Small-scale home brewing was popular in Cromarty during the 17th century, when much of the grain grown on local farms would be malted for ale. However, when the export trade to Edinburgh and overseas proved more valuable for the grain a decline in this small scale operations occurred, but even in 1744 there were no fewer than 25 brewers operating in Cromarty.
The introduction in the South of England of ‘London porter’, which used hops in its production helped to further develop the export market for Scottish grain. This provoked in turn a ‘patriotic backlash’ in the late 18th century, with Scottish landowners being encouraged to set up commercial breweries of their own, using local grain and imported hops.
The original Cromarty brewery was established by George and Alexander Ross around 1790 and is situated close to a burn at the east extremity of Cromarty, on the corner of Miller Road and Burnside Place. It was substantial in comparison with average Scottish rural breweries of the time, perhaps reflecting the fact that the Black Isle (and Easter Ross in general) were fine cereal growing areas. It is likely, therefore, that the port at Cromarty was used not only to export grain, but also beer.
The Cromarty Brewery was in financial difficulties as early as the 1820s, at a time when several small whisky distilleries were opening up throughout the Black Isle. Dr Alston reported that Courthouse Museum records told of lead being stolen from the roof of the building in the 1840s, and production apparently came to an end sometime in the mid 1850.