Watney’s Red on Film, 1971

The above film was made by Watney Mann (Watney’s) to help their staff understand Watney’s Red, which replaced Red Barrel as the firm’s flagship keg bitter in 1971.

It was unearthed by Nick Wheat who col­lects British doc­u­men­tary and indus­tri­al films and writes occa­sion­al beer arti­cles for Dron­field CAMRA’s Peel Ale mag­a­zine. The copy above was made by pro­ject­ing the 16mm film onto a wall and point­ing his phone at it but it does­n’t look bad for all that.

From an arti­cle Nick dug up from Film User for July 1971 we know that it was one of three films pro­duced to help with the roll-out of the new prod­uct as part of what Wat­ney’s called ‘Oper­a­tion Che­ka’ in ref­er­ence to the Bol­she­vik secret police. The suit of films cost £5,500 pounds to make (about £80k in today’s mon­ey) and this one is ‘Che­ka 2’ ‘Che­ka 3’, high­light­ed in this info­graph­ic from Film User:

Infographic depicting the roll-out of Operation Cheka.

The film itself is an amaz­ing rel­ic. It fea­tures var­i­ous plum­my senior exec­u­tives explain­ing, rather stilt­ed­ly, the think­ing behind the change, accom­pa­nied by footage of lor­ries and brew­ing plants around the coun­try (our empha­sis):

You see Red Bar­rel has been with us now for fif­teen years and is still the same. In the mean­time oth­er beers have come along in keg with new flavours, and meet­ing new ideas of taste. There­fore Red Bar­rel might be said to be old fash­ioned. So what we did was to study the whole sit­u­a­tion in great detail with our col­leagues in the group mar­ket­ing depart­ment. We want­ed to find out just what it was the cus­tomers liked, what their ideals were, what were the faults, per­haps, in ear­li­er beers, and alto­geth­er how we could make it right for the sev­en­ties.

What we’ve done is to give the beer a new smooth pleas­ant taste. We’ve also giv­en it a much bet­ter head and alto­geth­er a more attrac­tive appear­ance. Gone is any sug­ges­tion of bit­ter after palate; instead, there is a pleas­ant malty meali­ness.… We’ve stud­ied flavour, stud­ied peo­ple’s reac­tion to flavour, and pro­duced exper­i­men­tal beers, test­ing out all the vari­a­tions we can think of in such things of sweet­ness or bit­ter­ness.

That con­firms what we’d heard from oth­er sources, and what we said in Brew Bri­tan­nia: that Red Bar­rel and Red were quite dif­fer­ent beers, with the lat­ter an alto­geth­er fizzi­er, sweet­er beer. But this would seem to sug­gest that, unless they’re out­right fib­bers, that peo­ple in the com­pa­ny gen­uine­ly believed they were respond­ing to pub­lic demand rather than cut­ting cor­ners for the sake of it.

There’s some sol­id his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion in all this, too. It tells us, for exam­ple, that Red was devel­oped pri­mar­i­ly at the Wat­ney’s plant in Northamp­ton, for­mer­ly Phipps, and that the beer and point-of-sale mate­r­i­al was sched­uled to hit pubs in March and April of 1971.

There is also an awk­ward inter­view with Mr Hors­fall, a pub­li­can in… Eldon? Old­ham? Answers on a post­card. He had been tasked with sell­ing the new Red on the qui­et to gauge cus­tomer reac­tions to the refor­mu­la­tion and, though hard­ly jump­ing for joy, seemed to think his cus­tomers pre­ferred it, on the whole.

Arguably the most excit­ing part comes at the end: a reel of orig­i­nal TV ads from the time star­ring (we think) Michael Coles as a hard-boiled counter-intel­li­gence oper­a­tive tasked with stop­ping ‘the Red Rev­o­lu­tion’. These ads seem to us to be par­o­dy­ing Callan, a pop­u­lar TV pro­gramme of the day star­ring Edward Wood­ward, with the seedy side­kick ‘Friend­ly’ clear­ly a ref­er­ence to Callan’s ‘Lone­ly’.

Thanks so much for shar­ing this, Nick! And if any­one else out there has this kind of mate­r­i­al, we’d love to see it.

Updat­ed 22/03/2018 after Nick got in touch to say he thinks this is actu­al­ly Film 3.

British Beer Exports in Pictures

Ron Pattinson at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins has recently been mining data to tell the story of British beer exports in the 20th century. We thought we’d compliment that with some pictures from our collection of in-house magazines.

The pic­tures come from edi­tions of The Red Bar­relThe House of Whit­bread and Guin­ness Time, most­ly from the 1960s and 70s. (Yes, Guin­ness is Irish, but had it’s cor­po­rate HQ and a huge brew­ery in Lon­don from 1932.) It’s pret­ty well con­tent free but we have plans to write some­thing more sub­stan­tial about all this at some point in the future.

A Belgian pub.
Whit­bread­’s Tav­erne Nord, Boule­vard Adolphe Max, Brus­sels, c.1933.
A portrait of a man in an office.
C. De Keyser, Whit­bread­’s Bel­gian sales man­ag­er from 1937.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “British Beer Exports in Pic­tures”

The Changing Scene: Watney’s Pubs of 1964

In 1964–64 Watney Mann and its subsidiaries were on a spree of pub building in towns, New Towns and on housing estates up and down the country.

Here are pho­tographs of and notes on those new pubs from edi­tions of the brew­ery’s in-house mag­a­zine, The Red Bar­rel, pub­lished in 1964. Where pos­si­ble we’ve cred­it­ed archi­tects and builders. Unfor­tu­nate­ly no pho­tog­ra­phy cred­its are pro­vid­ed in the mag­a­zines.

