Category Archives: Beer history

Watney Mann quality control manual, 1960s.

The Kegronomicon

Yesterday, we received something special in the post: a Watney Mann quality control manual covering the period 1965-1971.

It’s on loan to us from a former Watney’s brewer who we got in touch with on the suggestion of Dominic Driscoll at Thornbridge. (Thanks, Dom!)

Watney Mann quality control manual, 1965.

The contents of this black plastic binder was first printed in 1965 and includes every piece of information a brewer at any Watney’s-owned plant could have needed to produce their full range of beers, from Red Barrel to Brown Ale.

Ingredients, methods, measurements and materials are all specified precisely.

It also contains numerous inserts — letters, technical notes from head office, and scraps of paper with test results written on them. There are numerous handwritten amendments to the original recipes, presumably made in response to orders from on high.

Detail from the Watney Mann Quality Control manual.

Most importantly, for us, at least, there are several sheets of typed instructions for brewing Watney’s Red, the beer that replaced Red Barrel in 1971.

We’re going to digest the manual carefully and share some key information here in a series of posts. We’ve also got the owner’s agreement to make scans to share with other researchers. There might be a way to make it available publicly online — at archive.org, for example — but that will probably require permission from Diageo. We’ll look into it.

In the meantime, here’s an interesting nugget: prescribed carbonation levels for Watney’s Red Barrel from 1965, with an amendment we’d guess is from around 1968.

Watney's Red Barrel pressure instructions,  1960s.

And then for the new Watney’s Red:

Watney's Red pressure instructions, 1971

The lads in the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale weren’t imagining it: keg bitter really was getting ‘fizzier’.

Beamish & Crawford's Cork Porter Brewery.

GALLERY: Brewing in Ireland c.1902

The invaluable and labyrinthine Internet Archive (archive.org) recently made available millions of public domain images from old books, searchable by keyword, on Flickr.com.

This gallery comes from a 1902 book called Ireland: industrial and agricultural which has a substantial section on brewing in Ireland.

(We’ve tidied the images up a bit and flipped them all the right way round.)

Old Beer Descriptors: ‘Winey’

Ballantine Pale Ale, 1910.

Our post about a 1901 guide to beer styles prompted discussion about what ‘winey’ might have meant in beer descriptions of the Victorian/Edwardian period.

Commenters suggested:

  • “fruity esters”
  • “a pleasant level of acidity”
  • “sharp, but not in a citric way; that sour heaviness that you get in red wine”.

Here are a few more possible clues.

1. Above, from a 1910 sales booklet from Ballantine of New York, is a beer description which specifies that aged bottles have ‘the qualities of fine old wine’.

2. Robert Druitt’s 1873 Report on the Cheap Wines has this:

St. Elie [from Greece] went into disfavour with some of my friends from its great acidity and harshness. Blessed is the young wine which has these characters, if only it can be put by to mature. For I find that the St. Elie, if duly allowed to rest, deposits a small quantity of tartar, becomes darker in colour, and acquires a flavour of the true old winey character, resembling that of old Madeira. I use the word winey to indicate that taste and smell which wine has and which other liquids have not, and which is developed in the intensest form in this wine.

At which point, we turn to a contemporary wine writer, Jamie ‘Wine Anorak’ Goode:

Acetaldehyde is an important molecule in the oxidation of wine. Also known as ethanal, it’s the oxidation product of alcohol. Acetaldehyde has an aroma often likened to that of fresh-cut apples, and it gives wine a flat texture in the mouth. Sherry and Madeira exhibit high levels of acetaldehyde; indeed, one common description of oxidized whites is “sherried.”

4. Ron Pattinson has been looking at chemical analyses for 19th century lager beers. Of 1886-87 Nuremberg beers he says:

I’m shocked at the high lactic acid content of every sample. I’d have expected it to be no higher than 0.1%. Over 0.2% I would have expected to give the beer a detectable tartness.

5. And finally, a possible red herring from Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son, just for fun: “In particular,  there was a butler in a blue coat and bright buttons, who gave quite a winey flavour to the table beer; he poured it out so superbly.” (We think here flavour means ‘feel’, and this is about presentation rather than taste.)

So, in conclusion, what we’re now thinking is that (a) ‘winey’ had 100-150 years ago almost exactly the same meaning as the now more popular ‘vinous’; and that (b) we’ve been mistake in assuming that 19th century lager was much like the crisp, clean stuff we drink today.

World Beer Style Guide 1901

Beer styles of 1901 diagram.

The diagram above is a representation of text from a 1901 book called One Hundred Years of Brewing publish by H.S. Rich & Co. of Chicago as a special supplement of The Western Brewer.

The passage in question is most interesting as a reflection of how things looked at the time — which types of beer had people heard of? And how were the relationships between them perceived?

It is quoted almost in full below, with our own emphases, but you can (and should) take a look at the original here:

There is one typical, strongly pronounced distinction to-day, and… between the beers of Germany, England and America. The German beer… is expected to be made of a more dextrinous wort, rich in extract, of full-mouthed taste, moderate in alcohol, mostly of dark colour, and possessing a rich and permanent head of foam.

The Bohemian beers have more of a vinous character and possess a fine and strongly noticeable hop flavor, a pronounced bitter taste, and are light in color.

The English beers are divided into two classes, the light colored beers — ales — the dark or black colored ones — porter and stout.

The ales have chiefly a vinous character and possess a good percentage of alcohol and extract, strongly marked hop flavor and bitter taste, and are rich in carbonic acid. The bottle ales and stock ales, especially the last named ones, possess a characteristic fine wine taste, produced by a peculiar and prolonged secondary fermentation. Porter, with a rich and very heavy foam, was in former years a very heavy beverage, but at present is brewed in [sic] lighter, and has, as a result of its composition, a characteristic bitter and dry taste.

The American lager beers taste more like wine than the German ones and in character are nearer related to the Bohemian or Austrian beers, have very much effervescence, and combine the quality of preserving the foam with a more or less full-mouthed taste. Their color, with the exception of special brands, is light throughout.

Besides these there are a number of provincial or local character… To count up their names only would fill several pages, and for that reason we can only mention the principal ones

The weiss beer (wheat beer originally) are strongly effervescent beers, produced by top fermentation and going through the second part of fermentation after being bottled…

“Broyhahn,” also a historical beer, is a very light colored, winey beverage, of a sweetish-sour taste. “Gose” is a beverage similar to “Broyhahn”. Both are made by top-fermentation.

Too numerous to mention individually are the herb beers, receiving their flavor by the addition of herbs of the greatest variety…

Among the celebrated Austrian beers, the already mentioned “Pilsner” stands at the head of the list. They all have a similar winey taste, and are of light color.

Among the English beers, Burton ale takes the lead… Side by side with the same we find as type of the dark colored beer Dublin stout. Scotch ale was at one time a very celebrated beverage, its vividness and fine winey taste being especially praised.

In Belgium there are to be found certain beers of local celebrity possessing all the qualities produced by the process of self fermentation to which they are subjected, their names being “Lambik” and “Faro”.

One of the most celebrated beers in its day was “Strassburger,” which, for a long number of years, controlled the Paris market to the exclusion of the Bavarian beer. It has a characteristically winey taste…

The American breweries produce, besides lager beer, ale and porter, the so-called “common” beer and “steam” beer, the last named on the Pacific coast.

That’s not very far off the style framework put forward by Michael ‘Beer Hunter’ Jackson’s in his World Guide to Beer 77 years later, is it?

But what does ‘winey’ mean in this context?