Our adventure so far

When it comes to Caledonian Brewery there’s no shortage of adventure. From the
ingenuity and bravery of George Lorimer and our love affair with Edinburgh to flirting with
disaster courtesy of two fires and a potential closure. Never a dull moment.

  • History
  • Our City
  • Determined
  • Brewers Art

Our founding father

It was an unfortunate event that got our adventure started. George Lorimer Sr.
was walking past the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh as fire engulfed it. He attempted
to save a trapped labourer but the north wall of the theatre collapsed burying both
men. On news of his father’s death, George Lorimer Jr returned home.

Lorimer Jr. was a member of the Bruntsfield
Links Golfing Society. Members met at the Golf
Tavern. This is where Lorimer met Robert Clark,
a local head brewer. Pints were drunk and plans
were hatched.

Lorimer & Clark’s Caledonian Brewery opened
in 1869 on Slateford Road where it brews to this
day. Proof, if ever it was needed, that adventure
begins with a pint.

view the timeline: 1869 – Present

And then there was one

Brewing and Edinburgh go together like fish and deep-fried potatoes. Back in 1868 the underground
lake of pure, hard water beneath the city was was destined for greater things – to be used for making beer. And with
Scotland producing more than its fair share of barley, brewers didn’t have to go far for their malt. With
such exquisite resources on their doorstep Edinburgh drinkers had 41 city brewers to choose from.

150 years later and we are the last one standing.

Maybe that’s because our values
of inventiveness, perseverance and loyalty are rooted in the city we’re proud to call home.

And we still use natural whole leaf
hops and open-fired brewing coppers.
Adventure demands it.

The unstoppable brewery

Some adventures can be close-run things. Fires (two of them),
and near closure are just a few we’ve had to endure.

Let’s begin in 1986 when Vaux decided to cease
brewing and transfer the operation to Sunderland.
Thankfully, a year later, the phoenix rose from the
ashes with a management buy-out, and enough
publicans in Edinburgh were prepared to support
cask ale to make the new proposition viable.

In 1994 fire swept through the brewery destroying
the original maltings. It took two years to
painstakingly rebuild them. Then in 1998 fire struck again – one of our direct-fired coppers switched itself
on and blew the roof off. Two weeks later and we were brewing again. We’ll drink to that.

The Brewer’s art

In 1869 Edinburgh had 42 breweries. In such a saturated market it was vital that we did things
a little differently to stand out and to remain standing. Our approach to the time-honoured craft
is still fuelled by a thirst for adventure and innovation, coupled with a tenacity to settle
for nothing short of brewing brilliance.

It’s more than a philosophy, it’s a
commitment to never compromise.
That’s why our brewers know beer inside
out. And why their skill, married with our
unique open fire coppers, a pilot brewery
called Wee George and the use of nothing
but the finest ingredients are absolute
essentials when it comes to refreshing
and rewarding adventures in brewing.

Doing it our way

What makes us special? Is it our unique coppers or our pursuit of the finest ingredients?
Or the wonderful concoctions emanating from out pilot brewery?
Maybe it’s all three.

Our open fire coppers

Think of three giant kettles sitting on a gas stove each holding 20,000 pints and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what our open fire coppers look like. We are one of only a handful of breweries left in Britain to have them.

From an economic point of view having them makes no sense whatsoever. But from a brewing point of view it makes perfect sense, because the hops are correctly boiled and not stewed which can occur in cheaper alternatives.

Our distinctive clean malt profile and delicate hop characteristics are all down to our coppers. And the soft natural caramelisation from the hot spot brew is one of our unique Cask credentials.

All about Wee George

Wee George helps us come up with big ideas in brewing. It’s a state-of-the-art pilot brewery that pushes boundaries and sets us off in search of new taste adventures. More than anything, it gives us the freedom to experiment.

So we can produce 2-3 brews a week, test and develop new and existing recipes without the usual constraints of minimum brew length.

The most successful results are then scaled up for wider production in the main brewery. Wee George has so far allowed Caledonian to develop Coast to Coast and Rare Red as new brews and deliver them to market in double-quick time. It’s safe to say that there’s definitely nothing small about Wee George.

The magic inside

Malt, water, hops, yeast – the four ingredients of our beer.

We only use hand-weighed whole hop flowers because they impart the big flavours and aromas we’re after. Our hops come from all over the world and give the beer its bitter and refreshing finish. By adding the hops at intervals, a natural caramelisation occurs which makes our beers so distinctive.

But the yeast is where the magic happens. Our yeast – the strain of which is a closely guarded secret – has been in use at the brewery for generations to ensure quality and consistency across all our beers.