Thursday, 23 May 2013

Japanese beer in Britain

Casual racism. It's a constant problem when rummaging around in history's basement. I hope I don't need to point out that I don't condone this sort of thing. But neither am I going to censore the past for the sake of modern sensibilities.

I'm not sure what to make of this little article about a flood of Japanese beer about to wash over Britain:

"A Small Jap, Please."
Brewers in this country are not alarmed by the prospect, referied to in the Board of Trade Gazette, of competition with Japanese beer. Although we are told that this beverage "being imported in considerable quantities," members of prominent firms here say they had never even seen it. "What with the duty and other expenses to the Japanese brewer," said Director of one company, "it not a commercial proposition. There is hardly any foreign beer this country now. Even Dutch lager has almost disappeared." It looks therefore, as if it will be a long time before Britishers are heard asking for small Jap, please.
Evening Telegraph - Friday 10 September 1920, page 4.
The quantity of beer being importted at the time was indeed tiny:

British beer imports (standard barrels)
1918 1920 1922 1923 1924
16 590 4,033 7,017 1,392,576
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 51
Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 115

The big jump in 1924 was a technical matter. That's the first year the Republic of Ireland Irish Free State was included as a foreign country. The vast majority of those million-odd barrels was Guinness.

Japanese brewers had taken advantage of the disruption to international trade caused by WW I. Before the war, the Dutch East Indies had been supplied with beer from Holland and Denmark. The chaos caused to international shipping left Dutch breweries desperately short of raw materials and unable to export sfaely. The same was presumably true of Denmark. So the Dutch East Indies turned to Japan for supplies:

"Military beer.
Since no beer is supplied from the Netherlands
for the military Societies, the War Department intends to import Japanese beer. Statements of the quantities required have already been requested."
Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië, 29-05-1917, page 2. (My translation.)
Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië, 20-02-1915.


Martyn Cornell said...

Japanese beer was on sale in Hong Kong from about 1903 or so, which looks to be the time the then-colony switched its tastes from British-style beers (ie pale ale, porter) to lager.

The Beer Nut said...

On a point of pedantry, it was the Irish Free State in 1924. The Republic of Ireland didn't exist in British law until 1949.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut,

thanks for pointing that out. I've fixed it.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut,

you (and I) missed the same mistake in this post:

This may be a stupid question, but when did the Irish Free State start calling itself the Republic of Ireland?

Daft thing is, the original source says Irish Free State. Sounded a bit colonial to me, so I changed it to the current name.

Matt said...

Beer Nut can correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I know the Irish Free State became Ireland with the adoption of the 1937 Constitution. I'm pretty sure the Republic of Ireland is an informal rather than legal term that became current after Ireland left the Commonwealth in 1949.

Between 1937 and 1949 Ireland had a President and a Governor-General who in theory represented the British King but in reality had little to no role. De Valera described Ireland after the 1937 Constitution as a republic externally associated with the British Empire.