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Twopenny Ale


(or tuppeny, twapenny, tippenny)

A Scottish style of pale ale sold from the 18th Century onwards at 2 pence per Scotch Pint (a measure given in Grose 1811 Dictionary as being 'two quarts' or four English pints). An ale mild enough for everyday drinking, but strong enough to provoke sufficient courage for Burns 'Tam o’ Shanter' of 1790 to say; "Wi’ tippenny, we fear nae evil; Wi’ usquabae, we’ll face the Devil!"

Of the mere 25 articles to the Act of Union setting up the United Kingdom, the whole of article VII is devoted to twopenny ale, exempting it from general taxation on liquors and limiting its tax liability to 2 shillings (24 pence) per 12 Scotch gallon barrel at a time when 8 shillings was the usual tax rate on other ales. This anomaly between English and Scottish tax rates seems to have led to brewers in northern England producing ale which they claimed was intended for sale in Scotland, or made 'in Scots style' and a whole series of administrative fudges which only ended 257 years later when the entire article was revoked by the Statute Law Revision (Scotland) Act of 1964

Twopenny may have been one of the sources for Porter

Twopenny ale is mentioned in many literary works of the 19th Century, and seems to appear in almost every work of Sir Walter Scott, including 'The Antiquary' ("An attack was now commenced upon the car-cakes and smoked fish, and sustained with great perseverance by assistance of a bicker or two of twopenny ale") and 'Red Gauntlet' ("And on Sundays, when we had a quart of twopenny ale, instead of butter-milk, to our porridge".)

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