The Cheviot Hills, Northumberland National Park\n© Simon Fraser

The Production and Trade of Beer and Whisky in Coquetdale

Coquetdale © Northumberland National Park AuthorityCoquetdale
While living in Ayrshire, the great Scottish poet Robert Burns worked as an excise man seeking out illicit whisky stills for the government. This did nothing to diminish his enjoyment of the product of such distilleries, however, as revealed in the poem John Barleycorn:

And they hae taen his very heart's blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
'Twill make your courage rise.

Coquetdale's first John Barleycorn Festival took place in October 2006. Organised by local communities and businesses, the festival is a celebration of their rich cultural heritage and in particular their ancestors' rather dodgy doings in illegal whisky distillation and smuggling! In order to contribute to the development of the festival and provide an historical background for the project, Northumberland National Park commissioned the The Archaeological Practice Ltd. to produce the following report.

The report focuses on the production of whisky and beer in Coquetdale, but also deals in some depth with trade and consumption, all set within the changing social, economic and legislative context for the period concerned. In addition, the processes involved in the brewing of beer and distilling of whisky are also covered, using historic records from many sources listed in the report.

Scotland and more recent ethnographic parallels where appropriate. along with various historic photographs and a map showing the location of all the known still sites, breweries and brewhouses, whisky houses and inns and other sites.

PDF documentThe Production and Trade of Beer and Whisky in Upper Coquetdale (PDF Format, 4.6mb)

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