From today – July 4 – at 6am the Prime Minister has announced that pubs and beer gardens will be able to reopen, as long as they adhere to strict social distancing measures and keep a record of customers in case of an outbreak. Many of the elements that define a pub will be missing, numbers will be limited, there will be no music or sports and drinkers will still have to stay two metres apart where possible as their orders will be delivered to the table. The much-awaited event has been dubbed “Super Saturday” by many and “Stupid Saturday” by some, after fears rose that after months cooped up indoors, some people could get carried away and risk spreading COVID-19.
Speaking on LBC radio yesterday, Mr Johnson warned: “I hope very much that people will behave responsibly and enjoy summer safely.
“We think we’re in good shape, but my message is, let’s not blow it now.”
Pubs play a sacred position in the heart of Britons, ever since they started appearing in the late 17th century and by Georgian times they had cemented themselves into British culture.
But during World War 1 and World War 2 they came under grave danger on the home front.
Former Prime Minister David Lloyd George proclaimed in 1916: “Drink is doing us more damage in the war than all the German submarines put together.”
A staunch prohibitionist, Lloyd George and his allies used the war as an excuse to shut down pubs and breweries, beginning with the Defence of the Realm Act of 1914, licensing hours were restricted, eventually to just five and a half hours a day.
In his book, ‘Brewing For Victory,’ Brian Glover revealed how British beer production cut from 37 million barrels in 1913 to just 19 million by 1917, with the average strength of beer also affected.
Apart from the Government tripling the tax on it, beer itself was mostly left alone until early 1917, when the unrestricted German U Boat campaign started to seriously impact transatlantic trade.
With grain supplies running low, the Government imposed a series of restrictions on brewers to save sugar and barley reserves.
READ MORE: ‘Worst shortage of decade’ leaving Wetherspoons without Strongbow and John Smith’s exposed
At the outset of World War 2, British breweries had recovered some of their past strength, but beers were still about one percent weaker than before the war.
Beer industry leaders countered by promoting beer as a healthy beverage, full of nutrition for citizens on a wartime diet.
Lord Woolston, the Minister of Food, declared the consensus of Government leaders in 1940 by stating that “there are many people who believe that a glass of beer is not doing anybody any harm”.
Supporting British breweries became a matter of national pride.
Shipping restrictions and rationing during the war created less reliance on foreign malted barley and in 1933 one-third of brewer’s malt in England was imported and with a “British is Best” focus, imports were reduced to 23 percent by 1935.
British breweries set up a “beer for troops” committee in July 1942 and American breweries were also generous to soldiers, but not voluntarily.
The US Department of Agriculture actually ordered that 15 percent of all beer production be set aside for the troops, which amounted to a bigger ration of beer than the average citizen received.
With the advantage of large canning lines, and a normal original gravity of 1045, or 5.2 percent, American wartime beers were also much stronger than those from the United Kingdom.