Thursday, 18 June 2009

Brewers' League Table 1973

Bored at home again. So bored I browsed the oh-so-corporate "A History of Bass Charrington". It's full of corporate monopolistic fun. Cool, eh?

The league table of British breweries just before the formation of the Big Six amused me. (Being easily pleased is one of my primary characteristics.) Here it is.


The Beer Nut said...

Presumably, the reason Guinness did so well without an estate was because they did lots of business outside the UK. Would that have been true of any of the others?

Gary Gillman said...

Guinness was also very widely carried in almost all English pubs, either bottle,d draught or both (still is, draught anyway). So it didn't really need tied houses and its stout was so unique that it had little competition. This is still true today in that it is still by far the most widely available stout in England. I always felt that a well-made cask porter or stout might give it a run for its money, but this seems seriously never to have been tried. I recall that Fuller did brew a cask porter and gave it some promotion but it did not last long in the market. Perhaps it decided to put its focus on its canned and bottled London porter which is a good product.


Barry (Adeptus) said...

By coincidence, I spotted this Charrington ad while working today *cough*.

The Beer Nut said...

I always felt that a well-made cask porter or stout might give it a run for its money
Doubt it. It would need to have advertising that was as good, since that's what matters to most drinkers. Can't see a well-made cask lager displacing Carling neither.

Gary Gillman said...

Well, maybe, but I think there are differences between a projected cask lager and cask porter. Porter is a historical English, and London, drink. Lager is not. The advertising could play on that, "the return of a British icon", etc.

Also, cask ale (real ale) is an acknowledged category in England. It may have a small sale relative to all beer, but still a pretty good one. Cask porter could play upon that association, build on it.

It would be nice to see British brewing take a chance in a big way on something with genuine heritage - not to mention good flavour. That Fuller's Cask Porter was a good product, I tasted it a number of times.

I think lager has been king for so long the big U.K. brewers have almost forgotten what porter is. But not quite. Tennant's stout, at some 7% ABV at least in export markets, was launched (or relaunched since it must be an old recipe) last year in keg form and is a fine drink. It isn't cask but is excellent nonetheless.


The Beer Nut said...

Are you saying Guinness isn't a British icon? ;)

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, Guinness did a HUGE amount of their trade in the UK. You've not remembered all the tables I've published, have you?

To be honest, I've not memorised them either. But Guinness sold a load of beer in Britain.

It's all to do with the finer detail of how the tied house system worked. Guinness and Bass got their beer into other brewers tied estates by letting them bottle. Both Bass or Guinness and the other brewer were winners. The small brewery had a classy product that was advertised nationally. And, as they bottled it, they got a reasonable profit out of it.

Bottled Guinness was everywhere when I started drinking. Literally every pub sold it. And a great drink it was, too. You almost never saw draught Guinness. Least not in the pubs I drank in.

White Shield you found in non-Bass pubs, too. I often used it to liven up a dull Bitter.

By 1973 British breweries weren't exporting much. Whitbread and S & N were in the Belgian market a bit. Bass was welling beer in the US. But nothing compared to Guinness.

Here's a funny fact: all the big exporters amongst European breweries have been based in relatively small countries. Heineken, Interbrew, Carlsberg and Guinness.

Gary Gillman said...

Oops, I was thinking of Belhaven Stout, not Tennent's.

Here is a link which explains the beer.

It seems it is not sold in the U.K. at the moment. Its 7% ABV may deter that, but at 5% it would be still be an excellent beer. Hopefully it will appear before long in Britain.

Very true, Ron about small countries exporting beer. That has been true of Canada too (large in size but small in population). The Molson products were big exports to the U.S. and it still sells well there. Moosehead has done well there too for many decades. I guess the smaller countries feel they need to try harder.


Ron Pattinson said...

Fuller's still brew a cask version of their Porter. It just isn't available all year. A shame.

Barm said...

There is a very good reason why breweries in small countries are the big exporters – the small size of the home market. Especially if you are Guinness or Heineken and you already have a near monopoly in your own country, what else can you do when you want to expand, but export more?

Chap said...

