Thursday, March 31, 2016

100 Years Ago - Beer, Bread, and Prohibition

The Price of a Pint
"As far as I can make out from the papers, Bert, the breweries seem to 'ave been
'ard 'it by this blinkin' war."
In 1916, while World War I was churning the fields of Flanders into blood-soaked poppy fields, the beer-soaked pubs of England were under siege by the British parliament. In a rationing move then Prime Minister, Lloyd George, implemented the Output of Beer Act of 1916 which cut England's production of beer and raised the per-barrel duty on brewers. Since then, various people have tried to link this action with a hidden prohibition agenda, however no conclusive evidence has ever emerged. In 1916 there may have been grumblings about the rationing of beer and higher prices, but in 1919 these would erupt into civil unrest which eventually undid the Output Act.

In 1917, though, the cartoonist Captain Bruce Bairnsfather, who'd served with a machine gun regiment in France and had been mustered out of the service after suffering shell shock and hearing loss during the Second Battle of Ypres, obviously didn't feel the pains of the people. His feature character "Old Bill" puts the gripes of the brewers in prospective.

Part of me has to wonder if Samwise Gamgee's pony, Old Bill, wasn't actually a bit of J. R. R. Tolkien tipping his hat to Captain Bairnsfather since they'd both served in the trenches during the Great War.

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