Currency, for a start. When you see Rs. below, it stands for rupees, the currency of India. In this case, East India Company rupees. People go on about modern multinational companies having too much power. It's nothing compared to the clout wielded by the East India Company (or the VOC, Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, its Dutch equivalent) in the 18th and early 19th century. They were much more than just a trading organisation. They had their own army and minted their own coins.
Allow me one small digression. There's one book which I've found particularly useful when analysing old documents. It's called "Compendium der Münz-, Maass-, Gewichts- und Wechselcours-Verhältnisse" by Gustav Wagnerand Fr. A. Strackerjan, 1855, page 294. Why's it so handy? Because it does what it says on the cover: catalogues the relationship between the different currencies and systems of weights and measures.
The modern world is a piece of piss. You've got metric and you've got imperial. That's it. In the mid 19th century, most German towns had their own system. It's a nightmare. Or was, until I found this book. It covers the whole world. So when I needed to know the value of an East India Company rupee, I had the answer in a trice. Two shillings sterling. That's the value of one rupee. Remember that when reading Allsopp's letter.
The price of a barrel of IPA. That's next. In "Scottish Ale Brewer" (by W.H Roberts, 1847, pages 171 and 173) the prices are given of a variety of export IPA's brewed between 1844 and 1846. They range from 60 shillings to 90 shillings for a hogshead. That's 30 to 45 rupees.
ALLSOPP'S PALE ALE.
MESSRS. ALLSOPP and SONS regret the necessity of again alluding to a statement put forth by Messrs. Bass and Co., purporting to be a correct representation of the current prices and shipments of Pale Ale to the East-Indies. The incorrectness of the returns alluded to has been fully shewn In a former advertisement, notwithstanding which, Messrs. Bass have pertinaciously refused to withdraw the same, thus rendering it incumbent upon Messrs. Allsopp to lay before the public the following detailed account of the actual transactions in Pale Ale shipped by themselves and Messrs. Bass respectively. In order to avoid the possibility of mistake, the most careful examination of the official reports of the Indian markets, during a period extending over the months of November, December, and January last, has been made, and Messrs. Allsopp confidently submit the result as a proof of the superior estimation in which their Ale is held throughout the three presidencies.
The overland "Bengal Hurkaru" (Nov. 17) says:—
"Of Allsopp's Ale 430 hhds. have been sold at Company's rupees 67 to 77 per hhd.; and of Bass's 300 hhds., at from 65 to 67 rupees."
The "Review of the Calcutta Market" (Nov. 14) gives this quotation:—
Allsopp 68 to 70 rs. per hbd. | Bass 65 to 67 rs. per hhd.
On the 14th of Dec. the same price current quotes sales of 400 hhds. of Allsopp's Ale, at 72 to 75 rupees ; and Bass's ditto at 70.
The "Bengal Hurkaru " (Dec. 19) quotes the following sales:—
Hhds. Rs. Ans.
Hhds. Rs. Ans. Allsopp 300 72 8 Bass 100 68 0 Ditto 300 75 0 Ditto 100 70 0 to 72
Messrs. Gladstone's reports of the market for Ale (Nov. 13) were:
Allsopp Rs. 68 to 70 ; Bass Rs. 65 to 66
On the 14th of December, the same firm quote the prices of Ale as nominal, except Allsopp's, which had been sold at Rs. 75, and on the 17th of January, at Rs. 85 (50 hhds.).
On the 14th of December, Messrs. Lyall, Matheson, and Co., say, " No sales of Bass's Ale have been made for some time past; we cannot, therefore, give an actual quotation; but Rs. 67 to 76 may be considered its value, or Rs. 5 below your own brewing."
Under the head of Calcutta, Messrs. Allsopp have only to add that Messrs. Bass and Co. have quoted sales of their own Beer at that place at Rs. 80. and Messrs. Allsopp's at Rs. 75 per hhd.; and on the 17th of January they even quote actual sales at Rs. 90. Messrs. Allsopp have taken some pains to ascertain the truth of these statements, and find that the ground for these quotations is a shipment of 10 butts by the "Tecumseh," 8 of which, having been consumed on board the vessel, were charged to the owners at 90 rupees per hhd. as by account sales rendered* 17th January, 1844, the remaining two being landed at Calcutta and sold, one by private sale, at Rs. 80 per. hbd., and the other (ullaged) at 70. The actual sale alluded to by Messrs. Bass and Co., on the 22nd December,* at Rs. 80, turns out to be the identical parcel quoted above, and Messrs. Mackey, Holt, and Co., by request of Messrs. Allsopp, having applied to Messrs. Bass and Co. for account sales confirmatory of this statement, are informed by them that "there are no account aales corresponding therewith."
