Face to Face With Mr E.C. Handel of Watney’s

Black and white portrait of a man in a three-piece suit.

The chap in the photograph above is E.C. Handel, known as Ted, who was head of Watney’s advertising/public affairs/PR department from the 1950s until the 1970s.

If you’ve read Brew Britannia (and if not, why not, &c.) you might recall his starring role as a foil for the upstart Campaign for Real Ale, engaging Christopher Hutt in a bad-tempered exchange of letters in the Financial Times which only served to boost CAMRA’s profile:

Most of your readers will probably not have heard of CAMRA… so I should explain that it is a group that includes in its small membership (about 1,500) a number of journalists who see in the ‘ancient v. modern’ beer situation a golden opportunity for ‘controversial journalism’… we have always taken the trouble to answer letters from CAMRA and to point out the innacuracies of the arguments they produce so monotonously. (16 June 1973)

The funny thing is, even though we spent months hunting down biographical details and tracking down people who knew him, including his son, this is the first time we’ve actually seen him. The picture comes from the April 1959 edition of Watney’s in-house magazine The Red Barrel and is excerpted from a group photo of the entire advertising department.

He looks rather severe, doesn’t he? And maybe a bit anxious. He certainly doesn’t look like someone who drank much beer. But maybe the chair was uncomfortable or his waistcoat itchy that day. You can’t read too much into a single picture.

Still, nice to meet you at last, Mr H.

Types of UK Brewery

From time to time, we feel compelled to categorise things. It never really works but, in the attempt, we usually learn something.

This time, we found ourselves wondering about the many different types of brewing business to be found in the UK today and how they relate to one other. (We did something similar before, but that was more abstract.)

Chart of UK brewery types.

We’ve tried to provide an example for each type, though we struggled to think of an active cuckoo/gypsy brewery, and a very approximate sense of what arrived when.

If the family groupings we’ve come up with work, then you should be able to think of a brewery and find a home for them.

Much more likely, however, is that the first comment below will name a brewery which breaks our classification system.

Flawed or not, we’d be interested to see similar attempts from those who know the beer scenes in Germany, Belgium, the US, or anywhere else — does this look pretty familiar, or wildly different?

Mapping Trends in British Beer

This is something we’ve been doing to help keep track of the narrative of British beer that is emerging as we research and, having enjoyed this conversation over at Ed’s blog, we thought we’d share it.

UPDATED 12:12 4 July 2013: an important line was missing between ‘real ale’ and ‘weird real ale’.

Graphic mapping trends in British beer over the last fifty years.


  1. This isn’t attempt to define terminology or push anyone into a box, but to reflect how we think people use some of these terms, and to track the ‘DNA’ of various trends.
  2. It’s simplified: we could have added quite a few more boxes (‘Real Lager’, ‘Revivalist IPA’, ‘World Keg’…) but have chosen not to, for now.
  3. There is a judgement reflected here: we’re more interested in and enthusiastic about the stuff in blue.
  4. Sorry about ‘weird real ale’ — we couldn’t think of anything better. It is intended to encompass everything ‘innovative’ (i.e. diverging from traditional styles) from Hopback Summer Lightning onward. (So that means Sean Franklin, Brendan Dobbin, Passageway and so on.)
  5. UPDATE: it’s not a graph, it’s just a kind of family tree.

Our Big News

Brew Britannia cover 1963.
How our book might have looked if it had come out in 1963. (Not the actual cover or even a working design — just a bit of fun!)

We can now confirm that our book project isn’t just a mad fantasy on our part, and is, in fact, to be published in the summer of 2014 by Aurum Press. (Assuming everything goes to plan, fingers crossed, and so on.)

The working title is Brew Britannia: The Strange Rebirth of British Beer, and it covers the period 1963 to the present. Aurum are best known for their books on popular culture and that’s more or less the way we think about beer.

The intention, if you haven’t gathered as much already from our blog posts and Tweets, is to tell the story of how we got from a point in the sixties where there was a genuine sense that we might end up with one great combine making a handful of weak, poor quality beers, to today’s far more diverse market.

On the way, we’re going to give a detailed account of how the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood (SPBW) and the Campaign for Real Ale were founded; the impact of home brewing on the ‘real ale revolution’ of the seventies; how ‘craft beer’ (as a cultural phenomenon) was born out of ‘real ale’ and as a reaction to it; and how beer made the transformation from working class daily drink to middle class talking point.

We’re trying, at every turn, to question assumptions, and to avoid referring to the same old sources, or to at least find the originals of those sources for ourselves, which is as frustrating as it is fun. We’re particularly pleased to have tracked down and conducted new interviews or corresponded with many key players.

In the meantime, we’re going to continue posting on the blog any historical nuggets we find that don’t fit in the book, along with the usual ponderings, articles and reviews.

The funny thing is, at the beginning of 2012, we didn’t have any ambition whatsoever to write a book about beer. Strange how things turn out, isn’t it?