Jan 292018
A view of Waverley Station from above, looking fowards Princes Street

Waverly Station

Edinburgh EH1 1BB

When the great French biologist Louis Pasteur visited Edinburgh in 1884 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the city’s University he arrived, as many visitors do today, at Waverley station. You can get a magnificent view of the station from this spot on west side of North Bridge. The brewing industry had benefited greatly from Pasteur’s research and discoveries on fermentation, and Henry Younger, the great-grandson of the founder of the Younger brewing dynasty, not only invited Pasteur to stay at his house, but also arranged for a special carriage for him to be attached to the London to Edinburgh train which pulled into Waverley Station. Pasteur was horrified by the public health situation in Edinburgh, and Alexander Low Bruce, a senior manager at Younger’s, decided that a new chair of public health should be created at the University of Edinburgh as a direct result of his conversations with Pasteur. Bruce himself made a bequest of £5000 for this purpose. This chair was jointly endowed, in a move that might seem somewhat ironic today, by the proprietors of William Younger’s brewery and Usher’s distillery. A total sum of £15,000 was donated by the family of  Bruce, Younger’s brewery and Sir John Usher. The Bruce and John Usher chair of Public Health was established in 1898 and still exists at the University of Edinburgh today.

Black and white portrait of Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur (1822-95)

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Jan 292018
The exterior of Calton Hill Brewery

Calton Hill Brewery

63 Calton Road, Edinburgh EH8 8FJ

This brewery, owned by John Muir, was the first in Britain to brew lager in 1835. Muir had enjoyed lager while on a visit to Germany and decided to try brewing it himself on his return to Scotland. This style of beer requires a different type of yeast from traditional Scottish beer, and he had this sent to him in Edinburgh by a German friend. The difference between lager and the traditional dark Scottish beer, combined with the challenges presented by the need to store the lager at a cool, even temperature in the days before refrigeration, meant that it did not become widely established at this time. However, lager brewing was revived towards the end of the nineteenth century, by which time the technology had moved on. The original brewery buildings are now flats.

Label for Muir & Son's Sparkling Edinburgh Ale.

Label for Muir & Son’s Sparkling Edinburgh Ale.

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Jan 292018

Nether Craigwell, Calton Road, Edinburgh EH8 8DR

One of many breweries in the area, Craigwell Brewery was founded in 1822 by John Blair. The original buildings do not survive, although some later nineteenth-century brewery buildings have now been converted into flats. These were built by Charles Blair, the son of John, who took over the firm in 1873.  John Blair’s son Charles built a maltings, where barley for use in the brewing process could be converted into malted barley. This building can still be seen standing opposite the brewery itself. Many breweries bought in the malt from an outside supplier rather than producing it themselves. The hoists which were used to pull the malted barley and other raw materials up to the brew house can still be seen. In 1898 Blair merged with the brewery of James Gordon in Glasgow to form Gordon and Blair. The brewery ceased production for a time the early 1900s when the well used to supply water for the brewing process became contaminated. However, a new well was dug and the brewery continued production until 1953.

Craigwell Brewery gates

The main gate of Craigwell Brewery.

Craigwell Brewery maltings

Maltings opposite main Ctraigwell Brewery buildings.

Label from Scotch Ale, brewed by Gordon & Blair.

Label from Scotch Ale, brewed by Gordon & Blair.

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Jan 292018
Exterior of Harry Younger Hall

Harry Younger Hall

3 Lochend Close Edinburgh EH8 8BL

The Harry Younger Hall  belongs to the Canongate Kirk next door. It was originally built as a gymnasium for the young boys who lived in the area. During the Edinburgh International Festival it transforms into ‘Venue 13’. It was designed by the renowned architect Sir Basil Spence and its construction was completed in 1969. Spence was also responsible for Edinburgh University’s library, Coventry’s twentieth-century cathedral and parts of the New Zealand parliament. The hall is named in memory Harry Younger, of the notable Edinburgh brewing family, who served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Lothian and Borders Yeomanry during the Second World War and was killed in action at St Valery in 1940. His family and its brewing enterprise had been associated with the neighbourhood for generations. There are two remembrance plaques in the mearby Cannongate Kirk for the employees of William Younger brewery who fell in the Firet World War.

Black and white portrait of Sir Basil Spence

Sir Basil Spence (1907-76)

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Jan 292018
Exterior of the Summer House inside the gates of Morray House

Summer House inside the gates of Morray House

Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8BA

If you look through the gates of Moray House on the north side of Holyrood Road from this spot you can see the summer house where a historic event took place in 1707. In that year the threat of a riotous mob, enraged by the decision of the Scottish Parliament to sign the Treaty of Union with England, prevented the representatives of the two countries from signing the Treaty in the Scottish Parliament. For their own safety they retreated to this summer house in a private garden off Hollyrood Road, where they could sign away Scotland’s independence in peace. However, it proved one step too far for the Scottish representatives that Article 13 of the treaty imposed a malt tax on Scotland which had originally been established in England to pay for war with France. This tax on the brewing industry was too much for the Scottish parliamentarians and it was finally agreed that Scotland would be exempted from it. However, after the Union the tax was eventually imposed on Scotland anyway in 1725, leading to riots in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, where nine people died.

Summer house from the street.

View of Moray House summer house from across Holyrood Road.

