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Aberdeen Brewers and Distillers

The lucky Aberdeen Citizens were the ones who had their own Well in their backyards but they guarded them carefully and they were not open to anyone else. With mounting City detritus water had became so dangerous that beer was the only safe thing to drink. Small Beer, as it was called, was safe to drink in large quantities because its strength was only aBout 1%. Several Trades included a gallon of beer as part of a journeyman’s daily wage. This alone gives the lie to the myth that it was because the guards were drunk by 11 o’clock in the morning that General Monck’s troops were able to storm the town.  It would have taken a full gallon of beer, their daily allowance, to be the equivalent of a strong pint today. Strong ale on the other hand was mostly brewed for the Gentry. For them we also imported Wines, mainly from Bordeaux by the shipload. Surprisingly up to 20% of the cargo went missing from shrinkage or evaporation. Anyone wanting to drink seriously in the early days would use either gin or brandy. They were mostly contraband, Nicoll’s one and Nicoll’s two they were called. The sign for gin was to raise the right thumb and for brandy the forefinger and middle finger raised together. Whisky was not a popular drink until the 1800’s.

An apprenticeship in the Brewing Trade was very short and only for a period of 1 or 2 years. After that they could set up in business and as a result many brewers were not good business men and went bankrupt. This was one of the few trades in which the women played a larger role. There are at least 10 times as many women mentioned as having taverns and brew houses than in any other trade. They were, of course widows of Maltmen, and women brewing and running a tavern was quite common and an accepted practice. I may have also been because the husband spent too much time sampling his own product, or perhaps because they were better business people than their husband.

In Medieval times the Green was very much a Craft and Trade area in the Burgh. Indeed in a tax list of 1509 there were 38 female Brewsters working and selling ale in the Green.

It is almost impossible to recreate true medieval ale, but possible to provide a recipe that resembles an historical brew by adapting ingredients readily available today and to give an idea at how an un-hopped, un-boiled ale might have tasted. It is also an exercise in producing ale with a nod to some historical techniques and to try and appreciate brewing without modern accurate measurement. The malt bill is based on achieving an OG greater than 1.070 and uses oats which appear in contemporary brewing texts as ‘dredge’ which is a combination of oats and barley.

Medieval brewers were almost always female. In 1509, Kacherin Urqhart and Amy Sticklar who lived in the Green, were among 153 Brewers in Aberdeen. Some probably made beer commercially but the majority will have produced it for themselves and their families and sold any extra to neighbours.  The large number of brewers relates to the environmental conditions of the time. As the water supply was so filthy, a clean drinkable alternative had to be found. It was common practice across the world at the time, and in developing countries today, to brew low alcohol beer for consumption as water. This was often known as small beer, with the term porter later coming to denote the stronger version. Brewers tended to sell watery beer, and their customers would object when they turned up with oversize stoups or buckets, possibly some of those found on excavations, and the brewers refused to fill them.

There are no statutes to show that brewers in Aberdeen had any significant adverse impact on the environment. In other towns, where brewing was conducted commercially, it resulted in complaints about the brewers taking too much water and not enough left for others to use.  Some of the grain used by the brewers would have been grown in Aberdeen, supplemented by imports from the surrounding area, bought by them in the Castlegate market. Some of the charred grain found on excavations may have resulted from the malting process. Bog Myrtle, used to flavour beer, has been discovered at Upperkirkgate and Gallowgate.


One of the largest bodies of primary historical source material for brewing in the Medieval period in Scotland comes from Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland. There are many accounts of Brewsters (women brewers) and Brewers in local records throughout the area indicating that the brewing of ale was prominent and widespread. Perhaps the most well known historical brewing firm was that of William Black & Company of Aberdeen believed to have been established in 1803. The firm was laterally acquired in 1819 to become the Gilcomston Brewery and again by the Devanha Brewery Company Limited, registered as a limited liability company in 1910. Brewing finally ceased in 1930 after the firm was acquired by Thomas Usher & Son Ltd. of Edinburgh.

