Meiklejohn wasn't interviewed on the subject of brewing but malting. It's a wonderful insight into the dawn of industrial brewing in Scotland. In particular, the souring of raw materials and transport. It confirms much of what I've seen in William Younger's brewing records.
See if you can spot the key points:
"Mr. James Meiklejohn, Called in; and Examined.
You are a brewer?—Yes.
Where is your brewery situated ?—In Alloa.
Have you been long engaged in trade as a brewer ?—I have been nearly twelve years, on my own account, in partnership with my father.
Are you in the habit of brewing chiefly the finer descriptions of malt-liquor ?— Yes.
Do you use in your works Malt made from English or from Scotch grain ?— We use both.
When you say you use both, do you mean that you use the best English and the best Scotch that you can procure ?—Yes.
Then, in any evidence you may give, in regard to the comparative value of English and Scotch Barleys, you mean the best of both countries you can procure?—Of course.
What proportion does the quantity of English Barley used in your works bear to the quantity of Scotch Malt used ?—I cannot state the proportion; we use more English than Scotch; it entirely depends upon the crop.:
Do you purchase Malt, or do you make your own Malt?—We make the whole of it ourselves.
Can you give the Committee any information as to the relative value of Malt made from Scotch and from English Barley, supposing both Barleys to be of the best description ?—It is difficult for me to state it particularly; I can only do so in a general way; this last season we have confined our purchases entirely to English Barley; and I consider the Barley of the last growth as superior to the average of Scotch crops, in point of quality.
What has induced you then to use only English Barley in your works?—From the superiority of its quality.
Will you state in what that superiority consists ?—In malting we are enabled to make better Malt from it; it yields a larger quantity of Malt, in proportion to the Barley, than Scotch; and in the brewing we have a much better extract from it, both in quantity and quality, but chiefly in quality.
Can you state the proportion which the saccharine matter obtained from English Barley bears to that obtained from Scotch Barley ?—I cannot state it particularly, from the circumstance of the over-measure of Malt which would be required to be taken into account in calculating the proportion of saccharine matter.
Do you consider a quantity of Malt made from English Barley as producing beer of a better flavour than Malt made from Scotch Barley ?—Unquestionably.
Have you ever remarked whether beer made from English Barley keeps better than beer made from Scotch ?—Yes, it is one of the chief properties of it.
What prices have you been paying this year for the best Scotch Barley?—I have bought none.
What price have you paid for the best English ?—I think the average from 27 s. to 28 s. per quarter, including all the charges.
At what place ?—Delivered at Alloa.
Although you have not purchased Scotch Barley yourself, at what price could you have procured the best Scotch Barley, also delivered at Alloa?—I could have bought Scotch Barley equal in weight and condition to the English at about 24 s. per quarter.
Can you state from what ports in England the English Barley you used came ?—From Lynn and Yarmouth; but what was shipped at Yarmouth, I believe, was bought at Norwich.
Can you state in what parts of Scotland the Scotch Barley to which you have alluded was grown ? —In the neighbourhood of Montrose.
Do you consider that equal in quality to Barley grown in any other part of Scotland ?—East Lothian Barley is usually the best that grows in Scotland; but I have seen no Scotch Barley of last growth better than that to which I have referred.
You have stated that English Barley malted more easily than Scotch ?— It does.
How does it malt more easily ?—From its vegetative properties.
Do you mean that it malts more equally ?—More equally."
"Report from the Select Committee on Petitions Complaining of the Additional Duty on Malt in Scotland", 1821, pages 64 - 65. part of "Selection of reports and papers of the House of Commons, Volume 15: Malting, Brewing and Distillation"Remember that this is before the advent of railways. Meiklejohn bought all of their barley from England some years. Despite the fact that it was more expensive than Scottish barley. For the simple reason that English barley was better quality, malted better, gave a better yield and produced better beer. In particular, they were buying East Anglian barley, shipped from King's Lynn or Great Yarmouth.
East Anglia, if you were unaware, has the best climate in Britain for arable crops, especially wheat and barley. Having a coastline, it could be transported easily by sea. Very important before railways. Alloa was also a port, a fact that was vital for the development of its brewing industry.
Can you see where I'm going with this? If they could transport all the barley they needed by sea, what would be the problem bringing in the much smaller quantities of hops required. Obviously none whatsoever. That "hops don't grow in Scotland . . . . " argument looks more and more full of holes.
Meiklejohn's trade with England didn't just work one way. They were one of the biggest exporters of beer to the south. As this quote from another brewer quizzed by the commission makes clear:
"Who are the principal brewers for the English market at Leith and Edinburgh?—Alexander Dudgeon; Mr. Younger does some, and Meiklejohn of Alloa."Like most Scottish brewers, Meiklejohn made all their own malt. I stumbled on a wonderful document the other day that listed the number of people in different occupations in every town and county of Great Britain. It's from 1830. Any ideas what was the commonest occupation in Alloa? Coal miner. Which fuel do you think Meiklejohn was most likely to use for kilning?
"Report from the Select Committee on Petitions Complaining of the Additional Duty on Malt in Scotland", 1821, page 28. part of "Selection of reports and papers of the House of Commons, Volume 15: Malting, Brewing and Distillation"
It's great being able to search books electronically for the occurrence of specific words. Thank you modern age. I didn't have to read the whole of the report to discover that the word peat doesn't appear a single time.