Newsletter No.45

1. Chairmans Statement

Welcome to the October Newsletter and I hope you are all well.

This year has proved to be difficult for us all, but lets hope, 2021 brings with it more of a normality or as near as possible to that. Although many of us have not been able to conduct our lives with the same freedom as in previous years, however your committee has been very busy, as follows.

  • Robbie, our editor, submitted for printing the articles for this years Journal, however there could be a delay this year due to the constraints of COVID-19.
  • Our new website is nearing completion and should be up and running before the end of this year. There are a number of new features, which I am sure you will enjoy.
  • The SBAA gave an on-line presentation on the contents of the Scottish Brewing Archive to the Scottish section of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling which was well received. 
  • A new walking tour was prepared for the Abbeyhill area of Edinburgh, pointing out where several of the breweries did operate and outlining the history of brewing and with it some interesting stories.
  • This year’s Newsletters and Journal contain many interesting articles, however we do rely on you to provide further information that capture the heritage of brewing in Scotland.    

 September marks the end of this years SBAA financial year and as a result it is now time to renew your membership before the end of October. Details of this will be issued shortly. We certainly don’t want to loose any members.

Our AGM will be held on Thursday the 19th November, but due to the constraints of the coronavirus, it will be conducted using Zoom. We have still to work out the details, but you will be informed before the end of October.

As members please keep in touch, take care and keep safe.

2. The way we were :

I was very grateful to Les Hutcheon for bringing to my attention an article written by Roger Putman that appeared in a recent edition of the Brewer and Distiller International, a monthly periodical.  

After receiving permission from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, I have included some brief extracts from this article, which looks back fifty years to the UK brewing industry.

What do wet milling, high maltose syrup, diaphragm mash filters, high gravity brewing, yeast pitching control, conicals, centrifuges, cross flow filtration, dissolved oxygen metering, widgets, in-line instrumentation, computers and SCADA systems all have in common? 

Well, fifty years ago we managed to brew beer without them.

In the last fifty years, a lot has changed in our lives that we now take for granted.      

There were only three UK TV channels and not many people had colour televisions and no satellite TV. You could smoke in pubs and on aeroplanes. Few men had a beard and only sailors had tattoos. You took your films to be developed at Boots the Chemist. Concorde had yet to fly to New York; there was no airport security; wind turbines, electric cars, bar codes, videotapes, CDs, personal computers and packet sandwiches, mobile phones and non-alcoholic beer.  A lot has occurred during this time, including decimal currency, measuring in metres, and global climate change. The list is endless.

In breweries, FVs were cleaned by hand and Health & Safety was years away.

In 1970 the UK beer market was around 57.3m hls. and peaked in 1979 with 68.9m hls. and the market was dominated by the big 6, Bass Charrington, Allied, Whitbread, Watney Mann, Scottish & Newcastle and Courage.

Lager did represent 7% of the market, whereas today 75% is lager.

90% of beer sold was in the On Trade and today half is in the Off Trade.

Today, export is 10 times greater, with Belgium, Ireland and the USA being popular destinations.

Beer imports were 2.8m hls. and mostly from Ireland and Denmark. Whereas today, imports is now over 9m hls. mainly from France, Italy and the Netherlands.

Our drinking habits have also changed, as you can see below in this percentage analysis.

1970 2020
Beer 71% 35%
Cider 2% 9%
Wine 10% 33%
Spirits 17% 21%

Back then, the price of a pint was around 2 shillings.

Are all these changes for the better, I wonder! 

©Brewer and Distiller International

3. Majority Ale 

A tradition of the famous Edinburgh brewer, Wm. Younger & Co, was the production of a special brew to celebrate the birth of either a son or daughter of a director.  The brew was stored in casks until the ‘coming of age’ party on their 21st birthday.  No mention of best before dates then!

The casks were broached and the well-matured, high gravity ale was consumed.

In some instances, the odd cask was bottled and the cork sealed with wax to preserve it for a future occasion.  The original gravity brew was 1125 degrees, which is equivalent to approximately 12% ABV.  A very strong barley wine.

The Scottish Brewing Archive has a record of a stock count, taken in 1967, of the Majority Ale bottles.  The details of the stock count were recorded in a small notebook and show the initials and the year the offspring was born.  The quantity of bottles was counted in dozens.  The dates ranged from 1866 to 1944 and, in some cases, the bottled beer was individually packed with straw in a presentation box for safe keeping.

The illustration below celebrates the birth of Harry George Younger, born in 1866. 


After making further enquires, I was indebted to John Chambers, who forwarded a complete record of the Majority Ales, as shown below. 

Wm. Younger & Co. amalgamated with Wm. McEwan & Co. in 1931 to form Scottish Brewers.  In 1960, Scottish Brewers joined forces with Newcastle Breweries to form Scottish & Newcastle plc. which grew to become the largest brewing company in the UK by the 1990s.

4. Name the Brewery?


This photo comes from a private collection* not in the public domain. Can you identify the brewery in the foreground ?  Plenty of clues in the background. 

The July teaser was this magnificent brewery belonging to James Aitken and Co. It was built in Falkirk in 1900 and brewed until 1968 before being eventually demolished. An excellent article ‘Memories of Aitkens’ was covered in Journal No.4 2002, well worth a read.   

5. Bellfield Brewery Mural

You may remember that the SBAA held its AGM at Bellfield Brewery last year. Since then, a lot has happened with the outbreak of the pandemic, which has affected everyone.   Bellfield brew gluten free beer and recently launched a brand refresh with new look packaging and merchandise and appeared on TV last month with the catchphrase ‘For the Free’.  In addition to this, they unveiled a mural depicting the history of brewing in the Abbeyhill area.  The mural was painted by the Colony of Artists, who live nearby.  

