Domestic brewers did have one advantage before 1880: the restrictions on brewing ingredients to just malt, hops and, after 1847, sugar, did not apply to them. Recipes for such brewers often included all sorts of ingredients forbidden to commercial brewers, such as molasses, ginger, hartshorn shavings and coriander.
The 1880 Free Mash Tun act for the first time required this class of brewers to hold a brewing licence. Though they were exempt from beer duty.
In the 18th and early 20th centuries, there was often little difference between a large domestic brewer and a small commercial brewer in terms of equipment and scale. But as brewing industrialised and was carried out on a larger scale, commercial brewers gained a distinct advantage. Domestic brewers just couldn’t compete in terms of efficiency and cost.
Another factor which didn’t help was the taxation system. Between 1830 and 1880, there was no tax on beer itself, just on the ingredients, that is, malt and hops. Which meant domestic brewers, unless they made their own malt, were effectively being taxed just the same as their commercial rivals.
Despite this, there were still more than 100,000 domestic brewers, compared to 15,774 commercial brewers. The numbers collapsed in the 1890s and by 1915 there were fewer than 5,000 licences issued. However, this was still more than the 3,556 licences issued to brewers for sale.
|Brewers not for sale 1881 - 1920|
|1912 Brewers' Almanack, page 157.|
|1922 Brewers' Almanack, page 117.|