Sunday, 26 April 2015

San Francisco in June

Continuing my jetset lifestyle, I'll be in San Francisco 5th - 9th June.

Obviously, the main point is to sell my book. Drink some beer and talk endlessly about beer play a part, too.

Any suggestions about what I should do and see while in the city gratefully accepted. And if you fancy setting up an event where I do my talking bollocks thing, get in touch.

I'm almost ready to reveal exactly why I'll be in California. Probably the most exciting event of 2015.

Buy my book:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer

Houston day two

I'm still a bit knacked, even after a good long sleep. So after stuffing scrambled eggs and bacon down my throat I head back upstaitrs for a bit of a lie down.

Just as well I'm in no rush. Noel Hart is picking me up at midday to drive me out to DeFalco's, the home brew shop where I'm having an event. It's always fun watching random US TV.

I particulalry enjoy the adverts for prescription drugs. Where thye say how miraculous it is then quickly rattle through a list of side effects, including such minor things as stroke, heart attack or death. They always make me smile.

When I get to DeFalco's I realise something: all the strip malls in Houston are painted the same sand colour.

The event is in a back room. I say event, it's really just me chatting about beer and trying to sell books. That's becoming the story of my life. They've brewed up some recipes from the book so I do get to drink beer, too. There's a 19th-century Whitbread X - always love those old Mild recipes. If only because they're nothing like Mild as it's now understood.

I always enjoy a nice Scottish IPA. And 1885 Younger XP certainly plugs that hole in my dyke. It's another good style for confusing the unwary, Scottish IPA. The 1900 Grätzer proves once again what a cracking - and seriously negelected - style it is.

I'm given a rather cool Foam Rangers badge, the shape and size of a sheriff's badge.Thanks.

It's a pretty relaxed couple of hours. But my belly is calling. I'm taken to The Hay Merchant, a beer bar crammed with what mostly looked like young things. It's hard to tell when the lights are low and you're as old as me.

Maybe you can check on the photo:

Hard to tell when everyone has their back turned, isn't it?

Let's try with this one. Bit blurry, but at least a few are facing the right way:

Fairly young crowd. Look at those beards.

I get a tour of the cellar. As you can see, they have one or two draught beers:

I leave pretty early. Or rather I'm driven back fairly early hen I start nodding off and dribbling down my shirt. Still not totally at home in this time zone. Couldn't possibly be anything to do with drinking beer for hours on end.

Tomorrow it's my luxury flight to glamourous Birmingham, Alabama. Need to be at my freshest.

Defalco's Homebrew
9223 Stella link Rd.
Houston, TX 77025

The Hay Merchant
1100 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006.

Buy my book:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Tied houses again

By 1950 the tied house system as we know it had been around for 60 years or so. But it wasn’t without its critics.

As I’ve already mentioned, it was the indirect result of government interference in the licensed trade. A shortage of potential outlets for brewers was created by making new licenses almost impossible to obtain and by aggressively delicensing existing pubs.

Before the 1880’s breweries had tied houses, but they were only a small part of their trade. The vast majority of pubs were free, though, as today, there were also loan ties.

Let’s make this clear: most pubs ended up being tied because brewers wanted to secure outlets for their beers. Bear that in mind while you read this:

Profit and the Tied House
There has been some appreciative comment upon the attempt made under the above heading last month in these columns to set out the true facts about the tied house system: what it means and why it is in being. Too often, and for too long, there have been statements and questions raised which are based upon the supposition that the tied house system exists because it is a fruitful source of revenue to the brewery. That supposition is entirely without any foundation at all, for it can be clearly demonstrated that the difference in the margin of profit to the brewery as between the beer it sells through its tied houses and the beer which it sells in the competitive free market does not, when all the factors are taken properly into account, amount to a row of pins. The tied house system came into being of sheer necessity to save the licensed house from bad times, to improve and restore it to its proper place in the service of the public which no other system could have done. It enables the vast majority of retailers to conduct their own largely independent businesses, the public to continue to enjoy the advantages of licensed houses bring in the main run by individual "landlords," and the brewery to run its long-term productive programme on lines which make for economy in costs. The tied-house system has but one serious defect—the name by which it came to be known from the outset. Its critics are too prone to jump to the conclusion that a licensee being tied means that he is bound hand and foot. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 13.

So the tied house system was all about breweries serving the public rather than providing profit for the brewery. Why the hell did they bother having them if they provided no profit? The argument that the profit margin was much the same as in the free trade is irrelevant. The vast majority of a brewer’s income came through beer sales in their tied pubs and off-licences. If only because that’s where most beer sales took place.

“Tied house” seems a perfectly fair description to me of a pub which is controlled by a brewery and obliged to sell its beers.

