Showing posts with label Big Six. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Big Six. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1971 Whitbread Tankard

This is really weird. Let me explain why.

When I started the serious primary research thing, I was only interested in 19th-century brewing records. And only a subset of those. Porter and Mild. That's what I was interested in. Finding their roots. What I found, especially in the case of Mild, wasn't what I'd expected. It seems naive now to have expected to find Dark Mild, coloured with black malt. What an idiot I was.

Because the standard Porter story when I started was that it died out in England during WW I, I expanded my research slightly past the 1900 border to take a peek at what happened during the war. The changes were so profound and so rapid, that I ended up putting more effort into those four years than any other period.

I thought I'd stop there, at 1920 or so. Why? Because I thought I knew what happened after that. I can't remember why I started looking at the 1920's and 1930's. I probably started to look at what had happened immediately after the war's end and got carried away.

WW II. There's an obvious one to look into, if you've seen how important WW I was for the development of British beer. But the 1950's and 1960's - what's the point in looking at them?

At a certain point I realised what an amazing resource Whitbread's records are, running uninterrupted from 1804 to 1973. A baseline. A set of data to use as a reference. That's when I decided to collect the set. I haven't quite photographed every single brewing book. I'm missing a couple. But because they run from July to June, I have photographs from every year.

When I set out on my journey, I never expected to become fascinated by every year. I was headed for the distant past, leaving what I'd personally experienced behind. Who'd have thought I'd end up looking at a Big Six Keg Bitter from the 1970's?

But enough about me. Let's take a look at the beer itself. I said Keg Bitter, but some Tankard might have been cask. Its sibling Trophy was certainly available in both keg and cask form. What surprised me most is how late Tankard appeared: around 1970. I'd have put its origins a decade or so earlier. Trophy was even later, 1972. Though, in the case of Trophy, it's possible PA was marketed as such before they changed the brewhouse name. Tankard, however, was a brand new beer.

It didn't last that long, either. It can't have been around for more than 30 years. That might sound a long time, but a beer like Whitbread X Ale was brewed for over 100 years, their Porter almost 200 years. Even Best Mild has managed over 60 years (and weirdly is still brewed - I wonder who drinks it?).

Looking at its early days, it does look as of Tankard was introduced as specifically a keg beer. One of the earliest brews of it I've found was from May 1970, where it was parti-gyled with PA, which had previously been their main Bitter. There's almost no difference in their gravities: PA 1035.8, Tankard 1036.5. Whitbread must have realised how stupid it was having two Bitters that were virtually identical Bitters because by 1971 Tankard's gravity had been raised to 1039.8.

I would say that I'd often seen keg Tankard fonts in pubs, but I didn't. I almost never drank in Whitbread pubs in the 1970's. They did no cask beer in the areas of the country where I lived. I'm pretty sure I never drank it. I didn't waste my time and thirst on crappy keg beers. Much like today.

Being honest, the recipe doesn't look that bad. Whitbread, unlike most other brewers, didn't use adjuncts, just malt and sugar (sugar is a malt substitute, not an adjunct). And, having their own hop farms in Kent, they had pretty good hops to play with. It's how they packaged the beer that would have buggered it up. A beer of this gravity and delicacy will have all the stuffing knocked out of it by filtering, pasteurising and fizzing it up. If you brew this, try to treat it with a bit more respect. (Though for 100% authenticity you should keg the fuck out of it.)

Almost forgot to mention. We're doing a special series of recipes for December: Whitbread beers of the 1970's.

That's the bullshit bit done, let's bring in the technician . .  . Kristen . . . Kristen! . . . .  KRISTEN!!!

Kristen’s Version:

Notes: Ah, December…or more specifically 1970’s December. Some of you punters will remember those days, others won’t and others still weren’t born yet…mostly me included. A Whitbread December if you will. Ron will explain more I’m sure…

Malt: Two pale malts for this one. Choose one or two of your favorites. Nothing to hefty. A really nice darker crystal, I really like the Simpson’s as it does a great job treading the line between dark caramel/toffee. People continue to tell me torrified barley can easily be replaced with flaked barley. It’s not a matter of ‘ease’ to replace. It’s a matter of change in flavor. I very much prefer the terrified stuff however it’s hard to find so if you must, flake away… 18% cane sugar. You got that right. Plain old white sugar. You could use Invert No1 too. However, either way, make sure it’s ‘clear’.

