Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Brewing in WW II (part seven)

We're back in the middle of a WW II hop field.

And in the middle of the war. I wonder how things are going?

"The 1942 crop was of uniform good quality and was considered to be the best for 10 years. The quantity picked, however, was still short of brewers' requirements, and they were only able to obtain 80 per cent, of what they had asked for. A new disease of the hop plant, which had made its appearance a few years previously in the Kent hop gardens, had become virulent that year. It was the virus disease, Verticillium Wilt, which attacked the plant, causing it to wither away, and was having an adverse influence on the yield in some gardens. Although investigations were then extensively being carried out at East Mailing into its cause, the only method of combating it was by grubbing. The hop crop in 1943 was of fair average quality, although it tailed off towards the end of the picking. The yield was higher than in the previous two years, although it was barely sufficient to supply the brewers' requirements. The yield: of the 1944 crop was again short, and brewers had to be content with a 20 per cent, reduction in their allocations, while the quality was rather below the average."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 52, Issue 3, May-June, 1946, page 123.

A new hop disease is the last thing anyone needed. Especially if the only cure was grubbing up the bines.

Why don't we take a look at hop usage during the war?

Hop usage in WW II
year hops prep-arations of hops hop substitutes bulk barrels qtrs. malt lbs hops per qtr lbs hops per barrel
1938 277,846 145 29 24,339,360 4,307,776 7.22 1.28
1939 285,715 113 13 25,691,217 4,536,400 7.05 1.25
1940 265,512 132 108 24,925,704 4,176,167 7.12 1.19
1941 251,354 186 166 28,170,582 4,447,843 6.33 1.00
1942 223,007 246 71 29,584,656 4,490,029 5.56 0.84
1943 231,589 250 96 29,811,321 4,555,652 5.69 0.87
1944 243,900 277 137 31,380,684 4,731,148 5.77 0.87
1945 244,822 714 139 31,990,334 4,896,364 5.60 0.86
1946 226,197 1,414 168 31,066,950 4,644,176 5.46 0.82
1947 217,759 1,423 191 30,103,180 4,187,780 5.82 0.81
Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 62.

Hopping rates did indeed fall. By 1945, the average amount of hops per barrel was 33% lower than in the last full year of peace, 1938. In terms of hops per quarter of malt, it was 22.5% lower. The latter figure is important as it takes beer gravity out of the equation.

"Before the war most brewers endeavoured to hold about 6 months' stock of hops above their year's requirements, but the disaster of 1940 practically wiped this out, and the principal difficulty ever since has been to maintain a sufficiently high hop rate with the reduced quantity of hops available, especially in those years when the quantity and quality was low. The agreed average price for the hops of the 1944 crop was £20 per cwt, a little more than double the price at the beginning of the war."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 52, Issue 3, May-June, 1946, page 123.

Here are the production and prices of hops during the war:

Hop production, imports and exports 1938 - 1947
Year ended 31st Dec. Acreage Estimated Produce Yield per acre Average Price of English Hops per Season, Sept. to Dec. Imports: Less Re-Exports Exports: British Hops Consumption Years ended 30th Sept. following shortfall / surplus
Cwts. Cwts. £ s. d. Cwts. Cwts. Cwts. Cwts.
1938 18,460 257,000 13.9 9 0 0 45,287 12,580 286,716 2,991
1939 18,812 288,000 15.3 9 10 0 7,840 16,050 265,512 14,278
1940 18,592 270,500 14.5 12 0 0 14,675 26,830 251,354 6,991
1941 18,158 262,800 14.5 15 0 0 31 17,209 223,007 22,615
1942 18,420 261,900 14.2 17 10 0 2,963 30,673 231,689 2,501
1943 19,131 285,200 14.9 18 0 0 198 24,941 243,900 16,557
1944 19,603 253,900 13 20 0 0 0 26,525 244,822 -17,447
1945 19,957 282,900 14.1 21 0 0 574 32,337 226,197 24,940
1946 21,163 257,451 13.4 22 10 0 29,243 35,056 217,759 33,879
1947 22,142 289,908 13.2 23 10 0 7,716 31,661 231,470 34,493
Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 63.

The price was indeed £20 per cwt. in 1944. You can see that the price of hops, in contrast to that of malt, rose every year of the war and continued to rise after its end. And you can see from the shortfall/surplus figure (production plus imports minus exports and usage) that there was no room to build stocks, with only tiny surplus or even, as in 1944, a deficit. It did indeed look serious in 1944. The shortfall wiped out the surplus of the previous two years.

Brewers must have been the only people disappointed by the USA's entry into the war:

"Naturally attempts were made to remedy the very serious position in 1941, but the entry of America into the war cut short any prospect of importing from that source, and Continental hops were out of the question. Lupulin, which was little more than kiln dust, was offered from America, but the quantity which reached this country was small, later quite a useful hop concentrate was imported from the United States, but the quantity available was limited. It had a preservative value equal to from five to seven times that of hops and was a slight help in improving the situation. It has a strong American flavour, however, and the proportion that could be used had in consequence to be limited."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 52, Issue 3, May-June, 1946, page 123.

Because it ended hopes of getting American hops. You can see from the first table that the quantity of preparations of hops - which is where I think Lupulin belongs - was indeed tiny.

Picking hops wsa still causing problems, too:

"The difficulties the growers had experienced in getting their whole crop picked and the delay that often occurred before it could all be obtained before it was over ripe and turned brown, again brought the question of picking machines into prominence. Some of the growers have been experimenting with these machines and necessary improvements have been made so that with the prospective increased costs of labour in the future it is likely that picking machines will be used in larger numbers."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 52, Issue 3, May-June, 1946, page 123.
There was also something I skipped about the introduction of combine harvesters during the war because of labour shortages. Their use was one reason much of the wartime crops were damaged after harvesting. It seems the war gave the mechanisation of agriculture a big push.

It seems supply problems continued after the war:

"The present position with regard to the supply of hops at the end of 6 years is causing considerable anxiety as stocks held at the outbreak of war disappeared after the destruction of so large a proportion of the 1940 crop, and although hop rates have been reduced to the lowest possible limit, not sufficient hops are now being grown to meet brewers' requirements, and the amount available this year represents a shortage of from 6 to 8 weeks in a full year, which will become more serious next year. Although the Ministry of Agriculture has given permission to plant up a further 2,500 acres of hops it has been impossible to convince the Hops Marketing Board of the seriousness of the position and of the certainty that a much larger quantity than is at present being grown would be readily absorbed, even should there be a drop in the output of beer in the near future. Unless something can be done to obtain alternative supplies, therefore, the serious prospect of restricting the output of beer may become a reality."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing Volume 52, Issue 3, May-June, 1946, page 123.

If you look at the table above you can see that it isn't true that insufficient hops were being grown to meet demand. Even after exporting 30,000 cwt there was still a surplus. Not a huge one, but it was there. Beer output did indeed fall after war's end. It didn't start increasing until 1959 and didn't get back to the 1945 level until the end of the 1960's*.

Next time we'll be looking at brewing itself.

* 1971 Brewers'Almanack, page 54

1 comment:

Jeff Renner said...

Verticillium wilt is caused by a fungus, not a virus. I would have thought that that was known in 1946.