Sunday, 1 January 2012

A visit to William Younger in 1872

How to start the new year? I know: more about Scotland.

Just to vary things up a bit, let's leave Falkirk and head to Scotland's capital. For another visit to William Younger's breweries. I'll warn you that it's another of those pieces without paragraphs. Best I divide it up for you.

"A VISIT TO MESSRS WILLIAM YOUNGER AND CO.'S BREWERIES IN EDINBURGH. Within a hundred yards of the front of the ancient and Royal Palace of Holyrood, at the entrance to the Queen's Park in Edinburgh, are situated the premises of one if not the oldest and most extensive brewery firm in Scotland— Messrs William Younger & Co's. Starting in the year 1749, but on a limited scale of operation, the firm have, by their indomitable energy and business tact, and relying especially on the superior quality of beer they sent into the market, gradually extended their connection, till now their name is favourably known throughout the civilised world. Their present premises, taken altogether, cover an area of fully ten acres. These consist of the Abbey, or principal brewery, at the foot of Canongate ; the newer brewery of Holyrood, the export stores, a splendid building, nearly opposite, and occupying a site on the margin of the Queen's Park; and, lastly, the extensive maltings, in a northern district of the city, called Canonmills."
That 1749 date as the foundation of the brewery has clearly been around a long time. Despite it being, er, dubious. Untrue, that's the word. But don't let that distract us. William Younger was already an extensive enterprise, with two breweries, an export store and a maltings. (As you'll recall, most Scottish breweries made at least some of their own malt.)

"The Abbey Brewery, in which more than half the beer manufactured by the firm is produced, is that nearest to Holyrood ; and the site possesses natural advantages of a most important and valuable character. Not the least important of these consists in the fact that it enables the firm to obtain from wells sunk by themselves, underneath their own premises, an abundant supply of beautifully clear water, containing properties which have afforded practically convincing proof of being excellently adapted for brewing purposes. These buildings are of three storeys. The portions in which the malt is prepared are situated in the wings of the block, but are here of comparatively limited extent, the principal maltings, which are made to supplement the supply of material both to tbe Abbey and the Holyrood breweries, being situate at Canonmills."
Yet another frustrating description of Edinburgh brewing water. Exactly what was its composition? Presumably quite hard, given it proved perfect for brewing Pale Ale.

"As we entered the building at the Abbey Brewery, the making of a browst of bitter or India pale ale had just commenced. To give the various processes, although extremely interesting, would occupy too much space, but those who wish to see brewing carried on under the must approved methods, cannot do better than visit one of the breweries of William Younger and Co. "
That's useful. Brewing IPA is fascinating, but we haven't space to describe it. Well thank you very much. Though there is further confirmation that  Pale Ale and Bitter were the same thing.

"Next in importance to the Abbey Brewery, we notice the second branch of Messrs William Younger and Co.'s working premises in Edinburgh, namely, the Holyrood Brewery. There are several buildings, the scene of different industrial pursuits, intervening between this branch and the head-quarters of the firm's establishment ; so that the Abbey and the Holyrood as breweries, are quite separate and distinct. In the latter, the brewing operations are carried on for only ten months in the year. In its internal arrangements generally the Holyrood necessarily bears considerable resemblance to the parent establishment of the Abbey."
Want to see how the layout of the buildings looked? Well here's a map from 1876:

The Abbey brewery is in the top right hand corner. The Holyrood brewery is at the bottom left. Marked "Holyrood Brewery".  The Export stores are in the bottom right.

As the text says, there are several other industrial buildings between the two breweries - a brass foundry, a glassworks. Whenever I see maps of Edinburgh breweries, their sites always look cramped and restricted. Not perfect for a large industrial enterprise.

Did the Holyrood brewery only brew for 10 months a year? Not sure. I can't say That I'd noticed a break in the brewing records. I need to root through my photos. That's certainly not how London breweries operated. They were full speed ahead 12 months of the year.

"These extensive export stores, built by Messrs Younger and Co., in 1867, at an expense of full £13,000, for the purpose of facilitating the preparation and packing of their beers for export, form an interesting and imposing feature, even in an architectural point of view, in the surroundings of Holyrood Palace. The stores occupy a site of fully two acres in extent on the once famous orchard of Holyrood ; and a stranger is at once struck with the conviction that in its design and construction a most commendable regard was had to preserving harmony of character with the surrounding buildings of historical interest. Facing the visitor as he enters the extensive courtyard, and occupying the extreme south side of the square, is the main building or export store ; on the west side of the square being the cooperage, at which fifty men and boys for this department of the establishment alone, are always in full employment."
Building on the royal rochard. Not sure they'd get away with that now. Then again, the bastards built that stupid Scottish parliament building on the site of the Abbey Brewery. And when they designed that they clearly didn't give a toss about preserving any harmony of character. The bastards.

"On leaving the export stores, the visitor naturally takes a peep into the cooperage, where he will find about fifty journeymen and apprentices busy at work. This department is limited, however, compared with the extent of the business; for the firm confine their operations here to making the casks for the export of the bottled beer and for repairing casks in use for the home consumption."
I wonder where they made their other casks?

"The great maltings and storehouses in which the bulk of the malt is prepared for the Abbey and Holyrood- breweries are situated at the opposite or northern district of the city, Canonmills. The maltings and cooperages of Messrs William Younger and Co., occupy an area of nearly three acres. It is here, perhaps, after all, that the best idea can be formed of the extent of the business carried on by the firm — from the enormous quantities of malt on the numerous floors of the spacious buildings, where may be seen, carried on in perfection, the various processes of wetting, germinating, and drying the malt in kilns. The buildings are remarkable for their strength and solidity, their cleanness and convenience of situations relatively to each other. By a new wing that has of late years been added to the premises here, the malting accommodation has been increased by about 20,000 additional quarters. The extensive cooperage at Canonmills we found also in full operation, its steam saws, planes, &c, being driven by a 25-horse power engine attached to the establishment. In the manufacture of the barrels, the process of steaming the staves after they are set up, and before putting them over the fire, is here carried out to perfection. The oak here used is Dantzic oak. — Birmingham Daily Gazette. "
Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough - Tuesday 3 September 1872, page 3.

Ah right, got it now. The main cooperage was at Canonmills with the maltings. Finally some numbers. 20,000 quarters extra capacity. That tells me something. That's enough to brew about 80,000 barrels of beer. And That's just the additional capacity. Younger must have been brewing well in excess of 100,000 barrels a year.

Dantzic oak is I guess the same as Memel oak. That is, from the Baltic. That remained British brewers favourite well into the 20th century, even though World Wars blocked their access to it.

Not the most informative brewery description ever. But I still feel we've learned something.

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