As the Scottish Export beer has now been withdrawn from the Samson beer kit range, we have taken on the Brewmaker Scottish Heavy kit to replace it. While writing up the description for the website, we noticed that it had 80/- on the label. We have seen this before in the recipe for Caledonian 80/- that is in Graham Wheeler's book and knew that it had something to do with an ancient tax system, but seeing it again to day encouraged us to look it up to see exacly what it was.
In the late 1800s, tax was charged on Scottish beers at varying rates depending upon the alcohol strength. Based on a standard measure of 54 gallons (a hogshead) the "Shilling" system related to the amount of tax to be paid.
40/- ales were light bodied beers, often served to farmhands as part of their wages
50/- and 60/- ales were slightly richer light bodied beers and milds
70/- and 80/- beers were often export strength and were often called "Heavy" beer
90/- ales were the strongest beers brewed and were often shipped in 1/3pint bottles called "nips". These were often known as "Wee Heavy".