Aberdeen Map - John Smith Survey 1809

The Old Seaton Brewery in Old Aberdeen (Peter Nicoll & Co) is a late 18th or early 19th century building, whose name indicates either that it once served as the Burgh brewery, or that it is built on its site. The Old Town's original alehouse was established in 1504. The Old Brewery has been designated a Site of Historical Interest, which means that no external modifications can be made to it. In 1509 there were 157 brewers operating in Aberdeen. By 1890 the process had been industrialised and the number of breweries had shrunk to 8, though in the same year there were also three distilleries operating in the city. Today the breweries and the distilleries have all disappeared.  in a total of 38 females there must have been one Kitty - Brewster among them. The Old Brewery in Old Aberdeen is a late 18th or early 19th century building, whose name indicates either that it once served as the burgh brewery, or that it is built on its site. The Old Town's original Alehouse was established in 1504. The Old Brewery has been designated a Site of Historical Interest, It is now part of the University - School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, Old Brewery

One of the largest bodies of primary historical source material for brewing in the Medieval period in Scotland comes from Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland. There are many accounts of Brewsters (women brewers) and brewers in local records throughout the area indicating that the brewing of ale was prominent and widespread.  Perhaps the most well known historical brewing firm was that of William Black & Company of Aberdeen believed to have been established in 1803. The firm was laterally acquired in 1819 to become the Gilcomston Brewery and again by the Devanha Brewery Company Limited, registered as a limited liability company in 1910. Brewing finally ceased in 1930 after the firm was acquired by Thomas Usher & Son Ltd. of Edinburgh.  The area played an early part in the resurgence of small firm brewing in Scotland that started in the 1980s. A new Devanha Brewery, unrelated to the original, operated in Aberdeen briefly in the early 1980s. Borve Brewhouse moved from their original location on the Isle of Lewis to Ruthven near Huntly in 1988 but unfortunately closed in 2001. The 1990s brought the short lived Aberdeenshire Ales that didn't survive to see the turn of the century.  In the region today are two relative new-comers to the Scottish brewing scene. The ultra-modern BrewDog in Fraserburgh and the more modest Deeside Brewery (formerly Hillside Brewery) near Aboyne.

Brewsters
Though the revival of home brewing in the
1970s seems to have been largely a male affair, brewing in the late middle-ages was women's work. And it would appear that the farming women took quite a liking to it too: the term 'Brewster-Wife' was soon used to describe fat women. 

During this time most brewers - or 'broustaris' as they were known - brewed only enough to suit the needs of their immediate family. But as particular individuals became more adept at this ancient art, so public breweries began to surface. In 1509, a list of brewers in Aberdeen records 152 people, all of whom were women. In Edinburgh, the beer market was dominated by 300 Alewives. Some have suggested that brewing was simply an extension of baking, so it’s not surprising that so many women were involved. However, the fact that so many records list women, 'free from husband, living or dead’, would suggest that brewing may also have afforded women a degree of independence too. Some women ran alehouses, both serving customers on the premises and selling drink to 'take out'. And until the 18th century, married women brewers and publicans in Scotland, demonstrated their independence by using their maiden names - a practice that was not accepted in England. Growing moral prejudice Perhaps because brewing provided women with a lucrative income, it attracted a great deal of moral disapproval and laws were passed in the late 16th Century aiming to prohibit women from working in alehouses. However, there is strong evidence that women continued to work as brewers in Edinburgh right up until the 1790’s. By then other changes were also afoot. The rise of the mercantile and industrial centres also created a far greater demand than traditional cottage breweries could sustain, and so the great brewing dynasties were born.

As Viking (or Norse) men spread terror by pillaging through Europe between the 8th and 10th centuries AD their womenfolk were at home brewing beer and managing the affairs of the household.  There were clearly defined roles in Norse society and anything performed in the home – food and drink preparation, child care etc - was, by law, the responsibility of women. Unlike some other societies Viking women were also allowed to own property and chattels. In medieval Europe beer was a staple of the diet providing people with essential nutrition and a safe source of water. The average consumption of beer for an adult in medieval times was a gallon a day – some of this would be have been low alcohol ‘small beer’. Beer was still brewed in the home by women and surplus ale was often sold thus providing a valuable income for many households. A female brewer was known as a Brewster – and today this is a common surname which means there are thousands of people in the world with a female brewer in their family tree.  Women who sold beer were known as ale wives. Good beer and honest measures were expected of Brewsters and Ale Wives - dishonesty was punishable by flogging or ducking. At the same time monks and nuns in monasteries also brewed beer for their own consumption and to provide sustenance to travellers on religious pilgrimages to religious sites. Even in the Tudor period and later most people drank beer including Queen Elizabeth I, who consumed it at breakfast (and other times of the day) just as her subjects did. It did Elizabeth no harm - she survived smallpox and reigned for 44 years.

