Historic Beer Birthday: George Younger, 1st Viscount Younger of Leckie

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Today is the birthday of George Younger, 1st Viscount Younger of Leckie (October 13, 1851-April 29, 1929). His great-grandfather was George Younger, who founded the brewery that would become George Younger and Son in 1764. It was located in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, in Scotland. When our George was 17, his father passed away, and he left college to run the family brewery, becoming chairman in 1897.

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According to Wikipedia, “Younger was a Deputy Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire from November 1901, and an elected Unionist MP for Ayr Burghs from 1906 until 1922. He was also Chairman of the Unionist Party Organisation from 1916 to 1923, and Treasurer of the Unionist Party in 1923. He was created a baronet on 12 July 1911, and a viscount — as the 1st Viscount Younger of Leckie — on 20 February 1923.”

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George Younger, at left, in a photo from around 1907, with his mother, son and grandson.

Here’s a biography of founder George and the brewery from the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Brewing Archive.

George Younger (1722–1788), a member of a family of saltpan owners in Culross, Fife, Scotland, was brewing in Alloa, Scotland from 1745. He established his first brewery, later known as Meadow Brewery, in Bank Street, Alloa, in about 1764. After his death the business was passed on from father to son, trading as George Younger & Son. Additional premises adjacent to the brewery were acquired in 1832 and 1850.

The Candleriggs Brewery, Alloa, owned by Robert Meiklejohn & Co, was leased in 1852 and bought outright for GBP 1,500 in 1871. The Meadow Brewery ceased brewing in 1877 and was turned into offices for the business. Craigward Maltings, Alloa, were built in 1869 and a new bottling department was established at Kelliebank, Alloa, in 1889. The Candleriggs Brewery was badly damaged by fire in 1889 and rebuilt on a larger scale to cover nearly 2 acres, becoming the largest brewery in Scotland outside Edinburgh.

George Younger & Son Ltd was registered in February 1897 as a limited liability company to acquire the business at a purchase price of GBP 500,000. The company traded extensively to the North of England, West Indies, Australia and North America and from the 1880s to India, the Far East and South Africa. It took over R Fenwick & Co Ltd, Sunderland Brewery, Low Street, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, England, and Robert Fenwick & Co, Chester Brewery, Chester–le–Street, Durham, England (closed 1934), in 1898.

The first chilling and carbonating plant in Scotland was installed at Kelliebank Bottling Stores in 1903. The company’s own bottling works was established there in 1908 and a new export bottling plant opened in 1912. The company built up large supply contracts with the armed forces at home and abroad and by 1914 had a lucrative regimental canteen business at Aldershot, Hampshire, England.

It acquired the Craigward Cooperage of Charles Pearson & Co, Alloa; George White & Co, Newcastle–upon–Tyne, Tyne & Wear; and the Bass Crest Brewery Co, Alloa, in 1919. During the same year the Kelliebank bottle manufacturing plant was floated as a separate company and eventually became known as the Scottish Central Glass Works. The Grange Brewery closed in 1941 and the Sunderland Brewery was rebuilt, being sold in 1922 to Flower & Sons Ltd, Stratford–upon–Avon, Warwickshire, England.

The company took over Blair & Co (Alloa) Ltd, Townhead Brewery, Alloa, in 1959. It was acquired by Northern Breweries of Great Britain Ltd in April 1960 and became part of the combined Scottish interests of that company, Caledonian Breweries Ltd, later United Caledonian Breweries Ltd, which merged with J & R Tennent Ltd, Glasgow, Strathclyde, in 1966 to form Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd. The Candleriggs Brewery ceased to brew in December 1963.

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This is the original Meadow Brewery around 1890, before it became known as George Younger & Sons.

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Ron Pattinson has a post about Boiling at George Younger in the 1890’s, and also about the early years of George Younger.

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NPG x37250; George Younger, 1st Viscount Younger of Leckie

Here’s another short biography of Younger:

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Below is the coat of arms of Viscount Younger of Leckie, incorporating the three covered ceremonial cups taken from the arms of the Schaw family of Sauchie from whom the Youngers of Alloa descend through Marjorie Schaw who married Thomas Younger in 1598. The motto at the top translates as “swift and bold,” and at the bottom as “Younger as the years go by.”

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George Younger in Vanity Fair, 1910.

Historic Beer Birthday: William McEwan Younger

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Today is the birthday of Sir William McEwan Younger, 1st Baronet (September 6, 1905–April 15, 1992). He was a Scottish brewer and political activist.

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According to Wikipedia, “His father, William Younger, was a brother of George Younger, 1st Viscount Younger, and of Robert Younger, Baron Blanesburgh; his great uncle was William McEwan, a Liberal MP for Edinburgh and the founder of McEwan’s Brewery.”

He was educated at Winchester College and at Balliol College, Oxford, before joining the firm of McEwan’s Brewery, which later became Scottish Brewers before merging with the Newcastle Brewery Company in 1961 to become Scottish & Newcastle. Younger was the first chairman and managing director of the new company.

