Friday, 25 April 2014

Breaking the Porter brewers' monopoly

I found this interesting text in a guide to London published to coincide with the Great Exhibition of 1851.

It discusses the effect of the 1830 Beer Act in the brewing trade in London. Particularly the impact that it had on Ale brewing in the capital.

"We have already stated that until lately London was only famous for its porter and stout. The release of the beer trade in 1830 from the shackles of the excise first gave an impetus to the ale trade, and soon raised it into importance. Before that time beer as well as spirits was only sold in houses licensed by the magistracy. The new Beer Bill, by allowing it to be sold under an excise licence only, opened the trade to a new class of dealers, who at once took up the ale trade, and were the immediate cause of the success of several new breweries which at first devoted themselves to the production of a class of malt liquors to compete with the old-fashioned porter and stout of the old-established porter brewers. The effect of this competition was so striking, that nearly all the porter brewers soon became ale brewers also, and the new ale brewers became also porter brewers, so that by referring to the list we shall introduce hereafter, it will be seen, that whilst the old brewers have rapidly extended their trade from 370,000 quarters in 1830, to 500,000 quarters in 1850, or 33 per cent., the six new breweries have risen in the same time, from 57,000 quarters in 1830, to 110,000 quarters in 1850. But for the wise alteration of the law in 1830, this enormous increase of trade must have been monopolized by the first houses, the public would neither have had such cheap nor such good beer, and the retail trade would have been confined now, as it then was, to licensed public-houses, nine out of every ten of which either belong to, or are under the control of, the large porter brewers. It is quite a different state of things with the best beer retailers, who buy their beer where they can get it the best and the cheapest, and whose business, confined as it is to the sale of beer, can only be retained, as in all other trades, by the supply of the best and cheapest article.

The rapidity with which two or three of the new breweries have risen is one of the evidences of the facility with which capital is found in this country for every enterprise which shows a fair prospect of realizing a profit; though rapidly as these have extended their operations, it hardly equals that of their older rivals, for it is scarcely 70 years since that the vast establishment of Messrs. Barclay, Perkins, and Co., now employing a million and a half of capital, was bought of the executors of Thrale, the friend of Johnson, for the sum of £135,000, Mr. Perkins having been previously to that time the manager of the brewery at a salary of £500 per annum. The rise of Messrs. Truman and Co. has been equally wonderful. We will close this account of the London breweries, almost national establishments from their vastness, by a table showing the quantity of malt used in the fifteen largest houses in each of the three years, 1830-1, 1840-1, 1849-50.

1830-1 1840-1 1849-50
Barclay and Co. 97,198 106,345 115,542
Truman and Co. 50,724 88,132 105,022
Whitbread and Co. 49,713 51,482 51,800
Reid and Co. 43,380 47,960 56,640
Coombe and Co. 34,684 36,460 43,282
Calvert and Co. 30,525 30,615 28,630
Meux and Co. 24,339 39,583 59,617
Hoare and Co. 24,102 29,450 35,000
Elliott and Co. 19,444 25,275 29,558
Taylor 21,845 27,300 15,870
Goding 16,307 14,631 13,064
Charrington 10,531 18,328 21,016
Courage 8,116 11,532 14,469
Thorne 1,445 20,846 22,022
Mann 1,302 11,654 24,030
Total 433,655 559,613 635,562

We believe we may state that most of these establishments will be open to the inspection of respectable foreigners during the period of the Exhibition. We are sure they will find them well worthy of their attention, and will amply repay the time and trouble required to visit them."
"London exhibited in 1851", edited by John Weale, 1851, pages 272-273.
Allowing beer-only pubs to be licensed outside the control of the magistrates - and making the granting of these licences automatic if certain basic conditions were met - had a huge effect. The idea had been to establish a free trade in beer and, to some extent, this was what happened. Thousands of beer houses opened forming a new competition for the established fully-licensed houses.

I'm intrigued by the claim that 90% of the fully-licensed houses had been tied to Porter brewers. I thought it was only at the end of the century that the majority of pubs became tied. I do know that before 1830, Porter brewers only tied their pubs for Porter and Stout. Logical enough as most of them didn't brew Ale. In the 1830's Truman, Whitbread and Barclay Perkins all began brewing Ale. And tying their pubs for Ale, too.

The first nine breweries in the table were all Porter breweries. The rest, apart from Courage, were Ale brewers. To get a rough estimate of the number of barrels they brewed multiply the number of quarters by four. Charrington's production doubled between 1830 and 1850, but it's Mann that showed the biggest increase in output.

Mann continued to make up ground over the rest of the 19th century and by the eve of WW I had overtaken all of the Porter breweries save for Whitbread:

Output of large London breweries (barrels)
Year Barclay Perkins Whitbread Truman Mann
1850 397,360 177,555 388,475 97,802
1860 421,286 242,848 457,796 128,179
1870 410,710 225,600 509,447 217,575
1880 249,744 456,393 231,942
1890 522,645 357,878 453,336 293,845
1900 589,201 693,706 505,341 500,029
1901 573,302 726,622 480,552 557,403
1910 500,205 800,011 365,520 590,608
1913 587,547 850,756 441,858 611,704
"The British Brewing Industry, 1830-1980" T. R. Gourvish & R.G. Wilson, pages 610-611.
Document ACC/2305/1/711/1 held at the London Metropolitan Archives

Now wasn't that instructive?

1 comment:

Martyn Cornell said...

I believe the early ties were loan ties, which could always be bought out by another brewer.