This sounds like the sort of guff pubcos come up with when trying to claim they’re wonderfully philanthropic organisations, without a thought for themselves.

“The simple fact is that the wholesale and retail sides of the trade have been on very good terms for a great many years. Within the past two years or so they have been going together into ways and means of perfecting a system of mutual consultation which shall make things work smoothly and provide recourse for the settlement of the occasional instance of individual dissatisfaction. That work has now for practical purposes been completed in the panel system which extends over the whole country. The tenant has at his disposal for the asking a 12 months' security of tenure in his house, but it is significant that a comparatively small proportion have exercised the option for a new agreement in those terms. The reason is not far to seek, for the tied tenant by and large knows perfectly well, and has known for many years, that his security is not for three months or for 12 months but that so long as he runs his business properly his tenancy will also run on as long as he wishes to remain. That is not supposition or sentiment, but the hard economic fact that it pays the brewery to leave a good tenant to carry on and to have him satisfied and content.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 13.

I’ve seen plenty or arguments between breweries and their tenants documented in newspapers. I don’t believe for a minute the rosy picture painted here. And quite a few of those related to breweries evicting tenants.

There are reasons why a brewery might want to get rid of a successful landlord. They might want to give the pub to someone else, or they might want to put in a manager, if they thought the landlord was making too much profit. Or they might just have had a disagreement with the tenant. I’d have gone before the panel and got my 12 months’ security. You can’t trust money-grabbing capitalist bastards.

I’m sure I’ll have lots more to say about tied houses.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Houston day one

As you're probably aware, I'm just back from 10 days in the USA. All spent in the South, a part of the country I've scarcely set foot in before.

It all kicked off in Houston. I started there for a very good reason: there's a direct flight from Amsterdam. I've learned my lesson about changing planes. Way too stressful.

Talking of stressful, boarding USA-bound flights at Schiphol has become tense for me. Twice last year I was near as damnit strip searched. It's not a good way to start a journey. To calm my nerves I have a couple of Famous Grouses and a Heineken at the bar adjacent to the gate.

I needn't have worried. They don't say more than two words to me.

Flying across the Atlantic is becoming routine. Not necessarily a pleasure, but not too much of a chore, either. With my extra legroom seat and noise-cancelling headphones, I pass the journey in reasonable comfort, watching crap films to while way the time. And obviously taking fiull advantage of the free drinks on offer.

Another good reason to fly in via Houston: no ridiculous queues at immigration, unlike some airports. Before I know it, I'm in a taxi bouncing along a freeway lined by endless strip malls. Every one has a pawn shop. Can't remember seeing many of those when I lived in the US in the 1980's. Maybe I just didn't notice.

I'm stopping downtown. That's what I usually do. Preferably somewhere quite nice. I've picked the Magnolia because I liked the one in Denver so much. Nice old building, comfortable rooms, decent free breakfast. What more do you need?

This is the view from the window:

The weather is pretty crap. Wet, humid and surprisingly warm. I've deliberately come in the spring, knowing what southern summer weather is like.

I've a couple of hours to get my head straightened before meeting Noel Hart at 4 PM. He's helped organise tomorrow with his home brew club the Foam Rangers (great name).

We're headed for the Flying Saucer, a beer pub handily situated just a couple of blocks from my hotel. It's a fairly cavernous place, with a high ceiling and an enormous beer list. Loads of US beers, but equally plenty of European imports. Not that I'm going to bother with any of the latter. Just as I usually avoid American beers in Europe. Unsurprisingly, it being Friday, it's pretty boisterous inside.

We chat and drink. A few other people turn up. Until I hit a wall at about 9 pm. I think that's when it was. I didn't do that badly, when you consider it was 4 am for me. And I'd been up over 20 hours.

It's pissing it down when I leave. I wake up in bed at 1 am, fully clothed, TV on. Must have dropped off while watching something.

I sleep deeply well past dawn.

Foam Rangers and De Falco's tomorrow.

The Flying Saucer
705 Main St
Houston, TX 77002

Buy my book:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Tied House System

It’s odd the sense of déjà vu as I flick through the Brewing Trade Review. Many of the same topics as today were being discussed back in 1950. Like the tied house system.

First, let’s hear from those who wanted to abolish it:

Tied House System (Motion)
MR. Bing (Hornchurch, Lab.) asked the following question during a discussion on the coming business of the House: Can my right hon. friend say, in view of the interest shown on all sides of the House in the tourist industry, and of the fact that this motion really was signed by a record number of hon. members, whether he can give any time at a convenient date in future for the discussion of a motion on tied houses which is at present standing on the Order Paper?