The mural shows a map of the area as it was in 1908 and shows the location of a number of breweries, maltings and a cooperage.  The SBAA assisted by providing the artists with a number of brewery-related images, including beer labels representing the breweries.  To mark the occasion, the SBAA gave a conducted walking tour of the area to the brewery staff and explained the history of brewing in that area, which included where the monks of Holyrood Abbey started to brew beer in the 12th century.

The Colony of Artists with Giselle Dye from Bellfield Brewery in the middle and Bill Majur on the right hand-side led the design work of the mural. 

6. Sir Geoff Palmer Scholarship Award for Brewing 

 The Michael Jackson Foundation is a US based grant-making organization that funds scholarship awards to Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour within the brewing and distilling trades. The program is open to candidates at the beginning of their careers, as well as those looking to continue their education. The MJF awards present an opportunity for members and patrons of the brewing and distilling industries to directly fund a more just, equitable, and dynamic future.  Delighted to report that SBA founder member Geoff Palmer has been honoured by having the MJF Scholarship Award named after him.

Sir Godfrey “Geoff” Henry Oliver Palmer OBE, Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University.


Extract from the Website

Sir Godfrey Henry Oliver Palmer, OBE was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1940. He is a Professor Emeritus of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, the UK’s most prestigious school for brewing and distilling. In 1989, he shattered a long-standing glass ceiling by becoming the first Black professor in Scotland. The American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) honoured him in 1998 with the Award of Distinction, widely considered the “Nobel Prize of Brewing”. Sir Geoff Palmer has also been a prolific author and persistent advocate for civil rights in the UK, with his activism spanning decades.

The Sir Geoff Palmer Scholarship Award for Brewing will fund the tuition and course materials for well-recognized practical courses in brewing science and technology. These include the courses offered by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA), American Brewers Guild, UC Davis, The Siebel Institute of Technology and others.

The MJF is pleased and honoured to have Sir Geoff working directly with us on the design and direction of this important new scholarship

7. Ian Donnachie – Obituary

In June this year, Ian Donnachie, Emeritus Professor of Histort with the Open University sadly died.  Ian was well known as an academic and respected as a fine scholar, tecaher and author. 

During his career with the Open University he achieved a great deal, however he is best remembered for his tireless work for many years working with the Friends of New Lanark – a group whose goal was to save and restore the historic site of the 18th century mill village, situated on the banks of the River Clyde. 

New Lanark became a model for industrial communities that was to spread across the world in the 19th & 20th centuries and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001.

Ian researched the heritage of Scottish brewing, another of his passions and wrote A History of the Brewing Industry in Scotland in 1979. A book often used by many when researching aspects of brewing history in Scotland. 

When the Scottish Brewing Archive (SBA) was formed in 1981, Ian was invited to be a committee member and remained involved for 20 years. During this period, Ian was the SBA Vice Chairman between the years 1992-98 and was also acting Chairman on a number of occasions.

Being well respected, Ian was asked to give a talk in 2004, to the Scottish section of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling, in its centenary year and gave a brief overview of the brewing industry in Scotland. Ian also wrote several articles that appeared in the SBA Newsletters during his involvement with the SBA.

In the very first SBA Newsletter, Ian Donnachie wrote when referring to the recently formed brewing archive collection, “There is no point in collecting together historical records, books or periodicals, if they are not to be used.” 

The SBA are indebted to Ian for his contributions and guidance over the years he was a committee member and we wish to pass on our condolences to his family.      

7. Last Runnings

Many thanks to the members who positively commented on the last newsletter , it’s good to know you’re out there !  We are always delighted if you can share any stories or photos,  send them in. 

As mentioned in the Chairman’s Statement, the NEW SBAA website should be ready before the end of the year. A few of the committee members have been given a preview and they were all impressed and agreed that it was a significant step forward for the association. We’re sure members will enjoy it, particularly the easy access to previous journals on line.

The presentation given to the IBD on line by John Martin was supported by a 47 page Powerpoint presentation that was loaded with great illustrations and photographs to support the text and cause. I’m sure we could make it available to any member who may wish to use presentation to promote their interest in Scottish Brewing history to others. 

Like so many businesses in the brewing and hospitality industry hit by the Coronavirus. “The Tennent’s Story” visitor centre , which was anticipating over 60000 visitor this year , closed in March and is unlikely to open until 2021. However, a Tennent’s Archive Trust Group (TATG) consisting of former employees and a representative from the Glasgow University Archive under the Chairmanship of a Senior Tennent’s Manager has formed to ensure continuity and the preservation of the company’s rich brewing heritage. 

We would like to welcome new members. Dr. David Griggs, Jodie Harvey and Colin Johnston all from Crisp Maltings. We also have Rodney Zinyemba who is studying at Heriot Watt and is a long way from his home in Modesto California.  Hopefully we can all meet up in 2021.

Last but not least your ANNUAL SBAA FEEs are due before the end of October.

The annual membership remains at £20 for individual members, £25 for overseas members, £30 for joint and £75 for Corporate and you can renew in a variety of different ways, as follows, 

  • Cheque (payable to the SBAA) and sent to the Treasurer – Helen Carmichael
  • PayPal in our website,
  • Arrange a Standing Order with your bank
  • Pay by electronic bank transfer and give your surname as the reference

SBAA Bank A/C details

Account: 06003242

Sort Code: 80-05-28

Treasurer contact details

10 Wood Place


G63 9HZ


* Thanks to family of the late Jimmy Simpson for the “Name the Brewery” photo. Jimmy worked in the Brewing Industry most of his life and was a keen amateur photographer. The intention is to ensure his large collection of brewery photos are preserved within the archive at Glasgow University.   We hope to share more in the future. 

Correspondence to the SBAA Secretary  

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