Category Archives: Beer history

QUOTE: The English — Great Guzzlers of Beer

“I drank only water; the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of beer… We had an alehouse boy who attended always in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, and pint in the afternoon about six o’clock, and another when he had done his day’s work.”

Benjamin Franklin recalls working in a London printing house in 1725 in chapter IV of his autobiography.

UK Brewery Numbers and Employment

The boom in the number of breweries in the UK has caused a buzz but isn’t the only important number: how many people are actually employed in making beer?

We pondered this question back in 2013 and it came up again recently in discussion at Jeffrey ‘Stonch’ Bell’s blog.

So we finally got out the copy of the BBPA Statistical Handbook 2012 we borrowed from Beer Today 18 months ago (sorry, Darren — we owe you several pints and your book back) and added some more recent numbers from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) 2012 (revised) and the BBPA website to come up with this table:

Thousands employed in making beer (excl. malting) No. of Brewing Companies
1995 19.8 481
2000 19.5 500
2006 14.8 642
2007 13.9 667
2008 13.9 725
2009 15.1 745
2010 14 824
2012 13.4 1252

That suggests that, though there are more breweries than there have been since before World War II, the number of people employed in the industry is shrinking. In fact, we can put a rough number on it: in 1995, there were approximately 41.2 employees per brewery (EPB); in 2012, that was down to 10.7.

As to why that EPB number might have fallen, consider the picture illustrating this post: it’s from 1977 and shows men from Watney’s Mortlake brewery employed in the bottling hall, bottled beer transport division, road safety, the building department, draught beer transport… And there was a permanent team producing newsletters and magazines.

This isn’t necessarily bad news but it’s something to chew on.

Knowing our luck with dates and numbers lately, we’ve probably made a catastrophic miscalculation above. Let us know if/when you spot it in the comments below and we’ll fix it ASAP.

Proposed Public House

As ‘new towns’ and Corbusier-inspired estates were built in the rubble and green field of post-War Britain, pubs were a focus of debate.

At least that’s what preliminary research for one of several embryonic projects we have on the go suggests, though we’ve a lot more reading and pondering to do. In the meantime, here are a few nuggets we’ve stumbled across which start to hint at what else might be out there for us to find.

The argument seems to have been between, on the one hand, those who thought pubs were essential components of working class communities; and, on the other, those who saw pubs as part of slum culture, and so regarded this as an opportunity to sweep away a ‘social evil’ that was holding back progress.

Continue reading Proposed Public House

GALLERY: Vaux Beer Mats 1970s-80s

Vaux was an important brewery in Sunderland in the North East of England which was founded in the early 19th century and collapsed at the turn of the 21st.

These beer mats all come from the massive bin bag of several hundred we acquired from Ebay a month or so ago and span, by our reckoning, about a decade from c.1971 to 1982.

Norseman Lager, 1970s.
The slightly sinister Norseman Lager, 1970s.
"Samson -- Heads Above the Rest"
That’s Jack Charlton, right? So there’s a deliberate joke here about Samson’s hair, right?

Continue reading GALLERY: Vaux Beer Mats 1970s-80s

Pub Gentrification in Jude the Obscure,

“[The inn] had been entirely renovated and refitted in modern style since Jude’s residence here… Tinker Taylor drank off his glass and departed, saying it was too stylish a place now for him to feel at home in unless he was drunker than he had money to be just then… The bar had been gutted and newly arranged throughout, mahogany fixtures having taken the place of the old painted ones, while at the back of the standing-space there were stuffed sofa-benches. The room was divided into compartments in the approved manner, between which were screens of ground glass in mahogany framing, to prevent topers in one compartment being put to the blush by the recognitions of those in the next. On the inside of the counter two barmaids leant over the white-handled beer-engines, and the row of little silvered taps inside, dripping into a pewter trough… At the back of the barmaids rose bevel-edged mirrors, with glass shelves running along their front, on which stood precious liquids that Jude did not know the name of, in bottles of topaz, sapphire, ruby and amethyst.”

From the Project Gutenberg edition of Jude the Obscure, 1894.