With the number of microbreweries ever increasing it almost seems strange to think that for a long time the only way brewery numbers went was down, but of the 400 breweries left after the second world was there are only 56 still around.
The talk was wide ranging, covering the brewing industry and factors that have affected it, as well as Chris's own career which started at Ansells, before it became part of Allied. I'm not sure I can draw together a coherent account of all he covered,so I'll try and scape together some fascinating facts from my scribbled notes.
- The 1830 Beer House Act also move duty from beer to malt.
- The beer barons really took off after Allsopp's and Whitbread's were Incorporated.
- Ornate breweries were built in the 1880s and 1890s, the scramble for pubs took off in 1890.
- In 1914 there were 3600 breweries in Britain.
- WWI deaths causes succession problems for breweries.
- The 1931 budget was not good for beer.
- Neither was WWII bombing.
- Allied Breweries was originally called ICTA for Ind Coope, Tetley, Ansells, and had eight breweries, maltings, a hop farm and of course thousands of pubs.
- Pilot malting and brewing trials for new barley varieties (the reason I was recently in Edinburgh) started after the then new variety Julia caused serious viscosity problems when used for brewing.
- Breweries would make their own hop extract by boiling hops with potassium hydroxide.
- Party Sevens came from when Metal Box didn't sell enough paint tins. Ansells were the first to use them in 1962. Originally they were coarse filtered but not pasteurised which lead to loads being returned.
- The high spot of British beer production was 79/80 at 41 million barrels. This lead to production for 1985 being forecast as 49 million, but in fact it was 38 and it's been downhill ever since.
- In 1983 (before The Beer Orders) Allied Breweries had made clear where their priorities lay by stating that they are retailers vertically integrated into breweries, not breweries that own tied houses.
- Continuous fermentation was tried in various ways but outside of New Zealand was abandoned (not that it's stopped people looking at bringing it back).
- The Big Six ended up at retailers, selling their breweries to international concerns with long histories of brewing but not retailing.