter began its decline in the 1830's. Given it became popular in the late 1700's, its heyday seems to have been relatively brief.

I was thinking of the reasons for the switches from porter to mild to pale ale to pils-type beers. The trend seems to be towards lightness in colour and clarity (I was once warned off drinking dark mild as it supposedly contained the dregs of the brewery's other products). A related point on clarity: all the men in the beerhouse photo are drinking from stone mugs. Any idea when glasses became standard in pubs?

Porter may still be the dominant beer in Ireland thanks to its marketing and the near monopoly enjoyed by its brewers although on the evidence of my last trip even there its position is being eroded by a tide of mass-produced cider.

MentalDental said...

Hi Ron,

"Could you imagine something similar happening today? Slashing the price of beer and allowing thousands of new pubs to open. Not very likely, is it?"

I just checked through the mono-brow's budget of yesterday, and you know what? You're right. absolutely no sign of any reduction of price nor any attempt to help the struggling licenced trade. No surprise there then.

And politicians wonder why the public don't respect them!

Ron Pattinson said...

Porter became popular in the early to mid 1700's. It was the most popular type of beer for more than 100 years in London. No other beer has ever enjoyed suvh long popularity,

The progression from dark to light may seem obvious, but there's something you need to bear in mind: Mild was pale until 1890-1900.

Matt said...

I take your point about porter's long popularity, especially in relation to other beers.

I was actually thinking of mild as a pale beer in the continuum from porter to pils (as a student in Stoke in the early 90's, I alternated between Marstons Pedigree and Banks's Mild). I'd guess that a beer's clarity was something brewers referred to in advertisements from at least the nineteenth century.