Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Beer in Austria during WW I

You can tell when things are getting bad when governments start cutting beer production. And putting up the price. Why? Because it's a great way of pissing the public off. Something governments rarely do deliberately.

The more observant among you might have noticed that I've started writing about Germany and Austria in WW I. There's a good reason for that. One that I'm not going to tell you quite yet. It is very revealing, though, to look at the war from the other side. The food and booze situation at home for the Central Powers made Britain look like the promised land, overflowing with milk and honey, Or at least bread and beer.

Of course, the German U-boat campaign against British shipping didn't really kick off until 1917. Which is when Britain began to experience grain shortages, though at never anything like the same level as Germany or Austria.

"Beer Scarcity in Austria
Berne, September 1.
Owing to the poorness of the barley harvest in Austria the production of beer will be reduced from October by fully 50 per cent. The brewers, who hitherto had old stocks of barley, have now received from the Government only 30 per cent. of the habitual quantity. This will entail a heavy loss of revenue to both the Government and the municipalities of Austria, where the taxes on beer formerly yielded 220 million kronen annually. A further rise in the price of beer is therefore announced for October. Austrian beer prices have already risen six kronen per hectolitre, Hungarian fourteen kronen, and German ten marks per hectolitre since the beginning of the war. 

Owing to the limited quantity of beer allowed in Germany the beer halls are often obliged to close at 8 p.m., all their beer having been already consumed."
Western Times - Saturday 04 September 1915, page 4.

Output to be reduced 50% but only 30% of the normal amount of barley available. That means there must have been a gravity cut as well. I make that a 40% reduction in gravity. So if average gravity had been 1048º, it would have dropped to 1028º. Austrian beer had been quite strong before the war, so my guess is that average gravity was higher, probably in the low 1050's. Which would still have meant it dropping to about 1030º. The sort the depth not reached until 1918 in Britain.

The above is an excerpt from Armistice,  my wonderful book on brewing in WW I.

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