Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Whitbread costs 1913 - 1920

Just in case you thought I'd abandoned my old documents for the holiday period, here are some more numbers.

I'm back on the topic of profiteering in WW I. The little notebook full of statistics I found in the archive last time is proving invaluable. It has All the other costs - wages, fuel, etc - missing from my initial calculations. Take a look:

Interestingly, their labour costs didn't increase significantly during the war. I suppose because much of the workforce was in the trenches. The area of biggest change between 1913 and 1922 is pretty obvious: tax. In 1913, tax accounted for a third of the cost of a barrel of beer. By 1920, it was two thirds.


Gary Gillman said...

Very interesting indeed.

I am focusing on returns. In sources I've read from the 1800's e.g., Loftus, Byrn, returns are beer that has soured or otherwise not fit for retail sale.

Sometimes as we know it was recycled for use as old beer to mix with mild. (I wonder if accounting treatment was given to recognise this, presumably yes).

For the years show except for a slight blip in 1916 the barrelage declines.

For the same years, the returns steadily decline.

Can we conclude that returns were fewer because there was less beer in the supply chain and people (I'll use a North Americanism) sucked up beer that normally would have been sent back?

To conclude this one would have to be fairly certain though that demand exceeded supply over that period. But maybe there was another reason for the fall in barrelage, maybe raw materials were short or of course demand was falling.

If one assumes that demand was not falling, perhaps the reason for the declining rate of returns was technological improvement, i.e., Whibread got better every year at making its beer more stable. If that is not the reason, a consistent rise in average ABV of the beers might explain it (ensuring better stability). But I believe from other data you have shown Ron that that is not the case.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I'd noticed that about the returns as I typed the figures in. Intriguing, isn't?

Yes, output fell, but the price of beer went up, too.

In that period, beer was in short supply and pubs were rationed to a certain amount each week. Beer probably didn't have chance to go sour, as it all got drunk up in a day or two. And, as you say, drinkers probably weren't as fussy.

Output fell at government decree. Breweries were allowed only to brew a third as many "standard" barrels as in 1914. You can find the rules here:

There was considerable unfulfilled demand for beer in 1917 and 1918.

You can read more about it in newspaper articles here:

Ron Pattinson said...

Almost forgot, did you see how much the amount they got for yeast increased.

See how the receipts for spent grains barely declined, though they were using only a third of the grain? Animal feed was in short supply, too. I should be able to work out how much the price went up, because I have the numbers for the amount of malt used for all those years.

Gary Gillman said...

Thanks and I didn't express myself well but you perceived what I meant which is that the returns seem to have gone down out of proportion to the (overall) decline in output.

Since you've said output was capped, this would seem to suggest publicans and pub goers were less fussy about quality unless stability improved technologically, which I'd think unlikely unless some new technique was introduced around 1914.

That is interesting about the yeast. Perhaps yeast demand was high for other purposes in this period, e.g., to make washes for industral alcohol (used in smokeless gunpowders), or for bread and confections for the forces.


Ron Pattinson said...

They were probably using the yeast to make food.