Among the many treasures in the archive at the St Austell Brewery is a small notebook which contains more information about Watney’s beer than any source we’ve yet come across.
At some point in the 1960s, a Watney’s man left Mortlake in South London and took a job in Cornwall. He brought his day-to-day working notebook with him.
Its blue cover is grubby and scuffed, and much of the contents is mundane — cleaning formulas, notes on the prices of steel wool, and so on. Among the gems, however, is this table of information on the fermentables used in Watney’s full range c.1965:
Click to enlarge.
(We say c.1965 because (a) the only date recorded anywhere is October 1963 but (b) there is also a reference to Worthington E,
launched which was pushed after 1967.)
We think those beers across the top are (updated 08/05/2014 — see comments):
- Sto. = Stout
- RBA = Red Barrel Ale (bottled Red Barrel)
- RBK = Red Barrel K——-? (kegged Red Barrel)
- Watneys Special Bitter/I——Special Bitter (perhaps branded for a brewery they’d taken over?)
- WPA = Watney’s Pale Ale (bottled beer)
- BA/XX — Brown Ale/Mild (pitch black…?)
If we’re right, then, first up, what we’ve been told about Red Barrel (as opposed to Red) would seem to be correct — it wasn’t full of ‘chemicals’ or ‘enzymes’, being made with c.90 per cent pale malt with a bit of invert sugar and a small amount of malt extract (EDME). It doesn’t even have any ‘flaked maize’ in it.
We don’t know what ‘DEM’ is — another form of ‘dried extract malt’, perhaps? CSI might be ‘candy syrup’, but that’s just a guess.
We don’t know about hop varieties or hopping rates so there isn’t quite enough information here to construct a recipe for 1965 Mortlake Red Barrel, but grist and approximate colour in Lovibond is more than we’ve had before.
Given the number of Watney’s men who went on to found their own breweries (Bill Urquhart at Litchborough, John Gilbert at Hop Back) there might well be lots of notebooks like this knocking about in attics across the country.