Saturday, 14 April 2012

The early years of George Younger

Bet you'd thought/hoped that I'd finished with George Younger. Not by any means. Especially after discovering I owned a copy of "A Short History of George Younger & Son Limited, Alloa, (1762 - 1925)". I searched in vain for a copy to buy online, then found a copy when I was reorganising some of my books. According to the receipt tucked inside, I bought it in 2009. How very far-sighted of me.

A word of warning. Breweries love to push back their founding date as far as possible. Preferably to before Adam's fall from grace. So take with a pinch of salt the claims in this text. Especially 1762. 1764 seems to be the earliest date for which there's real evidence of George brewing.

"An entry in the Alloa Kirk Session's Records dated 27th March, 1767, states that George Younger, born 1722, died 1788, was the founder of the firm of George Younger & Son. The earliest record is a title deed, dated 1762, in which is detailed the purchase by George Younger from one Thomas Westwood of property containing, among other things, a malt kiln and loft: property then situated on the western limits of the town of Alloa, and which is now a portion of the general offices of the Company.

In 1764 George Younger purchased the adjoining property from Robert Stein, who is described as brewer and maltster. Whether this property was actually Robert Stein's brewery is not known, but it was on these two above-mentioned properties that the Meadow Brewery was incorporated.

When George Younger first started brewing operations is also uncertain, although in the title deed detailing the purchase of this latter property from Robert Stein in 1764, he is there given the title of Brewer."
"A Short History of George Younger & Son Limited, Alloa, (1762 - 1925)", 1925, page 1.

I don't think buying a malt kiln counts as evidence of brewing. I feel much more comfortable as 1764, though the title of brewer still isn't solid proof that George was actually brewing then. The Meadow Brewery, even a century later, wasn't huge. As this map from the 1860's shows:

The business remained in family control around 150 years:

"The firm of George Younger & Son has been handed down from father to son from this date 1762, until its formation into a Limited Liability Company, with only one short interregnum, when, after the death of James Younger in 1868, the business was managed by Trustees till 1875. In point of fact, however, the eldest son, George Younger, now Viscount Younger of Leckie, came into the business at the age of 17, immediately on the death of his father, so that in effect the interregnum was merely nominal."
"A Short History of George Younger & Son Limited, Alloa, (1762 - 1925)", 1925, page 1.

Here's more about the firm's early premises:


Brewing operations were carried on in the Meadow Brewery from the foundation of the business, on the above-mentioned properties bought by George Younger, until 1832 when, presumably in view of an expansion in trade, additional and adjoining property was purchased. Property on the west side of Union Street, now the Company's garage, was purchased in 1860, and was used as a beer cellar; as was also a feu, acquired later, at the end of Bank Street, on which site the Alloa War Memorial now stands.

Brewing operations in this Brewery were finally stopped in 1877; and the site on which the Meadow Brewery stood, is now occupied by the General Offices of the Company. It may be of interest to note that the maximum number of quarters of malt which it was possible to mash in at one time was seven; a figure which of itself gives a very fair idea of the smallness of the Brewery."
"A Short History of George Younger & Son Limited, Alloa, (1762 - 1925)", 1925, pages 1 - 2.

I'm amazed that they continued to brew for as long as they did in the Meadow Brewery. 7 quarters is enough to brew 28 barrels of normal strength beer. Which leaves the annual capacity of the brewery at around 8,000 barrels.

Do you know what's ironic, considering brewing was abandoned at the site almost 150 years ago? It's the only brewery in Alloa of which anything remains. This is a view from the Coal Gate (South) side of the brewery:

Lots more about George Younger to come. I have to get my money's worth out of the book.


Mac said...

The Robert Stein mentioned would presumably have been one of the celebrated family of lowland whisky distillers who were related to the Haigs and Jamesons.

John Jameson the famous "Irish" distiller was born, married and worked in Alloa where he was Sheriff Clerk before moving to Dublin to become involved in the distilling trade with the Steins. He retired back to Alloa and died there.

Ron Pattinson said...

Mac, if that's true about John Jameson, that's dead interesting.

Alloa - did ever town ever punch more above its weight?