Aberdeen Map - John Smith Survey 1809

Origins of Kittybrewster
The name “Kittybrewster “ goes as far back as a document dated 1597.  Some have suggested that grain for brewing was grown here in medieval times, accounting for the “brewster” part of the name. Another, more likely explanation, is that it is from a Gaelic name meaning  “stepping stones over a bog A local poet, William Cadenhead, believed it had been name after a real person, of whom he wrote:

William Cadenhead (1819–1904), "Kittybrewster".

She sell’t a dram – I kent her fine –
Out on the road to Hilton;
Afore the door there stood a sign,
A hint a lairack beltin’.

The sign to mak’ it bright and gay
Taxed Tinto’s best resources,
An ale-stoup and a wisp o’ hay –
“Farin’ for men and horses.”

Her dram was good, but O, her ale!
“Twas it that did her credit,
Aboon a’ brewsts it bore the bell,
And ‘twas hersel’ that made it;

Just twa-three waughts o’t wi’ a frien’,
Out ower a bargain makin’,
Wad cheer your heart and light your een,
And set your lugs a-cracklin’.

Her yaird had midden-cocks and game,
And mony a cacklin’ rooster;
She was a canty, kindly dame,
They ca’d her Kitty Brewster.

Alas, the change! Houses, like men,
Have just their life to live it;
Kind Kitty’s canty but-and-ben
Is levelled with the divot.

Kate’s brewin’ craft and spotless fame –
For name had e’er traduced her –
We own that Lily Bank we name
Conjoined wi’ Kitty Brewster.

William Cadenhead was born at Aberdeen on the 6th April 1819. With a limited education at school, he was put to employment in a factory in his 9th year. His leisure hours were devoted to mental culture, and ramblings in the country. The perusal of Beattie's Minstrel inspired him with the love of poetry, and at an early age his compositions in verse were admitted in the Poet's Corner of the Aberdeen Herald. In 1819 he published a small poetical work, entitled "The Prophecy," which, affording decided evidence of power, established his local reputation. Having contributed verses for some years to several periodicals and the local journals, he published a collection of these in 1853, with the title, "Flights of Fancy, and Lays of Bon-Accord." "The New Book of Bon-Accord," a guide-book to his native town on an original plan, appeared from his pen in 1856. For 3 years he has held a comfortable and congenial appointment as confidential clerk to a Merchant in his native city. He eventually took over a Vintners & Distillers Agency and continued to contribute verses to the periodicals.


Local Brewers - some on 1749 Map and 1825 list:-

Allsopp & Sons, Ltd., 136 Mid Stocket Road
Bass, Ratclitf, & Gretton, Ltd., 20 Bridge Street
Craigellachie Brewery Co., Ltd., 31 Market Street
Alex Webster or Max Webster & Co Brewery - Hardgate - Couperstoun
Mr Sandilands & Co Brewery Nr Fountain House
William Black & Co. Devanha Brewery Aberdeen
Cadenhead, Barron & Co. New Bridge Brewery Aberdeen
Alexander Cowie 5 Virginia St Aberdeen
Mary Duguid, Hardgate
William. Duthie 231-247 Holburn St Aberdeen
Gilcomston Brewery Co. Aberdeen
Gordon George & Co. Ferryhill Brewery Aberdeen
George Annand & Co.
Gibbons & Co were located just East of Marischal Street off Virginia Street
John Ligonier Hatt 47 Virginia Street and Peacock's Close
James Lawrence, Skene square
Peter Livingston, Shuttle Lane
William M'Adam,  & Co., 146 Hardgate
H McCauley & Co., 112 Loch Street.
Hugh  McCulloch (retail) Maltmill
William. McBean Brewer Aberdeen
John Masson 82 Loch St
John Mowat, Bursars Court, 61 Castle Street, Aberdeen
James Milne, & Son, 69 Virginia street
North British Brewery, 1 Adelphi
Palmer, W. J. , Holburn Brewery
Peter Nicoll & Co, Seaton Brewery, Aberdeen
James Sim  Hardgate, Aberdeen
Alexander & Thomas Sim & Son, 22 Loch Street, Aberdeen
Patrick Still, South Bridge Aberdeen
George Leys (Brewer) 29 Lodge Walk (publican brewer) Aberdeen
James, Robertson (Brewer) 7 Barnett's Close (publican brewer) Aberdeen
Robert Thom, (Brewer) Stronach's Close. Exchequer Row (publican brewer)  and King Street Aberdeen
Thomson, Marshall, & Co. Ltd.18 High Street, Old Aberdeen
Smith Irvine & Co. Old Aberdeen
Irvine & Co Brewers - Old Aberdeen
 J Wallace, & Co., 85 George St

