Shilling Ales, the Scottish equivalent of Mild Ales were still brewed in large quantities. Often to stupidly high gravities.
They were able to boost their output far above what the Scottish market could ever have supported. But not all brewers profited. Only those in the right location: readily available raw materials, good quality water, access to railways or the sea. The industry was increasingly concentrated in a small number of towns in the Central Belt, most notably Edinburgh and Alloa.
At the start of this period, Scotland still boasted an impressive number of breweries, over 500 in total. Though this looks tiny compared to those in England:
|Brewers & beer retailers in 1838|
|Brewers of strong beer not exceeding 20 barrels||8,996||62||29|
|Brewers of strong beer exceeding 20 but not exceeding 50 barrels||8,520||24||1|
|Brewers of strong beer exceeding 50 but not exceeding 100 barrels||10,445||28||11|
|Brewers of strong beer exceeding 100 but not exceeding 1000 barrels||18,306||211||55|
|Brewers of strong beer exceeding 1000 barrels||1,597||114||145|
|Brewers of table beer||14||90|
|Retail brewers under 5 Geo. IV. C. 54||18||20|
|"A Cyclopaedia of Commerce, Mercantile Law, Finance, Commercial Geography and Navigation", by William Waterston, 1863, page 79|
Even the largest Edinburgh brewers, William Younger and William McEwan, couldn’t compare in scale to the giants of British brewing such as Barclay Perkins, Guinness or Bass. In the early 1840’s just 195,000 barrels were brewed in Edinburgh .
To put that figure into context, total UK beer production was between 14 and 16.5 million barrels a year in the 1840’s. While the four largest London breweries made more than 1 million barrels a year in the same period .
By 1880, publican brewers, never as widespread in Scotland as in England, almost totally disappeared. In 1888, there were just 36 remaining . Brewing was dominated by a few dozen brewers, mostly within spitting distance of each other. "The London and Suburban Licensed Victuallers' Directory" of 1874 lists 130 Scottish breweries . This is a breakdown by region:
|Scottish breweries by region in 1874|
The industry was becoming very concentrated in the central lowlands and Edinburgh, with 26 breweries, was by far the biggest brewing centre . Tiny Alloa boasted six breweries, not that many fewer than the ten of far larger Glasgow. Aberdeenshire, with 14, was the only other region with a decent number of breweries.
The above is an extract from the best book ever written on Scottish brewing, my Scotland! vol. 2: