Nostalgia: Edinburgh breweries

Delivering beer from Usher's Brewery in 1960
Delivering beer from Usher's Brewery in 1960
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BREWERIES were once one of Edinburgh’s biggest employers – providing work for thousands of people – and earning Auld Reekie its now infamous nickname due to the sweet smell of brewing hops in the air.

More than 30 breweries jostled for dominance in the city during the industry’s late 19th-century heyday.

Hard at work at Drybrough's Brewery at Craigmillar

Hard at work at Drybrough's Brewery at Craigmillar

Between them, they produced countless of gallons ale, a product which would ease sore muscles at the end of busy working weeks across the Empire.

The rapid proliferation of largely family-owned breweries was down to the happy blend of Edinburgh having a plentiful drinking water supply, ample supplies of local barley, a ready workforce and the transport links necessary to get the finished product to pubs far and wide.

A densely-packed cluster of breweries situated across the Holyrood, Craigmillar and Slateford areas became known as the “charmed circle” because of their stand-out 

But the industry’s good luck charm was to fade, as increasing post-war competition from large international breweries saw a steady bubble of amalgamations and closures.

Founded back in 1869, the Caledonian Brewery – or The Caley as its known locally – is now the last working brewery in the city.

As we revealed this week, however, exciting plans are afoot which could see a museum dedicated to the city’s beer-making heritage built on the Fountainbridge site of the former Scottish & Newcastle brewery.

Preserving the city’s proud brewing past for posterity is a key aim of the Fountainbridge Community Initiative.

It’s a development that would be a case of ale’s well that ends well for the campaigners.