Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Sugar, sugar

"I discovered something really fascinating about the relative prices of malt, sugar and maize in WW I today, Dolores. . . . Dolores . . . Dolores!"

Apparently it isn't quite as fascinating as I'd imagined. The relative price thing. It's no wonder I hang around on the interweb so much. All the actual people around me, bizarrely, have no interest in discussing the price of brewing sugar in WW I. Philistines.

Right, so I've just trawled through Barclay Perkins WW I brewing logs noting down the prices of everything. Very nice of them to include the information. The results make fascinating reading. Maybe not to my family, but to me.

Between 1914 and 1920, the price of malt about trebled. The cost of maize increased a little more, by three and a half times. But the biggest jump was in the price of brewing sugar which, at its peak in late 1918-early 1919, was more than six times as expensive as it had been at the start of the war. Sugar went from costing a third less than malt per quarter to 50% more.

What's also striking is the complete disappearance of the more specialist types of malt - PA, SA and mild malt - in 1918 and 1919. No maize at all was used between October 1917 and October 1919. The reduction in the variety of brewing materials available inevitably had an impact on recipes and the character of finished beers.


Chap said...

Ron, are you and Antony Beevor related? In Saturday's Independent he's quoted as saying:

"I think it's outrageous if a historian has a 'leading thought' because it means they will select their material according to their thesis. One of the dangers in history at the moment, particularly military history, is that people have come from outside – cultural historians, post-modernists and so on – and have tried to move in on military history, imposing ideological or theoretical grids on a subject which they don't entirely understand.

I'm often reassured in a bizarre – perhaps perverse – way, when I find in the archive stuff that contradicts what my assumptions have been. That's interesting and exciting. One simply doesn't know until one finds the material. I get slightly obsessive about working in archives because you don't know what you're going to find. In fact, you don't know what you're looking for until you find it."


MentalDental said...

Hi Chap,

Interesting stuff, and very true. Similar problems exist in most fields where many people are too ready to accept conventianal wisdom which is rather too often based on verified assertions.

Like Ron, I am known to shout at the TV sometimes. Usually when some TV news prat tells us that scientists have proved something. Scientist are unable to prove anything—they can show that an observation fits with the data available, extrapolate further data and check it experimentally etc etc but no matter how many confirmations they get the theory is never "proved". It only takes one observation that does not fit the theory and it will come tumbling down (or at least need heavy modification or, like Newtonian mechanics, retire to limited usage).

And don't get me started on legal proof...

If you want actual genuine proofs become a mathemetician!

Ok I'll stop ranting now.