The last recorded sates of Beer on the spot (Oct. 18) stood thus:
Allsopp Rs. 70 per hbd. | Bass Rs. 65 per hhd.
Messrs. Bass and Co. state, under this bead, that some of their Beer had been sold at 68 rupees 8 annas. This, however, as it appears from the statement of Messrs, Haviside and Co., was for ale of the present season to arrive; while, at the same period. Messrs. Hall and Co., of Madras, had refused that price for 400 hhds. of Allsopp's. The attention of the public is requested to the ingenuity of Messrs. Bass and Co.'s representation in this instance.
The sales of Ale at this place, as per Price Current (Nov. 1), were:
Allsopp 200 hhds. at 65 rupees. | Bass 60 rupees to 61 rupees.
The same Price Current (Dec. 1) says, "We have been apprized of a sale of 50 hhds. of Allsopp and Co. at Rs. 65 per hhd.; of Bass's, two sales have been reported to us, one of 53 hhds. at Rs. 61, and the other, of 35 hhds. at Rs. 60."
Another Price Current (Dec. 1) remarks: "We have heard mention of 200 hhds. of Allsopp's having been sold, since the despatch of the last mail, at Rs. 65 per hhd., which cleared the market for the time. A further supply of 300 hhds. has since come in, of which some had been previously sold at the above price to arrive. The demand for this brew has been brisk throughout the month, arising, as we understand, from the very favourable reports received from the country of the quality of the last season's brew."
Under this head Messrs. Bass have attempted to take an advantage in publishing the exports of Messrs. Allsopp from the 1st of October to the 1st of February last. The returns are, however, grossly untrue, inasmuch as they have understated the shipments of Messrs. Allsopp in that time to the extent of six hundred hhds. to Calcutta alone! It is true that Messrs. Allsopp's shipments at this period were unusually small, and that, with the exception of about 100 hhds., their shipping season did not commence till late in November, in consequence of very extensive alterations and enlargements in their brewery which increased business obliged them to make. It is necessary to observe, however, that there is great possibility of error in arriving at the correct account of exports ot Beer, and on this account Messrs. Allsopp have not ventured to publish the shipments from 1842 to 1843, lest they should not lie strictly correct, but from October, 1841, to October, 1842, they were as follows, as admitted by Messrs. Bass:
Bombay. Madras and Calcutta. Total Hhds. Allsopp 3,916 5,583 9,499 Bass 2,073 2,727 4,800
Messrs. Allsopp have only to remark, that the shipments of the subsequent year have been, as nearly as possible, in the same proportion, notwithstanding Messrs. Bass and Co.'s four months' statements, when their brewery was not at work.
In closing the above exposition of the advertisement put forth by Messrs. Bass, it is necessary to state that, as a private representation of its gross incorrectness being made to that firm by Messrs. Allsopp, a reply was in which the admission was made that, by a typographical error, some statement had occurred. In that letter in alleged "corrected form" was inclosed, containing the same glaring inaccuracies which Messrs. Allsopp have been thus compelled to expose. Messrs. Bass and Co. were the first to adopt a system of advertising: their intention to assume a position in India with regard to the consumption of their Beer, to which they have no claim, cannot be misunderstood; and, however repugnant to their own feelings, Messrs. Allsopp consider it due to themselves and the public to expose the misrepresentations which have been so industriously circulated, and defend the preeminent position which Ale of their manufacture has invariably held both in the Indian and the home markets. Burton-upon-Trent, March 28, 1844.
* It will be observed, an a curious fact, that these quotations of sales are represented by two casks landed in Calcutta, one by private sale at Rs. 80 and the other (ullaged) at Rs. 70 ; whilst, on the same day (17th Jan ), Messrs. Gladstone and Co. notice a wholesale sale of 50 hhds. of Allsopp's at 85 rupees.
"The Indian mail, vol 1, 1843-1844", 1844, page 381.
Given the modest quantities of beer - fewer than 15,000 hogsheads (22,500 barrels) for the two breweries combined - it makes you wonder why Allsopp got so worked up. Maybe it was just a prestige thing, being market leader in India. To put those sales into context, in 1842 Barclay Perkins brewed 395,871 barrels, Whitbread 185,895, Truman 327,939 and Meux 186,672 (Source: "The British Brewing Industry, 1830-1980" T. R. Gourvish & R.G. Wilson, pages 610-611).
The price or the beers mentions above ranges from 60 to 90 rupees (120 to 180 shillings) for a hogshead. Which, funnily enough, is exactly double the price range found in Roberts. And it isn't the cost price, but retail price, that he quotes. I think it's fair to assume that brewers were making a pretty respectable profit on IPA. I must try and find out what the shipping costs were.
Next: Bass fights back.