Friday, 25 July 2008

Irish breweries

Another book arrived yesterday. It's an overview if Irish agriculture and industry published in 1902. I'm only really interested in one chapter. Any guess which?

A thought struck me while flicking through the tables of statistics. Ireland had the first truly modern brewing industry. I'm talking here in terms of its structure, not so much how the plants themselves were equipped and arranged.

One brewery - Guinness - was dominant. It brewed more than two thirds of all the beer produced in Ireland. The second largest brewer made less than a tenth of the quantity Guinness did. With a massive export trade, Guinness was not only the largest brewery in the UK, but in the whole world, with an output of more than 2 million barrels annually. There were just a handful of medium-sized breweries, seven to be precise, producing more than 50,000 barrels. The other 30 were all pretty small.

That's the type of structure you see in much of the brewing industry today. In Holland, you have Heineken, in Denmark Carlsberg, in Belgium Inbev, in the USA Anheuser-Busch (though not for much longer).

The early appearance of a brewing monolith could go far to explaining the relative scarcity of new brewers in Ireland. That and the stranglehold Guinness has on retail outlets.

Another intersting point is the minimal use of adjuncts and sugar. In Ireland, these only made up around a quarter of a percent of ingredients used. In the UK as a whole, it was more than 7.5%.

1 comment:

The Beer Nut said...

The first cut of ICB's Lost Breweries of Ireland project is now online here.