Beer and WW II
when beer and war collide
|I admit it: I'm a numbers junkie. Statistics fascinate me
because of the tales they tell. I would like to share one of those stories
War has been the driving force behind most developments in British beer, since at least the Civil War. Cromwell introduced the first beer duty. Soaring taxes during the Napoleonic wars spurred brewers to innovate to cut costs. Patent malt was the result. The Boer War saw Britain become a high-tax nation for beer. Measures to conserve resources during WW I mortally wounded porter and slashed gravities forever.
So how come so little changed during WW II? The conflict came close to destroying Britain both militarily and economically. Why was the impact on the brewing industry so small?
I think I know the answer, but I'll present the facts first and let you decide for yourself.
|World War 1
Let's first look at what happened in WW I:
The effect of the war was dramatic: production was almost halved, strengths dropped to near-beer levels. Postwar, beer gravities settled around 20% lower than their pre-war level.
Here's what happened in the next war:
This time UK strengths only dropped by about 10% and output even increased. The UK was able to brew large quantities of reasonable-strength beer.
You'll note that the effects of the war - even in the period when things were going well - were much more pronounced in Germany. Production of serious-strength beer trickled to a halt about half way into the war in Germany.
The average German gravity would have been much lower than the maximum figure given. There were classes at 1012 even in the early war years. By 1945 some beers were as weak as 1008. If you reckon that German beer probably averaged at least 12º (1048) before the war, it's quite a big drop.
|"Grenadier und Musketier
Marschieren auf der strasse
Denken an ein kühles Bier
In riesengrossem Glase"
German soldiers' song.
In reality, German soldiers mostly were just thinking about huge glasses of beer.
Britain's prime minister in WW I, Lloyd-George, was a teetotaller, as was Hitler. Churchill, on the other hand, was an enthusiastic drinker.
© Ron Pattinson 2005 - 2006
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