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British Food Journal Volume 36 Issue 6 1934

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 June 1934



In the last number certain general statements were made concerning the history, nature and production of lager beer as distinguished from the top fermentation ale which is the chief brew of this country. It may be useful to refer to the trade in Germany and some other countries. In Germany the export of beer is, as might be anticipated, considerable. The German export figures refer to (i) beer which has been exported in vessels of 15 litre capacity and over and (ii) beer exported in vessels of a smaller capacity. In the latter category we may include bottled beer though it is not specifically referred to as such. It is also safe to assume that all the beer exported is of lager type. There has been a steady decline in exports of both kinds of beer (i) and (ii). Thus in 1931 the exports of the first kind of beer which is obviously barrelled beer amounted to 189 thousand hectolitres in round figures or over four million gallons. The corresponding figures for 1932 and 1933 being three million and two‐and‐a‐half million gallons. The market for this beer is almost entirely the European market—Belgium, Holland and Switzerland are the chief buyers followed by France and Great Britain. Belgium, Holland and Switzerland take between them from 55 to 60 per cent. of this beer at the present time. The markets of Egypt, Palestine and Tunis about three per cent., British India and the Dutch East Indies a still smaller proportion. The beer that is exported in containers having a smaller capacity than 15 litres shows a heavy and continuous fall from about 8½ million gallons in 1930 to about 2½ million gallons in 1932. With regard to the chief markets for this kind of beer the African and Asiatic markets are by far the most important. The former include the Belgian Congo, British West Africa and Egypt in order of importance. They still retain their relative importance, but the falling off has been very great during the last three or four years. Thus in 1931 the imports into Egypt were about 315 thousand gallons. In 1932, 132 thousand, in 1933, 52 thousand. The corresponding figures for the Belgian Congo are in round figures 790 thousand, 423 thousand and 332 thousand. For British West Africa 649 thousand, 292 thousand and 190 thousand. The figures for these three markets form about 25 per cent. of the total exports. Nor are the figures for the Asiatic markets more encouraging. We need only consider the figures for the two chief markets, the Dutch East Indies and British India. The exports to the Dutch possessions in 1931 amounted to 1,540 thousand gallons, in 1932 they were 799 thousand, and in 1933, 439 thousand gallons. The corresponding figures for British India were 656 thousand, 486 thousand, and 357 thousand gallons. During these three years the Dutch East Indies and British India have between them absorbed 35 per cent. of the total exports.—It may also be remarked that the declared value of the beer exported in 15 litres vessels and those of more than 15 litres capacity appears to be somewhat less than half that of the beer exported in the smaller containers. This might have been expected, but the decline in the exports of the more costly item, which is much greater in proportion than is the case with the cheaper kind, makes the matter more serious for the German export trade. The chief reasons for this would seem to be the adverse rate of exchange and in the Far Eastern markets the competition of Japan. Much of the beer intended for the markets in tropical or semi‐tropical lands is specially brewed for the purpose. This naturally adds to the prime cost and we understand that some at least of the great German brewing firms have actually been working at a loss in their efforts to retain the Eastern markets that up to recent times have taken a large proportion of the German bottled “lager” exports. It may be of significance in this connection that the imports of this kind of beer into Japan would seem to have ceased. The trade in cask “lager,” a cheaper beer—inasmuch as it does not require the special preparation demanded by the other—sent for the most part to nearby markets has not suffered so severely. The brewing of lager beer would seem to have been started in Japan in about the year 1870 by an American named Copeland. The industry once started made fairly rapid progress and at the present time the value of the output is about 8 million pounds sterling. The average for the years 1927 to 1930 inclusive being about 8½ million pounds. This is only about one‐fifth of the value of all alcoholic liquors manufactured in Japan. The chief liquor is sake and this accounts for 70 per cent. of the total, the third item being distilled spirits. A considerable proportion of the beer, about 48 per cent., is exported from “Japan proper” to the Far Eastern markets, namely China, Kwantung, Hong Kong, Siam, the Straits Settlements and the Dutch Indies. Of these markets Kwantung and China in the order named are the most important, Kwantung taking 820 thousand gallons in 1932, and China about 670 thousand gallons. Hong Kong takes about 64 thousand gallons. The market is extending. During the war a favourable opportunity occurred to send this beer to British India. The amount sent to British India declined after the war, but a market for Japanese lager would appear to have been established and to be steadily increasing in importance. In 1932 rather over 400 thousand gallons were sent to British India. It is hardly to be expected that Japanese enterprise has ended with the establishing of Indian and Far Eastern markets for their beer. As everyone knows they are very able salesmen. Their methods of manufacture are efficient; and they have an admirable and subsidised merchant marine. We have not the least wish to be in any way “alarmists,” but we desire to point out both to British, German and Dutch brewers the serious import of the figures we have quoted. Germany, the original centre of the lager beer industry, Holland, which has, with Germany, gained a reputation second to none for the excellence of their “lager,” our own brewers of “lager” in this country are all equally menaced by the rapid growth of the industry in Japan and its steady and persistent entry into markets which have long been exclusively and satisfactorily served by the brewers of these three countries. How this threat of the possible decline of the old established markets in Asia and in Africa is to be met is, in detail at least, a matter for the English and European firms, who are affected, to decide. We should however, like to point out that while it may be that no one with a knowledge of the facts of the case would question the excellence of the English and European lager beers the “man in the street”—that is to say the ordinary consumer—has no authentic knowledge to rely upon, and he is the ultimate court of appeal. Price counts with him a great deal and he accepts what he is told as to quality. If he finds that a lager beer is not up to his expectations the fact will damage the whole trade “from China to Peru.” If on the other hand he is supplied with unquestionable and authoritative evidence that the lager beer he drinks is all that it should be and claims to be then the case is put on an altogether different footing. The present would seem to be a not altogether unfavourable time to endeavour to develop the English and European trade by methods of sound scientific salesmanship which must necessarily embrace something stronger, as evidence of quality, than the mere asseverations of the producer. The return of the world to more normal economic conditions can only be a matter of time and in spite of the somewhat gloomy trade prospects at present prevailing the beginning of better times should see producers ready and prepared to take full advantage of them.


(1934), "British Food Journal Volume 36 Issue 6 1934", British Food Journal, Vol. 36 No. 6, pp. 51-60.




Copyright © 1934, MCB UP Limited

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