Dyce Churchyard
The burial place of John Irvine, merchant, Old Aberdeen, many years treasurer of that City where he was sincerely loved and esteemed. He was born 12th Aug 1755: died 6 Nov 1809.  Near this spot likewise is interred the ashes of his father Robert Irvine, sub-tenant in Rose Hall of New Machar, and his mother Elizabeth Robb as also his brother James and his oldest sister Margaret who both died in Nonage. His 2nd sister Ami, wife of John Barclay, Kings Seat, lies at Fintray. His youngest sister Elizabeth and her husband William Rae rest here.   John Irvine was admitted a Burgess of Old Aberdeen upon 1st October, 1781, and in 1796, was living in his own property there, evidently as a bachelor, as the number of persons in his household was returned as one. He was sometimes designated Senior, to distinguish him from John Irvine, Jr., Brewer, who also took part in the local affairs of the Old Town.


Gilcomston Brewery & Co.

First proposed in 1750 as a Distillery and in 1767 it became a Brewery,  In 1819 a number of Advocates and Merchants in Aberdeen, Scotland formed a Partnership in order to purchase, for the sum of £6625, the heritable subjects at Gilcomston, Aberdeen, and the lease of the Mill of Gilcomston. These were purchased from John Garrioch and others who had traded under the firm of William Black & Co.  All the brewing utensils were purchased, and the partners continued the Trade of Brewing, selling porter and ale, and purchasing and manufacturing grain for brewing and sale. The company also proposed to open a separate distillery to be erected on the site of the then Miller's House. It was decided that this new firm be called the Gilcomston Brewery & Co. Gilcomston Brewery was still in existence in 1841, a copy minute of a meeting records an investigation into the financial situation of the company, but no more is known regarding the fate of the brewery to date.

The area played an early part in the resurgence of small firm brewing in Scotland that started in the 1980s. A new Devanha Brewery, unrelated to the original, operated in Aberdeen briefly in the early 80s.

Borve Brewhouse moved from their original location on the Isle of Lewis to Ruthven near Huntly in 1988 but unfortunately closed in 2001.


Devanha Brewery Co. Ltd.
William Black X Ale  (1849) O.G. 75 
For 1 gallon (4.5 Ltr):
3.25 lb
(1475g) Pale Malt 1.1 oz (32g) Goldings Hops
Mash grain for 3 hours at 150  F (66±1º C). Raise temperature to 170  F (77º C) for 30 minutes.
Sparge with hot water at 180 – 185  
F (82 - 85º C) to O.G. or required volume.
Boil with hops for 90 minutes.
Cool and ferment with a good quality ale yeast.
Mature for at least 6 months

Devanha Brewers Bottling Plant in Virginia Street

Devanha Brewery Co Ltd, Wellington Street (ran from Waterloo Quay to the Links), Aberdeen, Scotland, was registered as a limited liability company in 1910 to acquire the business of Wm Black & Co, Devanha Brewery, Wellington Street, Aberdeen (est. 1803). The company was acquired by Thomas Usher & Son Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1930 and subsequently ceased to brew.

