Friday, 24 July 2015

Georges again

Time to return to Georges of Bristol to hear some more from their chairman.

First a little about the brewery’s history. Founded in 1730, it was registered as a limited company in 1888. Courage bought it up in 1961 with 1,459 tied houses. That number of pubs means it must have been one of the largest regional breweries. It closed in 1999, more than a decade and a half after Horsleydown, the original Courage brewery*.

I drank their beer many times when I lived in London. After the closure of Horsleydown it was the source of Courage Best and Directors. They were OK, if nothing special, I recall. I had a few pints of Best a couple of years ago in Folkestone. Presumably brewed by Charles Wells. It was much the same: alright, but unspectacular.

The war years saw breweries starved of investment. Meaning considerable sums needed to be invested after war’s end, if a company wanted to have their brewery up to scratch:

“During the past two years over £261,000 has been expended on additions to fixed assets.

Of this sum £132,000 represents purchases of valuable licensed houses when opportunities arose. The balance consists of expenditure incurred additions to and modernisation of the brewery and plant particularly to deal economically with the very large increase in output of bottled beers.

Substantial further outlay will be necessary over the next few years to complete this programme in respect of which contracts had been placed September 30, 1949, amounting to £90,000 approximately. “
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

£132,000 would have been a decent number of pubs – several dozen. You need to remember that for most breweries the only realistic way of boosting output was to control more pubs. The vast majority of beer was drunk in pubs and there were very limited free trade opportunities.

And here’s the recurring theme of a surge in bottled beer sales. Bottling requires far more machinery than merely racking into barrels. Investment in new plant would have been needed to keep up with demand.

Progress in Repairs
Capital expenditure will also be required to meet the cost of building licensed premises on the Corporation new housing estates. We are pleased to report that negotiations with the planning authorities connection with this matter are proceeding on a satisfactory basis, as stockholders will no doubt have noticed In the Press.

Considerable progress has been made in carrying out repairs which had been deferred on account of war conditions. A survey of outstanding repairs of this nature has been made. In the absence of a further rise in costs it is estimated that the provision made in this year's accounts will be sufficient to cover work still to done.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

In an attempt to fill the housing shortage whole new suburbs, or even complete new towns were built after the war. These were a great opportunity for brewers, offering them the chance to build a large, modern pub in an area with little competition.

Civilian building work came to pretty much a complete stop during the war. Ad in addition to routine maintenance work that had been delayed, many pubs were affected by bombing. George, based in a major port would have had more than their share of pubs damage or even destroyed by German bombs.

I’ll finish with some of Georges beers from the 1950’s:

Georges beers 1949 - 1960
Year Beer Style Price per pint d package OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1949 IPA IPA 17 draught 1037.1 1008.9 3.66 76.01% 29 B
1952 Home Brew Home Brewed 22 bottled 1043.3 1009.9 4.34 77.14% 1.5 + 40
1953 Glucose Stout Stout 28 bottled 1045.5 1017.6 3.60 61.32% 1 + 11
1954 Barley Wine Barley Wine 40 bottled 1078.2 1026 6.78 66.75% 95
1956 Brown Ale Brown Ale 24 bottled 1035.2 1010.8 3.16 69.32% 90
1958 Glucose Stout Stout 30 bottled 1045.3 1019.3 3.25 57.40% 225
1959 Glucose Stout Stout 28 bottled 1045 1018.7 3.39 58.44% 225
1959 Light Ale Light Ale 24 bottled 1033 1008.7 3.15 73.64% 18
1960 Export Port Ale Pale Ale 30 bottled 1043.4 1012.8 3.83 70.51% 18
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

The chairman hasn't finished speaking yet.

* “Century of British Brewers plus” by Norman Barber, 2005, page 118.


Anonymous said...

Is it possible to expand on what is meant by "glucose stout" and "home brew"?

Ron Pattinson said...


Glucose Stout is just a name implying sweetness. Home Brewed was a type of beer. Click on Home-Brewed label to read more about the style.