Category Archives: Beer history

purest_best

Chemical Beer and CAMRA

From fairly early on in its existence, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has shown a concern with the purity of beer, almost as much as with the method of dispense, and arguably more than with the quality of its flavour.

This has been on our mind lately, since Yvan Seth asked this question:

We’ve previously touched upon the hippy whole-food influence on CAMRA’s language and approach, not only here on the blog, but also in chapter four of Brew Britannia.

Continue reading

Watney's Brown Ale label (detail).

Kegronomicon: Watney’s Brown, 1965

The 1965 Watney’s quality control manual we’ve borrowed contains recipes for two brown ales: Watney’s and Mann’s.

Both have rather different recipes, perhaps surprisingly, given their similar specifications: for example, Watney’s contained black malt for colour, while Mann’s got most of its from caramel. The water was also treated very differently. (And, by the way, bottled Watney’s Brown was also quite distinct from their draught mild.)*

Because Mann’s is still in production, we’re a bit twitchy about sharing the details, but the following information should enable you to produce at home something resembling Watney’s Brown as it was in 1965.

Continue reading

The Britannia, Copenhagen, 1955

The Britannia Inn, Copenhagen. SOURCE: The House of Whitbread, Winter 1955-56.
The Britannia Inn, Copenhagen. SOURCE: The House of Whitbread, Winter 1955-56.

Three years before Whitbread presented their state-of-the-art modern pub at the Expo in Brussels in 1958, they tested the water with a more traditional inn of the same name in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The British Exhibition in Copenhagen ran from 29 September to 16 October 1955 (exactly 59 years ago, by the way) and included representations from some 600 British concerns, including Whitbread.

The Britannia Inn was converted from an existing box-like modern restaurant on the exhibition ground site at the Tivoli Gardens and was intended to resemble a traditional Victorian pub:

Rustic seats stood by the doors leading to the saloon and public bars. Over the front door was the usual inscription in small letters: Frits Guldbrandsen. Licensed to sell beer, wines, spirits and tobacco.

Fixtures and fittings were borrowed from working Whitbread pubs back home. The sign — apparently the same as later used in Brussels — was taken from the Britannia Inn on High Road, Leytonstone, London E11, while several china barrels from the Nag’s Head, Covent Garden, were displayed behind the bar.

The Duke of Edinburgh drinks at the Britannia Inn, Copenhagen, 1955.
The Duke of Edinburgh. SOURCE: The House of Whitbread, Winter 1955-56.

Only bottled beer was sold but ‘beer-engine handles had been fixed to the bar to give the right atmosphere’. When the Duke of Edinburgh arrived on the royal yacht Britannia on 12 October, however, draught beer was sent over specially, and he drank it from a presentation tankard which he promised to keep on the yacht as a souvenir. (The Queen of Denmark visited on 4 October and made do with a glass of sherry in the public bar.)

Pathe Newsreel: Britannia Inn at 1:30.

Britain was rather proud of its pubs and breweries back then, wasn’t it?

We recently acquired, through a response to our wanted page, several vintage issues of the Whitbread magazine, The House of Whitbread. This draws on the issue for winter 1955-56, cross-referenced against articles in The Times.

Adapted from Bulbs by Ignas Kukenys, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

Watney’s on Objective Tasting

The Watney’s Quality Control manual we’re currently digesting not only contain instructions for brewing but also sets out how to manage a beer tasting session.

“You want me to take advice on tasting beer from Watney’s!?” our older readers might cry at this point. The fact is, it’s hard to read the QC tome without gaining a certain respect for the care and attention the Big Red Giant put into process, even if the products weren’t, er… universally adored.

The purpose of this test was to check that Red Barrel brewed in the regions was as near as possibly identical to that brewed at the mothership at Mortlake in London.

1. The Room

(a) should be quiet

(b) should be moderate in temperature (58-62°F) [14-16°C]

(c) and should be low in light intensity (twilight conditions)

The Accessories

(d) The light should be red in colour (to obscure difference in haze and colour)

(e) Seats should be provided for the taster to sit in a relaxed position.

(f) A glass of water and a sink should be provided for each taster.

(g) A form of recording the results should be provided for each taster.

2. The Beers

These should have been stood overnight at a temperature of 58-62°F. They should be of equal C02 content and should be poured so that all three glasses show equal amounts of head.