[That this House condemns the Tied Public House System, as at present operated, in that it deprives the customer of his freedom of choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike, tends to restrict the provision of food and accommodation, increases by monopolist practices the price of refreshments to the customer and does not furnish sufficient security of tenure to the publican; and that therefore this House calls upon His Majesty's Government to inquire into the Tied House system and other restrictive practices of brewers and to introduce, where necessary, remedial legislation.]

Mr. Morrison (Lord President of the Council): I am afraid I could not give any firm undertaking at this stage, but I do realise that this is a matter upon which there is fairly extensive interest among hon. members on all sides of the House ; but, as my hon. friend knows, after he and his hon. friends put down their motion, the brewers did offer to make a new type of agreement with their tenants. Perhaps he and his hon. Friends might consider whether we should not wait for a little while to see how it works out in practice and get some experience of it in a practical way.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 80.

The irony is, of course, that the tied house system was the direct result of government interference in the brewing industry. The limitation of the number of licensed premises was what prompted brewers to snap up every pub they could in the first place.

Like most Private Member's Bills, the one on tied houses got nowhere. The brewers had plenty of friends in parliament. Note from which side the Bill came: Labour. The party had a tradition of hostility to brewers, partly through worries about them taking advantage of and profiting from the working classes, partly from the non-conformist, temperance wing of the party.

This next quote comes from chairman’s report at Ansell’s annual general meeting. Unsurprisingly, he had a slightly more positive view of tied houses:

The Tied House System.—The past year has also seen a Private Member's Bill introduced by Mr. Bing, seeking to abolish the tied house, and, when that failed to get a Second Reading, a motion was put on the Order Paper for an inquiry into the tied house system. It is quite clear that this campaign is not based on any practical knowledge of the system under which the industry works, nor has any satisfactory alternative system been put forward.

At the same time, it is alarming to find that the tied house system, as it has come to be called, is so little understood not only by the public but by many Members of Parliament.

About a hundred years ago the system did not exist. Licensed houses were, for the most part, privately owned and somewhat squalid. The licensed trade did not enjoy a good repute. The licensed house was not a place in which a respectable person liked to be seen, let alone take his wife. These somewhat derogatory remarks are not, of course, aimed at the many fine old inns that existed then as they do to-day. I am speaking of the ordinary public house as it then was.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 84.

You should see some of the places I’ve dragged Dolores.  Just trying to think where the roughest ones were. Either Czechoslovakia or East Berlin.  I guess I’m not that respectable a person.

The line trotted out is also a familiar one: MP’s don’t understand the way the trade works. It’s always a good one. A timeless classic.

Note that at no point does he mention the reason breweries started buying pubs like crazy:

“As time went by brewery companies began to take over these places—at first by a system of mortgage, and later by outright purchase. The brewery companies, by thus ensuring a certain outlet for their products, were able to cut down on many overhead expenses and to spend money on the improvement of the promises. They were thus able to provide a good quality beer at a low price, and to afford to surrender licences in areas where there were too many, and also to build now licensed premises at high cost and with no chance of writing off the capital expenditure for a great number of years.

The policy of surrender and improvement of licensed premises pursued by Birmingham brewers prior to and immediately after the 1914-18 war—known as the "fewer and better scheme” - could not have been carried through had not the licensed houses been owned by brewery companies. Had such a scheme been carried through while the houses were individually owned, it would have meant ruin to many of the owners. Surely the benefit to the public that has resulted from this scheme in Birmingham and from a similar policy in other ports of the country is easily seen from the very high standard of licensed premises which now exist, many of which are owned by your company."
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", pages 84 - 85.

Ansells were one of the big Birmingham breweries. I remember the city well from visits to my mum’s family in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Driving through the city, it was clear that the pubs were relatively few in number but large in size. Partly it was due to when bits of the city were built. Birmingham was one of the few provincial cities to see substantial areas of new housing built between the wars. But even in the older districts, the pubs were few and big.

Many brewers had been keen on the “improved” public house between the wars. Somewhere bigger and with more facilities than a back-street boozer. Whitbread and Barclay Perkins in London, for example. But they had been frustrated by licensing authorities to a great extent. You couldn’t just rebuild or extend a pub. You needed permission from the licensing magistrates. And the teetotal twats amongst them didn’t want pubs to improve. They wanted them to be squalid so they had more reason to close them.

In Birmingham they were more practical. Brewers were allowed to build big, modern premises, if they surrendered enough licences. Obviously several, as councils were keen on whacking down the number of licences.

If I tell you the City of Birmingham had a population of 1.1 million in 1951 this next sentence won’t sound so impressive:

“So far as the tied house system limiting choice is concerned, in Birmingham alone there are houses owned by 11 different brewery companies all producing several different types of beer, though, with all modesty, we claim that the "Better Beer" is very popular in all districts where it is obtainable.

