Friday, 13 November 2020

The price of malt

I've written quite a bit of my next book this week. About 5,000 words. And pruned out a lot of stuff which I never intended to be in the final book. But just as reference material while I'm writing it.

Not sire how many of you give a fuck about my writing process. On with the real topic of this post.

Some brewing records, Barclay Perkins, for example. are very detailed.So detailed, that I can't easily record all the information in my spreadsheet.Things like the prices which they handily supply for all the ingredients.

Having decided to look at the costs of the different malts for the new book, a renewed trawl through the Barclay Perkins brewing records was in order. Not too much work, really. Just as well given how lazy a sod I am. 

Not that I have much else to do, other than watch Homes Under the Hammer and Come Dine With Me, now that I'm unemployed.

After a few hours of not particularly taxing work, I'd assembled some fun tables. One of which I'm about to share with you. How much Barclay Perkins paid for their malts during the war.

In general terms. the movement of the prices isn't what you'd expect. That is, rising steadily throughout the war. But that's not what happened. After peaking in 1942, prices fell and remained fairly constant through the end of hostilities and beyond. 

There's a very simple explanation for why that occurred: the government stepped it and imposed a maximum price for malting barley. Even so, the cost was about treble the prewar value.

Barclay Perkins malt prices shillings per quarter (336 lbs) 1939 - 1945
date pale mild SA PA crystal amber brown lager
Jun. 1939 47 50 49 55 46.5 51.5   53
Jun. 1940 61 89 52 93.5 79 90 84 80
Apr. 1941 56 116   124 83 91 84 118
May 1942   185   195 230 280 185 125
Jan. 1943   155 195 190 158 180   153
Nov./Dec. 1944     150 164 146 146   154.5
Apr. 1945   142 142 157 146 161 152  
Aug. 1946   142 142 153 131 147.167 136  
1947   147 142 157 131 147.167 136  
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/623, ACC/2305/01/624, ACC/2305/01/625 and ACC/2305/01/627.




StuartP said...

A little bit off-topic but..
I read Adam Smith saying that a brewer would get 3 barrels of porter from a quarter of malt.
Doesn't seem a lot to me, how does it look to you? He was writing in 1770s.
Smith was proposing trebling the malt tax, but removing all other taxes on beer and ale.

Ron Pattinson said...


4 barrels of Porter per quarter was classic. But it depends on which year you were brewing it.

Ron Pattinson said...


that seems spot on, to me. In the 1770s, Porter was around 1075º, or 27 lbs per barrel. Three times 27 is 81, which is a pretty good yield for the 18th century. From 100^ brown malt, you'd usually get around 54 lbs per quarter. Which would only give you a Porter of gravity 1050º at a rate of three barrels per quarter.

StuartP said...

Thanks Ron!
Adam Smith seems to have been pretty thorough in his research. I thought 3 barrels was a poor yield from a quarter of malt, but the generous OG of the time would account for that.