Everything We Wrote in January 2019: Watney’s, London Pubs, European Harmony

We seem to have settled into a new pace of about 12–15 posts per month as opposed to 19–21, but that’s fine.

It’s in the con­text of hav­ing giv­en up writ­ing for mag­a­zines and instead pub­lish­ing one ‘lon­gread’ here every month, with the sup­port of our Patre­on sub­scribers. There are cur­rent­ly 73 peo­ple encour­ag­ing us via that route, and get­ting some exclu­sive con­tent in return.

Best Beers of the Christ­mas Break | What ‘Wel­com­ing’ MeansBeers of the Week­end 4–6 JanPub Match­mak­ingBeers of the Week­end 11–13 JanBonus Notes on Wat­ney’s Red Bar­relBeer of the Week­end 18–21 Jan: Titan­ic Plum Porter| Beers of the Week­end 25–27 Jan (OPEN ACCESS) | Talk Police

Please do con­sid­er sign­ing up, or maybe just buy us a one-off pint instead, or per­haps one of our books.

Watney's Red -- detail from beer mat.

Here on the blog prop­er, the main event was this 2,700-word whop­per on Wat­ney’s Red Bar­rel – how bad could it real­ly have been?

This piece prompt­ed lots of reac­tion includ­ing this from Gary Gill­man and a clear answer from Kei­th Flett to a ques­tion we did­n’t quite ask: “No, it is not time to reha­bil­i­tate Wat­ney’s Red.


We eased our­selves gen­tly into blog­ging in 2019 by shar­ing details of brew­ery life in St. Helen’s between the wars, via Indus­tri­al Town, an oral his­to­ry edit­ed by Charles For­man.


Hav­ing spent the gap between Christ­mas and New Year in Lon­don we enjoyed, observed and took notes on four notable pubs:

  1. The Forester in Eal­ing – a majes­tic Edwar­dian Fuller’s pub.
  2. The Cat’s Back in Wandsworth– a Har­vey’s pub with com­plex social sta­tus.
  3. The Brick­lay­er’s Arms in Put­ney – a Tim Tay­lor out­post in Lon­don.
  4. The Grenadier in Bel­gravia – a posh pub that’s been famous for­ev­er.

Brows­ing a 1967 book about the north of Eng­land we came across an intrigu­ing note on the mean­ing of pub car­pets in Sad­dle­worth: “The King William… has treat­ed itself to wall-to-wall car­pet­ing, an extrav­a­gance which [local char­ac­ter] John Ken­wor­thy thinks has changed them from forums of dis­cus­sion into mere drink­ing places.”


Liam asked us what was meant by ‘har­mon­is­ing brew­ing meth­ods’ in the mid-1970s prompt­ing one of the more inter­est­ing his­toric rab­bit-holes we’ve found our­selves down of late:

It’s not hard to work out what peo­ple thought har­mon­i­sa­tion might mean: mild and bit­ter banned, Ger­man-style lager every­where, by order of Brus­sels… But there’s very lit­tle detail in the sto­ry and it reads like typ­i­cal fuss-about-noth­ing tabloid report­ing wil­ful­ly miss­ing the point for the sake of caus­ing out­rage. (On the same page: NOW FRIED ONIONS ARE BANNED AT WIMBLEDON.)


An obser­va­tion: there’s a lin­ger­ing pref­er­ence for com­plete­ly head­less pints in Bris­tol – a gen­uine expres­sion of local beer cul­ture that’s prob­a­bly on the way out.


Oh, woe! We had a strong emo­tion­al reac­tion to the sale of Fuller’s brew­ing oper­a­tion to Asahi, but also focused on  how it might feel to those work­ing in the com­pa­ny. (Spoil­er: bad.)


We enjoyed a week­end in Southamp­ton and found lots of pubs, and lots of types of pub, to explore and pon­der on:

Off the main run, into the sub­ur­ban streets with their schools and church­es, we had more luck. The Water­loo Arms is a Hop Back pub and looks, feels and even smells just like the Sul­tan in Lon­don SW19. That is, plain but not aus­tere, clean but not ster­ile, ‘prop­er’. A kid in a Bat­man cos­tume was over­see­ing the meat raf­fle; darts went thump, thump, thump; and when a fam­i­ly left, the elder­ly lady next to us tut­ted: “Didn’t even take their glass­es back, look.”


We post­ed DN round-ups of links and news:

5 Jan­u­ary – grat­i­tude and onions

12 Jan­u­ary – bit­ter­ness, Brüpond, bur­lesque

19 Jan­u­ary – bot­tle­shares, Bod­dies, brand loy­al­ty

26 Jan­u­ary – as a thread on Twit­ter.


Our biggest Tweet of the month was this:

And there was also this kind of thing on Insta­gram: