Raise Your Glass: Scotland's Brewing Heritage

Guest blogger John Martin, Chair of the Scottish Brewing Archive Association, introduces us to the history of brewing in Scotland.

Submitted by on 27-04-2016 15:57:25

Scotland's Brewing Heritage

The untold story of Scotland’s brewing heritage is currently being portrayed in an exhibition – Raise Your Glass in the Museum of Edinburgh on the Canongate, once the heartland of brewing in Edinburgh during the 19th & 20th century.

The museum houses a collection that relates to Edinburgh’s origins, its history and its legends. As part of Edinburgh’s history, it is therefore fitting that an exhibition on brewing is featured, and in particular the Canongate and surrounding area.

Brewing in Edinburgh started in the 12th century when the monks of Holyrood Abbey sank a well and used the underground water supply to brew beer. This was the start of brewing beer in Edinburgh and much later became an important industry to Scotland and its economy.

On either side of the Museum of Edinburgh in close proximity were two breweries, Holyrood Brewery owned by William Younger & Co well known for its advertisement, “Get Younger every day” and the Commercial Brewery owned by J&J Morison & Co.

A black and white photograph of barrels being loaded onto a horse-drawn carriage.Image reproduced with permission from the Scottish Brewing Archive

Many of the brewery buildings still stand today, although now being used for other purposes. A number of other breweries also operated in the Calton Road and Holyrood Road, previously the North Back and South Back of the Canongate.

 Many of the breweries that operated in this area have an interesting history, with some fascinating stories to tell, all playing a part in the social history of the Royal Mile and nearby.

Talks, walks and an exhibition

A programme of talks and walks has been introduced to support the exhibition, celebrating Scotland’s brewing heritage and to remind people that the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh is in an area once renowned for something else – beer.

 Memories of that time are revived in a part of Scotland’s capital where breweries once thrived. 

John Martin, chairman of the Scottish Brewing Archive Association and a director of Brewing Heritage Scotland, is the point of contact for people wanting to visit the former brewing area of the Canongate and attend talks and walks supporting the Museum of Edinburgh. Events need to be pre-booked, but the exhibition is open without prior booking during normal Museum of Edinburgh hours.

 

“Edinburgh was once a major centre for beer production with dozens of breweries. The city’s international reputation is continued to this day by some brewers and by Heriot-Watt University, a key centre for the training of brewers and distillers and for research in brewing and distilling,” he said.

An old black and white photograph of a building with horse-drawn carts in front of it.Image reproduced with permission from the Scottish Brewing Archive

People wanting to attend one of the walks or talks should contact:
John Martin
Phone: 0131 441 7718
Email: martin.j7@sky.com

Talks are at the Museum of Edinburgh on the following dates:
Wednesday 18th May at 2pm
Thursday 16th June at 2pm

The Breweries of the Canongate tours start from outside John Knox’s house at 6pm on

Friday 13th May
Thursday 16th June

 
The Raise Your Glass! exhibition is open to the public free of charge during normal Museum of Edinburgh hours until Saturday 25 June.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Culture and Sport Convener of the City of Edinburgh Council said:

“Brewing is one of the Capital’s oldest industries and it’s incredible to think the trade hasn’t been celebrated with its own exhibition in Edinburgh before. ‘Raise Your Glass’ will take visitors back to the days of Auld Reekie, when Edinburgh had no less than 35 breweries churning out a haze of smoke at the industry’s peak in the 20th century. With a display of original brewing artefacts and advertisements and a series of talks and tours, it will document the brewing giants of the trade’s past and how the future of the industry now lies in the hand’s of Edinburgh’s micro-breweries.”  

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