In the 19th Century the would-be tippler not only had the choice of traditionally licensed public houses and hotels but also an additional tier of establishments in the form of the now long forgotten beer houses.
Strange as it may seem today beer houses were actually created by an Act of Parliament which in part was aimed at reducing the amount of public drunkenness.
Public drunkenness it was said was in large measure due to a reduction in the duty on gin and the consequent rise in the number of (often unlicensed) gin palaces.
These brash loud establishments so memorably described by Charles Dickens in his Sketches by Boz (published 1835-6) were popularly held to be unbridled dens of immorality and crime and the source of much ill-health and alcoholism among the working classes.
It was a provision within the 1830 Beer Act therefore which brought into being an entirely new tier of drinking establishment – the beer house – which being licensed only for six days a week (i.e. not Sundays) for the sale only of beer and cider (not wine and spirits) was considered by some concerned parties as being of assistance towards helping entice the populace away from its excessive consumption of gin.
Beer it should be remembered was at this time very much an everyday drink – even children drank so called small beer – and it was seen by those agitators among the evangelicals and temperance movements as very much a secondary evil.
Any conviction that the introduction of beer houses might actually lead to a reduction in alcohol consumption however would appear to have been somewhat ill-founded.
During the first year after the 1830 Act came into force more than 240 beer houses opened their doors across the country with by 1835 the figure rising to around 400
Legislation was such that almost any householder on payment of two guineas could apply to the local magistrates for a licence to sell beer on his premises – a situation which led according to W. Howitt in his book The Rural Life of England (published 1840) to early beer houses acquiring the same kind of reputation as the gin palaces before them: “kept by people without capital often without character” as Howitt put it.
Topical names for the new beer houses abounded as landlords often dispensed with traditional pub names in an effort to reflect the mood of the times.
Although beer houses became a distinct and well-loved facet of town life the aim of many of their keepers was to upgrade their establishments to the status of a fully licensed public house able to sell not only beer but wines and spirits as well.
As more and more full licences were awarded the number of beer houses began to fall. this can be seen in the Amlwch Trade directories. In 1844 there were 10 Taverns and 14 beer houses listed in Amlwch. In 1883 there were 43 Public houses listed