Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Lager brewers ask for help

During the 1930’s there were various attempts to promote Lager brewing in Britain through legislation. Either by lowering the excise duty on British-brewed Lager or raising the import duty on foreign Lager . The former was never implemented due to the difficulty in coming up with a legal definition of Lager. However in 1936 an extra £1 a bulk barrel import duty was imposed on beer from outside the Empire.

British Lager brewers felt that the system of taxation put them at a disadvantage relative to their competitors. Continental brewers, they said, only paid tax when their beer arrived in Britain. While British brewers paid tax as soon as the wort hit the fermenter.

“Until comparatively recent times, lager beer was virtually a foreign monopoly, but manufacturers in this country have been trying to make it an entirely British article, and but for the heavy pressure of foreign competition would have been successful. The home producer has to store his beer for four months, and the high rate of duty entails a considerable loss of interest on the capital so locked up, whereas the foreign competitor, on the other hand, does not pay duty on the beer until it arrives at the port, and is also able to purchase his raw materials more cheaply.”
Brewers' Journal 1934, page 324.

Of course, that assumes that the beer is being properly lagered for several months.

According to a parliamentary debate, in 1936 there were just six breweries producing Lager in Britain. Between them they brewed 114,000 barrels in 1935.

Who were these brewers? Arrol, Tennent, Barclay Perkins, the Red Tower Lager Brewery in Manchester, the Wrexham Lager Brewery and Jeffrey of Edinburgh. That's an impressive three out of six for Scotland.

Brewer Location Date started
Arrol Alloa 1921
Tennent Glasgow 1885
Barclay Perkins London 1921
Red Tower Lager Brewery Manchester 1920’s
Wrexham Lager Brewery Wrexham 1883
Jeffrey Edinburgh 1902

Based on newspaper advertisements of the period, Graham’s, Barclay’s, Tennent’s and Wrexham Lagers were marketed nationally, unusual at a time when brewing was still very regional.

But the relative amount of Lager being brewed was tiny. According to the Brewers' Almanack 20,864,814 barrels were brewed in Britain in 1935. I make Lager just 0.55% of total beer production.

But what about imported Lager? Good question I happen to know the import figures for a year or two earlier:

1932-3    22,486 standard barrels
1933-4    32,480 standard barrels
Brewers' Journal 1934, page 324.

Adjusting those to more useful bulk barrels (assuming a gravity of imported Lager of 1048), I make that 25,765 barrels in 1932-33 and 37,217 barrels in 1933-34. Of course, that's all imports from the Continent, but it's safe to assume the vast majority was Lager. Even assuming that all British-brewed Lager stayed in the country (not actually true) that's still less than 150,000 barrels in total.

Like this? Then you'll love the book it comes from, Lager! (UK):

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When Ireland gained independence in the 20s, did they continue to mirror the UK tax and duty structure, with the main difference being the revenue stayed home? Or did the systems quickly start drifting apart? I'm curious if Irish brewers were feeling the same pressures from foreign brewers, or if they now took the viewpoint of foreign brewers.