Fortunately the relationship between the wholesale and retail trade, both in the Midlands and throughout the country as a whole, has never been healthier nor happier than it is at the present time. It is only natural that the two sections of the trade, with similar but not identical interests, should from time to time have differing views. But it has been proved during this year that any differences within the trade that do exist can be settled within the trade to everyone's satisfaction, and without any need for outside interference.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 85.

Well, at least all eleven brewed several types of beer.

That’s a dreadful selection for 1950. Though, in the Birmingham of my youth, it was two. Pretty much. The pubs were alternately M & B or Ansells. Unless you were in Aston. Just to the West of the city, in the Black Country, there were still a half dozen small brewers. But you’d never see their beer in Birmingham.

Davenports, the other brewery in Birmingham, had sold most of its pubs to invest in its home-delivery service. I can remember just one in the city centre, on Hurst Street. Where I was served the yeastiest pint of Mild I’ve ever had.

Yes, everything is wonderful. If only the government would leave us alone. That last paragraph could have come from a pubco today.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1957 Robert Younger Export

I'm maintaining my run of Let's Brews for at least one more week. I'm starting to get the hang of this lark again.

We're returning to Scotland after what seems like a very long absence. With a beer from one of the other Youngers, Robert of Edinburgh. The smaller and less fashionable Edinburgh Younger.

This is taken from their final brewing log. They were bought by Scottish & Newcastle in 1960 and closed in 1961. These were years of carnage for Scottish brewing. Between 1955 and 1965 pretty much all the independent brewers were bought up and mostly closed. The industry was left almost totally in the hands of large British brewing groups: Scottish & Newcastle, Bass Charrington, Allied Breweries, Watney and Whitbread. Which is the full set, except for Courage.

Robert Younger belong to the tradition of totally dull Scottish brewing records. They had a recipe. Just the one. From which they parti-gyled all of their beers, including their Stout. There's the classic 60/-, 70/-, 80/- combo. Though there's also a really watery 54/- at just 1028º.

The 1950's are when Scottish styles of 60/-, 70/- and 80/- really became fixed in their modern forms. Just to be totally clear about this, they're all types of Scottish Pale Ale. No matter how well 60/- was in passing itself off as Mild.

Now I've got started about Scottish styles, I may as well say something about hopping rates. As I already mentioned, 60/-, 70/- and 80/- are all types of Pale Ale. With the minimal hopping Scottish brewers employed, how could that be true? Other than that story being total bollocks, of course. It is true, however, that hopping rates fell more in Scotland than in England during the 20th century.

Shall we look at some examples? Yeah, 'course.

First archetypal English brewery Whitbread:

Whitbread hopping rates in 1957
Beer Style OG lbs hops / barrel
Best Ale Mild 1030.4 0.71
IPA IPA 1035.8 1.26
PA Pale Ale 1039.6 0.93
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/124.

Now Robert Younger:

Robert Younger hopping rates in 1957
Beer Style OG lbs hops / barrel
60/- Pale Ale 1030 0.58
70/- Pale Ale 1035 0.67
80/- Pale Ale 1043 0.83
Robert Younger brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number RY/6/1/2.

Whitbread's Best Ale has 22% more hops than Robert Younger's 60/-, PA 20% more than 80/- (after adjustment for the difference in gravity). I'd call that a significant, though not enormous, difference. Though you can see why Scottish 60/-, coloured dark with caramel, could pass for Mild in England.

Export seems to have established itself as a style between the wars, representing a brewery's strongest draught Pale Ale. The 80/- designation seems to come later, possibly only after WW II. In this brewing log it appears as both Ex and 80/-.

As I've doubtless told you 1,000 times, Scottish brewers rarely used any malt other than pale, with the exception of in Stouts. This recipe is no exception. It's just pale malt, flaked maize, sugar and caramel. The latter purely for colour. Feel free to colour this beer any way you like. Because I'm sure Robert Younger sold it in many different shades. That's just what Scottish brewers did.

The hops are a total guess. Other than that they were English, I've no idea. Feel free to fiddle, but stick to English varieties, please. Or just say fuck it and throw in bagfulls of Citra Nelson Sauvin.

The colour can be whatever you like. You can leave it naked as brewed or throw in any amount of caramel you care.

Right, time to pass you over to Ronald . . . . .

1957 Robert Younger Export
pale malt 6.50 lb 70.27%
flaked maize 1.50 lb 16.22%
No. 2 invert 1.25 lb 13.51%
caramel 1.00 oz 10.81%
Bramling Cross 90 min 0.75 oz
Bramling Cross 60 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.375 oz
OG 1045
FG 1012
ABV 4.37
Apparent attenuation 73.33%
IBU 33
SRM 20
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast White Labs WLP028 Edinburgh Ale (McEwan's)
Wyeast 1728 Scottish ale (McEwans)

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

War and austerity (part two)

Just a few more tables and I’m done. All posted out in advance for the whole of my US trip, plus a day to recover when I get back.

