Monday, 25 April 2011

Increasing Temperarance of the Europeans

No, this isn't about the success of modern neo-prohibitionists (or bastards, as it's easier to call them). It's about India. Beer in India. But not the one you're expecting.

During the course of recent research into Pale Ale in India I kept finding references to another type of beer. One that's rarely mentioned nowadays in connection with India: Porter. With writers mesmerised by the romantic story of IPA, everyone's forgotten, ignored or neglected India Porter. Weird or what?

I would have published this stuff a while ago. But I decided to save them all up to coincide with a particular event: the release of the next Pretty Things beer: East India Porter. I should be trying the beer in just a few days. It should be one of the highlights of my year.

To kick off this series, here's a nice piece about Porter-loving squaddies:

INCREASING TEMPERANCE OF THE EUROPEANS. It is seldom that we can find either space or inclination to record details of improvements in the commissariat. A reform has, however, been recently effected on a point of vital importance to the health of the European soldier, and we are happy to believe that it has been completely successful. The Government has diminished drunkenness in the army, as it is proposed to diminish it in England, not by rendering the sale of spirits a misdemeanor, but by diminishing the cost of liquor less injurious to the constitution. It has often been argued that it is the duty on wine which drives the London artisans to the gin-shop, and it seems certain that use of porter has induced the European soldier to abandon rum.

Up to 1851, rum was the only liquor allowed to soldiers. "The army army drank rum in the Peninsula," and the Indian Government contracted with local distillers for an annual supply of a certain fixed strength. The liquor was kept for a period of three years in store, and then, after receiving an admixture of ten per cent cold water, sold to regimental canteens at thirteen annas and four pie per gallon. Another, and not inconsiderable, profit was derived from the circumstance that the liquor was bought at one and sold by another measure. At first the arrangement produced no financial advantage, but by degrees the soldiers found out that the rum kept in store for three years was of a much superior quality to the stuff obtainable from licensed liquor vendors.

The demand increased steadily, and in 1851 it actually yielded a net revenue of nearly two lacs of rupees. However gratifying that result might have been financially, yet it on the other hand afforded a painful proof of the increasing predilection of the soldier for spirituous liquors. The maximum quantity issuable to each soldier was fixed by the rules, and of course could not be exceeded ; but, nevertheless, it was surmised, and by subsequent information fully proved, that the desire for liquor increased, and was gratified by the consumption of the "diluted prussic acid" of bazaars. The glaring increase which the annual reports of the Military Board thus exhibited, attracted the attention of Government, and the Governor-General determined at once to check the growing evil by raising the price of rum, and by placing ale and porter within the reach of the soldier at a moderate cost. The Court of Directors were therefore recommended to contract at home for the annual supply of malt liquor, to be delivered at the risk of the contractor in India, and accepted after approval by special committees. The proposal met with the cordial approval of the home authorities, and the Governor-General, on the 17th July of 1852, passed an order " fixing the price of rum at 2 rupees per gallon, old wine measure, and directing that the difference between the above charge and the cost be credited to a general fund, from which a monthly allowance is to be made to canteens, for the purpose of reducing the retail price of malt liquor." This order was shortly afterwards followed by a public notification, stating the terms on which porter and ale would be supplied by Government to canteens, and in a General Order by the Commander-in-Chief, issued on the 18th March, 1853. it was determined that the monthly allowance payable out of the rum profits for the purpose of reducing the retail price of malt liquor, should be Rs. 140-14-7 for each hundred men. It was also ordered that the maximum issue to any one man should not exceed three quarts of malt liquor, without spirits, and two quarts with one dram in one day ; or one quart of beer with both drams of spirits.

We are happy to learn that, although the arrangements must still be considered in their infancy, there are already unmistakable proofs that they will work well. The accounts of the commissariat, it is said, show a steady decrease in the sale of rum against a large increase in that of ale and porter, whilst the recent improvement in the standard of rations absorbs the three annas and four pie deducted from the soldier's pay. He buys, therefore, porter at the canteen, and cannot afford to purchase rum in the bazaar. The change must soon be apparent, but it has not been effected without loss.

In fixing the monthly allowance to the canteen it was expected that the profits derived from the sale of rum would more than cover the outlay, and that Government would suffer only the loss of the two lacs of rupees formerly obtained from the traffic in rum.

It is, however, clear, that in its practical result, the loss will be much greafer, inasmuch as the beer-cheapening allowance is a fixed monthly expenditure payable out of a fund, the profits of which decrease as the taste for the less injurious liquor extends. This fact will be better seen on a reference to figures. Supposing 100 soldiers to avail themselves of the option allowed to them by his Excellency the Commander-in-Chief's order of the 18th March, 1853, and take on an average two quarts of beer with one dram of spirits, their monthly consumption would be as follows : —

Beer: 2 qts. x 30 = 60 x 100 = 6,000 quarts.
Spirits: 1 dram x 30 = 30 x 100 = 3,000 = 75 gallons.

The average profit derived by Government by the sale of rum is about Re. 1 5 a per gallon, and at that rate the above 75 gallons would yield Rs 98-7, but as the beer-cheapening allowance is fixed at Rs 140-14-7, Government will be a loser to the extent of Rs. 42-7-7 for each 100 men consuming beer and spirits in the proportions mentioned above. It may perhaps be premature to suppose that those proportions will be the result of the average consumption in all the regiments in India, but nevertheless a modification of the present arrangements may become recommended. We question, however, whether a loss of this kind will be weighed against the improved health of the soldiers, more especially as that health is ultimately a financial question of no ordinary magnitude.—Friend of India.
"Allen's Indian mail and register of intelligence for British and foreign India, vol. 12", 1854, pages 93 - 94.
Are you starting to see a theme? When Pale Ale is mentioned it's usually officers or East India Company officials who are guzzling it. It's the ordinary soldiers who got the Porter.

Whenever I tell people my favourite hot weather drink is Guinness Special Export, they look at me with a combination of horror and pity. Yet Stout continues to sell well in tropical countries. It's often the only type of beer available other than Pils. So why should it be a surpise that British soldiers took their taste for Porter with them to the tropics?


Arctic Alchemy said...

Congratulations once again Ron ! Sounds like a really great recipe and can't wait to try it !

Thomas Barnes said...

@ Brilliant! That would explain the origin of all those tropical stouts. That, and the fact that sweet, dark and alcoholic actually does a better job balancing spicy, greasy food than strong, dry and hoppy.

It's also possible that you have the answer to the obscurity of East India Porter right in front of you. Ordinary soldiers, especially Company soldiers were pulled from the lower classes. Few were literate, and perhaps even fewer had the time and inclination to write about their experiences.

And, once they got back home, they presumably would have gone back to drinking whatever was cheapest, since that was all they could afford on a soldier's pension, whether or not they had a fondness for the beer they consumed in India.

Martyn Cornell said...

"… once they got back home, they presumably would have gone back to drinking whatever was cheapest, since that was all they could afford on a soldier's pension …"

That would be the porter, again, which was the cheapest beer available in a late-19th century pub.

StuartP said...

Hang on - that recipe isn't in 'Porter!'
Or have I missed something?

Ron Pattinson said...

Stuart, not the exact recipe, but one from just a couple of years later: 1859 Barclay Perkins EI.

The Beer Wrangler said...

I can't wait to try this beer! It's great that that you and Pretty things are recreating these historic beers. I loved the KK, unfortunately couldn't get my hands on the mighty looking Mild you made, but hope it will reappear.

Have you planned any other historic beers?

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer wrangler, funnily enough, I helped brew one today: 1934 Barclay Perkins Dark Lager. Down at Devil's Backbone in Virginia.