The instructions go on to suggest how results should be recorded and the role of the organiser in policing the process. There is also advice on testing the ‘skill and interest’ of the tasters:

Take some distilled or tap water which is free from unpleasant flavour, cool and bubble carbon dioxide through it to remove air and introduce carbon dioxide… This water is then added to a portion of beer to dilute it by 10%. This diluted beer and a control portion of the undiluted beer… are then used in a three-glass test [where two glasses contain the same beer]… The tasters are told beforehand only that one of the two beers is more dilute.

A sweetness test, run in exactly the same way, used a sample dosed with 4 grams of sucrose per litre.

It is possible to score 33% correct answers by mere “guessing”. Members taking part with average scores of 50% or more may be regarded as suitable tasters for a permanent panel. This eliminates people with low discriminating powers where beer tasting is concerned but, at the same time, the panel selected will not be too severe in its judgments.

We hadn’t considered it before but, yes, we can see that finicky super-tasters probably are as useless as total numb-tongues for this kind of task.

As it happens, we’re currently conducting what amounts to an extended experiment in total, carefree subjectivity. Both approaches, we think, have their place, but perhaps we’ll try extreme objectivity next. The only worry is what might happen if one of us gets deselected from the blog after the dilution test.

Illustration adapted from Bulbs by Ignas Kukenys, on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

Watney's Red Barrel beer mat (detail).

Brewing Red Barrel, Watney’s Keg

For our first attempt to extract a home brewing recipe from the Kegronomicon we’ve gone for the original Red Barrel, Watney’s Keg (RBWK) as it was in around 1966.

There’s a huge amount of technical information in the documents that won’t be of much practical use to home brewers, and which we barely understand, so we’ve concentrated on the key parameters which should enable you to get vaguely close if you plug them into your own brewing software and/or process.

In general, though, the emphasis throughout is on absolute cleanliness: contact with oxygen should be minimised at every stage; and everything should be kept completely, obsessively sterile.

Note on sterility from Watney's QC manual, 1966.

And if you happen to have a bloody big industrial filtering and pasteurising facility, use it — that’s probably the biggest influence on how this beer would have tasted at the time.

Our primary source for vital statistics was a memo dated 26 August 1966, from F.W. Dickens of the Red Barrel & Draught Beer Department, Mortlake, providing a single handy summary of revised targets for colour, OG, IBU and carbonation.

We also cross-referenced with OG/ABV data from Whitbread’s analysts via Ron Pattinson.

Red Barrel, Watney’s Keg, c.1966

OG 1038 | FG 1009 | c.3.8% ABV | 30-32 IBU | 27 EBC

Pale malt 89%
Enzymic (acid?) malt 1%
Crystal malt (variable, for colour) 4.5%
Malt extract (in mash) 3%
Invert 3 (sugar, in boil) 2.5%

 

Hops — Fuggles (70%) Goldings (30%) to achieve 30-32 IBU. (Manual prescribes a blend of different growths to help maintain a consistent palate across batches.)

Water (all water used in the process) – 40 grains per gallon sulphates; 35 grains per gallon chlorides.

  • MASH at 158F (70c) for 1.5hrs; 1st sparge 175F (79.5c); 2nd sparge 160F (71c).
  • BOIL for 1h45m, with Invert 3 sugar, Irish Moss (1lb per 100 barrels – so, a teaspoon…) and Fuggles at 1h45m; Goldings at 15m.
  • Pitch yeast at 60F (15.5c) — Mortlake 114, or a blend of 114 and 118, in case you happen to have any handy; alternatively, a fairly neutral English ale yeast is probably best.
  • During fermentation, keep temperature below 69F (20.5c).
  • Warm condition for 8-12 days with dry hops (Goldings) at rate of 1oz per barrel (0.8g per gallon, we think); or use hop extract to achieve the equivalent. Add caramel at this stage if colour is off.
  • Prime with ‘liquid candy’ (sugar syrup?) to achieve 1.45 vols CO2 in final container.

Educated suggestions for which commercially available yeast strain might best approximate Watney’s would be very welcome.

And if there’s anything above that just looks completely barmy — numbers that don’t add up &c. — let us know and we’ll double check the source material.