Time to put that right with a series of posts. Starting with some general bumpf about the big London breweries. And a few numbers.
"The great brewing firms have become almost 'household words' in London. A few of the breweries are carried on by descendants of the same families which established them in the last century. The following table presents the trade of these great houses in a curious light: the trade of a brewer being measured by the quantity of malt used by him, the following were the quantities, in quarters, supplied to fifteen of the principal brewers in the metropolis in three different years, at intervals of ten years apart: —
"The food of London" by George Dodd, 1856, pages 462 - 463.
1831 1841 1851 qtrs qtrs qtrs Barclay & Co. 97,198 106,345 115,542 Truman & Co. 50,724 88,132 105,022 Whitbread & Co. 49,713 51,842 51,800 Reid & Co. 43,380 47,980 56,640 Combe & Co. 34,684 36,460 43,282 Calvert & Co. 30,525 30,615 28,638 Meux & Co. 24,339 39,583 59,617 Hoare & Co. 24,102 29,450 35,000 Elliott & Co. 19,444 25,275 29,558 Taylor & Co. 21,845 37,300 15,870 Goding & Co. 16,307 14,631 13,064 Charrington & Co. 10,530 18,328 21,016 Courage & Co. 8,116 11,532 14,469 Thorne & Co. 1,445 20,846 22,022 Mann & Co. 1,302 11,654 24,030
Multiply the number of quarters by four and you get something close to the number of barrels that represents. Alternatively, here some actual numbers in barrels:
|Output (barrels) of large London breweries|
|Barclay & Co.||330,528||382,047||419,430|
|Whitbread & Co.||191,040||185,084||173,311|
|Truman & Co.||199,486||314,474||401,863|
|Reid & Co.||154,631||187,722||215,255|
|Mann & Co.||101,899|
|“The British Brewing Industry 1830-1980”. T R Gourvish & R G Wilson, 1994, pages 610-612|
|Whitbread brewing log, document LMA/4453/D/09/024|
There's one thing those numbers show - the rise of London's Ale brewers. The top nine were all still Porter brewers, but Charrington and Mann, both Ale brewers, were starting to move up the rankings and overtake some of the second division Porter brewers like Courage. By the 1870's Mann had almost caught the third largest Porter brewer, Whitbread, who themselves trailed quite a way behind Barclay Perkins and Truman*.
"When it is considered that two of the great breweries consume more than a hundred thousand quarters of malt each in a year, it may well be conceived that the working operations must be on a gigantic scale. These two are Barclay and Perkins's in Southwark, and Truman and Hanbury's in Spitalfields. The malt, the water, the hops, the fuel, the vessels — all are vast. For instance, Barclay's premises cover an area of ten or twelve acres, and have a boundary nearly a third of a mile in circuit; they require a hundred thousand gallons of water per day ; they have twenty or thirty malt-bins, each as large as a moderately-sized house; they have a porter-brewing room or brewhouse very little smaller than Westminster Hall; they have five copper boilers, each of which will contain twelve thousand gallons of wort or malt extract; they require six or seven hundred tons of coals in a year; they have many thousand square feet of flooring, on which the beer is cooled ; they have several square wooden vessels for the fermenting process, each of which will contain fifteen hundred barrels of beer; there is a tank, for containing the beer before barrelling, that, when full, would float a large barge; there are nearly two hundred store vats, the average capacity of which is thirty thousand gallons, and of some of them more than a hundred thousand — a quantity that reduces the celebrated Heidelberg tun to insignificance; they have seventythousand butts and barrels and other vessels, wherein the beer and ale are conveyed from the establishment; and lastly, they have two hundred of the finest horses in the world, to drag the clumsy butts upon the clumsy drays through the streets of the metropolis — horses, draymen, butts, and drays, being worthy of each other. If the working details at Truman and Hanbury's, or at Reid's or Meux's, were similarly noticed, we should probably find some of the items still more extraordinary than those here given. Messrs. Truman are said to possess four vats that will contain 80,000 gallons each, and store-vats altogether for 3,500,000 gallons. The store in spring has even reached 4,000,000 gallons at one of these vast establishments."
"The food of London" by George Dodd, 1856, pages 464 - 465.
London brewing was performed on a massive scale in the 1850's. But it's just when that scale was ceasing to be unique to London. Burton's largest - Burton and Allsopp - were rapidly approaching the size of the biggest the capital could offer. Neither would those massive Porter vats be around much longer. The mid-1850's is when Whitbread's output of Keeping Porter - the stuff - aged in vats - fell into steep decline. It dropped from 53 brews in 1851 to just 13 in 1859, or 30% of all Porter brewed to 6%**. They brewed their last Keeping Porter in 1870 and the Porter vats were ripped out.
"'Thirsty Soul,' and other writers to the editor of the 'Times,' maintained an animated controversy in 1853 concerning the price of London porter. Malt was plentiful and cheap, and yet the great brewers charged as highly for their beverages as in less favourable years. It was obviously a departure from the ordinary laws that regulate price; and there can be little doubt that it resulted from the enormous power possessed by about a dozen firms which monopolise the trade. The London masses will have London porter; the London porter is associated with the names of only a small number of brewers; and thus the brewers have a formidable hold on the beer-drinkers. It offers a curious example — analogous to that of the 'Times' itself — of the growth of a mighty power, something akin to monopoly in aspect, yet all the time open to the influence of Free Trade."
"The food of London" by George Dodd, 1856, pages 466 - 467.
The big London breweries - whether Ale or Porter was their main trade - continued to dominate London pubs until the 1980's, when the Big Six - three of which (Whitbread, Watney and Courage) bore the names of London brewers - dissolved into mist
I was intrigued by this "Thirsty Soul". It seems he was a frequent writer of letters to the press in the 1850's. I've managed to unearth some in the newspaper archive. Doubtless I'll reproduce some of them soon.
* "The British Brewing Industry, 1830-1980" T. R. Gourvish & R.G. Wilson, pages 610-611.
** Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/09/044 and LMA/4453/D/09/052.