Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Irn-Bru a Scottish soft drink which is important for its symbolic value as well as for its refreshing qualities.

Under the less puzzling name ‘Iron Brew’, this was one of the patent bottled drinks developed in Scotland in the early part of the 20th century. The impetus towards commercial production of such drinks lay partly in the strength of the temperance movement, and derived some inspiration from the tradition of tonics and health drinks prepared by herbalists.
In the early days ‘iron brews’ were produced by several manufacturers, and often contained no iron. During the Second World War, they all disappeared (as a result of the rationalization of the soft drinks industry); and after it legislation was passed which made it compulsory to add 0.125 g of iron per fluid ounce to any beverage bearing the name ‘iron-brew’. There was also some doubt about the future legality of calling something a ‘brew’ if it was not brewed in the traditional manner.