John Aitchison had been involved with his father William's business, Aitchison & Co, from the 1820s. When the company's brewing operations were moved from the Kerfield Brewery in Peebles to the Canongate Brewery in Edinburgh in 1828, he became a partner in John Aitchison & Co.
After William Aitchison died in 1835 control passed to John, and a second son - William Ker Aitchison - joined the partnership. John was a founding member of the Edinburgh Brewers' Association, out of which grew the powerful Brewers' Association of Scotland.
Under John's direction the company expanded into markets outside Scotland, including Newcastle, Sunderland, Southampton, Liverpool and London, and by 1851 he was employing 41 men at the Canongate Brewery. When he died in 1857 his sons William Aitchison and Thomas Stodart Aitchison succeeded to the business.
The company's trademark was a shield with 'JA' on it; they also registered the Chariot Brand.
The company won silver medals for its beers at the Paris 1867, Amsterdam 1869 and London 1873 Exhibitions. Amongst the beers it produced were Strong Edinburgh Ale, Pale Edinburgh Ale, Superior Ale, Table Ale, Pale India Ale, and Porter.
In 1895 John Aitchison & Co Ltd was established to acquire the business for £60,000 cash and £50,000 in ordinary shares.
The Canongate Brewery was built in 1828, and was in operation until 1961. The site is now occupied by a development belonging to the University of Edinburgh.
Books and periodicals
Hundey, I. Privileged Scot, Canadian invader, and Australian convict: the story of James Milne Aitchison. Australian Canadian Studies, 29(1-2), 2011, pp.49-81.