Population of Great Britain and Ireland.
Quantity of Malt made.
1849, . .
7,000,000 10,000,000 14,000,000 21,000,000 29,000,000
3,500,000 3,700,000 3,800,000 3,600,000 5,000,000
The decrease in the consumption of-productions brewed and distilled from malted barley, has undoubtedly arisen from a variety of causes. 1*6, The increased use of tea and coffee since 1765, by all classes of society. 2d, The high duties imposed on malt and spirits during the wars of the French revolution ; and, lastly, The influence which knowledge and education have so powerfully exerted on the customs, manners, and tastes of the great mass of the population.
The national consumpt of liquors which the customs and manners of the inhabitants demand; the increase suitable to the increase of population; and the imposing of taxes on these liquors, either for the purpose of creating revenue, or for the spread of such beverages as have the least injurious effects on the morals and temperate habits of the people,—are all questions belonging to the government, and altogether different from the views of temperance societies, and of the humane and philanthropic exertions of individuals, who go the length of condemning the drinking-usages of society altogether, or of well-in-tentioned magistrates, who ascribe to the multitude of public houses all the evil effects of intemperance. The duty of the government is imperative. Drink, in all its variety of refreshing or exciting qualities, is a luxury, and may be taxed moderately, without impairing the necessaries of life; and local public functionaries may feel called upon by a sense of public duty, or private individuals by moral obligations, to check the evils of intemperance by the restriction or prevention of public houses; but experience has completely proved, that all excessive taxation and official interference are alike unavailing, and cause the very evil which they are said to cure. High duties and fiscal oppression cause smuggling to an extent beyond all calculation; and those who attribute intemperance to the great number of public houses, reason under pure fallacy. It is not public houses that cause drinking, but it is drinking that causes the public house. It is other causes operating on the dispositions of the people, as Adam
Smith observes in his Wealth of Nations, that give employment "to a multitude of publicans.
The question of the revisal and modification of the excise-laws is, therefore, practical; and it resolves itself into this,—whether or not a reduction of the malt-duty to one-half of* its present rate, with an equalisation of the spirit-duties, and extension of licenses to all grocers in the United Kingdom, would be of any loss to the revenue; for it is not disputed that such a reform of the excise would be of immense benefit to the community. This is the real view of the question. Those who argue that the malt-duty ought to be totally repealed, have no foundation whatever for their reasoning. The ministry who govern the country can neither do without this tax, nor can they supply its place. The best that can be accomplished is to moderate the duty, and rely on the rapid increase of consumption for making up the deficiency.
But there is another point which not only deeply interests all who have capital embarked in malting, brewery, and distillery establishments, but the proprietors of land in every district of the empire. The malt-tax is a land-tax ; it is a duty levied on the production of land;—there can be no dispute about this. The total repeal of this tax, therefore, would benefit landlords, in the long-run, to nearly the amount of duty which is levied on barley in the shape of malt. And so it would, could other parties be satisfied; but the principles of free trade are abroad. The country is pressing forward in mercantile and manufacturing industry and enterprise.
The great truth, that a nation can only manufacture up to its supply of food, propounded by Colonel Thomson, and so ably demonstrated in theory, is now being in process of realisation in practice. The repeal of the corn-laws must eventually push on the manufacturing districts into full employment, and this in turn will cause a demand for other species of labour,—the increase of manufactures keeping pace with the supply of food, or, in other words, with wages to purchase it.
Now, in this state of matters, it is essentially necessary that government should have a revenue to pay tie interest of the debt of the country ; for it is mainly on the punctual discharge of this great national obligation that the whole future commercial prosperity of the British empire depends; to pay also the expense of civil government, and of keeping in an efficient state all the various means of defence, not only of the United Kingdom, but of her vast colonial empire. Were the government to give up the malt-tax without an equivalent, an additional property-tax would soon become inevitable; because, without a malt-tax, the duties on home-made spirits could not be sustained, and there is no branch of industry that can afford to bear further taxation. For the sake of revenue, and, perhaps, by the demand of public opinion, the wines and brandies of France, and gin of Holland, might be permitted to bo imported at low rates of duties, and the consumpt of British corn-spirit would diminish in proportion. The cultivation of barley, which is carried on so extensively in Great Britain, not so much for food to the inhabitant», as to supply the breweries and distilleries, would gradually decline; and this, operating with other causes relative to free trade in agricultural productions, would permanently injure the landed interest more than any temporary benefit they might reap from the repeal of the malt-tax.
In every point of view in which the subject can be taken, the reduction of the malt-tax, and consequent production of a finer and purer spirit for home consumption, with other modifications already enumerated, would be satisfactory to all parties, and would increase the revenue of the country.
The practical methods of brewing Scotch and English ales, now become connected more immediately with this Introduction. In England, porter and ales may be truly said not only to be luxuries, but part of the necessaries of life, and are justly considered to be the national drink of the people. Any reduction of the spirit-duties would not materially affect the consumpt of malted liquors, more especially in -the provinces, where the inhabitants generally prefer good ale (and in numerous districts it is excellent) to any ardent spirit whatever. But in Scotland and Ire* land the case is very different. * The brewing of ale by private families is almost given up, and very few publicans brew their own ale. The term home-brewed, which, in England, is idiomatic of something excellent of itself, as applicable to drink, is unknown; bnt still, in various districts, ale of very fine quality is manufactured, and Edinburgh and Dublin are celebrated for making very fine descriptions of ale and porter. The ardent spirit generally used at present in Scotland and Ireland is whisky; but it would be folly to imagine that the inhabitants of these countries are more partial to- whisky than any other description of liquor. Were the excise-laws relaxed, and the brandies and wines of France, and gin of Holland, imported at low duties, the use of whisky would gradually diminish. Previous to the middle of last century the consumpt of whisky in Scotland was very trifling. The national drink was strong beer, ale, and twopenny, a sort of intermediate drink between strong ale and small beer. The liquors of better description were the wines and brandies of France and Portugal. The operation of the excise-laws, and the heavy duties imposed on every species of foreign wines and spirits, forced the making of strong ale into the hands of the common brewers, and raised up distilleries in various quarters to supply ardent spirits to the market, and thus whisky became the prevalent drink of all orders of society, not from choice but from cheapness. In Ireland the case at present is similar. In Queen Anne's reign, and that of George I., we find Acts of Parliament relative to the exportation of hops to Ireland for the use of her breweries ; and there cannot be any rational doubt but that the national drink of the Irish would, at this day, have been ale and porter, with a finer quality of malt spirits, had they had their own choice. In both countries, but more especially in Ireland, the temperance societies have had a decided influence in spreading the principles of temperance among the people, and the consumpt of raw grain whisky is on the decline ; but, with improved commerce, and better employment of labour, the consumpt of every species of the better qualities of liquor must increase; and the object most desirable is, that Her Majesty's Government would revise the laws of excise, so as to encourage the domestic brewing of ale all over the United Kingdom, and, by putting the malt and spirit duties on a moderate and equitable footing, enable brewers and distillers to produce the best possible qualities of drink to the public.
The following details of brewing, will be divided into five chapters. 1. Of the* practical methods of brewing in England and Scotland. 2. Of the Scotch method of brewing ale. 3. Of the English method. 4. Of the method of brewing porter on a small scale, and of English home-brewed ale. And lastly, conclude with a short summary of malting and brewing; —affording throughout these divisions of the subject such information to the practical brewer as may be useful to him in the prosecution of his profession.
Was this article helpful?