Beer history

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, 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’.

6 replies on “The Kegronomicon”

One hopes pasteurization will be discussed in detail since it is a part of this story, a more important part than is often realized.


BT — on Twitter, Pete Brissenden tells us that “All Meantime and, when I worked there Camden’s beers were packaged at about 2.3-2.5 volumes of CO2.” So much higher.

Comments are closed.