Kegronomicon: Watney’s Brown, 1965

Watney's Brown Ale label (detail).

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.

Watney’s Brown Ale (bottled) 1965

OG 1030.9 | FG 1008 | ABV c.2.8% | 19–21 IBU | 115–130 EBC

Malt Per­cent­age of brew­ing mate­ri­als
Mild ale malt 72.5
Flaked maize 8.5
Crys­tal 6
Roast­ed malt (black) 4.5
Malt extract 4
(added to the mash tun dur­ing mash­ing)
No. 3 Invert 3
(added to the cop­per)
Caramel 1.5
(added to the cop­per)


Hops are 90% Fug­gles (from three growths) and 10% Gold­ings (two growths) all added for the entire­ty of the hour-long boil, to achieve tar­get IBU.

Water (all water used in the process) – treat to achieve 25 grains per gal­lon sul­phates; 45 grains per gal­lon chlo­rides.

MASH at 158F (70c) for 1½ hrs; 1st sparge 175F (79.5c); 2nd sparge 160F (71c).

BOIL for 1h with Invert 3 sug­ar, caramel and Fug­gles hops. Add Irish Moss (for home-brew­ing pur­pos­es, a tea­spoon) 10 min­utes from the end.

Pitch yeast at 60.5F (15.8c) — Mort­lake 114, or a blend of 114 and 118, at a rate of 0.75 lbs per bar­rel, in case you hap­pen to have any handy. (Here’s a thought…) Alter­na­tive­ly, a fair­ly neu­tral Eng­lish ale yeast is prob­a­bly best. They added Watney’s Yeast Food, so con­sid­er using a yeast nutri­ent of your choice.

Dur­ing fer­men­ta­tion, keep tem­per­a­ture below 69F (20.5c).

Under Excise super­vi­sion there was some mon­key­ing about. First, ‘prim­ings’ (unfer­ment­ed beer, we think) at 1114.7 was added to bring the grav­i­ty down, at which point its strength was declared for tax pur­pos­es, then ‘break­ings’ were added to bring it back up to 1030. (UPDATE 13:13 14/11/14: see com­m­ments below.) Though they don’t give much detail, assum­ing the term is being used in its tra­di­tion­al sense, ‘break­ings’ were spoiled or returned beer. After 12 hours, it was pumped to the fil­ters via ‘the car­bon­a­tors’, and then bot­tled.

As well as using up old stock, and enabling a tax fid­dle, this may also have giv­en the beer a bit more com­plex­i­ty. It might well be a good way for home­brew­ers to get shot of a bot­tle or two from a pre­vi­ous duff batch.

Sug­gest­ed cor­rec­tions and queries are wel­come, as are mem­o­ries of drink­ing Watney’s Brown.

* Cor­rec­tion #1: by us, and quite a big one – WBA (brown ale) and WSM (spe­cial mild)seem to have been the same beer after all.

11 thoughts on “Kegronomicon: Watney’s Brown, 1965”

  1. Only not. More like mix­ing old and young gueuze, real­ly.

    You’ve acquired an unbal­anced ital­ics tag btw – way up at “Buy Brew Bri­tan­nia”.

    1. Ta.

      This is some­thing Simon John­son picked up in his Craft Beer Man­i­festo: why is delib­er­ate­ly soured beer good but acci­den­tal­ly soured bad? In this case, we don’t think they were blend­ing in care­ful­ly matured 5X stock ale, but per­haps it had some of the same effect?

  2. Bung­ing in returns, as your link sug­gests, goes back at least as far as the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry, and prob­a­bly much ear­li­er: it was cer­tain­ly a com­mon prac­tice among the big porter brew­ers. I sus­pect it’s like vine­gar on your chips: a lit­tle adds piquan­cy.

    The Mann’s Brown was pre­sum­ably a con­sid­er­ably sweet­er beer, with loads of caramel, than the Watney’s Brown: cer­tain­ly it was regard­ed when it first came out as a sweet beer.

    1. It cer­tain­ly had a lot more caramel in it, and Mann’s had cane sug­ar added at prim­ing, left for 24 hrs before pack­ag­ing. Oth­er­wise, stats, includ­ing IBUs from hops, look the same.

      From anoth­er recipe, for Mann’s Extra: “Break­ings: 1.5 gal. per brl. Old Beer; 2.5 gals per brl. Bot­toms.”

      EDIT: slight­ly headache-induc­ing try­ing to deci­pher some of this, but I think the ‘going out grav­i­ty’ for Mann’s was 1035 for Mann’s vs. 1033 for WBA, so that would mean more resid­ual sug­ar, right?

  3. Prim­ings are a sug­ar solu­tion. Adding them would bring the grav­i­ty up, not bring it down. Hence why the Excise peo­ple had to be involved. I nev­er assumed that prim­ing sug­ar would have duty payable, but of course it had to, because oth­er­wise it would cre­ate a mas­sive loop­hole – you could declare a beer at 1.035 and then bung enough prim­ing in to bring it up to 1.039 or so.

    I won­der why they were adding malt extract to the mash. It seems like a good way to make sure some of it is wast­ed.

    1. Er… yeah, I think you’re right. Any­way, it was super­vised, and end­ed up at about the same place.

      1. Right – here’s the full text:

        Prim­ing (col­lect­ed at 1144.7) at 12 pints per brl. break­ings and 10 pints per brl. beer (both cal­cu­lat­ed as at OG 1028.7) is bro­ken down with liquor to reduce the OG of the beer and break­ings to 1028.7 – 10.3 lbs and it is pumped into the main adja­cent to the SB/MV inlet to ensure good mix­ing with the beer… After dec­la­ra­tion, there is a two hours stand before the ster­ilised and fil­tered break­ings… are chilled into SB/MV.”

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