QUICK ONE: Watney’s Is Back

Watney's Pale ad c.1968.

Adrian Tierney-Jones has finally put us out of our misery and forwarded the email he so cryptically trailed last week: the Watney’s brand is indeed being revived.

The company behind the revival is Brands Reunited who specialise in this kind of thing — the new incarnation of Home Ales in the East Midlands is theirs, too. They are having their Watney’s branded pale ale brewed under licence at Sambrook’s, reasonably close to the original Watney’s brewery in London.

They seem quite happy to acknowledge that it’s not earth-shatteringly flavoursome but nor is it an attempt to recreate the original less-than-admired beers. This new version of Watney’s Pale contains US hops which, according to tasting notes by Annabel Smith, ‘smacked of pine, and spice’. It’ll be on cask at first with keg to follow.

So, interesting, but not as interesting (to us, anyway) as a keg-only recreation of Watney’s Red would be, with original yeasts and so on… But much, much more commercially intelligent.

16 thoughts on “QUICK ONE: Watney’s Is Back”

  1. You have to wonder what marketing meeting came up with this one.

    “Guys, let’s revive an old beer brand! But which one?”

    “What about one with an absolutely terrible reputation, that people used to actively avoid?”

    “Edgy, Crawford – I like it!”

    Then again, someone thought it was a good idea to revive Kestrel lager too.

    Perhaps they are hoping everyone will buy it once to see if it’s as awful as they’ve heard. I suspect a similar strategy is also used by that Italian Hitler beer, which tourists buy to take home and show their friends and talk about how shocking it is.

      1. Do you mean it’s been brewed to a 1969 recipe, or has it been knocking about in someone’s cellar for 40 odd years? Either way, interesting!

  2. American hops? Why? I don’t get it… The original, 1960s recipe, which exists online with some credibility, would have been well-worth recreating given its all-malt (or almost) formulation. I just don’t see the point of these recreations if there isn’t the intent to recreate the original.

    Also, as you know, the CAMRA disdain for Watney’s Red seems to have followed a recipe change, possibly (I haven’t checked back on this) when Red Barrel became simply Red. Anyway the original deserves revival, I remember some of the classic bottled pale ales of the 80s and 90s and they were excellent.

    Gary

  3. It’s pretty smart, we reckon, even if there’s not much about it to get us really excited.

    As with Truman’s, they’re taking advantage of all that money and effort the old Watney’s invested in building brand recognition to market a brand new product, just like the new Truman’s did a few years back. There are Watney’s logos, signs, pub livery, all over the place, but especially in London, and people who aren’t obsessed with beer will just vaguely think, on seeing the brand name on a pump clip, ‘Oh, I’ve heard of that.’ That will (probably, maybe) give them a head start.

    Granted, Watney’s is an extreme case — it really had a bad reputation, like Skoda, or Blue Nun — but there are 20-something year-old drinkers in pubs now who weren’t born the last time a Watney’s beer was widely available on draught. To many of them it will just be vaguely ‘heritagey’.

    1. I see it like Tyson. A name like Watney will mean nothing surely to the vast bulk of young drinkers. Truman was similar but their project had the cachet of having investigated and recreated some of the old recipes, which anchors it firmly to the London it was so long a part of.

      If those who resurrected the brand were concerned that some of the old image would rub off on the new brand, I could see that possibly as a reason possibly not to tie your image to Red Barrel or that era. But then, make two beers – most breweries or contract operations make more than one anyway. Wanted Heritage, Watney IPA, hedge the bets. I’d be good with that, but based on what I’ve read about what is planned, I doubt it will resonate very far.

      Gary

  4. Same comment with typos corrected:

    I see it like Tyson. A name like Watney will mean nothing surely to the vast bulk of young drinkers. Truman was similar but their project had the cachet of having investigated and recreated some of the old recipes, which anchors it firmly to the London it was so long a part of.

    If those who resurrected the brand were concerned that some of the old image would rub off on the new brand, I could see that possibly as a reason not to tie your image to Red Barrel or that era. But then, make two beers – most breweries or contract operations make more than one anyway. Watney Heritage, Watney IPA, hedge the bets. I’d be good with that, but based on what I’ve read about what is planned, I doubt it will resonate very far.

    Gary

    1. I think you’re underestimating how much Watney’s livery is still visible all over the place. When the new Truman’s started out they didn’t use the original yeast, any original recipes, and weren’t even based in London; they were just fairly shamelessly cashing in on the fact that there are so many beautiful London pub buildings, especially in the hip parts of town, festooned with Truman’s livery.

      And if the name means nothing then, well, no harm done from their perspective — it’s as good as any other brand name they might make up except they get to say ‘Since 1837’, or whatever.

      And, in PR terms… Well, we’d never have written about it if it was just Bloggs’s Brewery, for starters.

      1. That was right at the beginning for Truman, but they did go the authenticity route as soon as they could, sometimes you start with what you have as many brewers did who used a contracting arrangement.

        On the survival of ghost markings and similar. It may cause some sales, I don’t think significantly but time will tell.

        I am very glad you are talking about it and if memory serves, one of the original recipes appeared on this very site. But the beer market at large sadly takes almost no notice of such specialist matters.

        Anyway, we will see, but I think they should go the extra step… Maybe they will in time.

        Gary

  5. Is the handsome trendy chap in the ad Mike McGear, real name Peter Michael McCartney, younger brother of the fab Paul? He was famous in the 60s as a member of the Scaffold, with Roger McGough and John Gorman, who had a hit with ‘Lily the Pink’. Only asking…

  6. Am currently sat enjoying a second pint (sparkler-free, the first was sparkled from another pump off the same barrel, 15°) at a beach-front place in Broadstairs. It’s great, IMO, a bit of marshmallow maltiness with a firm bitterness, not too much citric character, just a bit. Really well done, better unsparkled, of course.

    The 19yo barman likes it, as he enjoys trying “different ales and beer” (bless him, joy and hope for the future), but couldn’t tell me anything about it. And he’d also never heard of Red or Red Barrel, nor how it was the beginning of the great keg abomination that led to CAMRA, which he HAD heard of.

    Lovely lunchtime sup.

Comments are closed.