The partnership of J. & G. Brown was formed by the brothers James and George Brown in about 1851, when they leased the MacDuff Brewery from Miss Janet Edington. The Browns expanded the business in 1855 through the acquisition of the Leven Brewery from the estate of Thomas Ballingall.
When George died in 1861 James was joined in the business by one of George's sons, also George, who was made a partner. By 1865 they had acquired the MacDuff Brewery. Two of James's sons - James Storrar Brown and Robert Brown - also worked for the business but later moved to Ayrshire where they both became associated with James Brown & Co and the Kilmarnock Brewery.
George took over the running of both breweries when James died in 1888, and at some point he was joined by his cousin John Brown, who was made a partner. The partnership was dissolved in 1896, and George carried on the business as the sole partner until he died in 1910. A Board of Trustees was then established to run the business. The Leven Brewery was closed and brewing was concentrated in East Wemyss, although malting continued at Leven. Two of George's sons - George Brown and James Maxwell Brown- became partners in the business and ran it until it was acquired in 1926 by William Murray & Co Ltd of Edinburgh for £2,000, when brewing ended.
The company's trademark was MacDuff Castle, and their ale was exported to Holland, Belgium and the Baltic countries. Among the beers produced by the firm were: Buffalo Brand Sparkling Ale, India Pale Ale, Invalid Stout, and Stout.
The MacDuff Brewery consisted of a brew-house in the north east of the complex, flanked by buildings to the south and west, including a dwelling-house. Most of the site has been cleared for modern housing, but the dwelling-house survives as a private residence.
The Leven Brewery was located on the junction of what is now North Street (formerly Back Street) and Brewery Wynd. Part of the brewery survives as a meeting hall for the British Legion.
Books and periodicals
McMaster, C. Brewing in Fife: the McDuff brewery, East Wemyss. Scottish Brewing Archive Newsletter, 19, 1991, pp.7-9.