Devanha House, Ferryhill 
Devanha House was built in 1813 for William Black on the slopes of south Ferryhill, midway between Ferryhill House and Arthurseat. William Black had fitted out the former Paper Mills by the Wellington Suspension Bridge as a Brewery - the Devanha Brewery. His Devanha Porter - a dark beer resembling stout - became famous throughout the UK, the Brewery being conveniently close to the Railway halt at the Cattle Bank. The Brewery continued to be run by William Black & Co. until about 1912, after which it was taken over by Ushers of Edinburgh and used as a bottling plant for Usher's own beers and as a distribution centre.  William Black & Co. also ran the Devanha Distillery, built about a mile upstream from the Brewery in 1825; it went out of production in 1909.

William Black named his new mansion Devanha House, presumably after his Brewery. The Romans knew the settlement at or near the mouth of the Denburn as Devana, which featured in Ptolemy's "System Of Geography" of 146 AD; they knew the Rivers Dee and Don as the Deva and Devona.

It should be pointed out that Devanha House did not originally look as it does now. The original house was of quite plain and austere appearance. But, in 1840, it was remodelled and extended at both ends by Architect Archibald Simpson, perhaps following a fire. It is thought that the purpose of these extensions was to give the house the appearance of a ship, since it was now owned by the shipbuilder, John Blaikie, who, with 2 of his 5 brothers, founded the Footdee firm of Blaikie Bros., Engineers & Iron Founders.  The effect of the 1840s extensions was to make Devanha House look rather older than it really is, and to turn a fairly ordinary and unremarkable house of its period into something of striking elegance. It consists of 2 storeys with sunken basement. The exterior walls are of sandstone, rendered in painted stucco - unusual in Aberdeen, although there is a granite base. There is a classical Greek entrance porch on the north side with four fluted Doric columns. The extended bow ends to the east and west have Tuscan pilasters, whilst the south side has an attractive trellis verandah. 

William Black had fitted out the former Paper Mills by the Wellington Suspension Bridge as a Brewery - the Devanha Brewery. His Devanha Porter - a dark beer resembling stout - became famous throughout the UK, the Brewery being conveniently close to the Railway halt at the Cattle Bank. The Brewery continued to be run by William Black & Co. until about 1912, after which it was taken over by Ushers of Edinburgh and used as a bottling plant for Usher's own beers and as a distribution centre. The site is currently under development. William Black & Co. also ran the Devanha Distillery, built about a mile upstream from the Brewery in 1825; it went out of production in 1909.

Messrs Fisher and Son at the Devanha Brewery, about a mile south-west from the boundary of the Parish, where a bore of 6 inches wide at the top, but diminished to 3 inches at bottom, was driven to the depth of 140 feet. Nearly the whole of this was through a red granite rock of variable hardness, and the supply of water, which was obtained after boring about 35 feet, not having been materially increased, the attempt was then given up. The water rose to within 2 feet of the surface, and the quantity obtained by applying a pump amounted to about 12 gallons per minute; but it was so strongly impregnated with carbonate of iron as to be altogether useless for the purposes of the Brewery.


William. Duthie Brewery 231-247 Holburn St Aberdeen
This Brewer would have appeared to have had an unfortunate life as most of his children and relatives died comparatively young including his surviving son who died 2 years after him.

Banchory Devenick Parish Churchyard - William Duthie, Brewer, Aberdeen, who died 10th August, 1849, aged 68 years. Also his children  John, who died 2nd May, 1809, aged 1 year. John, who died 7th May, 1811, aged 3 weeks. William, who died 22nd September, 1815, aged 9 years. James, who died 24th April, 1827, aged 9 years. Ann, who died 9th July, 1827, aged 18 years. Mary, who died 15th April, 1833, aged 19 years.  Helen, who died 28th May, 1838, aged 18 years. Charles, who died  31st July, 1845, aged 22 years. And his son, Alexander Still Duthie, Brewer, Aberdeen, who died 7th January, 1851, aged 36 years, also Ann Millar, his Spouse, who died 19th August, 1852, aged 34 years. 


