March 04, 2016

Scottish Brewing Heritage

Alan McLean

Something of the history of the area that now houses the Scottish Parliament is revealed in a major new exhibition nearby.

The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh is on what used to be the site of a brewery. There were many breweries round about, as visitors to the “Raise Your Glass!” exhibition are reminded.

The untold story of Scotland’s brewing heritage is revealed in the event from 10am on Saturday 5 March at the Museum of Edinburgh, a City of Edinburgh Council venue that showcases the city’s great past, on the Canongate, part of the Royal Mile.

The exhibition, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is open free of charge daily except Sundays until Saturday 25 June

It is organised by a not-for-profit community interest company, Brewing Heritage Scotland, ably assisted by an Edinburgh-based creative agency 442 Design.

Brewing Heritage Scotland is linked with but is separate from the Scottish Brewing Archive Association (SBAA). Both promote interest in Scotland’s brewing history, The SBAA specifically fosters interest in brewing industry records held by the University of Glasgow Archive Services.

The William Younger company, later part of Scottish & Newcastle (S&N), once brewed on the site now occupied by the Scottish Parliament. S&N established its headquarters for several years at the same location.

There were once many breweries in the vicinity, including adjacent to the venue for the exhibition, directly opposite the historic Canongate Kirk.

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.

Artefacts and information from Scotland’s brewing past are featured in new displays in the Museum of Edinburgh exhibition. Members of the public have already indicated their approval of the work of Brewing Heritage Scotland as “very good” and “really interesting”. One person commented: “Thank you for celebrating what really is an impressive brewing heritage.”

Another remarked: “Now we're thirsty."