Barm is right. Ambitious companies with small domestic markets have to take the risk of exporting in order to grow. Ambitious companies with large domestic markets can for some time satisfy their investors' appetite for growth within their domestic markets. This doesn't just apply to brewers, and hence the Netherlands has a disproportionately large number of international players, e.g. Philips, Unilever, KLM, Royal Dutch Shell, Reed Elsevier, ABN AMRO (whoops!), etc. Conversely, large American companies can grow to a considerable scale without putting a toe in the international water.

Ron Pattinson said...

In the end, I guess that's what did for A-B. They were able to be the largest brewer in the world without really bothering about growing internationally. When multinational brewers caught up with it in size, it was too late for A-B to expand internationally.

The Beer Nut said...

Except, Guinness wasn't in a small country until 1922 -- by the time St James's Gate got stranded outside the UK it had already been the world's largest brewery. And company headquarters has been in England since 1927.

What I'm wondering, Ron, is how Bass and Guinness achieved that special status in the tied house system? They were both large and venerable 18th-century foundations, and had built a national reputation for quality product. But is there more to it than that? Was it just superior marketing that made them a "must-have" for other breweries' pubs?

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, technically Guinness was in a large country, it was already a big fish in a small pond. It had long outgrown the home Irish market and exported a large proportion of its output to England.

It was a strange situation. The beer market in Ireland was quite separate from the English one.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, Guinness and Bass were two of the earliest beer "brands". Unusually for the 19th century, their beers were mostly sold in bottled form.

How did they penetrate so many pubs? I think it was a combination of brand recognition by punters and the money other brewers earned from bottling. Also they got in early. The majority of the pub trade only became tied after 1890. Bass and Guinness were household names long before that.

Chap said...

Having the first UK trade mark would have supported the Bass brand and helped differentiate it.

Velky Al said...

Beer Nut raises an interesting point there the place of Guinness in the hearts and minds of the "British" (a term I can't really abide for a general catch all for the UK but there we go).

I think there are interesting parallels between the experience of companies like Guinness after Irish Independence and that of Pilsner Urquell in the post WW1 Czechoslovakia, where predominantly German established company has become the icon and ideal of "Czech" brewing (don't mention though that for 60 years no ethnic Czech was found to be good enough to brew Pilsner Urquell and they imported brewers from Bavaria).

Barm said...

On the contrary, Bass was already so well known that they had a serious problem with counterfeiters passing off other beer as Bass. This is why Bass lobbied heavily for the introduction of the Trade Marks Act in the first place.

The Beer Nut said...

Al, even before independence, the Guinnesses were very good at riding that fine line between being ascendancy nobility and down-with-the-bogtrotters Irish philanthropists. The whole "Guinness's Protestant Porter" label was more about mud-throwing O'Connellites (Daniel O'Connell Jr ran the brewery across the street) than any actual Guinness company ethos or popular feeling.

They were well under the radar when other big Anglo-Irish landowners were being burned out of their houses and, coming back to 1973, the 3rd Earl of Iveagh spent four years from then as a member of both the House of Lords and the Irish Senate.

Ed Carson said...

I have a question: Was Guinness prohibited from having a tied estate because of its status as first, a colonial brewer and then later, a foreign one?

Ron Pattinson said...

Ed Carson, Guinness could have had a tied estate, had it wanted to. But that wasn't what their trade was about. They provided a high-quality, expensive niche product.

They didn't brew many of the beers required by a tied house of the period: Mild, Bitter, Burton. Guinness was a specialist Porter brewery.

Anyone could buy pubs. Spaten had a couple of tied pubs in London before 1914, including one on Piccadilly Circus. They were confiscated on the outbreak of WW I.

Ike said...

Are you sure about the date for the league table? By 1973 Bass Mitchell & Butlers had bought Bents (1967) and merged with Charrington United (also 1967).

Whitbread had bought Threlfall, Chesters (1967) and Courage Barclay & Simonds had bought John Smiths (1970). Trumans had yet to be bought by Watneys.

I would guess that it was before 1967 but after Bass merged with Mitchell and Butlers (1961) and Ind Coope, Tetley and Ansells merged to form Allied (also 1961).

Possibly 1963?