Saturday, 29 January 2011

William Younger's Abbey Brewery in 1861

Remember me mentioning the other day that I thought Edinburgh water was similar to Burton's. I though you probably hadn't. But I have. Which is why I'm treating to you to this description of William Younger's Abbey Brewery in Edinburgh.

Bit of an odd source for this: a railway guide. Younger's isn't the only brewery featured in the book. There's Tennant's of Sheffield and other less well-known breweries, too.

The Abbey Brewery, The Property Of Messrs. William Younger and Co.,

is situated in the parish of Cannon-gate, and in the immediate vicinity of Holyrood Palace. The fame of Edinburgh ale, (of which this firm are by far the largest makers,) is well known. This trade has been a steadily increasing one. The superiority of their ale is partly owing to the adoption of all mechanical and other improvements, and also to the chemical properties of the water, of which, by sinking to an immense depth, they get an abundant supply. Professor Dr. George Wilson and Dr. Maclagan, having made several analyses of the water, found it free from colour, taste, and odour, and after having subjected it to the most rigid chemical tests, scarcely discovered a single trace of organic matter. Its most abundant properties are carbonate of lime and magnesia, sulphate of lime and soda, and chloride of sodium. Messrs. Y. and Co. export their Ales to almost all parts of the world, where they have established agencies, and to this branch of their trade extensive premises are entirely devoted, situated at a short distance from their Brewery. They have, besides, large maltings in other parts of the city. The Pale, or India Ale, so strongly recommended by the medical faculty, is extensively brewed here, precisely on the same principles as at Burton; and, as it is rising daily in reputation, this ale has every likelihood, also, of gaining a world-wide fame.

The business was established in 1749. The present proprietors are William and Henry Younger, and Andrew Smith, Esquires; Mr. A. Thomson is the head brewer, being assisted in his labours by his son, Mr. John Thomson.

These enormous premises are entered from the Horse-wynd. Passing through the large quadrangle, and under the bridge that connects "the maltings" and malt-bins, we ascend to the Mash-house, containing Steele's patent mashing apparatus, and two large mash-tubs, each holding 50 quarters, having above them the gigantic hopper.

"We observe the two wort coppers, one holding 116 barrels, and also the liquor copper containing 220 barrels, and ascend to the great hopstores, each containing 600 pockets of hops. We return to the Mashhouse, and proceed to the tun and fermenting rooms, each having 80 fermenting tuns, and beneath them 12 settling squares.

The visitor who is permitted to inspect these premises should not fail to glance at Reiley's cooling apparatus. Returning to the quadrangle, we ascend to the large flats called "the maltings :" this department is very spacious. We finally return to the quadrangle, to inspect the two powerful centrifugal machines, one employed in drying the hops, the other for drying yeast. We are now close to the enormous stores or cellars, above which are the Vat-rooms. The firm are owners of the adjoining premises known as the Cannon Mills, covering upwards of three acres of land; here are to be seen a convenient cooperage, large kilns, engine houses, &c. Here, too,are several saw-mills, hoop-bending and other machines. Nine large malt-houses are upon these premises. Upon the whole, we feel justified in saying that The Abbey Brewery and the Cannon Mills are, in allrespects.admirablyadapted for the large and continually increasing business of this very first-rate establishment.
"The official illustrated guide to the Great Northern Railway" by George S. Measom, 1861, pages 217 - 219.

The brewery, of course, has been demolished. Its site is now occupied by the pretentious and incoherent Scottish Parliament.

The principal minerals in Younger's water were "carbonate of lime and magnesia, sulphate of lime and soda, and chloride of sodium". That sounds very similar to the contents of Burton water. In case you've forgotten, they were Sulphate of Lime, Carbonate of Lime, Carbonate of Magnesia, Sulphate of Magnesia, Sulphate of Soda, Chloride of Sodium. Only the Sulphate of Magnesia is missing from Edinburgh water. It's a shame no quantities are given.

Interesting to learn that they were already using a Steele's masher in the early 1860's. That's the external screw type, which mixes grain and water on their way into the mash tun. It's still a standard piece of brewery kit. It was invented in 1853 (Source: "Principles & Practice of Brewing" by Walter J. Sykes & Arthur R. Ling, 1907, pages 487-488.) A 50 quarter mash tun is enough for about 200 barrels of standard-strength (1055º) beer.

I already knew that Younger's had been big brewers of IPA. It's one of the facts those brainwashed with the dogma of "Scottish brewers didn't use many hops" conveniently ignore. Doubtless the water helped them brew their Pale Ales "precisely on the same principles as at Burton". They also had union sets.

Edinburgh Ale. That's the stuff also known as Scotch Ale. It had a crazily high OG - in 1858 Younger's 140/- Ale was 1114º. Funnily enough, very similar to another type of beer from Staffordshire, Burton Ale.


marquis said...

Sulphate of magnesia has an effect on hop utilisation.Discussing Shipstone's reputation of "If it doesn't go through you in 24 hours you're a corpse" with the brewer, the reply was "If you knew how much Epsom salts goes into the water treatment you wouldn't be surprised"
Scottish brewing seems very prone to myths.Like the colder climate in Scotland forces brewing to be done at lower temperatures.According to Met Office records Edinburgh is only about one ot two degrees degree cooler than Burton on average.

Craig said...

I think this post begs a follow-up post, comparing first, Burton Ale to Edinburgh Ale from the 1860s and Secondly, Younger's IPA to, say Barclay Perkin's IPA, from the same era.

I personally like the charts with ALL the info.

Ron Pattinson said...

Craig, I'd need to get a look at Bass's brewing records to do that properly. Hopefully that shouldn't be too long.

Martyn Cornell said...

"The business was established in 1749"

One of the biggest fibs in brewing history: that's merely the date when the first William Younger, then aged 16, moved to Embra. There is, as far as I can see, no evidence at all that William I was ever involved in brewing: his wife, the wonderfully named Grizel, was certainly a brewer after William's death, running the brewery owned by her second husband, and his sons became brewers and went on to found their own businesses, from which the Abbey brewery concern was descended.

athelstanbrewery said...

I had only come across Measom's Guide to the Great Western Railway (1860). It is interesting on Simonds in Reading. A few words about the water, the equipment and the purity and excellence of Simonds beers. Comments are prefaced by the fact that Henry Simonds was a director of the Great Western Railway.

Ron Pattinson said...

athelstanbrewery, you don't have a scan of that Simonds article, do you?

Barm said...

I was on a tour of the Caledonian Brewery last year and the guide showed us where the brewery's well had been, but told us that they had stopped using it decades before and switched to town water due to pollution. I wonder if Younger's did the same?