Courage Brewers from Aberdeenshire

Arthur Courage was a cooper, as was his son Archibald Courage, from Findhorn which is on the Moray Firth. Archibald made casks and hoops and staves, supplying his 1st cousin the Founder at his new Brewery in London from 1787.  John Courage, the clockmaker made grandfather clocks at Insch, north of Aberdeen, 3 of which are known to survive to this day in good working order, as well as the clock for the Congregational Manse at Insch, and left an Estate valued at £326 on his death in 1858. Another Alexander Courage was a silversmith and completed his apprenticeship as a watchmaker with John Baron in 1804. Archibald’s son, also Archibald, was a well known bookseller in Aberdeen and The Huguenot Society Library holds a book by Agnew published in 1886, in which he records — “I was acquainted with the late Mr Archibald Courage, Bookseller in Aberdeen, and he assured me his ancestors were Huguenot Refugees.  The obituary for Archibald Courage, a bachelor, in the Aberdeen Free Press 1858 states that “with one exception Mr Courage was the last male representative in this quarter of a line of Edict of Nantes refugees, who came to this country in 1683. The late Mr Courage of the well known London firm of Courage & Co., brewers, was a near relative. The family had originally settled in the parish of Bellhelvie and a branch had found its way to Findhorn, where it had followed the occupation of herring fishing and its kindred employment of the cooper trade”.

There is no stone at the grave of Alexander Courage, the Founder’s father, buried at Old Machar, Aberdeen on September 14th 1770.  There is a tombstone in pink Peterhead granite to John Courage, the clockmaker and freeholder, at Insch Churchyard, and a prominent stone in an important part of the churchyard at St Nicholas, Aberdeen, to Archibald Courage, the Cooper, and his son Archibald, the Bookseller.

There is plaque on the side of a building on Shad Thames the historic riverside street (not far from Tower Bridge) which reads "The Anchor Brewhouse. In December 1787 the Aberdonian John Courage purchased a small brewhouse on this site." Quite near here there are pubs called the Founder's Arms and the Anchor. - Gary

The Anchor Brewhouse, Butlers Wharf, Bermondsey
In December 1787 the Aberdonian John Courage purchased a small brewhouse on this site. Little more than a year later the 1st entry in the brewing book records that John Courage had brewed 51 barrels of beer at the Anchor Brewhouse, Horselydown.  Three separate elements, Boilerhouse, Brewhouse and Malt Mill, each expressing different functions in the process of beer making, are united to form the Anchor Brewhouse's characterful and picturesque composition.  The Building is an expression of historical continuity, for brewing on the river has always been an important feature of London's Thames-side. Brewing in Southwark is mentioned by Chaucer, and in Horselydown by Shakespeare.  The original part of this building dates from 1871 and was largely rebuilt in 1894 - 1895. Reconstructed, restored and refurbished in 1985-1989, it is now a grade II listed building situated in the Tower Bridge Conservation Area.

John Courage
By 1787 he had already been in business in London for 8 years as an agent for the Glasgow shipping firm of Carron which traded from the Glasgow Wharf (the Carron and Continental Wharves) on the north side of the Thames, downstream from the Tower of London.  John Courage was the only surviving son of his late father, Alexander, when he left Aberdeen for London in about 1780 to become the Wapping agent for Carron Shipping, leaving behind in Aberdeen his mother Isabel and his unmarried sister Ann. John could see across the river to the foreshore of Southwark and decided to diversify his interests by going into the beer business. Thus it was that the name of Courage became associated with the brewing industry.  When John Courage, together with a number of friends, settled for the purchase of a brew house at Horselydown, on the south bank of the Thames, he was investing his acumen and money in a staple industry at an opportune time.  He purchased the Anchor Brewery at Horselydown,  Bermondsey, in 1787 from John and Hagger Ellis. An earlier owner of the Brewery was Vassal Webbing a Flemish émigré.  What is interesting is that both Vassal Webbing and John were described in G N Hardinge’s book, Courages 1787-1932, as being Protestant émigrés.

Frank Courage wrote to his daughter Milly in New Zealand in 1914, that he thought John (his Grandfather), could have come from Flanders, as brewing has always been more of an industry there than in France.  The only known French Protestant Courages in the 1600s were Thomas and Nicholas Courage, and their names do not appear in Aberdeen, so the search has shifted to Flanders (Belgium), for their Protestant forebears.

