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Brewing in the Scottish Borders would at one time have been carried out in the many large households, castles or keeps, very much for the consumption of the family, workers, soldiers and visiting guests. The brewhouse at Traquair is a fine example of just such an enterprise though probably on a larger scale than most houses.
With the taming of the Border Reivers in the 17th century and the advent of commercial brewing in the 18th century, “home” brewing died out as supplies of ales were produced in breweries established in most of the major towns in the Borders.
As centres of brewing on much larger scales developed in Edinburgh, Alloa, Newcastle and further afield, these local town breweries gradually disappeared.
Brewing in the Borders was revived in 1965 by Peter Maxwell Stuart at Traquair House and by Broughton Ales Ltd in 1979 in the village of Broughton, both in the Tweeddale area.
The original Traquair House Ale, brewed at a time when original gravity and not alcoholic (abv) strength was the way a beer was measured, had an abv of around 8 – 10 %. One of the tasks of the brewer at Belhaven, where the beer was bottled, was to taste each of the casks prior consolidating them into a single tank. A job best left to the end of the day.
Since that time Traquair have gone on to produce a number of beers themed round Traquair House and the monarchy of the Stuarts specialising in stronger dark beers with good malt flavours. These beers are available in selected speciality outlets in the UK as well as a number of countries round the world. For more information on brewing at Traquair see the link in the side panel.
Unlike Traquair Brewery, which forms part of a larger, tourism based business, Broughton Ales Ltd was set up as a stand alone commercial brewery and is currently run by the same young brewer who used taste Traquair Ale at Belhaven, who seems to have come to no harm from the experience.
Broughton Ales was one of the new wave of "micro" breweries that appeared in the 1970s and 1980s in response to the demand for "real" or cask conditioned ale created by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)
The beer on which Broughton Ales was founded was Greenmantle Ale which was a 3.9% draught ale. This was followed by Old Jock (6.7%) and Merlin's Ale (4.2%). At an early stage Broughton Ales included bottled beers in their portfolio. This proved to be very popular with the off-license trade and in particular with the supermarkets.
In the 1990s the concept of “Beers with Character” was developed whereby beers with distinct character were linked with characters based on the history of the Scottish Borders.
Broughton Ales now produced 12 different bottled beers, 15 cask beers, a kegged smooth style beer and a range of gift packs, all of which are now distributed throughout the UK as well as to a number of export markets.
For more information on brewing at Broughton see see the link in the side panel.
Article contributed by Alastair Mouat, Broughton Ales Ltd.