Lloyd George's Quest to Quench

Neil Robinson on how Cardiff's brewery has been nationalised for over half a century.

People's Beer may have a better ring to it than The Carlisle and District State Management Scheme but the bureaucrats came closer to the truth with the name given to a unique brewing experiment. In 1916 Carlisle's brewery and the city's 150 pubs were nationalised and for the next half century the only beer available to local drinkers was produced by the state.

Lloyd George's motives in proposing the idea are unclear but it seems unlikely that he intended to create a drinkers' utopia. The State Management Scheme was loosely aimed at controlling drinking amongst the city's migrant ammunition workers by strictly regulating licensing hours and banning 'treating' - the buying of rounds - in order to discourage excessive consumption. Yet, Dr Terry Gourvish of the London School of Economics believes the real motives may have been to placate the Temperance Movement and also the United States which was turning towards prohibition and saw precious cereal exports being wasted in Britain on beer production.

No matter why it began, the experiment was successful. The brewery was profitable and there were new model pubs for a new model army of drinkers. Architect Harry Redfern gave them elegant interiors which at times drew upon Moorish influences or were inspired by his appreciation of the work of Ronnie Mackintosh. Many of Redfern's ideas were shamelessly copied by larger brewers elsewhere.

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