How much did that cost? #8

Another example from Scotland, this time a completely different theme. A number of Scottish Brewers indicated the strength of their beers in either Shillings or Guineas. Maybe there was originally a connection with horse racing, where prizes were often given in Guineas, and of course guineas implies high quality. A Guinea was 21 shillings so 3 Guinea Ale was 63 shillings indicating a fairly weak beer as I have not come across 1 or 2 guinea beers. . At one time there may have been a relationship with the cost of a barrel of the beer. We shall return to this theme in the future. Here is Three Guinea Ale label from W.H.Brown of the Craigie Brewery in Dundee.


  • Edd Mather

    What a Dish of a Label !!!

  • Bah Humbug

    I think that I heard somewhere that the 70/-, 80/- & 90/- names for ales were to do with the amount of taxation levied
    Not sure if this was per gallon or per barrel.
    Am sure some of your readers will know more without having to refer to the good ol’ interweb or even those old fashioned things known as books.

  • Edd Mather

    The Shilling , or /- is a bit of a minefield, as it can mean both duty payable, and selling price ; Ron Pattinson is probably the best person to ask about this one though .

  • Ron Pattinson

    Pre-WW I the shillings or Guineas are the wholsale price of a hogshead (54 gallons). William Younger had beers going from 40/- to 160/-. After WW I, it’s basically meaningless, other than a rough guide to strength.

  • SidneyBroadshead

    Some breweries used Guineas (a gold coin worth 21 Shillings) rather than Shillings because Guineas were used for luxury purchases. Items like race horses, chests of tea, doctor’s and lawyer’s bills, and bespoke suits were paid for in guineas rather than sovereigns / pound notes. Even after the coin was discontinued in 1814, notional sums like gambling debts were still figured in them.
    A 3 Guinea ale (63 Shilling) would be considered a Light ale (60 Shilling) and a 4 Guinea ale (84 Shilling) would be considered an Export ale (80 Shilling). Strong ales came in 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 Guineas. There are also 12 Guinea (252 Shilling) and 15 Guinea (315 Shilling) “Wee Heavies”.

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