Thursday, 11 December 2014

Colours of Bernard, Younger and McEwan beers in 1960

I posted this document before because of the information in it about the mysterious names McEwan’s gave their beers. It shows the remarkable extent to which both Younger and McEwan and their Edinburgh rival T & J Bernard sold basically the same couple of draught beers in several different colour variations.

At the time, I didn’t know the provenance or precise date of the document. Now I do. I also know where it comes from, why it was written and when. Which makes it all a lot more exciting.

When Scottish Brewers, as they then were, took over T&J Bernard in 1960, the sales reps of the doomed and soon-to-be-closed Bernard brewery needed to be informed of the McEwan’s and Younger’s beers that were going to replace their own. See post from the other day.

The colour of the beer was obviously very important to customers. That’s why all three breweries were in the habit of making up several differently coloured versions of each draught beer, and why Scottish Brewers had to produce this overview of the colours of their own and Bernard’s beers.

Here are the colours of the beers made at Younger’s (Holyrood) and McEwan’s (Fountain) as brewed:

But it doesn’t end there by a long chalk. Beer was also coloured up before being sent out to certain customers, to a surprising number of different shades:

While at Holyrood:

How were they doing things at Bernard? Well, when it comes to colour, Bernard’s were doing their fair share of colouring up – even more, actually, but at least using the Lovibond scale instead of a made-up one of their own like Fountain did.

Colour No 3 Ale
For easy reference colours are generally known as:–
Light Tint25
A shade of colour38
Extra Dark58
Tint 8080
Inverness Dark150

Amazing stuff. No 3 was Bernard’s lowest gravity draught beer at 1031, so would have been sold as Light. Like the Light that you can still find in a rapidly shrinking number of Scottish pubs today, it was dark. I don’t pretend to understand the Lovibond colour scale, but isn’t 32 already pretty dark? What was the point of colouring it up to 80 or 150?

Colour. The scale used is 52 Series Lovibond and is the tint determined in a 1" cell.

No 2 Quality (Scotland) Tint 16. This colour is general in Scotland although there are some exceptions but not many. Newcastle Tint 25.

No 3 Quality
Colours vary according to the district.
3 customers in Dundee & one in Aberdeen25
East Coast45
Glasgow 25%45
12 1/2%80
12 1/2%150
* Newcastle only

Here’s the consolidated table listing all the variations the three breweries produced between them:

Colours of Bernard, Younger and McEwan beer in 1960
Lovibond colourBrewerOld trade nameNameTypeRemarks
16BernardNo 2No 2Pale AleAs sold in Scotland
21YoungerP60/–XXPPale Ale/Light
21YoungerP70/–XXPSPale Ale/Heavy
21YoungerP80/–I.P.A.Pale Ale
24McEwan60/–5/aPale Ale/Light
24McEwanP70/–P70/–Pale Ale/Heavy
24McEwanP80/–P80/–Pale Ale/Export
25BernardNo 2No 2Pale AleAs sold in Newcastle
25BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/Light3 customers in Dundee & one in Aberdeen
32BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightDundee
32BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightEdinburgh
32BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightNewcastle
45BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightBorders
45BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightEast Coast + a couple in Glasgow
47YoungerP60/–XXPQPale Ale/Light
56McEwan60/–G5/aPale Ale/Light
58BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightFife + a couple in Glasgow
80BernardNo 3No 3Pale Ale/LightOne or two customers in Glasgow
88McEwan60/–D5/aPale Ale/Light
150Bernard No 3No 3Pale Ale/LightInverness + one or two in Glasgow

Each brewery seems to have had its own internal colour scale. At Fountain it was no different. Note the remark “Every effort should be made to take beer as brewed.” Which suggests to me that the demand for darker beer was from the customers, not the brewers.

Very few people living in Scotland can possibly remember Light beer being anything other than very dark. The BJCP, however, claims Scottish Light is an amber to copper beer. With the colour ranging between 21 Lovibond (Younger’s) and 150 (Bernard’s sold in Inverness), the reality in the heyday of Light was evidently more complicated than either scenario. Bernard used four different shades for Glasgow alone. If you bought your draught beer from T & J Bernard’s, you could get it pretty much any colour you wanted!

More seriously, we are probably seeing here the beginning of the period when Light moved to being dark generally.


  1. There is more than one type of Lovibond. It depends on the depth of the cell. This lloks like the type usually used in Britain which is pretty much the same as EBC. 20 to 30 is the typical range for a Bitter. 80 - 90 is Dark Mild, 150 up Stout. 32 isn't that dark.