The brewing industry is unique in its involvement with the nation. There are other industries making consumer goods such as clothing or grocery which are vertically integrated and have their retail shops; but brewing has as its main retail outlet some 75,000 pubs and bars, all different, all in some degree social centres and all characteristic of the British way of life.
A sense of continuity and tradition pervades the industry for British Beer and the British Pub have become cherished national symbols. Yet there has to be constant production serving needs and appetites which are never static: and throughout the years brewers, though traditionalists, have never been slow to adapt :heir resources and their policies to changing times. This was one of the first industries to take advantage of steam power.
During the nineteen sixties the Courage Group alone spent £10m on production plant. But about 70% of the total capital in brewing lies in retail properties and something like £24,000,000 is spent by the industry annually on upkeep, improvement and construction of pubs and hotels.
More than any other industry brewing is involved with social legislation. Since the first introduction of licensing in Britain in 1552, there has been a massive structure of law regulating both the manufacture and distribution of beer, accompanied by complex systems of taxation. From a localised activity, from the cottage or farmhouse brewery in the country or the small family backstreet brewhouse in the towns, the industry grew with improved techniques and, above all, with the revolution in transport, into larger units. During the four hundred years since he first licensing, the progress of the industry has been marked by mergers and amalgamations. The history of the Courage Group typically reflects this.
It also serves as an outstanding example of the potent family continuity which exists in brewing. Names which come into the story during the eighteenth century are still present, and significant, in the sixties of this century. Since its formation in 1956, the Courage Group has emerged as one of the most potent forces in an industry which is as progressive and competitive as it has ever been. The stories of the five main Components which form the Group have been told individually from material gathered in Southwark, Bermondsey, Reading, Bristol and Tadcaster and from the families who have been connected with some part of the enterprise for many generations.