We’ve been grappling with a problem this weekend: commentary on the British beer industry makes frequent reference to the Big Six, a set of colossal brewing companies emerging from the takeover mania of the nineteen-fifties and sixties. Sometimes, though, it’s the Big Five, the Big Seven, or even the Big Eight; and the companies making up the Big Six in 1960 merge with others, grow and change names, which makes it hard to keep track.
In trying to tell a story, this is a pain.
Should we explain every name change as it happens, possibly confusing the reader and slowing down the narrative? Rely on footnotes? Or, as we’ve seen people do when writing about, say, the Royal Air Force, or Archibald ‘Cary Grant’ Leach, refer to them throughout by one name for the sake of clarity at the expense of accuracy? (With an explanatory note, of course.) We’re inclined towards the latter approach, but still thinking.
Anyway, for your information, in the oh-so-2002 Schott’s Miscellany style, here’s our best attempt to explain the Big Six.
UPDATED: Tandleman highlighted that we’d picked a bad source for our 1960 list, so we’ve found a better one from 1959 and changed the first section below.
UPDATED AGAIN: based on Martyn’s suggestions below. (We’ll also try to identify newspaper sources for each of the mergers/changes.)The Big Six in 1959# Ind Coope and Taylor Walker, Watney Mann, Courage and Barclay, Bass Ratcliffe Gretton, Whitbread, Scottish Brewers. Brewery mergers/takeovers 1960–67 Courage Barclay + Simonds = Courage Barclay & Simonds (1960) Scottish Brewers + Newcastle Breweries = Scottish and Newcastle (1960) Bass + Mitchells & Butlers = Bass Mitchells & Butlers (1961) Ind Coope/Taylor Walker + Ansells+Tetley Walker = Ind Coope Tetley Ansell (1961) Ind Coope Tetley Ansell = Allied Breweries (1963) Charrington United + Bass Mitchells & Butlers = Bass Charrington (1967) The Big Six in 1967## Bass Charrington, Allied Breweries, Whitbread, Watney Mann, Scottish and Newcastle, Courage Barclay & Simonds. Brewery mergers/takeovers/name changes after 1967
Courage Barclay & Simonds = Courage (1970) Watney Mann + Truman Hanbury & Buxton (owned by Grand Metropolitan Hotels) = Watney Mann & Truman (part of Grand Metropolitan) (1973) Allied + J. Lyons = Allied Lyons (1978) Bass Charrington = Bass (1983) The Big Six in 1989### Allied, Bass, Courage, Grand Metropolitan, Scottish & Newcastle, Whitbread. The Big Seven As above, but with Guinness.
‘Towards Larger Units in the Brewery Trade’, The Times, 19 February 1960, p.17.‘What the Brewery Merger Means’, The Financial Times, 4 June 1959, p.11.
- ## Beer: a report on the supply of beer, Monopolies Commission, 1969, table IV, p.5.
- ### The Suppply of Beer, Monopolies and Mergers Commission, March 1989, Appendix 2.3, p.238.