Tuesday, 10 January 2012

William Younger, sugar and purity

I'm in a bit of a holding pattern today. I just stopped myself in time. From rashly posting something. But more of that later.

It's William Younger trotting out the scientists to prove their beer wasn't going to poison you. This one is in response to the next great beer poisoning scare: arsenic in 1900. Except, unlike the strychnine scare, this one was real. And killed many.


The following Circular Letter and Certificate of Analysis, certifying the purity of our Ales, have been issued to our customers.
J. W. SHENNAN, Secretary.

COPY CIRCULAR LETTER. Abbey and Holyrood Breweries, Edinburgh, 6th December, 1900.

Dear Sir.

No sugar of any kind being used by us in brewing, we unhesitatingly guarantee our beers free from impurities or any sort, and refer you to the enclosed copy of Certificate of Analysis.

We are. Dear Sir,

Yours truly,
W. J. YOUNGER, Director.

Analytical Laboratory,
Surgeons' Hall, Edinburgh. 5th December. 1900.

I have carefully analysed samples of Messrs William Younger and Co.'s (Limited) Ales and Stout, taken from various brewings selected by me from their Stores at Abbey and Holyrood Breweries, Edinburgh, and find such to be perfectly free from Arsenic or any Metallic impurity.

From a further investigation, I am satisfied that these Ales and Stout are brewed from the best class of materials, and are pure, sound, and wholesome.
F.E.S.E., F.T.C., F.C.S., &c.
Analytical and Consulting Chemist;
Professor of Chemistry and Toxicology.
New Veterinary College, Edinburgh."
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 8 January 1901, page 1.

Personally, I'd have had more faith in the recommendation of someone from a human medical establishment rather than a veterinarial one.

Why the mention of sugar? Because the arsenic got into beer through brewing sugar which had been inverted with non food-grade sulphuric acid. No need to worry about Younger's beers though, because they contained no sugar. At least that's what they've sworn. But was it true?

Frustratingly, I don't have Younger's brewing records for 1900. But I do have some for 1899. And guess what? Not only were they using sugar, they were using 5 different types: DM Invert, Glucose, Caramel, Corpulose and another I can't decipher. And they used it in loads of their beers. Not all, but a lot: XXX, XX, No. 1, No. 3, 60/-, 100/-, 120/-, DBS, S1, SS1.

The next records I have are from 1913. It's the same story there: loads of sugar. So did William Younger stop using sugar in 1900 then start again sometime before 1913? Or did they always use sugar and just improved the truth for publication? My money's on the latter.


Barm said...

What kind of crazy label is that? 22cl is a weird size for a bottle. And metric. What market was this for? Belgium? Somewhere else?

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, not sure. I see it says "deposit xx" at the bottom, but I can't quite make out the numbers. I had wondered if it was for the Belgian market, but why would everything be in English?

Gary Gillman said...

My guess would be the Belgian market, with the bottle being a kind of nip albeit slightly larger than the English nip which was one-third an Imperial pint. 22 cl is 7.74 fluid ounces U.K. An Xmas ale would seem suitable for nip treatment.

I think at one time, it was accepted and probably chic for Scottish and English beer labels to appear on the Continent in English.
If I am not mistaken, the Campbell's and similar Scotch Ale labels shown in Michael Jackson's World Guide To Beer from 1977 are in English.