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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 12:29 GMT
Years of brewing history ending

Sandy Murray
BBC News Online Scotland

Pint of beer
Beer has been produced at the Fountain Brewery since Victorian times
When William McEwan founded his Fountain Brewery, he may have been the only person with a vision of how large an enterprise it could become.

Sited in the village of Fountainbridge, then on the outskirts of Edinburgh, it started in a very small way.

According to the company's records, the first wage bill amounted to only 30 shillings - a modest sum even by the standards of the mid-19th century.

But William McEwan may have found at least two other people who saw the potential of his plans. The money he needed to establish his venture was borrowed from his mother and an uncle, Tom Jeffrey.

From this local family business, McEwan expanded his trade both at home and overseas.

A key market was the north east of England.

By the turn of the century, McEwan had cornered 90% of the sales in this region, just a couple of hours by steam train from Edinburgh.

Village brewery

The business was also exporting significant volumes of beer to Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and India.

Beer pumps inside a pub
Younger's Tartan Special
McEwan's 70/-
McEwan's 80/-
McEwan's Lager
Kestrel Lager
Kestrel Super
Younger's Pale Ale
Foster's Lager
In time, the Fountain Brewery became a modern operation capable of producing nearly two million barrels of beer each year.

Part of the Scottish Courage division of Scottish and Newcastle, its product line included McEwan's lager, and McEwan's 70/- and 80/- beers.

But, viewed from the vantage point of today's industrial-scale beer factories, Fountain with its 200 workers remains a village brewery.

Within the Scottish Courage business, all but one of its breweries have a larger capacity.

The Berkshire Brewery in Reading, the largest run by Scottish Courage, can make more than three times as much beer as the Edinburgh operation.

Its relatively small size will have helped persuade Scottish and Newcastle that the business could operate more efficiently without the Fountain Brewery.

Standard Life
The site of the Fountain Brewery is close to many major employers
The company will now have a very valuable site to sell, no longer on the outskirts of Edinburgh but in modern terms within the city centre.

Close to major businesses in Edinburgh's west end, and within an established residential area, the site in Fountainbridge is likely to raise many millions of pounds.

Raymond Dunn, a development land agent with FPDSavills, said: "It will be highly prized and I would expect interest to come from all the major developers.

"It will be one of the most valuable sites to come onto the market in Edinburgh in recent years."

The final price tag will depend on the cost of demolishing and clearing the site.

And the attitude of the City of Edinburgh council will be crucial.

The planners' view of how many homes can be created on the site, and whether it should include affordable housing, will determine how much profit can be made from the re-development of the Fountain Brewery.

Brewer to close Edinburgh plant
17 Feb 04  |  Business
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02 Dec 03  |  Business
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06 Oct 03  |  Business

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