Thursday, 19 April 2012

The scale of brewing in 1860's Alloa

I was delighted to come across this article reprinted in the Journal of the Scottish Brewing Archive. Delighted because it gives some details of the size of the brewing industry in Alloa in the mid 19th century.

It contains some handy figures both on the number of workers employed and the quantity of beer brewed. Take a look.

"THE ALE TRADE - That Alloa is famous for its ales, our readers well know, but we question much if the generality of them have got the slightest idea of the immense quantity sent out, and the large number of hands employed in its manufacture. There are in all seven breweries in town, the largest of which employs about fifty hands, and the smallest not less than a dozen; or, at a rough guess, say 200 in all, make a direct livelihood by the brewing of the world-renowned "Alloa Ales." This of course is exclusive of the number employed at the breweries without the limits of the Burgh. If we take again the number of tradesmen who are indirectly connected with the manufacture of the wholesome beverage, such as coopers, we have only to mention that the Messrs Pearson have erected in Craigward Place one of the largest and most commodious cooperages, we believe, in Scotland. They entered upon their new premises on Monday last, and the number of casks turned-out by this firm in a week may be inferred from the fact that they have somewhere about fifty hands employed in their extensive premises. As to the quantity of ale manufactured. More than one firm brews about 800 barrels a week; or, taking it roughly, at say 500 each per week, gives a total of 3500 barrels. Giving 36 gallons to a barrel, we find that not less than 126,000 gallons of ale are manufactured every week in our thriving little town. To show that there is no falling of in the brewing trade, we may mention that Mr Alex. Gall. sen., contractor is at present employed in excavating a foundation for the extensive barns about to be erected by Mr John Mailer, builder, for Messrs George Younger & Son, brewers, contiguous to Messrs Pearson's cooperage. There are about 500 yards to be excavated, and as the building is to be founded on the rock, soil to depth of four feet will required to be removed."
Stirling Journal and Advertiser, 23rd March 1866

To put the number employed into context, in 1871 the population of Alloa was 9,362. With 200 working directly in brewing, it wasn't that significant an employer. But this doesn't include those employed in cooperages, malting and other auxiliary trades.It's probably safe to multiply that 200 by at least 2 or 3. Even at 600, brewing almost certainly wasn't the main employer. Then again, breweries, not even the largest, never had the thousands of workers that you might find in a steel works and a textile mill.

On to the amount of beer brewed. 3,500 barrels a week, multiplied by 52, gives 182,000 barrels annually. As I've pointed out many times before, there were half a dozen breweries in London that each brewed more than that. It sounds like the largest Alloa brewery produced 800 barrels a week, or about 40,000 barrels a year. Peanuts, really.

George Younger expanding their brewery was nothing new. They made several purchases of adjoining buildings during the 1850's and 1860's (see the map I posted a few days ago). Sadly, all that land is now occupied by a giant car park.

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