This time there are some numbers to demonstrate how hard the years immediately after WW II were.  Because what works better than numbers? Especially when you’ve used up all the day’s supply of words. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an infinite quantity of them. I often stop mid-sentence in the evening when they’re all used up.

The numbers show the remarkable success of British brewing during WW II.  Output rose. Surprisingly both in terms of bulk and standard barrels. That the latter rose, means it was a genuine rise, because the standard barrel takes gravity out of the equation. But note the sharp drop in 1947 – 3.3 million standard barrels. The result, as we’ve already heard, of shortages in raw materials, which prompted the government to lower production quotas.

Keeping average gravity at a little under 1035º for the final years of the war was quite an achievement. Only possible because of a massive increase in British-grown barley during the war. But in 1947 average OG fell more than two points. It must have been depressing for both brewers and drinkers.

Home-made Beer :  Quantities charged with duty, Average Gravities and Net Receipts
Year (ended 81st March) Quantities charged with duty Net quantities duty-paid
Bulk Barrels Standard Barrels Average Gravity Bulk Barrels Standard Barrels Net Receipts £
1939 24,674,992 18,364,156 1,040.93 24,187,883 17,935,568 62,370,034
1940 25,366,782 18,738,619 1,040.62 25,092,090 18,495,567 75,157,022
1941 26,203,803 18,351,113 1,038.51 25,773,766 18,121,618 133,450,205
1942 29,860,796 19,294,605 1,035.53 29,351,341 19,018,940 157,254,430
1943 29,296,672 18,293,919 1,034.34 28,971,014 18,044,678 209,584,343
1944 30,478,289 19,193,773 1,034.63 30,129,031 18,945,565 263,170,703
1945 31,332,852 19,678,449 1,034.54 31,031,814 19,475,061 278,876,870
1946 32,650,200 20,612,225 1,034.72 32,698,011 20,580,907 295,305,369
1947 29,261,398 17,343,690 1,032.59 29,226,070 17,427,961 250,350,829
1948 30,408,634 18,061,390 1,032.66 30,007,139 17,744,616 264,112,043
1949 26,990,144 16,409,937 1,033.43 27,048,281 16,319,126 294,678,035
Brewing Trade Review, 1950, page 51.

Home-made Beer : Quantities of Materials used and of Beer produced
Year (ended with Sept.) Malt Unmalted Corn Rice, Rice Grits, Flaked Rice, Maize Grits, Flaked Maize and other similar Preparations Sugar including its Equivalent of Syrups, Glucose and Saccharum Hops Preparations of Hops Hop Substitutes Beer Produced
Cwt. Cwt. Cwt. Cwt. Cwt. Cwt. Cwt. Bulk Barrels
1939 9,884,803 9,910 734,771 1,986,478 285,715 113 13 25,691,217
1940 9,857,838 7,912 363,588 1,532,776 265,512 132 108 24,925,704
1941 10,988,413 11,897 246,757 1,397,642 251,354 186 166 28,170,582
1942 10,918,102 52,646 382,207 1,411,422 223,007 246 71 29,584,656
1943 10,287,322 40,592 1,238,181 1,400,573 231,589 250 96 29,811,321
1944 10,621,168 143,183 1,241,121 1,458,647 243,900 277 137 31,180,684
1945 10,435,212 245,751 1,332,032 1,784,064 244,822 714 139 31,990,344
1946 9,976,998 137,750 1,132,748 1,790,021 226,197 1,414 168 31,066,950
1947 9,454,253 92,974 614,335 1,601,186 217,759 1,423 191 30,103,180
1948 9,499,294 69,939 606,881 1,443,558 231,470 630 547 28,813,725
Brewing Trade Review, 1950, page 51.

Looking at the second table, we can see that malt usage peaked in 1941, after which considerable amounts of unmalted grain and maize products were used. Only to fall back again after 1946. Sugar shows a complicated trajectory, its use falling in the early war years, increasing at the end, then dropping again post-war.

All those changes would have had an impact on brewers’ grists. One over which they had no control. Given reliable supplies, the raw materials used wouldn’t have changed anything like as much. Each of those sudden changes in materials would have presented considerable challenges for brewers. How depressing must it have been for that still to be going on several years after the end of hostilities?

I’m sure that I’ll have plenty more austerity tales to come.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Come to Britain - Where Your Dollar Goes Farther Than Ever

I promised you this advert and here it is. It makes Britain sound a lovely place:

Signs of Welcome by the Wayside...

Spring comes to Britain early . . . why don't you? April is mild. May is merry in Britain! Then is the time to see her hedgerows flower-studded, her fields and woodlands wearing their fresh green. Then is the free-from-crowds season for visiting her ancient places and attending her gay Spring program of events.

