Leeds nostalgia: Brewers short of barrels... in 1948

A shortage of carbon dioxide might be affecting Britain's brewers this year but turn the clock back 70 years and the Yorkshire Evening Post ran a story which said breweries were being hamstrung by a dearth of barrels.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 3rd July 2018, 2:29 pm

Under the strapline ‘Don’t Blame the Landlord -He’s Doing His Best’, this paper reported the country’s brewing industry was experiencing a lack of around 1.6m barrels, which resulted in shortages of mild and bitter.

One explanation given was there weren’t enough coopers, a situation which was being rectified by the National Joint Industrial Council, as a matter of urgency.

District councils were urged to say what cooperages in their area could do. However, there was a snag. Coopering was a highly skilled trade, with a five-year apprenticeship. At that time, most barrels were still handmade and even when machines were used, coopers were still needed to oversee the process.

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One Leeds firm, which was established about 100 years earlier (circa the 1840s), was due to exhibit some of its barrels at the Royal Show.

Before the war, Britain’s brewers used about 4m casks but owing to the greater quantity of lower-gravity beer which was being consumed at the time, it was estimated around 4.8m were needed. Loss through wear and tear was said to be running at about 100,000 a year.

In other news, a man was run over by his horse in Meanwood. James Major, 59, a carter of Cliffdale View, tried to stop his horse when it bolted in Hunslet Lane goods depot but it ran over him, leaving him with a fractured shoulder and injuries to his face and head. He was admitted to St James’s Hospital for treatment.