The industrial brewery in the 20th century.


In the 20th century, the in-depth transformations of beer brewing announced and partially implemented in the previous century are very nearly achieved in Western Europe and in the United States :


  •  Disappearance of the domestic brewing, with a temporary passage through brewing substitutes sold by the industrial breweries (malt, sugar, dried yeast to make beer at home).
  •  Quick disappearance of the brewer-tavern-keeper and the brewer-farmer.
  •  Capital concentration of the malting and brewing industry : giant mlating and brewing factories.
  •  Drastic reduction in the number of breweries in each country after the First World war.
  •  Growing economic weight of the distribution and retailing of beer: storing, transporting, selling further and further away from the brewery.
  •  Full taxation of every economic activities related to fermented beverages by each national state administration.
  •  Enactment of severe national legislations about the brewing raw materials and processes. Some of them become "illegal".
  •  Narrow-mind definitions of the beer in order to protect the industrial brewing business.
  •  Standardisation and classification of all the kind of beers by national legal rules and soon international through the customs organisations.
  •  Extinction of local and regional beer specialties, some of them said to be "outlaw".
  •  Sanitary control of beer and brewery to reach a flawless product, and evenly a tasteless beer.
  •  The beer becomes available throughout the year, nearly throughout the world with the same quality.
  •  Beer is an advertisement object. Its image is now stereotyped and feminised (blonde, red, dark beers).


This picture must be balanced. The Eastern European countries do not follow identical trends. In Russia, for example, the domestic brewing of kvass coexists with the industrial sector. Idem for the braga beer in southeastern Europe. In some countries, the industrial processes seize some traditional brewing specialities without changing them in depth, at least in the first decades.

In the mid 20th century, the national beer industries completely changed their strategies in their respective colonial empires. Instead of shipping beer at great expense and risk, the technology made it possible to build breweries on the spot. This was the beginning of a vast movement to produce European-style beers (brewed with barley malt, a part of local cereals, hops, etc.), but stamped as 'national beers', labelled with local trademarks and sold in each colonised country.

These African, Indian, Asian or South American "national" beers compete with the traditional indigenous beers. The advertising campaigns that praise these "national beers" reiterates the arguments that have been tried and tested in Europe or in the United States : only the industrial beer is healthy and pleasant to drink, a sign of modernity and high social status. On the other side, the "indigenous" beers are unhealthy, backward, the sign of a bygone cultural past, made and only drunk by the poor uncultured peasants in the villages.




08/10/2015  Christian Berger