Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Guinness vs Whitbread Stout

Remember this bit from "Beer Knowledge"?

"When the British government imposed restrictions on malting and beer strength during the First World War, the dry Irish style stole a march on its British counterpart and, aided by both canny advertising and the missionary zeal of Irish Diaspora, it's become the benchmark for stouts."

I just found something in one of Whitbread's spreadsheets that throws some light on this assertion. A bucket of cold light. It's a document with incredibly detailed sales records. Both of Whitbread's own beers and ones from other brewers. Like Guinness and Bass.

If that quote is to be believed, a tide of Guinness washed away British Stout after WW I. So in, say, 1943, you'd expect Guinness to be outselling Whitbread's Stouts, right? Let's see if that was the case.

First, Guinness sales:

Whitbread's Guinness sales 1943
Town Guinness barrels
Guinness pints 12,399
Guinness half pints 7,991
Total Town Guinness 20,300
Country Guinness
Guinness pints 2,501
Guinness half pints 1,902
Total Country Guinness 4,403
Total Guinness 24,703
document LMA/44503/C/08/063

So a little less than 25,000 barrels. Not bad. But what about Whitbread's Stouts?

Whitbread's own Stout sales 1943
Town Stout (including Kent) barrels
London Stout pints 18,484
Special Stout half pints 14,100
London Stout quarts 12,045
Total London Stout 44,629
Oatmeal Stout pints 1,985
Oatmeal Stout half pints 119
Oatmeal Stout quarts 1,396
Total Oatmeal Stout 3,500
Milk Stout pints 9,284
Milk Stout half pints 6,347
Milk Stout quarts 3,980
Total Milk Stout 19,611
Total Town Stout 67,740
Country Stout
London Stout pints 9,460
Special Stout half pints 821
London Stout half pints 547
London Stout quarts 661
Total London Stout 11,489
Oatmeal Stout pints 24,235
Oatmeal Stout half pints 4,812
Oatmeal Stout quarts 2,394
Total Oatmeal Stout 31,441
Milk Stout pints 25,906
Milk Stout half pints 19,041
Milk Stout quarts 1,196
Total Milk Stout 46,143
Total Country Stout 89,073
Total Whitbread Stout 156,813
document LMA/44503/C/08/063

Just a little bit more. And those figures are just bottled Stout. Whitbread still sold a fair bit of draught Stout. And they sold 20,000 barrels of Stout in Scotland that I haven't included.

In 1943 Whitbread sold more than 6 times as much of their own Stouts as they did Guinness. More than 25 years after Guinness was supposed to have swept British Stouts away.

Can we agree that story is bollocks?


StuartP said...

Yes, I think we can agree on that.
I expect a scan of the brewery archives will tell us when the mainstream breweries started to wind down their stout production, too.
Any idea who provided that 'Beer Knowledge' in the first place?

StuartP said...

Ah, I get it now. Sorry for being so slow.
The Beer Genie website is a 'marketing tool'. So the Beer Knowledge section isn't about providing accurate information about beer, it's just more glib marketing trash. Probably something to do with 're-positioning the product' and 'increasing awareness' or some other bollocks.

Uffe said...

Would you have an idea about when Guinness sweept away the other stouts? Did they really sweept away? Or did the ENglish breweries backed away from stoutmarket?


Ron Pattinson said...


Guinness didn't really sweep away other Stouts. The Stout market was in decline after WW II, but pretty much all English breweries continued to make one until the 1970's. Then gradually they dropped their Stouts because not only was Stout in decline, so was bottled beer.

Rab Neary. Flamingo dancehall cardonald group ADMIN. said...

I've been searching for Whitbread oatmeal stout for years. Anyone help?.

Ron Pattinson said...

Robert Neary,

I don't think that has been brewed for a very long time.