He stood twice as the Unionist Party candidate for the West Lothian at the 1950 general election, but it was a safe seat for Labour and he came a poor second. He was honorary secretary of the Scottish Unionist Association from 1955 to 1964, and was later chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party from 1971 to 1974.

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Here’s an obituary, by Peter Lloyd, that ran in the Alpine Journal, a climbing club to which was a member:

Bill Younger, who died in 1992 after a long illness, outlived his climbing contemporaries, and it falls to me, who only knew him in the last 20 years of his life, to write his obituary. He was a great figure in the business world, especially in Edinburgh and in the Conservative Party in Scotland. He was elected to the Club in 1927 while still an undergraduate on the proposal of A M Carr Saunders and Geoffrey Winthrop Young, so totalling 65 years of membership.

On leaving Oxford he went straight into the family brewing business of McEwans and proceeded to build this up first by the acquisition of another family company, William Youngers, and later by the takeover of Newcastle Breweries and several smaller Edinburgh companies to form Scottish and Newcastle with about 10% of the market. He had an outstanding war record, enlisting in 1939 in a lowland anti-aircraft regiment of the Royal Artillery with which he served in the North African campaign, including the first siege of Tobruk, and in Italy, finishing up in command of the regiment. His double-barrelled name, evocative of beer, earned him the nickname ‘Colonel Screwtop’.

After the war he remained chairman of his company until 1969 and was also active as director of a number of other Edinburgh companies. He was Deputy Lieutenant of Midlothian and later of the City of Edinburgh and, in the seventies, Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party. Through his charitable trust he supported many good causes, notably his college Balliol, of which he became an Honorary Fellow, many Edinburgh charities
including the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Mount Everest Foundation and the A C Irvine Travel Fund.

Bill Younger’s mountaineering record is largely lost in the sands of time, but his companions in his Oxford days included Douglas Busk, A M Binnie and Carr Saunders. In the thirties and after the war he climbed with John Tilney and Claude Elliott. There is a splendid portrait in oils, now in the possession of his daughter, showing him as a young man against the background of the Cresta Rey on Monte Rosa.

When I knew him, in the seventies and eighties in Edinburgh, in Glen Lyon and then in his final home near Henley, we were both past anything more than walks on the Scottish hills. I remember him best in his beautiful house in Moray Place, a swell but quite without pomposity, easygoing but suddenly coming out with trenchant criticisms of the good and the great, casually dressed with a glass of whisky and a cheroot in his hand, enjoying life.

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William McEwan Younger is also featured in The Brewing Connection in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, by Ray Anderson, published in Brewery History in 2005.

Scottish brewers get a good airing in the dictionary. Heading the list is McEwan, William (1827-1913), described as ‘a plain, blunt man’ but ‘undoubtedly one of the most successful brewers of his generation … a shrewd, hard headed, hard working businessman…one of the merchant princes of Scotland.’ The piece on McEwan also has a mention of his uncle John Jeffrey with whom he trained before in 1856 ‘he established his own business at the Fountain brewery,’ and of McEwan’s nephew William Younger who joined him as an apprentice in 1874, and who ‘played an increasingly important role … becoming managing director of the firm on its incorporation in 1889 with McEwan … devoting himself increasingly to politics.’ McEwan’s ‘presumptive only child,’ Greville [née Anderson], Dame Margaret Helen (1863-1942), ‘society hostess,’ is also in the dictionary in her own right and has her own place in brewing history having on her death left all her ordinary shares in the brewery to Younger, Sir William McEwan, of Fountainbridge, baronet (1905-1992), who would go on to become the first chairman of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. The dictionary succinctly explains the background of this splendidly named and unconventional ‘brewer and political activist,’ thus: ‘His father was the brother of George Younger, first Viscount Younger, and of Robert Younger, Baron Blanesburgh [a judge]; his paternal grandmother, Janet, née McEwan, was the eldest sister of William McEwan, Gladstonian Liberal MP for Edinburgh and the founder of McEwan’s Brewery. He was thus brought up with a background of brewing and politics… .’ Younger (known as Bill) joined McEwans when he left Oxford shortly before the firm merged with fellow Edinburgh brewers William Younger (not a relative) as Scottish Brewers Ltd. He had good war and was: ‘Known by his men as Colonel Screwtop, the main supplier of beer to the army being McEwan Youngers.’ The dictionary contains the following intriguing passage on Bill Younger’s unconventional approach to business as managing director of Scottish Brewers: ‘… when the main rival to Scottish Brewers Ltd in Scotland was offered to him he refused the offer on the basis that the resultant combine would so dominate the Scottish brewing scene as to extinguish competition and blunt the competitive edge of his company. His business philosophy was at variance with that of the rest of the brewing industry and he took no part in the councils of the various trade associations.’

McEwan’s is still around, as a brand at least, and today is owned by Wells & Youngs.

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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.