On 17th December 1787, John Courage, aged 26, paid a cheque for £100 to the Morris Estate as part payment for the Private House and Old Brewhouse at Horselydown over the Thames and opposite Wapping.  On Christmas Eve, John paid the balance on the purchase of £674 18s 9d. On 4th January 1788, he paid George Courage £26 6s for sundries and scroll book. On 15th January 1788 John purchased 1 silk waistcoat for 19 shillings 8d, and on 7th June paid John Ward £10 for a gelding.  On 15th November 1788, the Founder's sister Ann writes to her brother  this piece of news that our king is died” (Bonnie Prince Charlie in exile in Italy).

In March 1793, tragedy struck and John’s sister Ann died of a fever in Aberdeen and was buried beside her father in Old Machar; there is a long letter from the Founder's mother, Isabel Courage, about this together with the other original letters that survive from this period including the old brewery book.  In May 1793, Archibald Courage from Findhorn supplies his cousin "with 1000 American staves and 20 bundles hoops.  Courage Beer was being shipped all over the world, as its reputation grew. 2 hogsheads of Porter on 25th February 1793 were shipped back to Scotland to the Earl of Fife, and throughout 1794 barrels of Porter were dispatched to India, Dominica, Antigua, Amsterdam, Hambro, Gibraltar and Lisbon. Ann Murdoch, the Founder's mother-in-law spent £6-10-6 on clothes for her grandson John in September 1796 and Mrs Courage’s house expenses for the month of October 1796 were £9-6-10d.  

On 26th June 1788 a son, John, was born to John and his wife Harriet and on 8th June 1790 twins Ann and Elizabeth were born. On 23rd February 1795 another daughter, Harriet, was born.  John Courage died in October 1797 aged 36 and was buried at St John’s, Horselydown.  His widow, Harriet died in May the following year aged 32, and was also buried at Horselydown.  On Harriet’s death, the new John Courage was only 10, and John Donaldson, the managing clerk, took over the running of the Brewery, becoming a partner in the newly named firm of Courage and Donaldson, taking a 3rd of the gross profits which was afterwards enlarged to 1/2, as well as 1/2 of the capital.  The Founder’s son, the 2nd  John, entered the Brewery in 1804 aged 16, becoming a partner in 1811.  He married Susan Hawes, the daughter of a Norfolk brewer Sidney Hawes in 1823.  A copy of an article about Susan’s mother, Elizabeth Hawes (neé Porson) survives in family records. The article states “that Elizabeth was born in 1756, was a servant and a woman of strong natural sense and moral qualities and at night used to sit up in bed reading from the light of a candle volumes of the Universal Magazine. She took in dressmaking and always said she would rise in the world.


Licencing Laws

During WWI Drinking Laws were brought in reducing opening hours. Draconian laws were also passed forbidding the sale of alcohol on Sunday's.  The only people allowed to drink were those on board ship travelling from one destination to another.  Early trips on steam ships were well organised and one steamship owner in particular made a great deal of money steaming back and forwards from Broughty Ferry to Dundee. It is from this innovation that we get the word “steaming” meaning drunk.  Many of us will remember a similar practice when the law was altered slightly to include people travelling on a Sunday between one town and another.  Then Coach parties or Whist Drives were laid on to places in Deeside and so on, where the landlord had to keep a book which every so called bona fide ‘traveller’ signed stating where he was travelling from and going to.  Writing ‘Aberdeen to Aberdeen' was quite acceptable as everyone knew that it was simply a way to get round the law.  Times have changed, the local Breweries have gone, Beer is no longer brewed by the tavern keeper on his own premises. But 'the times they are a'changin; yet again with the arrival of multiple Micro Breweries


The Shilling Categories

Beer in Scotland was traditionally categorised by invoice price per hogshead barrel. This ranged from 40/- ale (very light beer such as table beer, often supplied to farmhands in rural areas) up to 12 and 15 Guinea ales. The latter were dangerously strong beers, usually bottled, and sold mostly in 1/3 pint imperial measures known as 'Nips'.  Though the price of a hogshead became much more than 40/-, 60/- etc, the shilling system continued to be used to denote an Ale's quality. This terminology eventually became legally recognised under the terms of the 1914 Finance Act (session 2).

Light

(60/-) was under 3.5% abv

Heavy

(70/-) was between 3.5% and 4.0% abv

Export

(80/-) was between 4.0% and 5.5% abv

Wee Heavy

(90/-) was over 6.0% abv - Thistle do nicely!

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Last modified: 01/09/2013