Back in 2019 we wrote about Watney’s Red Barrel. Finding that post, Colin Prower has written to us with some of his memories of the brewery.
In the very early 1960s I did school and college holiday jobs in various departments of Watney’s Mortlake brewery, including on the Red Barrel production line.
Workers were given a freebie of a pin of Mild in the mess room but preferred to cause casks of Red Barrel to ‘fall off the line’ and drink it in vast quantities throughout shifts.
It didn’t strike me as too bad either! I gather the earlier recipe was better than later.
I also worked in the department to which pub-returned barrels were emptied into a tank for incorporation into Watney’s Mild only. No wonder the workers rejected that!
Most of the beer range at the time was produced by traditional methods. I particularly remember the maturing cellar for hogsheads of Stingo being positively Dickensian – and staffed by characters from his books.
Security there was tight but with a knowing knock at the door, men with bottles down their trouser legs and lengths of rubber tubing would be admitted and allowed to syphon off Stingo.
The above was lightly edited for clarity and consistency. The photo shows security staff at Mortlake and comes from The Red Barrel magazine for August 1961.