Now that your dollar buys more in Britain, start planning early for an early start, a wider tour, a longer stay! A varied, country-wide vacation is so easily arranged ... where travel is quick and inexpensive, and even the farthest journey isn't far.

Both in Britain's big, modern hotels and her famous, old-world village inns, you'll be comfortable and courteously attended. Ready with her warmest welcome, all Britain awaits you!

Wherever you move in Britain, you'll see Inn Signs like those on this page. The Royal George, The Lorna Doone, The Good Times inn, The Compleat Angler . . . these and hundreds more will greet you hospitably by the wayside.

In their infinite variety, Britain's Inn Signs reflect her background of 2000 years of history,.. and symbolize her many-sided interests today. They keep reminding the traveller that this is a land of traditional events, of pageantry, of sport, of places long famous in literature and legend. Such varied fascinations! So much to do and see!

Come to Britain
Where Your Dollar Goes Farther Than Ever

for next April or May . . . and avoid the midsummer rush! Ask your travel agent for a FREE copy of Coming Events. and for other illustrated literature on Britain. Or write to

336 Madison Avenue, New
York 17, N. Y.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 40.

Notice there’s no mention of food rationing or coal shortages. Or how watery the beer was. And I’ll bet the service wasn’t great. And remember how poorly beer was stored in those country inns? No mention of warm vinegar with twigs in it, either. That’s not even starting on the extensive bomb sites in all the major cities.

Yes, come to Britain.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The 1950’s Inn

The pub as draw for foreign tourists is nothing new. Back in 1950 it was already a theme.

Which may seem odd. Why was Britain so keen on attracting tourists? Because the economy was buggered. And Britain needed hard currency to buy imports. The need to acquire dollars is a recurring theme in the 1950 Brewing Trade Review.

The Inn
Speaking to delegates at the annual meeting of the Home and Southern Counties District of the National Trade Defence Association in London on 12th December, Mr. A. G. Bottomley, M.P., Secretary for Overseas Trade, described the nation's inns as "centres of human fellowship,' and said that the characteristics of our inns were being extensively advertised overseas. "They are among the best things we have to offer in our drive to attract tourists, and thus earn dollars," he continued. "In doing my job, therefore, I shall be doing everything possible to sell your goods, because I believe that you who have charge of our inns can and do make a contribution to the solution of the great problems the nation is facing."
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

The Trade Defence Association had been set up before WW I to counteract the pressure on the pub trade by temperance groups. I wonder when it finally folded? By this point teetotallers were no longer the enemy. Their campaign had pretty much fizzled out in the war years.

Tourism, with the pub at it centre, was a crucial way of accumulating much needed foreign currency. It all sounds very 1970’s to me.

Living up to the advertising. That’s a common problem:

“It is, of course, perfectly true that the British inn constitutes one of the greatest attractions of this country to the foreign tourist, and the Travel Association has not been slow to present this particular selling feature to the prospective visitor from overseas, in its widespread advertising campaign, examples of which we have published in these pages. It is equally true that the industry, wholesale as well as retail, is fully alive to the service which it can render, and is rendering, to the national interest in this direction in its efforts to see that the inn and the tavern really do live up to the advertisements of them. But the keying up of the service in the inn for the especial benefit of the foreign tourist is not the only direction in which the industry is serving the national interest. Its service to the home public is just as important. Fortunately, emphasis on the one does not imply any need to sacrifice the other. Bather the reverse — the accent on good service which arises from the urge to attract the overseas visitor is all to the good in bringing up the general level of service to the British tourist in his own land, and to the regular customer in his local pub.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

The level of service in the British hospitality industry is something else that keeps poppoing up across the years. The clear implication is that it’s never been up to scratch.

“This emphasis on a high level of service to the public really involves two elements, the first the personal one which must always depend mainly upon the efforts of the licensee and his staff, and the other the material one of improvement of the building itself and its equipment which falls mainly within the sphere of the wholesale side of the trade. The two are largely interdependent. No amount of structural improvement will achieve the desired result unless the human service offered is on the required level, and conversely a licensee who really does make a determined effort to see that his staff offer a cheerful and efficient service is sadly hampered if the facilities at his disposal are not as good as they should be.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

A lot of pubs had become run down over the war years, when no building materials were available to maintain them.

