Monday, 22 January 2018

Consumption of beer likely to decrease

The story usually told is that everyone expected WW I to be over by Christmas. But it looks as if the brewing trade had a more realistic view.


The ultimate effects upon the brewing industry are difficult estimate, states the Allied Brewery Traders' Circular. The consumption of beer in the country must almost certainly diminish as money is spent on the war. There will probably be no sudden drop, but the heavy national expenditure and the increased prices of food must be reflected in a decreased barrelage.

The Excise returns the output of beer for the first three months of the current financial year show an increase for the United Kingdom of 324,403 barrels, equal to 3.6 per cent., as compared with the output the corresponding quarter of the previous year.

In the world production of beer Germany ranks second to the United States, and the United Kingdom takes a third place. According to a Viennese calculation, 5,552,000 more hectolitres were produced throughout the world last year than in 1912, an increase which exceeded by 4,119,000 hectolitres, the production of 1911. The total figures for 1913 are:— 336,630,000 hectolitres of 22 gallons each, equal 205,718,000 English barrels, a quantity which is nearly six times as great as the production of the United Kingdom.

The taxes or duties levied the beer produced are estimated at £60,000,000, and this points to an average about of about 6s per barrel, which seems to be an over-estimate, says the circular.

It is claimed behalf of the brewing industry that it has contributed more men to the forces in the field than any other single industry. One Midland firm has sent 300 employes on service. In every case situations are kept open, and the difference between army pay and the usual wages have been made up to dependents at an annual cost to the firm of £13,000."
Newcastle Journal - Saturday 03 October 1914, page 7.
Quite prescient. As beer production did gradually decreas during the course of the war. As these figures show:

Beer production 1913 - 1921 (hl)
Year Austria Belgium Czecho-slovakia Denmark France Germany UK
1913 21,082,000 16,727,000 2,466,000 12,844,000 69,200,000 56,960,947
1914 20,076,000 - 2,527,000 9,056,000 59,373,000 61,467,176
1915 16,040,000 8,139,000 2,425,000 5,824,000 45,820,000 56,896,285
1916 11,910,000 7,086,000 2,581,000 7,705,000 36,835,000 52,550,937
1917 - 5,391,000 2,306,000 7,115,000 23,837,000 49,365,176
1918 1,179,000 4,930,000 1,669,000 6,375,000 24,825,000 31,233,818
1919 - 9,488,000 4,420,000 2,374,000 10,785,000 29,458,000 38,073,804
1920 3,049,000 10,408,000 5,889,000 2,662,000 11,548,000 23,438,000 57,358,068
1921 3,040,000 12,536,000 6,554,000 2,471,000 12,254,000 33,993,000 56,468,799
European Statistics 1750-1970 by B. R. Mitchell, 1978, page 285.
Brewers' Almanack 1928, p. 110

Beer production declined everywhere in Europ. Even in countries not involved in the war like Denmark. Why was that? Because internatioinal trade was disrupted and importing raw materials became difficult.

You can see that UK beer production got back to its 1913 level by 1921. That's slightly deceptive, as tthe beer in 1921 was much weaker. If you look at Standard barrels, there was a 23% decline.

There's a big variation amongst other countries. France seems to have recovered quite quickly. Which is impressive, given that the part of France occupied by the Germans had by far the densest concentration of breweries. The recovery in Belgium is equally surprising. Most breweries there had all their copper vessels looted by the Germans.

When looking at the German numbers, it's important to remember that Germany was considerably smaller after the war,Though that doesn't account for beer output being less than half of the pre=war level.

1 comment:

qq said...

That whole "over by Christmas" thing is a bit of a myth - Kitchener (War Secretary) told the Cabinet that it would take 3-4 years, and there seems to have been a widespread view in commercial circles that it would probably extend into 1916. There may have been a brief surge in optimism among some of the more flag-waving members of Fleet Street, but that soon fell away pretty quickly.