Historic Beer Birthday: William McEwan

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Today is the birthday of William McEwan (July 16, 1827-May 12, 1913). He was a Scottish politician and brewer. He founded the Fountain Brewery in 1856 (later known as McEwan’s), served as a member of parliament (MP) from 1886 to 1900.”

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Here’s a short biography from the University of Glasgow:

William McEwan, the son of John McEwan, shipowner of Alloa, Scotland, was born in 1827. He served his apprenticeship with John Jeffrey, an Edinburgh brewer, and in 1856 he established his own business, the Fountain Brewery, in Fountainbridge in Edinburgh. He quickly established a large Scottish market and in the 1860s built up a successful colonial export trade. His sister married James Younger, an Alloa brewer, and one of their sons, William, joined his uncle’s business. When William McEwan entered politics in 1886, William Younger became the firm’s manager.

William McEwan & Co Ltd was registered in July 1889 as a limited liability company to acquire the business at a purchase price of GBP 408,000. The company acquired the trade and goodwill of Alexander Melvin & Co of the Boroughloch Brewery, Buccleuch Street, Edinburgh, in 1907. It merged with William Younger & Co Ltd, Abbey Brewery, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, to form Scottish Brewers Ltd in 1931, and that company merged with Newcastle Breweries Ltd in 1960 to form Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Ltd. The Fountain Brewery was closed by S & N at the end of 2004.

The Right Honourable William McEwan (1827-1913), MP

Here’s an account of his early life from Wikipedia:

McEwan was born in Alloa, Scotland in 1827, the third child of ship-owner John McEwan and his wife Anne Jeffrey. His older sister Janet married James Younger head of his local family brewing business in 1850. He was educated at Alloa Academy. He worked for the Alloa Coal Company and merchants Patersons.

He worked in Glasgow for a commission agent and then as a bookkeeper for a spinning firm in Yorkshire.

From 1851 he received technical and management training from his uncles, John and David Jeffrey, proprietors of the Heriot brewery in Edinburgh. In 1856 he established the Fountain Brewery at Fountainbridge in Edinburgh with money from his mother and his uncle, Tom Jeffrey. After growing sales in Scotland, his nephew William Younger of Alloa began an apprenticeship with him and eventually became managing director. Exports were made to Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and India, with McEwan’s having 90% of sales in north-eastern England by the turn of the century. The brewery became part of Scottish & Newcastle.

William McEwan by Arthur Marx (photographer)

McEwan became a member of parliament for Edinburgh Central after the 1886 general election, representing the Liberal Party. He was returned unopposed in 1895 and continued to serve until 1900. He became a Privy Counsellor in 1907, but declined a title.

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In Vanity Fair, 1902.

Beer In Ads #1823: William Wallace — Scotland’s Great Patriot


Tuesday’s ad is for Budweiser, from 1914, No. 6 in another series they did in 1914-15 called the “National Heroes Series.” The sixth one features William Wallace, who “was a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297. He was appointed Guardian of Scotland and served until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298. In August 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston, near Glasgow, and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason and crimes against English civilians.”

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Beer In Ads #774: Argentina Here We Come


Thursday’s ad is for the Scottish brand Younger’s Tartan Special, from 1978, when, presumably the beer started to be imported to Argentina. I love the idea of a giant plaid boat, flying the Scottish flag. For some reason this ad reminded me of a scene in the Herman Raucher novel, “Summer of ’42,” where the main character, Hermie, is trying to buy a box of condoms and is thinking as he’s looking over the different packages that whatever color the box happens to be is also the same color as the condom itself. He sees a plaid box and thinks to himself, something along the lines of, “plaid, that’s enough to send a young girl screaming into the night!” It’s funny what sticks in your head. But the idea of a ginormous plaid boat would be quite a sight coming over the horizon.

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Beer In Ads #750: George Younger’s Alloa Ales


Monday’s ad is for George Younger’s Alloa Brewery in Scotland, from 1953. It uses a great illustration by an artist from Edinburgh identified as “MacKay,” depicting a scene from Tam O’Shanter, a poem by Robert Burns. Here’s what one source had to say about the ad:

There were at least nine breweries in Alloa during the 1900s producing a variety of ales for home and export trades. Alloa was well positioned, with a good water supply, close to local supplies of barley and good sea transport links. Alloa ale was sent to London and George Younger had an extensive export trade in the West Indies, Egypt and the Far East. Alloa was also famed for its lager, Alloa Brewery Co developing Graham’s Golden Lager in 1925 and renamed Skol in the 1950s. Closures and mergers in the 1950s and 1960s reduced the number of breweries to 2 and by 1999 there was one, The Forth Brewery.

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Traquair House Switches To 500ml Bottles

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One of my favorite breweries, Traquair House in Scotland, announced today through their importer — Merchant Du Vin — that they’re switching to 500 ml bottles for all of their beers.

That might not seem like big news, and perhaps it’s not, but Traquair House is one of favorite places so I never miss a chance to talk about it. If you’ve never been to the brewery, it should definitely be on your beer bucket list. It’s not easy to get to, but it is worth it. Oh, and the beer is terrific, too. If you haven’t had their beer, you should correct that … immediately.

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Traquair House Ale shows a deep reddish-amber color and full, velvet-like body. The aroma offers a hint of rich oak; the flavor is opulently malty, complex, and deep but subtle. OG 1.070; IBU 26; ABV 7.2%.

Traquair Jacobite Ale, first brewed in 1995, is spiced with hops as well as another traditional seasoning: coriander. Deep brown; spice and leather aroma; full body; exotic, engaging character and finish. OG 1.075; IBU 23; ABV: 8.0%.

From the press release:

In 1566, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, visited Traquair House on the banks of Scotland’s Tweed River with her infant son James, who would later become King James I of England. During that visit, she drank good ale brewed at Traquair.

Descendants of the same family have lived at Traquair since 1491. Beer was brewed there from the earliest times until some time after 1800; in 1965 the 20th Laird of Traquair, Peter Maxwell Stuart — following his heart and his family heritage — brought the tiny brewery back to life, brewing traditional ales in a 1738 copper brewkettle and fermenting them in wooden vessels.

Traquair House Brewery is known today for excellent ales — traditional, historical, masterpieces of rich, full, engaging flavor: a taste of Scotland.

It’s a cool place, with a cool history, making cool beers. What more do you need to know?

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I took this photo of the brewery when I visited Traquair House around 1994.

Beer In Art #131: John Quinton Pringle’s Man with a Drinking Mug

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This week’s work of art is by a Scottish artist, John Quinton Pringle, who around 1904 painted Study of a Head, which is also known as Man With a Drinking Mug.

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Here’s how the National Gallery of Scotland, where the painting is hung, describes Pringle and the work:

Pringle trained as an optician in 1874 and ran his own business as optician and electrician from 1896 to 1923. He used his shop as a studio after hours painting predominantly small canvases, like this painting. From around 1895 he developed an interest in French Impressionism, which influenced this work. This is one of three portraits Pringle made of an elderly man who frequented the Saltmarket area of Glasgow and visited the artist in his shop. The sitter was nicknamed ‘Kruger’ due to his supposed likeness to Paul Kruger, the Boer resistance leader and president of the Transvaal republic in South Africa. The painting is thought to date from 1904 – it is signed and dated but Pringle’s style makes it difficult to read.

You can read Pringle’s biography at Wikipedia and see a few more of his paintings at the WikiGallery and there are links to even more of his paintings at ArtCyclopedia.