Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Scottish free trade again

Here's two for the price of one: James Calder and a tie agreement. What fun.

"AN ALLOA BREWER AND HIS CUSTOMER. In the Court or Session yesterday, Lord Trayner was to have heard evidence in an action at the instance of James Calder, brewer, Alloa, against William Aitken, spirit merchant, Junction Street, Leith, but the case was settled extra-judicially. Pursuer sued for £1000, alleged to have been incurred as penalty under a lease of the premises occupied by defender. Pursuer let the premises in 1880 to Daniel Bernard on condition that Bernard should take all the ale, beer, and stout which he should sell from James Calder & Company, brewers, Alloa, or any other brewery in which pursuer might be interested, or that he should pay pursuer £1 per barrel for all other liquors used. Aitken now occupies the premises by assignation from Bernard, with pursuer's consent. It was averred that defender had violated that condition to the extent of taking at least 1000 barrels of liquor from other brewers. Defender averred that the stipulation bad been allowed to become a dead letter, but that he had taken all his bitter ale from pursuer, although he would have saved 5 per cent by not doing so. He explains that be procured stout, sweet ale, and light beer liquors from other traders, because pursuer did not supply him with liquors of the best quality, but he stated that he had their express consent. Parties Have come to a new agreement with reference to the liquors to be taken."
Dundee Courier - Thursday 17 November 1887, page 4.

If I interpret this correctly, James Calder owned the lease of the pub. They let the pub to Daniel Bernard with a tie for beer. William Aitken then took over the pub from Bernard but started buying beer from elsewhere.

I'm pretty sure that isn't how Scottish brewers usually worked. They owned the freehold or the lease of comparatively few premises. More commonly, brewers lent money to publicans in return for them taking the brewer's beer.

That charge of  £1 per barrel for beer bought from other brewers is more considerable than it might sound. A barrel of X Ale or Porter cost £3. Even the most expensive beers rarely cost more than £6. Knowing how tight the profit margins were for pubs, that extra £1 a barrel was probably enough to make it uneconomical.

The most surprising element of this story is the complaint about the quality of Calder's beer.I thought they had a good reputation. Perhaps that was only for their Pale Ale. Because it's noteworthy that Aitken did take Calder's Pale Ale. It was just the 'stout, sweet ale, and light beer liquors" that he wasn't happy with. What do you reckon sweet ale was? Mild Ale?


Gary Gillman said...

Chamber's Encyclopedia (numerous editions) states that sweet ale in Scotland is a mild ale.

This source, in a rather detailed description of malting, and brewing at Heriot's, states that a darker variety of malt was used to make sweet ale (than for pale and light beers).

This suggests that some Scotch ale was traditionally on the dark side while still short of porter blackness.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, except for the dozens of 19th-century texts which describe Edinburgh Ale as being pale. And the fact that Younger's used the same base malt for all their beers.

By darker malt they almost certainly mean nothing darker than modern mild malt.

Gary Gillman said...

Indeed, Ron (re paleness of much Edinburgh ale), but I did say "some" Scotch ale...

On the colour of the Heriot Brewery's sweet ale, based on the discussion of malt types in the same part of the book and taking all with all, I think he meant a medium brown, but no one can say for sure of course.


Barm said...

I've seen an advertising showcard for McEwan’s Sweet Ale. No idea what it was.