Thursday, 15 March 2018

UK licensed brewers 1870 - 1914

More numbers. I've a whole bucketful of fresh ones I want to consume before they go off. ANd I need to bash out some posts to cover when I'm away in the UK later this week (last week, when you read this).

One of the tables in the Brewers' Almanack that I particularly like is the one that lists the number of breweries by size. It gives a good insight into the structure of the UK brewing industry and how it changed around the turn of the 20th century.

The UK used to have a ridiculous of breweries. Most of them very small. Most the the ones in the under 1,000 barrels a year category would have been brewing well under it. For example, in 1842 26,817 of the 44,208 breweries in the UK brewed fewer than 100 barrels a year. Of those 26,817 8,180 produced fewer than 20 barrels a year.* Bugger all even for a pub brewery.

Even in 1914, the number of breweries producing more than 20,000 barrels a year was only 334. And just 54 more than 100,000 barrels. Meaning that the industry was still very fragmented, with a very large number of small producers. The vast majority of which were pub breweries. 2,357 in 1914, to be precise.**

I'm surprised to see the number in the half million barrels category go up and down in the late 19th century. I'd have expected it to keep increasing.

Number of Persons in the UK licensed as Brewers for Sale
Year ended Sept. 30. Under 1,000. 1,000 and under 10,000. 10.000 and under 20,000. 20,000 and under 100,000. 100,000 and under 500,000. 500,000 and over.
1870 26,506 1,809 210 128 23 3
1875 21,181 1,864 260 194 25 4
1879 17,542 1,863 301 217 27 3
1880 16,770 1,768 272 203 23 4
1881 14,948 1,677 275 183 24 8
1885 12,608 1,537 270 187 27 4
1890 9,986 1,447 274 255 34 4
1895 7,213 1,162 267 256 34 5
1900 4,759 910 262 308 42 9
1905 3,787 832 232 280 40 9
1912 2,868 673 205 266 43 7
1913 2,760 615 210 271 42 8
1914 2,536 580 197 280 46 8
Brewers' Almanack 1922, page 117.

Who were the breweries producing over half a million barrels? Some are pretty obvious, like Guinness, Bass and Allsopp. Others you may not have heard of. I happen to have the numbers for 1884.

Note that all but the top three were based in London.

Largest UK breweries in 1884
Brewery Beer Bands (barrels)
Guinness 1,300,000
Bass 1,000,000
Allsopp 850,000
Combe 500,000
Barclay 550,000
Watney 450,000
Truman 450,000
Charrington 400,000
Reid 350,000
Whitbread 300,000
Courage 300,000
Document ACC/2305/8/246 part of the Courage archive held at the London Metropolitan Archive
Output based on the cost of the brewing licence which was based on bands of output, the figure given is the top of the band into which the brewery's output fell.

Three of the breweries above, Watney, Combe and Reid, took part in the first big merger in 1898. Forming, er, Watney, Combe, Reid. A name which when I saw it on a pub door said "stay away" to me.

* "A Dictionary, Practical, Theoretical, and Historical, of Commerce and Commercial Navigation" by John Ramsay McCulloch, 1844, page 9.

** 1928 Brewers' Almanack, page 118.


Sokratees9 said...

I wonder how many of those brewpubs who brewed less than 20 barrels a year maybe brewed more, but somehow reported it less to avoid taxes/duty.

20 barrels equates to selling about 15 pints a day on average, if I can do simple maths...

Dan Klingman said...

That's very interesting that in 1842 so many places were brewing under 20 barrels per year. I wonder why they would bother? Would there have been an economic incentive? Or is it just that things haven't really changed and a homebrewer was just going pro?

Ron Pattinson said...

Dan Klingman,

no, they wouldn't be homebrewers going professional. Probably just pub breweries that only occasionally brewed.

Ron Pattinson said...


it's hard to say if they were brewing more and hiding it. As there was no tax on beer in 1842, that seems unlikely. One of the reasons tax was on malt was to avoid tax evasion.

qq said...

I'm wondering how many of the landed gentry had a licence to allow occasional off-sales whilst producing principally for their estate workers. Or just to produce beer for harvest workers or something, I don't know how the technicalities would pan out.

Also how much malt was home-malted on rural estates? I'd imagine it would be pretty hard to prove anything as long as they had the paperwork for a few barrels-worth.

Foggy Noggin Brewing said...

Very interesting - our 120 BBL’s we brew at Foggy Noggin Brewing (Bothell, WA) wouldn’t have seemed that small back then.