Sunday, 3 March 2013

Beer prices (again)

Not current beer prices, of course. I'd never be as modern as that. Though there's much in the debate that resonates today.

Drinkers thought beer prices were already too high. Brewers, on the other hand, claimed that they were too low. Some had found a way to protest, but not one I could have gone along with.

Position of the Brewer.

Each day witnesses a change in the purchasing power of the people. Bread, beans, bacon, potatoes, milk, apparently follow orderly sequence For the moment, however, amongst a not inconsiderable portion of the community the price of beer is the topio of more or less heated discussion.

The licensed trade association has intimated that a further all-round increase is to be at once put into force, and consumers are unmistakably angry. Rightly or wrongly, the working man is under the belief that his little luxury is being unduly taxed, and that the wealthier individual is securing a position of comfort his expense.

A number of our readers write protesting strongly against the policy that is being carried out in Manchester. The arguments advanced centre around the protest made by "Barleycorn" in the following communication:

"Don't you think it ia quite time the Government stopped the sale of intoxicants altogether? The new advance from the 23rd has come like its predecessors, just before the holidays — when, I suppose, the brewers know that some men will nave a little more spare time and possibly extra drink or two. Railway fares are prohibitive (even if the trains were numerous enough) for a man with a family to afford to travel far, so, if he decides to stay at home and try to enjoy himself, he will have to pay more for it. The brewers don't mean to sacrifice anything, and although I shall find it irksome at first, to do without my usual pint of mild ale, I intend to do so. The price is quite beyond the pocket of a working-man who thinks of home and family first, and although I have a shilling or two weekly to spend as I like, I am determined not to pay any more. The brewer is brewing only one-third and charging two-thirds more for his work."

With a view to securing the point of view of the trade "Evening News" representative to-day, waited upon Mr. D. P. Davies, the secretary of the Allied Brewery Trades Association, Mr. Davies frankly explained the position from the standpoint of his members in the following interview:

"The price beer has gone up less than any other commodity. The increased cost of materials, and the fact that the Government have  brought the production down to ten million barrels is in itself a sufficient reason why the price is bound to increase.

In my opinion beer has been too cheap for long time,
but in order not to be accused of profiteering the brewers sold up all accumulated stocks at old prices. Now we have reached the higher cost of production and new rates come into force. Already a large number of houses have to be closed certain days of each week. Brewers are experiencing great difficulty, even at the enhanced prices, in securing material. The Food Controller wants all barley until the submarine menace has been overcome and the new season's supplies are ascertainable. The trade has loyally acquiesced in the arrangement, and the public must realise that the necessarily restricted supplies inevitably mean increased rates to the consumer."

Captain Bathurst, in to-day's Parliamentary papers, says that the 26,000,000 standard barrels of beer authorised to March 31 were exceeded by 626,000 barrels, due to 23,000 barrels being brewed under special licence, 13,000 to over-brewing, and the remainder due to the exercise by brewers of the option given of selecting the year ending September 30, 1914 as their datum year. The effect of maize prohibition will be to exhaust the stock of malt earlier than had been anticipated."
Manchester Evening News - Thursday 24 May 1917, page 2.

I should explain this quote: "brewing only one-third and charging two-thirds more for his work". Beer production had been cut to a third of the pre-war level in terms of standard barrels. The fall in bulk barrels had been less because the gravity had been reduced.

From a brewer's perspective, that meant they had to get more profit from what they did brew to maintain their revenues. I can see the logic, but it didn't go down well with drinkers. There was also little sympathy for publicans, whose working day had been dractically shortened and saw the need to make more profit in the few hours they were allowed to open. To the average working man this looked like laziness and profiteering.

That protest. I can see how it would hit brewers if enough followed it, but where would it really get you? Sat in the pub with a bag of crisps and no pint. Just not worth it, in my opinion.

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