Hops: I chose Goldings again because I have a bunch of nice ones. The hops are definitely not the showcase of this beer, just make sure you use some nice ones.

Yeast: Whitbread yeast. Two choices. Wyeast 1098 (more tart and dry) or Wyeast 1099/Safale S04 (more fruity and malty).

Sundries: Nothing fancy about this recipe. One of the very easiest to produce.

Cask: Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.

2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).

3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Big Six

The Big Six. Who remembers them now? Probably no-one under forty. How did the companies who dominated British brewing manage to disappear so completely?

For the younster amongst you, the Big Six consisted of Allied Breweries (Tetley, Ansells and Ind Coope), Bass Charrington, Courage, Scottish & Newcastle, Whitbread and Watney Mann. None are still in brewing.

But, a bit like the fifth Beatle, there was really a seventh member of the Big Six. Which was never lumped with the others. Probably because CAMRA didn't have a beef with them, as they owned no pubs and sold real ale in every pub: Guinness. The Big Six was shorthand for the enemy.

Their dominance of British drinking was based on pub ownership. With the majority of beer being drunk in pubs, owning them was the key to success as a brewer. Which was why large breweries would snap up smaller, run-down breweries. They didn't want the brewing kit or the brands. They wanted the pubs.

Time for some numbers. But, for once "ohne Gewähr", as they say when announcing the lottery results on German TV.  I collected these figures a long time ago. When I hadn't learned to always identify the source. I can't remember where I found them. So I can't guarantee their accuracy. They look about right to me.

Pub ownership
Brewer no. pubs % of total
Courage 5,921 8.18%
Watney 5,946 8.21%
S&N 1,678 2.32%
Allied 7,665 10.59%
Bass 9,256 12.78%
Whitbread 7,865 10.86%
Big Six 38,331 52.94%
Other brewers 13,800 19.06%
All brewers 52,131 72.00%
not brewery owned 20,273 28.00%
total full on-licences 72,404

The Big Six's control of the pub trade was even greater than it appears from these figures. Many of supposedly "Free Houses" were in fact loan-tied to a brewery. Mostly one of the Big Six.That's reflected in their market share, which was larger than the percentage of pubs they owned:

Market share (%) All Sales
Brewery 1976 1985
Watney 13 12
Courage 9 9
S & N 11 10
Bass 20 22
Whitbread 13 11
Allied 17 13
All National (Big 6 only) 83 78
All National brewers 82
11 Regional brewers 11
41 local brewers 6
Micro breweries 1
BLRA and breweries
1986 Courage estimate

If you'd told me early on in my drinking career that all of them would disappear within a decade or two, their tied estates be dissolved, their breweries taken over and mostly closed, I'd have thought you were having a laugh. That's understandable. I lacked perspective.

When we're young, we lack historical depth. We think that the present and the immediate past will continue indefinitely into the future. We fail to grasp that the dramatic changes of the more distant past can happen again. That the future is full of surprises.

That always pops into my mind when I read about the inexorable rise if "craft" beer in the USA. And particularly of IPA. Both booming are all that younger drinkers can remember. They expect current trends to extend infinitely into the future. They won't. Because nothing ever works like that. Fashions and beer styles rise and fall, are born and often die.

It was the Beer Orders, to a large extent, that did for the Big Six. Forced to choose between their tied houses and their breweries, they either drifted away from brewing or sold up.

Lack of international ambition was another cause of their demise. In the early 1970's, they had been amongst the largest breweries in the world. But they were too slow in spotting the internationalisation of the industry and found themselves small fish in an ocean full of sharks.

It makes you wonder what will happen to to the current crop of multinational giants. Heineken, AB Inbev, Carlsberg, SAB. How long will they survive? I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The scramble for tied houses

At the end of the 19th century breweries rushed to buy as many pubs as they could. They were prompted by increased competition for trade as government legislation began to reduce the number of licences.

