Friday, 19 August 2016

Progressive year for all but brewers

By 1950 things were starting to pick up in Britain. For many industries it was boom time. But not for all of them.

Edinburgh’s breweries were having a rather difficult time:

Progressive year for all but brewers

A review of trade and industry in Edinburgh during 1950 presents a cheerful picture. Engineering firms are in a very much better position than they were a year ago; printers report that they have had a “very full year”; while retailers of other than luxury goods and particularly those in the furniture and furnishing lines, report improved business which has been checked only a little by the rising prices in recent months.

Of the city’s main industries, brewing has had, perhaps, the least successful year. Over the past six months there is a reported reduction in consumption of beer of something under 10 per cent. On the other hand, production is still in excess of pre-war., exports of bottled beer are better than last year and the Christmas trade in bottled beers is reported to be going extremely well. One brewer thought that the reduction in home consumption over past months had been noticeable without being calamitous. In a few cases there have been staff reductions and certain subsidiary trades have been affected. In this industry, as in most others, rising costs have provided one of the year’s biggest problems, and many brewers are hoping that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may reduce the tax on their products in 1951.”
Falkirk Herald - Saturday 06 January 1951, page 7.

The prominence given to the brewing industry in the article is a sign of its importance to the city. Edinburgh had quite a few decent-sized breweries, which brewed far more beer than could be drunk in th city, or even in the whole country. Scotland was a big exporter of beer both to England and abroad. Not only did brewing provide employment, it also brought money into the city.

The importance of exports over domestic trade is highlighted by the fact that a 10% drop in local consumption wasn’t a disaster for the industry. Let’s take a look at some numbers.

Bum. That’s annoying. I don’t have the output of the UK constituent countries for the years 1937 to 1950. That’s really irritating. You’ll have to make do with the numbers I do have. They are fascinating. And are making me rethink some of what I’ve written about Scottish brewing after WW II.

Beer production 1932 - 1959 (bulk barrels)
Year UK Production Production Scotland % Scotland
1932 20,790,812 918,000 4.42%
1933 17,950,303 1,002,000 5.58%
1934 20,182,308 1,089,000 5.40%
1935 20,864,814 1,179,000 5.65%
1936 21,969,763 1,236,000 5.63%
1951 24,891,746 2,000,000 8.03%
1952 25,156,489 2,019,000 8.03%
1953 24,883,227 2,106,000 8.46%
1954 24,582,303 1,981,000 8.06%
1955 23,934,215 2,068,000 8.64%
1956 24,551,158 2,086,000 8.50%
1957 24,506,524 2,156,000 8.80%
1958 24,647,978 2,111,000 8.56%
1959 23,783,833 2,226,000 9.36%
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50
Brewers' Almanack 1962, p. 48
"A History of the Brewing Industry in Scotland" by Ian Donnachie, 1998, page 237.

In the early 1950’s, beer production was much higher than before WW II. But while beer production fell slightly in the UK as a whole between 1951 and 1959, in Scotland it increased. And the percentage of the UK’s breer that was brewed in Scotland increased from 5.63% in 1936 to 9.36% in 1959.

Here’s me been saying that Scottish brewers suffered from loss of export markets in the 1950’s as the Empire melted away. Yet this shows Scottish brewers doing better than those in England. I’ll need to go away and have a think about this. Looks like I might have been talking out of my arse again.

No comments: