Sunday, 28 December 2008

Guinness and WW I


Nope, still haven't finished kicking this one around yet. The "everyone stopped brewing Stout in Britain during WW I and drank Guinness instead" theory. The one really irritatingly repeated in the introduction of the 2008 Good Beer Guide.


It's not that difficult to check. I've got figures for Guinness sales in Britain for the relevant period. Tell me if I'm making a false assumption here, but, if Guinness had taken over pretty much the whole Stout market in Britain, you'd expect their sales to have increased significantly after 1920. Wouldn't you? Let's see what actually happened.



In absolute terms, Guinness sales in Britain only increased slightly post WW I, from just over 1 million barrels a year to 1.2 - 1.3 million. In terms of the beer consumed in Britain, the percentage did indeed increase, from just under 3% to between 4% and 5%. But their market share had already been increasing pre war. In fact, between 1900 and 1912 their share of the British market doubled. As you can see below.


What happened after 1914 was just a continuation of trend of increasing sales that started well before hostilities. If anything, WW I and its aftermath put Guinness at a disadvantage in the British market. Irish independence left Guinness's Dublin brewery outside the UK and its beer liable to import duty. This was what prompted Guinness to build the Park Royal brewery in London in the 1930's.

To put Gunness's 4-5% share into perspective, between the wars 25-30% of Whitbread's output was Porter and Stout. The market for black beer was considerably larger than the output of Guinness.

8 comments:

Kristen England said...

So...I've never seen the Star of David on anything Guinness related before. Something along the Zoigl lines?

Zak said...

Didn't the six-pointed star used to be a much-favoured emblem of brewers, both in Europe and the USA? I visitied the Sixpoint brewery in Brooklyn last year, and assumed that's where they got their name from.

Kristen England said...

I thought that the name was a play on the notorious '5 points' section of New York. Gangs and such.

Zak said...

Their website suggests otherwise, but I'm sure there's a bit of both about it. I didn't see anyone who could be described as Plug Ugly, though.

Mike said...

It's called der Brauerstern, or brewer's star in German. According to the German Wikipedia (obviously, much better than the English one), it is possibly derived from a hexagram, which symbolised the elements in alchemy or symbolised fire and demons in another context.

Here's an entire site dedicated to it: http://www.brauerstern.de/

zythophile said...

The star, in this instance, would be the trademark of the bottler, who wouldn't have been allowed to use the Guinness trademark label as they must have bottled another "brown stout" - the label with the harp on was strictly restricted by Guinness to bottlers who "bottle no other brown stout".

Mind, I wasn't aware that Bentley's tm was a six-pointed star - William Younger's used one, which, by no coincidence, had a heavy red triangle in the middle of the symbol that looked a bit like the BAss triangle ...

Kristen England said...

Zyth,

Brilliant. Learn something everyday.

Zak said...

That IS interesting, made all the more so (for me) by the fact that I live about 2 miles from the old site of Bentley's brewery.