It caused a surge in the price of pubs. In London they changed hands for ridiculous prices:

"During the last 35 years houses have gone up enormously in value. It began by the loan of one million made to the Cannon Brewery by Mr. McCalmont. With this money the brewery set to tie houses. The brewers looked on without minding until they found that their trade was being touched and affected irrecoverably. Then they set to work to buy also. Prices went up with a run. Then came the Death Duties act and increased difficulties about the subdivision of property held by partners jointly for the purposes of taxation. So that brewers found themselves at the same time wanting more money and a simpler method of recognizing their own personal property.

They turned their businesses into Companies in consequence.

Mr. Bramham gave as an example a public house in the parish of St. John´s Hackney.
In 1892 this house with a lease of 49 years at a rental of £105 per annum was bought for £9500.

In 1895 £8,700 was stated to Mr. Bramham as the price that had been paid for it.

This year 1897. It has been resold for £23,000.

Another house he mentioned as being sold in 1895 for £20,000 and resold this year for £32,000 in addition to which the buyer paid £4,000 in its redecoration and internal alteration. These are only two out of many instances Mr Bramham could give."
Interview with Mr. Bramham. Surveyor and Valuer to the Assessment Committee of the Hackney Union. 115 Bow Road on 5th October 1897
Let's put that 20 or 30 thousand quid into perspective. Mild cost 2d a pint. You got 120 pints to the pound. You were going to have to sell a huge amount of beer to ever get your money back.

Here's Mr.s Lovibond on the same subject:

5146. (Mr. Clare Sewell Read.) Could you give us any idea of the percentage of beer that is consumed in public-houses and that is consumed by families ?—No, not the least.

5147. Would you be surprised to hear the statement that at least three-fourths of the beer is consumed in public-houses ?—I am not at all surprised.

5148. The great brewers, 1 believe, have been buying up all the small breweries that they can in the country ?— Yes, and amalgamating them.

5149. And especially those that have the public-houses ? —Yes ; it is becoming virtually a monopoly, of course.

5150. And even in those houses that are not bought up, is it a common practice for brewers to take mortgages on them ?—Yes, everywhere. Now they have not only bought up the fully licensed houses, but there are certain brewers who have given instructions to buy up every off-licence that can be had at a reasonable price.

5151. They have not bought you up at present?—No, but they have tried.

5152. Rut there has been an enormous increase in the price of tied houses within the last few years ?—An enormous increase.
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, page 189.
Evidence given by Mr.s O.A. Frederica Lovibond, Managing Director of Henry Lovibond & Son.

She's describing the beginning of the process which eventually gave rise to the Big Six. The first mega-merger, between Watney, Combe and Reid, three large London breweries, took place in 1898.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Largest UK breweries in 1884

Time for another random statistical post. Based on a document I found on my last archive visit.

I say document. It's just a sheet of paper with a load of handwritten numbers. But I find them interesting. Here they are:

There are 11 breweries listed, with a combined output of around 6 million barrels. That's out of a total of 48 millions barrels for all breweries in the UK. Or 12.5%. Interestingly, the 11 were located in just three cities. Dublin, Burton and London. Eight in London alone.

It's a chilling reminder of London's demise as a major brewing centre. What's left today? Fuller's.

Come to think of it, all but the top two - Guinness and Bass - have closed. (Though Bass isn't really Bass any more.) Courage, Charrington and Truman were all still open when I began boozing.

Ok. I've got 10 minutes to finish this off. Have to be quick. Use of sugar. The Londoners were hooked on it. Guinness used none and the Burton boys just a little. (Just been looking through records of Truman's Burton brewery for this period. They didn't use as much as the Brick Lane parent brewery.) I wonder if that had any connection with the type of beer being brewed. Hang on, though. Whitbread used more in their Pale Ales than in anything else.

A decade or so after this, the first mega-merger took place. When Watney, Combe and Reid combined to form . . . . Watney, Combe, Reid. Their pooled output was over 1 million barrels. It was the beginning of consolidation of the brewing industry. A process, lasting 70 years, which led to the formation of the Big Six. (Should have been Big Seven, really, but for some reason CAMRA left Guinness out.)

There. I'm done. And with two minutes to spare.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Brewers' League Table 1973

Bored at home again. So bored I browsed the oh-so-corporate "A History of Bass Charrington". It's full of corporate monopolistic fun. Cool, eh?

The league table of British breweries just before the formation of the Big Six amused me. (Being easily pleased is one of my primary characteristics.) Here it is.