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Beer and Ale


Fleet of Campbell, Hope & King (The ‘Holy Trinity’) delivery vans, Chambers Street, 1950s (photo, SBA)

Women labelling whisky bottles, J G Thomson's, Leith, c1930 (photo, SBA)

Whisky - or uisge beatha - was distilled for domestic consumption from early times. Excise duty was introduced in 1644 and from 1781 distilling needed a licence. Small-scale illicit production continued until the 1840s but commercial production increased with the introduction of the Coffey Patent Still in the 1830s. Several distilleries were established in Edinburgh in the 1800s including, Croft-an-Righ, Bonnington, Caledonian, Dean and Lochrin. The only one remaining in 2007 is the North British, which produces whisky for blending.

Early Scots drank fermented grain-based brews made from corn weed or coarse barley flavoured with heather, rowan or bog myrtle. Monks were the first commercial brewers. By the fifteenth century, brewing of ale for domestic consumption was mostly done by women, who would sell their ‘excess’ produce. Unregulated brewster-wives dominated the brewing trade in Edinburgh, to the annoyance of the town council.

Many of Scotland’s most famous brewing firms emerged during the eighteenth century including, Archibald Campbell’s and William Younger’s in Edinburgh; Tennent’s in Glasgow, and George Younger’s in Alloa. Technical and scientific developments contributed to the flourishing of a large number of breweries in Edinburgh. The only one left in 2007 is the Caledonian Brewery.


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