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In the 1950s the first truly national brewing companies began to form. As the coalescing groups bought more rivals, it inevitably whittled down the number of active breweries. Purchasers were rarely interested in the brewery itself, only the pubs that it owned. With new licenses almost impossible to obtain, about the only way to expand the number of outlets was to buy another brewery.

The process of amalgamation was kicked off by Canadian Eddie Taylor, who had already built a national brewing group in his homeland. Using Yorkshire brewer Hammonds at its core, he embarked on a buying frenzy across the North of England and Scotland.

By the late 1960s, seven brewing groups dominated the industry: Allied Breweries, Bass Charrington, Courage, Watney Mann, Whitbread, Scottish & Newcastle and Guinness. They were usually referred to as the Big Six, Guinness being left out because it owned no pubs.
No. of UK breweries
Year No.
1945 708
1946 680
1947 648
1948 625
1949 602
1950 567
1951 539
1952 524
1953 501
1954 479
1955 460
1956 426
1957 416
1958 399
1959 378
1960 358
1964 295
1965 274
Sources:
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p.68
Brewers' Almanack 1962, p.67
BBPA Statistical Handbook 2003, p. 92
Amalgamation was often a complex affair. Bass Charrington was formed by the merger of Charrington United Breweries and Bass, Mitchells & Butlers. The former itself the result of a merger between Hammonds United Breweries and Charrington. The latter, created when Bass and M & B merged. Hammonds United Breweries was itself the result of a series of takeovers.

Between them, the Big Six controlled over half the UK’s pubs. As most beer was consumed in pubs and those pubs could only sell beer from the brewery that owned them, that gave the big brewers a stranglehold on the beer trade.

Ironically, this hold started to be broken in the 1980s when supermarkets started to shift large quantities of beer. It’s ironic because the big brewers dumped beer at ridiculously low prices to the supermarkets to gain market share. All the really did was devalue their pubs as assets.

The Big Seven 1963 - 1967
1963 1967
Company Tied estate Nominal capital Market value Company Tied estate Nominal capital Market value
£m £m £m £m
Allied 9,300 90.4 177.3 Bass Charr 10,230 80.7 243.2
Watney Mann 5,500 43.8 103.5 Allied 8,250 128.1 234.7
Charr Utd 5,000 43.1 92.7 Whitbread 7,376 104.8 127.8
CB&S 4,800 45.3 76.3 Watney Mann 6,667 84.8 144.7
BM&B 4,100 33 96 CB&S 4,418 57.1 94.4
Whitbread 3,500 40.6 95.2 S&N 2,076 64.8 127
S&N 1,700 44.9 92.1 Guinness 2 26.5 102.2
Guinness 2 19.5 94
Total 33,902 39,019
Total pubs 67,450 66,373
* Guinness's tied estate = Castle Inn, Bodiam and Guinness Club House, Park Royal.
Key:
BM&B Bass, Mitchells & Butlers
Bass Charr Bass Charrington
CB&S Courage, Barclay & Simonds
Charr Utd Charrington United
S&N Scottish & Newcastle
Source:
The British Brewing Industry 1830 - 1980 by T.R. Gourvish and R.G. Wilson, 1994, page 472.
There was also consolidation on a regional level, where breweries like Greene King, Greenall Whitley and Marstons bought up rivals for their pubs and closed their breweries.

At a much smaller level, most of the remaining home brew pubs closed between 1945 and 1965. There had still been around 2,500 publican brewers at the outbreak of WW I, but large numbers gave up in the interwar period. By 1965 they were just a handful.
This is an excerptfrom from my overly detailed look at post-war UK brewing, Austerity!

http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/austerity/23181344







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