Papers on Brewing in Scotland

Scope and Content

The papers consist of: letters and invoices about brewing, at Messrs. Roberston and Co., Brewers, of Edinburgh, 1803-1808, some correspondence from Robertson and Stein, Brewers, of London; letter about proposed tax on home brewing, 1806; and, lectures on malting taken down by W. E. Clegg, of Boroughloch Brewery, Edinburgh

Administrative / Biographical History

Brewing has been carried out in Scotland since pre-Roman times when the inhabitants of the country brewed crude ales from wild barley and rowan, spruce, broom and heather. The process was re-introduced from the Continent in the twelfth century by monks in the abbeys of Holyrood and Melrose and elsewhere. By the fifteenth century domestic brewing was widespread, seasonal, and based around the harvest cycle. The product began to form part of the staple diet and it was at this time that public brewers began to appear. By the seventeenth century there were signs of industrial brewing in Edinburgh, Ayr, Leith, and Stirling, and into the eighteenth century the most famed modern names began to appear - Archibald Campbell and William Younger in Edinburgh, Hugh and Robert Tennent in Glasgow, and George Younger in Alloa. By the early nineteenth century, any town of size had a brewery and by the middle of the century there were nearly three hundred in Scotland and the country accounted for one third of British beer and ale exports. From this peak came a trend towards rationalisation and concentration around the Scottish central belt - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Alloa. Into the twentieth century and as a result of its two world wars and decolonialisation with related loss of export markets, the brewing industry in Scotland suffered a wave of closures and takeovers. In 1960 there were only 27 brewers in Scotland and into the 1990s there were 7 - in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Alloa and Dunbar. There were also still a handful of small breweries producing a traditional cask product.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Papers acquired 1960, Accession no. E60.15. Lectures, purchased May 1972, Accession no. E72.13.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.