But staff were also a problem because of complicated employment rules introduced during the war:

“On the licensee's side, he is having to contend with very real problems in the matter of staffing. The filling of vacancies which inevitably occur is by no means easy, and the facilities which are now being promoted all over the country to train entrants to the trade are a vital necessity if this problem is to be removed. Even so, it is clearly going to be a considerable time before it is entirely removed. Then there are the difficulties arising out of the Catering Wages Orders, particularly in the case of the true inn which, having a number of bedrooms for letting, comes within the complicated provisions of the Hotels Wages Order. The industry will welcome the announcement by the Minister of Labour that an inquiry is to be made into the ramifications of these Orders, to see whether the enormous difficulties which they entail cannot be removed. “
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

Though it sounds like some improvement in the physical condition of pubs was happening:

“On the side of public house improvement, it is disheartening to have to reflect that except in a comparatively few cases the real work of rebuilding and modernising is still held back by the lack of building labour and materials which keeps in being the inhibitions of wartime though the war has receded four years and more into the past. On the other hand, good progress is undoubtedly being made in catching up on the arrears of wartime maintenance repairs ; and the very fact that many licensed houses are now presenting a bright, newly decorated appearance is all to the good.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 10.

Next time we’ll take a look at one of those adverts trying to tempt foreigners to Britain with pubs.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

British-brewed bottled Lager in the 1950's

Yes, I’m still dodging draught Mild. Look, I’ve still another four posts to bash out so I’ve my trip to the US covered. I haven’t the time to take on anything too complicated.

And you know me and my relationship with British Lager. Never drink the stuff, but keep writing about it. This is a fascinating period for Lager in Britain. When it starts breaking into the mainstream. That’s very evident from a glance at the brewers in the table.

Some are the pre-war pioneers, who went out on a limb to build specialist Lager plant as a time when demand was very limited. I’m thinking here of Tennent, Barclay Perkins and Red Tower. Graham’s probably belongs in that list, too, as I’m pretty sure that was being made at the Alloa Brewery at this point.

Then you’ve got Charrington and Flowers, large regional breweries clearly keen to get in on the Lager act with their own branded products. I’m not so sure either had the equipment to properly bottom ferment at this point.

Carling Black Label is an example of another trend, an emerging national group bringing in a foreign brand. Despite billing itself as Canadian Lager, the example in the table was brewed in Sheffield.

Once again, the examples neatly divide themselves into two groups: 1030º - 1037º and 1040º - 1050º. Interestingly, the whole group comes out with an average OG about identical with the average for all beer consumed in the UK: 1037º.

British-brewed bottled Lager in the 1950's
Date Brewer Beer Price Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1957 Graham's Golden Lager Pilsner Lager 0.04 1030.4 1007.3 3.00 75.99% 11
1956 Red Tower Pilsner Lager 32 0.03 1031.2 1005.9 3.29 81.09% 10
1954 Steel Coulson Lager Beer 30 0.04 1032 1004.3 3.60 86.56% 11
1957 McEwan & Younger "MY" Export Lager 30 0.04 1033.6 1006.3 3.55 81.25% 13
1957 McEwan & Younger "MY" Export Lager 42 0.02 1033.8 1010.9 2.96 67.75% 13
1958 McEwan & Younger MY Export Lager 50 0.05 1034.3 1010.5 2.97 69.39% 9
1957 Barclay Perkins Pilsner Lager 36 0.02 1034.3 1006.1 3.67 82.22% 6.5
1957 Barclay Perkins Pilsner Lager 0.04 1035 1006.3 3.73 82.00% 9
1957 McEwan & Younger "MY" Export Lager 0.04 1035.2 1007.3 3.62 79.26% 13
1957 Charrington Pilsner Lager 34 0.05 1035.5 1006.2 3.81 82.54% 4.5
1957 Graham's Pilsener Lager 40 0.04 1035.6 1007.2 3.69 79.78% 9
1957 Charrington Pilsner Lager 42 0.04 1036 1005.8 3.93 83.89% 5
1955 Tennent Lager 30 0.04 1036.1 1007.7 3.69 78.67% 9
1959 Carling Black Label 0.04 1036.5 1004.4 4.18 87.95% 80
1956 Flowers Lager 36 0.04 1040.4 1014 3.41 65.35% 9
1957 Tennent Lager Beer 66.7 0.04 1040.6 1008.6 4.16 78.82% 11
1957 Flowers  Lager 36 0.04 1045 1017.9 3.50 60.22% 9
1956 Flowers Lager 42 0.04 1045.3 1014 4.05 69.09% 9
1957 Flowers Flowers Lager 0.04 1050 1017.5 4.20 65.00% 14
Average 36.7 0.04 1036.9 1008.9 3.6 76.67% 13.4
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

It’s hard to say much about attenuation, other than that the ones specifically called Pilsner tend to be more highly attenuated.

In terms of value for money, Lager was very poor. The average OG for this set is about the same as Ordinary Bitter, 1037. But that averaged just 16.8d per pint, as opposed to 36.7d per pint for Lager. Even taking into account the difference in price between bottled and draught beer, Lager was still way more expensive than Bitter.

