Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Ale Aboard? Beer Exports from Ireland in 1786

A new online archive resource has sprung to life of late in the shape of the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland, which in its own words 're-imagines and reconstructs through digital technologies the Public Record Office of Ireland, a magnificent archive destroyed on June 30th, 1922, in the opening engagement of the Civil War.' This incredible undertaking has already thrown up plenty of lost history but of course what interests us here is any brewing mentions that may have been destroyed and are now rediscovered.

One entry that interested me was the list of exports from Ireland for the year ending the 25th March 1786. This document's creator is the Chief Remembrancer's Office but it is via the Central Bank Archives and it shows many products including foodstuffs that should be of interest to food historians. It makes fascinating reading in general, but of real use to us is a listing of the beers exported from Ireland in barrel quantities:

DestinationVia DublinVia BelfastVia NewryVia WaterfordVia SligoTotals
France104    104
Italy 10   10
Madeira*     24
Spain28    28
Streights#2010   30
Antigua16113435  330
Barbados 84   84
Carolina6653   119
Jamaica24    24
New England230    230
New Foundland   52 52
New York2618   44
Nova Scotia40    40
Pennsylvania14630  6182
Virginia74154   228
West Indies in General 96   96

* The total is in the tally at the end of the original document but I can not see it in the detail.
# Presumably Gibraltar

The total appear to be wrong in the tally at the end of the document where it says '1,705' but I have calculated it to be 1,625 as you can see (I may have missed something ...) - and there are also 22 barrels of 'ale' listed elsewhere, which were destined for the West Indies. There seemed to have been no exports from Cork this year, but that would change over the next few decades.

What was meant by the term 'Beer' could be up for argument, especially as ale was listed separately (albeit in a small quantity) but my assumption here is that it was a general term like we use today. The term possibly included porter and 'normal' hopped ale although probably mostly the former.

That is quite a list of destinations and it is certainly nice to see the written facts of an export trade in beer from Ireland in this way - although sadly no breweries are mentioned - but just to put it into context the same overall document shows us importing 54,515 (and a half) barrels of 'beer' from England in the same period!

It is quite possible that some of those exports shown above are actually beer that was originally brought in from England or Scotland, but we will gloss over that thought for now ...

Also fair play to whoever sent the 6 barrels of beer from Sligo to Pennsylvania!

Liam K.

This item originally belonged to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the Commercial Buildings Company, whose premises and assets the Bank purchased in 1963 to facilitate the building of the Dame Street tower. It is now in the archive of the Central Bank of Ireland. Here is the link to the document which is available for use under the Creative Commons 4.0 International License. (Header image via Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland)

All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source, and a link back to this post.

1 comment:

Martyn Cornell said...

Very interesting. These would, I'm guessing, be Irish barrels, of 42 Irish gallons, just under 33 "Imperial" gallons …