News, nuggets and longreads 1 August 2020: civil war, wort, Watney’s

Here’s all the best reading about beer and pubs from the past week, from notes on Marxist beer to memories of Watney’s in its pomp.

First, a reminder that we in the UK have it relatively easy. Various forms and degrees of lockdown have affected beer businesses around the world but South Africa’s brewing industry has had it especially hard with the imposition of total prohibition. Now, though, as Lucy Corne reports, they’ve found a way to keep the lights on:

Homebrewing has never been more popular in South Africa. Since people can’t legally buy beer, they are choosing to make their own at home. But not everyone wants to invest in homebrewing equipment and not everyone has the time to brew a batch of beer from scratch. Luckily, the homebrew suppliers and craft brewers of South Africa have come together to bring you the absolute easiest way to make beer at home… Breweries around the country are now offering customers the chance to purchase wort. It’s a perfect solution that allows you to legally produce beer at home (it is not illegal to homebrew in South Africa as long as you don’t sell it) and also offers a way to support your local brewery. They can’t sell beer at this time, but they can sell wort, which is a non-alcoholic product.

Blueprint of the Windsock.

SOURCE: Geoff Quincy/Wilson Smith and Partners.

At his blog dedicated to one of the most striking pubs of the 1960s, Geoff Quincy gives us part two of his epic history of its construction:

Large buildings often consist of a steel girder skeleton which is bolted into place before the floors and walls are added afterwards. These walls and floors can be made from a variety of materials such as metals or wood, composites of plastics and also concrete… However due to The Windsock’s shape and design this technique of building could not be employed. There was no centre or skeleton in the design to bolt everything onto. Instead the building would be interlinked by a series of columns which would need to be constructed to their full height of around 30ft in the air, the height of the second bar floor, before the main building would then begin to be built around them, joining the columns together in the process.

This is no ordinary pint.
Detail from a 1961 national press ad for Watney’s Red Barrel.

John Lowrie used to work for Watney’s and has written a post gathering some of his memories and reflections. As long-time Watney’s watchers we were especially interested in his account of the launch of Red in 1970:

Watney’s decided to re-launch the brand, dropping the ‘Barrel’ and calling it just Watney’s Red. The laboratory and marketing boys had co-operated, done their research. They’d booked the TV slots and advertising hoardings. The first brews were brewed ready for delivery. Chairman Mao’s face was salivating in anticipation. In celebration, they told the boys in the brewery – and me – to try it. Next morning they realised there was something amiss in the chemical concoction. Quite a few boys reported diarrhoea! Unfortunately it was too late to correct. So the brand new Watney’s Red was in fact the same old Watney’s Red Barrel. No-one noticed. The joys of keg beer.


Women at a brewery.

Women maltsters at Bass, 1917.

Now, something to explore: the National Brewery Centre’s new online archive has launched. At present, there doesn’t seem to be much online – it’s primarily a catalogue – but there are some gorgeous photos, like the one above.

The sign of the Victoria, a Fuller's pub in Paddington.

Al Reece at Fuggled has been tasting and thinking about a specific beer, Fuller’s London Pride. Here are his notes. We enjoyed reading them.

A palm in Colombia.

Source: Christian Holzinger on Unsplash.

The North American Guild of Beer Writers blog, Reporter’s Notebook, has an interesting piece by Miriam Riner on a former FARC member who has become a brewer:

In 2016, the FARC signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government, formally ending over 50 years of war. One of the challenges to lasting peace is finding productive legal employment for ex-guerillas who often lack secondary education or formal work experience… Jaramillo Cardona belongs to a group of ex-guerillas that hopes beer is their path to peace. The 30-member cooperative makes La Roja, or The Red, an Irish-style red ale. The name and label are a nod to their Marxist revolutionary ideology.

Finally, from Twitter, there’s this reminder of why you should follow your local archive, library service and museums:

For more good reading, check out Alan McLeod’s round-up from Thursday.