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.
A cheerful band of drinkers, together we all stand, Maybe a bit unsteady, with tankards in the hand. ’Prentices or Craft Brothers, we have our little joke, We are always drinking, but the Publicans go broke!
The final stanza of ‘The Ballad of Boozeldon’ which opens the 1967 home brewing manual Brewing Better Beers by Ken Shales.
…we’re much harsher in our judgements of ‘craft beer’… we’ve also learned our own limits, and come to respect really expert brewers all the more.
A couple of years on, that’s truer than ever: we resent paying for beers that are no better than we could turn out ourselves and, unfortunately, quite often find ourselves saying of beers we’ve paid several quid for, “Ugh! If we’d brewed this, we’d have written off as a failed batch.”
Has it made us like beers we didn’t like before? Actually, yes — we were baffled by saison until we read Phil Markowski’s book Farmhouse Ales, at which point it snapped into focus: it’s all about the subtly funky, distinctive yeast. We’ve since brewed several batches which have not only been among the best beer we’ve ever produced but have also helped us understand and appreciate commercial examples.
In fact, more generally, one of the great benefits of home brewing has been getting to know different yeast strains, and coming to appreciate its contribution in a world where hops hog all the attention. We’re much more sensitive to yeast character, or its absence, than we ever were before.
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.
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.