Beer was never rationed in either war. But limits on production meant that there often wasn't enough to go around. Breweries reacted by limiting the supplies pubs received. So effectively a type of rationing, just carried out by the trade itself rather than the government.
"The Beer ShortageYou can really tell from the tone that the author is an improved pub enthusiast, through his stressing of the pub as a location for more than just consuming beer.
Reasons for the beer shortage being experienced in some areas are discussed in memorandum prepared by the Editor of "A Monthly Bulletin," a magazine representing a movement to improve public-houses and to maintain an adequate licensing law.
Pointing out that some public-houses for want of beer have reduced their hours of opening or shut their doors, the writer says:— "The aim of all practical reformers is to make the modern public-house a meeting-place which is liked and respected for its character, and which does not depend only upon alcoholic refreshment. A well-run public-house provides a social service, and the responsibility of the publican to the public does not cease even when there is no beer. The art of being good publican may shine at its best when the obstacles are most formidably.
"Every onlooker knows that the Government this war are seriously intent upon the maintenance of the national morale. They do not shrink from paying generous subsidies for amenities which they understand contribute to the right working spirit. Beer is one of them. In a sense it is unique. The person deprived of jam or tea may manage with some substitute. But beer has no rival in the public estimation.
"It is, natural that the Government, paying due attention to the experiences of the last war, are anxious that the supply of beer should be sufficient for reasonable and sober men wherever they may be. The brewers for their part are making every possible effort to meet this demand under the war conditions, which are prescribed for them. Unfortunately, there are formidable difficulties."
Shifting of the working population has increased the demand in some places far beyond the pre-war demand. Raw materials are affected by the shortage and slowness of transport.
There is also a shortage of labour in the brewing industry, says the writer, but the Ministry of Labour are doing all they can to help. Brewing, moreover, is peculiarly dependent upon coal. "If the brewers are without coal they cannot brew to meet any emergency, and assuredly miners and munition workers — to mention only two groups - will not work contentedly unless they get their fair share of beer. This was proved in the last war."
Transport difficulties are being dealt with urgently, and steps are being taken by brewers to prevent overlapping.
Lichfield Mercury - Friday 08 August 1941, page 6.
Substitutes for jam or tea but not for beer? Well, I can think of a couple. Cider, for example. Or whisky. I could make do with that if there was no beer. Not sure what I could replace tea with, mind. And, no, coffee isn't a satisfactory substitute.
It may seem strange that brewing was so dependent on coal. But at the time it was still the major fuel source for many operations in the brewery. Especially heating water for mashing andfor boiling wort.
The war caused considerable population movements. In some areas, a large percentage of the young moved away, either to serve in the armed forces or to work in the munitions industry. While areas with large military bases or arms factories saw a big rise in population.
This played havoc with the way raw materials were allocated to breweries, which was based on pre-war their production. For those breweries in areas where there was a big wartime boost in the population - especially of young men - the allocation could be woefully inadequate.