Monday 19 June 2017

Majority Ale

One of the documents I was most interested in laying my hands on at thr Scottish Brewing Archive was something called "Majority Ale notebook".

Brewing a beer on the birth of an heir was a long tradition amongst domestic brewers. The beer would be carefully stored away and only broached when the child reached majority at age 21.

I thought that the practice had died out along with domestic brewing at the end of the 19th century. But William Younger continued to brew Majority Ales for members of the family not just in the 19th century, but right up until 1960.

Much like domestic brewers, William Younger brewed a very high gravity beer – between 1120º and 1150º - which they racked into casks and then stored away carefully. When the lucky child’s 21st birthday rolled around, some of the beer was bottled. The remainder was either racked into a smaller cask or used to fill up another cask of the same brew.

They kept a really close eye on each cask, a notebook keeping track of each one: when it was brewed, when beer was drawn off and bottled. Looking at this document, it becomes clear that they didn’t keep each brew totally separate. Sometimes they would fill up a cask with beer from an older brew. This way, I suppose, they could guarantee that the beer would be at least 21 years old when consumed.

They hung onto bottles for many, many decades. A stock list from 1967 includes Majority Ales brewed in 1866, 1895, 1897 and 1898. In all, they still had bottles of sixteen vintages of Majority Ale.

I wonder what happened to all those bottles?


Anonymous said...

I was just reading about these the other day. Glad you have more pieces of the puzzle.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

I had a taste of a Youngers Majority Ale (can’t remember from when) when I stayed with Guild member and brewer James McCrorie a couple of years ago, my note says ‘liquid creosote’, so it must have been quite old.

Brando said...

How fortunate you are! The oldest I've had was a 40+ year old Billy Beer. Not quite the same experience...