About Traquair House Brewery
Peter Maxwell Stuart rediscovered the brewery in the early 1960’s and began brewing again as an experiment in 1965 using all the original equipment and fermenting the ales in the original oak tuns, some of which were over 200 years old. Footage has recently come to light showing the 20th Laird brewing with his daughter (the present 21st Lady of Traquair).
History of Traquair House Brewery (1700s to 1970s)
Brewing at Traquair originally took place in the kitchens of the house but in the early 1700’s the present brewery was established in one of the new wings built in 1694. During the eighteenth century most large country houses would have had a brewery as ale was considered a cheap and nutritional drink. At Traquair, it also appears to have been part of the servants’ wages!
The brew house was furnished with a 200 gallon copper bought in 1738 at the cost of £8 10s and wooden fermenting vessels made from Russian memel oak. The ale produced was either a strong dark ale or small beer which was made without using hops. By the early 1800’s there were many more commercial breweries and brewing at Traquair became an expensive luxury the family could not afford.
The brewery was closed and the brew house was left to become the repository for the family’s unwanted furniture and other junk. In 1965 my father, Peter Maxwell Stuart, the twentieth Laird, was undertaking a huge spring cleaning operation in order to open the house more fully to the public. When he discovered the brewery underneath centuries of family junk he was surprised to find the entire collection of brewing vessels and equipment had survived intact.
After a thorough cleaning operation the brewery was ready to be used again for the first time in one hundred and fifty years. Peter enlisted the help of a friend, Sandy Hunter of Belhaven Brewery and together they researched the Traquair archives and developed the recipe for a traditional Scottish Ale. The first brew took place in 1965 and the finished product was bottled at Belhaven and sold at Traquair. However, even at a price of 3/- (15p) per bottle it proved hard to sell.
During the next few years the Laird continued brewing several times a year and he also numbered each bottle with a brew and bottle number. These early bottles are now collector’s items.
1970s to Present
In the 1970’s the Campaign for Real Ale became an important consumer movement that revived and interest in traditional beer and championed small independent breweries. Traquair was rightfully recognised as a pioneer in its field and demand for the ale increased.
The brewery received an increasing amount of media coverage and the quality of the ale was also praised. It achieved the highest accolade in Michael Jackson’s World Guide to Beer which sparked interest from overseas,
Commemorative brews were produced such as the 100th Brew, the 250th, Silver Wedding Ale and even a 21st Birthday for Peter’s daughter Catherine.
In the mid 1980’s the first brewer was employed and the first exports undertaken to the USA closely followed by Japan.
In 1990 following my father’s death I took over the management of the brewery.
Demand for the ales continued to grow both in the UK and overseas and in 1993 the brewery was expanded into the adjoining stable block which doubled the production capacity.
The brewery now employs two full time brewers who brew twice weekly with a weekly output of around 500 gallons.
The recipe has not changed and ingredients are sourced locally where possible. The exception is the hops which are East Kent Goldings, a rare and old fashioned variety.
The original ale produced was The Traquair House Ale (ABV 7.2%). This has now been joined by the Traquair Jacobite Ale (ABV 8%) which is spiced with coriander and based on an eighteenth century recipe. Traquair Bear Ale (ABV 5%) which is the lightest in the range and is also sold on draught locally and in Edinburgh.
The brewery now produces around 250,000 bottles each year and approximately 60% is exported to the USA, Canada, Japan, Italy, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
The ales have won numerous awards and in a few years ago the brewery was voted 20th best brewery in the world by the consumer website ratebeer.com a real tribute to the quality of the ales produced from this tiny brewery.