in the modern acceptation of the term, a series of operations the object of which is to prepare an alcoholic beverage of a certain kind—to wit, beer—mainly from cereals (chiefly malted barley), hops and water. Although the art of preparing beer or ale is a very ancient one, there is very little information in the literature of the subject as to the apparatus and methods employed in early times. It seems fairly certain, however, that up to the 18th century these were of the most primitive kind.
With regard to materials, we know that prior to the general introduction of the hop as a preservative and astringent, a number of other bitter and aromatic plants had been employed with this end in view. Thus J.L. Baker (The Brewing Industry) points out that the Cimbri used the Tamarix germanica, the Scandinavians the fruit of the sweet gale (Myrica gale), the Cauchi the fruit and the twigs of the chaste tree (Vitex agrius castus), and the Icelanders the yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
The preparation of beer on anything approaching to a manufacturing scale appears, until about the 12th or 13th century, to have been carried on in England chiefly in the monasteries; but as the brewers of London combined to form an association in the reign of Henry IV., and were granted a charter in 1445, it is evident that brewing as a special trade or industry must have developed with some rapidity. After the Reformation the ranks of the trade brewers were swelled by numbers of monks from the expropriated monasteries. Until the 18th century the professional brewers, or brewers for sale, as they are now called, brewed chiefly for the masses, the wealthier classes preparing their own beer, but it then became gradually apparent to the latter (owing no doubt to improved methods of brewing, and for others reasons) that it was more economical and less troublesome to have their beer brewed for them at a regular brewery. The usual charge was 30s. per barrel for bitter ale, and 8s. or so for small beer.
This tendency to centralize brewing operations became more and more marked with each succeeding decade. Thus during 1895-1905 the number of private brewers declined from 17,041 to 9930. Of the private brewers still existing, about four-fifths were in the class exempted from beer duty, i.e. farmers occupying houses not exceeding £10 annual value who brew for their labourers, and other persons occupying houses not exceeding £15 annual value. The private houses subject to both beer and licence duty produced less than 20,000 barrels annually.
There are no official figures as to the number of "cottage brewers," that is, occupiers of dwellings not exceeding £8 annual value; but taking everything into consideration it is probable that more than 99% of the beer produced in the United Kingdom is brewed by public brewers (brewers for sale). The disappearance of the smaller public brewers or their absorption by the larger concerns has gone hand-in-hand with the gradual extinction of the private brewer. In the year 1894-1895 8863 licences were issued to brewers for sale, and by 1904-1905 this number had been reduced to 5164. There are numerous reasons for these changes in the constitution of the brewing industry, chief among them being (a) the increasing difficulty, owing partly to licensing legislation and its administration, and partly to the competition of the great breweries, of obtaining an adequate outlet for retail sale in the shape of licensed houses; and (b) the fact that brewing has continuously become a more scientific and specialized industry, requiring costly and complicated plant and expert manipulation.
It is only by employing the most up-to-date machinery and expert knowledge that the modern brewer can hope to produce good beer in the short time which competition and high taxation, etc., have forced upon him. Under these conditions the small brewer tends to extinction, and the public are ultimately the gainers. The relatively non-alcoholic, lightly hopped and bright modern beers, which the small brewer has not the means of producing, are a great advance on the muddy, highly hopped and alcoholized beverages to which our ancestors were accustomed.
An Overview of Wines in Spain, 1882
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