While illegal during most of the 19th century, it did go on, as shown by this extract from a parliamentary enquiry. Who’s that being questioned by the Commissioners of Excise? Why, it’s Hugh Tennent himself, complaining about how the raw-grain brewers are ruining his business.
Minutes Of Evidence taken before the Commissioners Of Excise Inquiryat Glasgow.Sir HENRY PARNELL, Bart, in the Chair.Appendix No. 78.23d November, 1833.Mr. Hugh Tennent called in and examined.In what business are you engaged ?—I am engaged in the brewing department in the neighbourhood of Glasgow.
Does not it make a bad beer ?—It makes a brisk beer that will keep for a short time; they cannot make it in the summer months, for it will not keep; but if made from October till June, it will keep for several weeks.The Commissioners will be happy to hear any communication you have to make ?—It has been the wish of some of the brewers here that the duty could be thrown on the beer altogether in place of the malt; at the same time we are aware there are objections to that in England, as there is so much private brewing; but I should think the revenue would be much better collected, and that there would be but little opportunity of fraud, if the duty were laid entirely on beer. At present there is a very great trade carried-on in this very town by the use of raw grain in the mash-tuns in the place of using barley malt, which they ought by law to do; there is a very great mixture of raw grain, and the regular brewer is not able to compete with the people who make use of this raw grain.
Do not the consumers find out the difference ?—No; they get a cheap article, and that is a great matter now-a-days. If there can be no alteration of that kind I believe the respectable brewers here would wish very much, if the Government found it necessary by giving up the assessed taxes, that the duty should be laid again on beer—and I do not think it would be much felt by the community—a duty of 4s. or 5s. a barrel. The trade is completely destroyed by these people who use raw grain, and it would help to put it on a right footing again.
What was the old duty ?—About 22d. upon the barrel of table and small-beer; 9s. 10d. upon the strong ale and porter; 9s. 10d. a barrel, and 1s. 10d. on the beer; but if Government thought proper to put on a present duty of 4s. or 5s. a barrel, I would propose it should be on all liquor; for before the law was altered they were in the habit of making very strong beer, and reducing it and selling it as porter, paying only the small-beer duty upon it, and the regular trade was very much injured by it; if there was an average duty on all beer made as strong, that would protect not only the revenue but the fair trader.
Have you any thing to suggest with regard to the regulations for collecting the malt duty? —No; I think the duty is very well collected here, so far as I have had an opportunity of seeing.
Is there no smuggling of malt ?—I think not: the regulations cannot be too strong, but I think they are as perfect almost as I can conceive them to be; at the same time we are desirous of every check that can be introduced to protect us against the smugglers. We are considerably engaged in the export to the East and West Indies and South America, and I will take the opportunity of mentioning that we feel a great competition from the Germans and Swedes in those markets, and especially in the South American market and the Havannah market, from the cheapness with which they bring forward liquor to those markets. We do not get any thing like the drawback of malt duty that we actually pay; on every barrel we get two bushels. Now I have just taken a note : there are two articles we ship to the West Indies and South America—a sort of beer and ale; on the beer, where we use eighty bushels in a small brewing, we get a drawback only of fifty-six, and on a brewing of ale of 126 bushels we get a drawback only of fifty-four; they allow just two bushels to the barrel of whatever strength we choose to make it—thus there is no allowance of drawback at all upon the hops: we pay a half per cent, duty upon the glass when we put it into bottles, and what we ship to the East Indies is in hogsheads, made generally of Dantzic wood, on which there is a heavy duty. I mention this last to shew the hardship under which we labour in competing with those persons in Sweden and Hamburgh and Bremen, that when they ship to these markets — they are free of all those duties we pay; it is cramping our export trade very much. In shipping the bottles we are charged a half per cent, on the glass, and a half per cent, upon the beer—whether the beer is in wood or in bottles, we pay a half per cent.; besides that, we are charged debenture, bond, and stamps—all together the charges come to a very considerable sum over and above what those foreigners are able to ship at from their own ports; in fact we are driven out of the Havannah market altogether by the competition, and that is a very extensive market.
Would you have a considerable increase of business, if all these matters were adjusted properly ?—There is not a question of it; not only in Glasgow, but Liverpool and London, they are all suffering equally with ourselves.
In your view there would be a greater revenue collected from malt ?—Yes, in the first instance; but if we get a fair drawback on what we actually used it would come back to us again.