Monday 2 May 2022

Adulteration 1880 - 1914

The 1872 Licensing Act had included stiff penalties for adulteration, which may have dissuaded publicans from tampering with their beer.

19 Adulteration.
(1.) Every person who mixes or causes to be mixed with any intoxicating liquor sold or exposed for sale by him any deleterious ingredient, that is to say, any of the ingredients specified in the First Schedule to this Act, or added to such schedule by any Order in Council made under this Act, or any ingredient deleterious to health; and
(2.) Every person who knowingly sells or keeps or exposes for sale any intoxicating liquor mixed with any deleterious ingredient (in this Act referred to as adulterated liquor), shall be liable for the first offence to a penalty not exceeding twenty pounds, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month, with or without hard labour; and for the second and any subsequent offence to a penalty not exceeding one hundred pounds, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, with or without hard labour, and to be declared to be a disqualified person for a period of not less than two years nor exceeding ten years, and shall also in the case of the first as well as any subsequent offence forfeit all adulterated liquor in his possession, with the vessels containing the same.

Where the person so convicted is a licensed person, he shall further, in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, be liable to forfeit his license, and the premises in respect of which such license is granted shall be liable to be declared to be disqualified premises for a period of not less than two years nor exceeding five years.”

A second offence could get you three months hard labour, forfeit your licence, disqualification from holding a licence for up to ten years and the pub closed for as much as five years. Along with a £100 fine, which was a massive amount back then.

The list of deleterious ingredients is an interesting one:

Deleterious Ingredients.
Cocculus indicus, chloride of sodium otherwise common salt, copperas, opium, Indian hemp, strychnine, tobacco, darnel seed, extract of logwood, salts of zinc or lead, alum, and any extract or compound of any of the above ingredients.”

Salt is an interesting one. Presumably its inclusion is to precent landlords from salting their beer to make customers thirsty and hence drink more. But I wonder how they ascertained salting had taken place? Given that brewing water sometimes contained salt and that brewers often added salt either before mashing or in the copper.

Copperas was a heading agent. Most of the others, I suppose, being drugs were meant to conceal watering by intoxicating. Not sure of the purpose of the salts of zinc, lead and alum. But they don’t sound like things I’d want to be consuming.

Note that the rules didn’t cover plain old watering down. 


Phil said...

Adding opium or "Indian hemp" would certainly give your beer a bit more oomph, but I'd have thought it'd be an expensive way to go about it.

Strychnine is an odd one - people certainly thought unscrupulous brewers were adding it to beer (it's in "The Man Who Waters The Workers' Beer") but I don't know if anyone actually did. Apart from anything else, why would they?

Anonymous said...

Was dosing low gravity beer with cheap grain alcohol to boost the ABV ever done? Was it also illegal?

Ron Pattinson said...


not heard of that. Pretty sure it would have been illegal.