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Jan 292018
Exterior of Summerhall


Summerhall Place, Edinburgh EH9 1PL

The first beer was brewed at Summerhall in 1704. It was one of the earliest commercial breweries in Edinburgh and predates the draining of the South Loch, which occupied the site of the present Meadows park. The brewery was founded by Robert McClellan, the gardener who looked after the garden that was then on the site. A well and stone wall boundary wall are all that remain of the original brewery today. From 1916 to 2011 the building on this site was the Royal School of Veterinary Studies. Summerhall is now a vibrant cultural centre, but its connection with brewing continues through Barney’s micro-brewery, which can be found towards the rear of the site. This was established by Andrew Barnett in Falkirk in 2010 before moving to this site in 2012.

Boundary wall in the courtyard of Summerhall that is all that remains of the old brewery buidlings

Boundary wall in the courtyard of Summerhall that is all that remains of the old brewery buidlings.

Label for Barney's Good Ordinary Pale Ale, brewed at Summerhall.

Label for Barney’s Good Ordinary Pale Ale, brewed at Summerhall.

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Jan 292018
A view of Canongate


Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN

The Canongate originally linked the Old Town of Edinburgh to Holyrood Abbey, established in 1128 by king David I, who reigned from 1124 to 1153. It takes its name from the Augustinian canons who lived in the Abbey. The word ‘gate’, originally spelt ‘gait’, is not derived from the English word but comes instead from the Norse word for ‘street’, so Canongate can be translated ‘Walk of the Monks’. The monks were the first known brewers of beer for sale in Edinburgh. In the sixteenth century beer was generally been made by women at home for the needs of the household. In 1520 228 homes in Edinburgh brewed beer, representing one brewery for every 40 inhabitants. The monks, by contrast, produced more beer than they could drink themselves, so on market days they used to bring it up the Canongate to the city’s market to trade with the people of the town. Canongate retained its connection with brewing in later centuries and at one time 20 breweries were to be found on this street or nearby. The popularity of this neighbourhood for brewing was a consequence of the good underground water supply in the area known to the brewers as the ‘Charmed Circle’.

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Jan 292018

112 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BW

This brewery was bought over by William Younger in 1858, who turned it into what was at one time the largest brewery in Edinburgh, with the capacity to produce 60 brews a week, generating 600 barrels of beer a week, or 432 million pints of beer every year. In the twentieth century malt was brought in in huge quantities by lorry and off-loaded near Coopers Close. The brewery finally closed in 1986. You can see more of the old brewery buildings by walking down Crichton’s Close.  William Younger’s also owned the Abbey Brewery on the site of what is now the Scottish Parliament. It was named after Holyrood Abbey where monks first brewed beer in in the twelfth century. Abbey Brewery was demolished in the late 1990s to make way for the new parliament building which opened in 2004.  Before its demolition it had been the head office of Scottish and Newcastle breweries, which grew to become the largest brewing company in the UK.

View of old brewery buildings in Crichton's Close.

View of old brewery buildings looking up Crichton’s Close.

View of old brewery buildings looking down Crichton's Close.

View of old brewery buildings looking down Crichton’s Close.

Old brewery buildings in Cooper's Close.

Old brewery buildings in Cooper’s Close.

Label for William Youngers Export Pale Ale, with an illustration of a man with a long beard on a yellow background.

Label for William Youngers Export Pale Ale.

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Jan 292018
Exterior of the University of Edinburgh's sports facility at Pleasance, which once housed Bell's Brewery

Bell’s Brewery

48 Pleasance, Edinburgh EH8 9TJ

The building that now houses the University of Edinburgh’s sports facilities was once Bell’s Brewery. This brewery united with three others in the 1920s to create Edinburgh United Breweries, but this new conglomerate rapidly ran into financial difficulties. As a result, one of the directors and the head brewer decided that the only way for the brewery to survive was to avoid paying the full amount of duty on the beer they produced. From 1926 until the fraud was discovered in 1933 it was the practice at the brewery to keep two sets of books for the brewery’s business records. Only one of these books, representing only a part of the production of the brewery, was shown to the inspectors from Customs and Excise. A sacked employee finally told Customs and Excise what was going on, leading to the exposure of the scheme. The brewery could not afford to pay what they owed leading to the business going under. A book based on this case by John Pink was used for many years in the training of new officers.

Orange, black, and white label for 90 Shillling Pale Ale, brewed by Edinburgh United Breweries.

90 Shilling Pale Ale, brewed by Edinburgh United Breweries.

Jan 292018
Exterior of the extension of the National Museum of Scotland, once the site of Society of Brewers

Original location of the Society of Brewers

Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

In 1596 the Society of Brewers, or, to give it its full name, the Fellowship and Society of Ale and Beer Brewers of the City of Edinburgh, was established on the site where the modern extension to the National Museum of Scotland new stands. Their brewing operation here was supplied with water pumped from the South Loch, later called the Boroughloch, which was later drained to create the Meadows.  A number of other breweries were established here in later centuries. Archibald Campbell started brewing near here in Campbell’s Close in 1710 before moving a short distance to the site of the Argyle Brewery, the buildings of which still survive between Chambers Street and the Cowgate. In the eighteenth century it specialised in brewing porter, much of which was transported by cart to be sold in Glasgow. There were three other brewers in this area at different times in the nineteenth century: Aikman, J. & T. Usher and William J. Raeburn.