Tuesday 28 July 2009

Hall of Shame part 3 - Watneys Red Barrel

An occasional series devoted to the worst in the brewing world.

Watney's Red Barrel

In the film Quatermass and the Pit, there is a frightening scene where our heroes seek shelter from the monster in an East End pub, now the interior of this pub has a long bar which is totally empty apart from one solitary keg dispense font – a Red Barrel. That bit of the film still scares me today. But it is an insight into 1950s Britain where sometimes the only beer available was, in the words of Monty Python, 'bleeding Watney's Red Barrel'. It was a beer that no one ever had a good word to say about it, a mass-marketed, mass-produced and fizzy excuse for a beer that gave rise to the joke that, “Drinking Red Barrel was like making love in a boat – f***ing close to water!”

In the 1970s the 'beer' was relaunched as Watney's Red, with an over £1million advertising campaign which even involved painting pub interiors red. However according to the Penguin Guide to Real Draught Beer (Mike Dunn, 1979) “the new chilled, filtered, pasteurized, carbonated and pressure dispensed beer failed to sell at all well”. Keg beer was slowly on it's way out as customers once again discovered real ales again. The last time I saw Watney's Red was in the 1990s when it was being brewed by Usher's of Trowbridge for export to the USA! Not sure if it was in revenge for the American rice beer they have supplied the world with, but it was a good way to get back at them. That brewery has now been sold to North Korea, where it is no doubt producing beers of similar quality to help wash down the family pet after lunch.


Paul Carter Block said...

Watney involved Eric and Ernie to promote their garbage on a TV ad campaign. The slogans were: "Watney's Pale - cool, clear ale" and "Watney's Brown - drink it down".
To these, discerning drinkers added: "Watney's Red - drop down dead".
It still tickles me.

Anonymous said...

You people are insane. Watney's was my favorite beer and I have consumed many different beers in my time. I have one bottle left in my fridge.

Adey said...

Watney's was the first beer I ever drunk. Its just a fizzy version of the crap on tap at your average 'real ale' pub. It might have been piss, at least it wasn't warm and flat.

Anonymous said...

The anti Watneys vitriol is only relevant with the benefit of hindsight. Red Barrel sales were ginormous. Also Watney's Special. Student bars and others sold huge amounts of Watneys Starlight - that was weaker and cheaper - creating the making love on a punt comparison - Tax issues created the volume sales of weaker alcohol level student bars, public bars and sports ( esp Rugby ) clubs enjoyed.
Earlier snooty patronising comments forget that Tavern Keg Double Diamond Whitbread Tankard etc were all in the same fold. And sold shitloads everywhere Feck off patronising
pretentious numpties.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous (assuming his/her tongue wasn't planted firmly in his/her cheek) that Watney's was a favorite of mine. Who knows though. I've had a lot of solid beers since, but I'd love to try another to see just how good (or bad) it really was. It was my favorite at the time, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

There is lot of crap talked on here, on both sides of hogshead about Watney's.

The simple fact is in those days most pubs were tied usually to the local brewery. Which for the punter was a bit of a bugger because both brewery and landlord (tenant @ managed alike)knew they had them by the short and curly ones.

So with there backs to the wall our erstwhile beer drinkers, of the day, came up with up with slogan 'there aint no bad beers just some are better than others' usually with there kecks down, and a bucket between there knees.

The simple fact is, as any barman of the day will tell you everything went back in the mild, landlords perks. However what is less well known is all the crap from the bottom of the the kegs went back to the brewer, to be chucked into some recently excellent brewed beer.

Yep Watney's were top of the food chain in this practice, probably because in certain parts of London you couldn't get away from their pubs. Better fared were areas where the competition was a little more keen. However top draw stuff was always reserved for the elite, to have a pint of bitter in the officers mess at R.A.F Cranwell back then was angels pising on your tongue.


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