Friday 5 July 2019

Scotch Ale in the late 19th century

A recent commentator was pleased to have post that tied in whith my talk on Scottish beerts at the NHC last week in Providence.

So here's some more.

Strong/Scotch Ale
Scotland – and Edinburgh in particular – was well known for its Strong Ales, or Scotch Ales as they were called in England. These formed a large part of Scottish exports, particularly to the West Indies.

Earlier in the century Strong Ales had been the upper echelons of Shilling Ales. Beers like 100/-, 120/- 140/- and even 160/-. These were higher-gravity versions of the weaker Shilling Ales, which generally filled the slot occupied by X Ale and XX Ale in England. Though these stronger versions were much more heavily hopped, sometimes containing over five pounds per 36-gallon barrel.

Around 1860 William Younger had introduced another range of Strong Ales, referred to by a number rather than shillings. The strongest being No. 1 and the weakest No. 4. The naming convention was possibly adopted in imitation of Burton practice. Brewers there such as Bass and Evershed used the system. The latter is particularly significant as at least one member of the Younger family had an apprenticeship there.

No. 1 and No.3 were longer-lived than the strong Shilling Ales that preceded them. No. 1 survived until well after WW II and No. 3 is still around today, albeit with a couple of interrupts in production.

You can see in the table that gravities began to be eroded after 1900, especially for No. 2 and No. 3. This process continued – and was even more dramatic – later in the 20th century.

William Younger numbered Strong Ales 1885 - 1914
Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
1885 1 1103 1035 9.00 66.02% 12.44 6.26
1885 2 1091 1024 8.86 73.63% 9.76 4.80
1885 3 pale 1076 1025 6.75 67.11% 10.33 3.56
1898 1 1104 1030 9.79 71.15% 16.90 8.35
1898 3 1074 1019 7.28 74.32% 8.81 2.97
1913 1 1097 1037 7.94 61.86% 10.28 7.40
1914 2 Sc 1076 1025 6.75 67.11% 9.35 2.86
1913 3 1065 1021.5 5.75 66.92% 4.55 1.15
1913 3a 1072 1025 6.22 65.28% 5.48 1.22
William Younger brewing records held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document numbers WY/6/1/2/31, WY/6/1/2/45 and WY/6/1/2/58.

The above is an extract from my book on Scottish beer: 


qq said...

Ron, do you know anything about the history of McEwan's No 1? Cos that's still going, albeit according to Ratebeer it was renamed No 1 Champion Ale in 1997 after winning a Tesco competition and then became simply Champion in 2004.

UK version is 7.3% and is widely available in supermarkets, it's exported in a 8% version as McEwan's Scotch Ale. I know Martyn has written of how he regards it as an extant Burton Ale.

Ron Pattinson said...


I don't think McEwan's records exist. I'll take a punt and guess that it was a version of Younger's No. 1 originally. So a Scotch Ale. Though the Younger's numbered Ales do seem to have been in initation of Burton Strong Ales.