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Isn't this handy? A potted history of James Aitken.

The article was prompted by the bicentenary of the brewery. If there's one thing I've learned about brewery history, it's to take founding dates with a pinch of salt. Especially ones going back a couple of hundred years. And even if it's the brewery itself providing the date. Everyone wants to make themselves sound as old and established as possible.

"JAMES AITKEN & CO. (FALKIRK), LTD (1740-1940).

To celebrate the bi-centenary of the company, Messrs. James Aitken and Co. have issued a very interesting brochure describing the modern brewery and maltings. A large number of photographs contribute to make this publication a souvenir worthy of the occasion.

It is interesting to recall that it was in 1740, five years before the last landing of the Pretender in Scotland, that the house of Aitken was established by a Mr. John Aitken. The town of Falkirk was then a burgh of regality under the Earls of Callander.

Six years after the business was founded, Prince Charlie fought a battle in the vicinity, and there can be no question that the prince and his clansmen celebrated their victory in Aitken's ale as they billeted in the town.

The brewery in those days was a very small building. but the foresight of the owners of the business was shown in 1797 by purchasing land, which ground has been used for the greater part of the present brewery premises. Later, the maltings in Linlithgow were secured. The hill at the rear of the maltings, which rises to 500 ft. above sea-level, whilst being the most notable in the district, is also of great interest. It bears the name Cocklerne or Cuckold le Roi. On this height there are traces of ancient military earthworks, and at its summit is a remarkable cavity called Wallace's Cradle, which is said to have given frequent shelter to the Scottish patriot.

In 1830, it is interesting to note from old records, a patent was taken out for a carbonic acid gas plant to be used for the preservation of beer in bottle. As this was over 100 years ago, when most of the beer drunk was taken direct from the barrel and bottling of beer was little known, the company must have been looking well into the future.

The company has been famous the world over for its beer, and some say that it was Aitken's who taught the Australians how to brew good beer.

The aim of Aitken's has always been to brew beer of the very finest quality, suiting the taste of their public, and in 1921 they were successful in securing what is considered the finest award in the world, The Brewers' Journal Championship Cup at the London International Brewers' Exhibition.

From the simple building of 1740, where water for brewing had to be carted from a local well, has grown the massive modern brewery of 1940, which covers five acres of ground and has two artesian wells supplying over 200 gallons of water a minute."
"The Brewers' Journal 1940" pages 150 - 151. (Published Feb 21st, 1940.)
That 1830 patent is intriguing. It sounds like an early attempt to artificially carbonate bottled beer. The author has got it totally wrong when he was there was little bottled beer at that date. In Scotland bottled beer was the norm until the second half of 19th century. So it's not so surprising that Aitken was experimenting with improvements to bottling.

What an odd claim, that Aitken taught the Australians to brew. I wonder what evidence they have for that? Let's see, have I got anything about Aitken's beer in Australia? That 1910 price list for British beers in Australia has two from Aitken: a draught beer of unspecified type and bottled Aitken's Champagne. They wouldn't get away with calling a beer that today.

I keep telling you that beer competitions are nothing new. Just rigid judging classes.It would be nice if they had bothered to mention which of their beers was the winner.

Aitken's large new brewery had been built in 1900. How do I know that? Because I've found a newspaper article describing its construction. More about that later.