Thursday, 1 October 2020

Greene King worries about hops

Company annual reports can be an unexpected source of information. And I don't mean the dull financial stuff.

This one from Greene King contains many traditional elements. Such as moaning about the level of taxation on beer. Which had been a feature, well, since annual reports started.

This being wartime, there were some very specific, conflict-related complaints. In particular, relating the problem of being dependent on domestically-grown hops, of which there weren't enough.

Have a read and then I'll get back to the subject of hops.

"Greene, King & Sons.— The fifty-sixth ordinary general v meeting was held at Bury St. Edmunds on 26th June. In moving the adoption of the report and accounts the Managing Director, Mr. E. L. D. Lake, said : I beg to move the adoption of the Report and Balance Sheet, but before doing so I have to tell you that the Chairman has sent the following message, which explains itself:—

“Owing to the fact that the Annual General Meeting can only be of a purely formal nature, and as no travelling ought to be undertaken unless it is absolutely necessary, I ask the meeting to excuse my attendance this year.

“I cannot, however, let the occasion pass without once more placing on record my appreciation and that of the Board, of the good services of the management, staff and all employed by the firm during the past year. We realise that they have had to carry on during very strenuous and difficult times, and that they have once again proved their efficiency, and their loyalty to the firm.”

Under present conditions, I have very little, to add. In the 1942 Budget the beer duty was increased by approximately 48s. per barrel, and again by 24s. in 1943. These additions make all comparisons useless.

We still have to rely on home-grown materials, and we hope that both barley and hops will be a good crop this year. The position with regard to hops will soon become serious, as every year we, as a trade, consume more than we grow, and stocks are getting exhausted.

We shall continue to carry on to the best of our ability but conditions are not easy. Of our original staff of 400 we have lost 250 to the Forces, of whom I regret to have to report that five have given their lives in the service of their country.

We can only hope that hostilities will finish sooner than at one time seemed possible, and that we shall be able to welcome back all the other original members of our staff who are now serving with the Forces."
The Brewing Trade Review, July 1943, page 234. 

I just happen to have photos of Greene King's brewing records for 1943. (If you're wondering why I've published no recipes, it's because of an NDA I signed.) And guess what I found? Oregon hops in beers brewed in June 1943. So not completely dependent on UK-grown hops, then.

It's not the first time I've come across Oregon hops around this point in the war. A small quantity of the 1942 harvest seems to have slipped in.

Though they would be the last US hops to reach the UK until after war's end.

Hop imports 1938 - 1949
Year ended 31st March Hops
1938 45,336
1939 44,056
1940 2,024
1941 11,055
1942 171
1943 3,254
1944 134
1945 30
1946 563
1947 26,928
1948 7,766
1949 174
1955 Brewers' Almanack, page 64.


Anonymous said...

There is an NDA applying to beer that old? I could understand a craft brewer keeping the lid on a new big selling IPA recipe, but this seems extreme. No offense, but your recipes are only rough approximations anyway, due to differences between home brewing setups and commercial breweries, plus differences in modern malt, hops, yeast and water.

Ron Pattinson said...


it's their material and I was only allowed to see it after signing an NDA. Frustrating for me, but perfectly legal from their point of view.