The very low level of acidity is a dead giveaway that these beers were pasteurised. And dead as a door nail in the bottle. Um, yummy boiled sweets flavour.

Imported Lager next, perhaps.

Friday, 17 April 2015

War and austerity

The years immediately after WW II were tough ones in Britain. The country was bust and the supply situation was even worse than in the war years.

I’ve been getting a good impression of the crap brewers had to deal with in the late 1940’s. As I’ve finally got around to looking at some of the post-war Brewing Trade Review volumes I bought in an IBD auction.

I’m quoting an article about the “The Report of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise for the year ended 31st March, 1949”. It’s basically a load of statistics. Just my sort of thing. But the text says a lot about the problems brewers faced just after the war.

As so often, the tax on beer was increasing:

“Beer.—The basic Excise duty on beer before April, 1948, was £7 19s. 9d. per barrel plus 5s. 11d. per degree. The Budget raised the duty to £8 18s. 10d. per barrel up to a gravity of 1027 degrees, plus a surtax of 6s. 7.5d. per degree above that strength. Corresponding changes were made in the Customs duties on imported beer. The increase in duty was approximately equivalent to 1d. per pint on beer of average strength.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

That price increase put up Mild from 11d to 12d per pint. Quite a large percentage rise.

Raw materials were no easier to get hold of in peacetime:

“The shortage of cereals and other brewing materials made it necessary to continue during 1947-48 the control imposed by the Ministry of Food on 1st May, 1946. Up to 31st December, 1947, the permitted rate of output of each brewer was equivalent in terms of standard barrels to 85% of production in the year ended 31st March, 1946. In order to save sugar the permitted rate of output was further reduced to 82% on 1st January, 1948. Owing to an uneven demand for beer during the summer months a redistribution of production was necessary and this was achieved by reducing from 1st January, 1949, the permitted level of production of each brewery to 78% of its standard barellage in the corresponding period of 1945-46 and arranging centrally for the balance of 4% to be allocated to brewers who could not meet their demand within 78%.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

Note that they were restricting beer output to a percentage of the 1945 figure. Which itself would have been fixed as a percentage of production in the last peacetime year. It must have been depressing for brewers to have their output still limited years after war’s end.

Unsurprisingly, there was a considerable fall in the amount of beer drunk:

“As a result of all these factors the quantity of home-produced beer retained for consumption in the United Kingdom in 1948-49 amounted to 27.05 million bulk barrels compared with 30.01 million barrels in 1947-48, the average strength being about the same as in the previous year. The quantity and strength of imported beer changed very little between the two years; imports from Continental countries continued during 1948-49 and substantial supplies continued to come from Eire.”
"Brewing Trade Review, 1950", page 53.

The accompanying tables tell us something about the strength of the beer imported and exported. Because they list both bulk and standard barrels. Meaning it’s simple to work out the average gravity.

First imported beer:

Imported Beer
Year (ended 31st March) Quantities retained for Consumption Net Receipts
Bulk Barrels Standard Barrels £ average OG
1939 838,269 793,516 3,210,822 1052.1
1940 822,678 780,129 3,593,330 1052.2
1941 789,787 726,614 5,603,976 1050.6
1942 1,047,374 877,840 7,307,597 1046.1
1943 837,788 670,521 8,017,919 1044.0
1944 572,389 436,179 6,430,268 1041.9
1945 765,602 615,361 8,854,345 1044.2
1946 929,028 749,795 10,797,531 1044.4
1947 860,161 650,365 9,369,294 1041.6
1948 863,855 651,275 9,943,145 1041.5
1949 875,548 690,090 12,639,747 1043.3
Brewing Trade Review, 1950, page 52.

The vast majority of that was Guinness from Ireland, especially during the war years. Post-war, increasing amounts of Lager from the Continent came into Britain.

Now exports:

Home-made Beer : Exports
Year (ended 31st March) Quantities
Bulk Barrels Standard Barrels average OG
1939 276,757 266,634 1053.0
1940 303,488 290,093 1052.6
1941 244,436 215,045 1048.4
1942 205,009 172,860 1046.4
1943 71,220 59,608 1046.0
1944 109,564 87,947 1044.1
1945 77,862 62,769 1044.3
1946 158,500 124,190 1043.1
1947 168,121 133,800 1043.8
1948 126,580 103,365 1044.9
1949 222,047 195,580 1048.4
* Excludes beer deposited or consigned under military control for H.M. Forces overseas.
Brewing Trade Review, 1950, page 52.

Note that the average OG of exports and imports were quite similar at the outbreak of the war, but by 1949 the OG of exports was 5 points higher. Both were still higher than the OG of beer brewed and consumed in the UK, which was 1041º in 1939 and 1033º in 1949.

Some more tables next, I think.