The Kingfisher, Corby, Northamptonshire
Exterior view of a modern pub; interior view of the same.
The exte­ri­or of the King­fish­er and a view of its lounge bar.

This pub on the Lodge Park estate was opened in Decem­ber 1963 by E.C.M. Palmer, the chair­man of Phipps, the Northamp­ton brew­er Wat­ney’s took over in 1960. It was designed by Phipp­s’s in-house archi­tects and built by Sim­cock and Ush­er Lim­it­ed of Northamp­ton. The man­agers were Nor­man Houghton and his appar­ent­ly name­less wife.

A fea­ture of the spa­cious pub­lic bar is the wood­work. The seat­ing, the counter front and the ceil­ing are of fine qual­i­ty pinewood, and a Granwood floor blend with the gen­er­al appear­ance of the room… [It] has that essen­tial ameni­ty, a car park, with space for about fifty cars.

Still there? It seems so.

The Old Swan, Battersea, London

Exterior of the Old Swan from the riverside.

This river­side pub was designed by archi­tects Stew­art, Hendry & Smith and built by Sig­gs & Chap­man of Croy­don. It replaced an old­er river­side pub.

A full length con­tin­u­ous win­dow in the ‘River­side Bar’ over­looks the Thames, and the nau­ti­cal atmos­phere is accen­tu­at­ed by the curved board­ed ceil­ing rem­i­nis­cent of a ship’s deck­head, and by a ship’s rail for a footrail, while ship’s lanterns and port­hole-style win­dows pro­vide light.

Still there? No, sad­ly not – it was appar­ent­ly demol­ished before 1987 (did­n’t even make 25 years) and was replaced with a block of flats that cheek­i­ly bor­rowed the pub name.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Chang­ing Scene: Watney’s Pubs of 1964”

Fameusement British – Watney’s in Belgium, 1969

The October 1969 edition of Watney’s in-house magazine, The Red Barrel, contains a substantial feature on the British mega-brewery’s operations in Belgium. Here are some highlights.

The author was John Nixon, edi­tor of The Red Bar­rel, and what took him to Brus­sels in the sum­mer of 1969 was the pre­sen­ta­tion of an award for the qual­i­ty of Bel­gian-brewed Red Bar­rel keg bit­ter. (We think we’ve got that right – the text is a bit vague.) At that cer­e­mo­ny M. Orban of L’In­sti­tut Mon­di­al pour la Pro­tec­tion de le Haute Qualite Ali­men­taire spoke of ‘the progress of an ide­al to which men, call­ing them­selves Euro­pean, have ded­i­cat­ed their best efforts for so many years’. High­ly top­i­cal in 2017… Can we even say poignant with­out hav­ing some­one tick us off?

The fea­ture prop­er is enti­tled ‘Con­ti­nen­tal Jour­ney’ (as above) and is a charm­ing peri­od trav­el­ogue with a focus on beer. Mr Nixon observes, first, that Brus­sels isn’t far away once air­port rig­ma­role is out of the way: ‘[Only] about the same dis­tance from Lon­don as is Man­ches­ter – what an incred­i­ble dif­fer­ence that strip of water makes!’. Then, after a few obser­va­tions about the ter­ri­ble dri­ving, the high price of food and drink, and the low cost of rent­ing flats, he gets down to busi­ness:

I fin­ished the [first] evening at The Red Lion, one of the first Eng­lish pubs in Brus­sels. The house is going incred­i­bly well and as I walked through the door I was greet­ed by Mine Host Major John Reynolds, his charm­ing wife Pat and a vast cho­rus of slight­ly obscene singing from a cir­cle of British Ley­land appren­tices – exact­ly what they were doing in the city I did­n’t find out as the Reynolds rushed me upstairs to anoth­er bar where we could swap news in com­fort and my del­i­cate ears would not be affront­ed by the lyrics of British Rug­by songs.

Ah, the British abroad! (See also.) Mr and Mrs Reynolds ben­e­fit­ed in busi­ness terms but suf­fered per­son­al­ly as a result of the absence of British-style reg­u­lat­ed licens­ing in Brus­sels:

They open at 9.00 am and are then con­tin­u­ous­ly engaged until 5 o’clock in the morn­ing. Of course, they have a bevy of care­ful­ly select­ed British and Bel­gian bar­maids to assist, who ‘live in’ above the pub, but Mr and Mrs Reynolds have to work in shifts, some­times see­ing each oth­er only for an hour or so each day or pass­ing on the stairs in the small hours of the morn­ing as one gets up and the oth­er goes to bed!

Le Real, Brussels, 1969.

The next day Mr Nixon was escort­ed around the city by M. Joary, Wat­ney’s PR man in Bel­gium, and (sup­pos­ed­ly) a for­mer box­ing cham­pi­on, Jean Charles, who was then in charge of sales to cafes in Brus­sels:

Our first stop was the Cafe Real, sit­u­at­ed at the edge of a park and fre­quent­ed by pro­fes­sion­al men – lawyers, doc­tors and busi­ness men who work in the area. The estab­lish­ment is designed to rep­re­sent a cafe in the Black For­est, Ger­many. It is pan­elled through­out in red pinewood, well dec­o­rat­ed with chan­de­liers, flow­ers, adver­tise­ments, Red Bar­rels and the illu­mi­nat­ed flu­o­res­cent adver­tise­ments which are a fea­ture of near­ly all Bel­gian cafes… You can buy most kinds of food at the Cafe Real… Drinks range from wine through to beer, with sim­ple but unusu­al items like fresh­ly-squeezed orange juice, which you could not obtain in most British cafes or pubs.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Fameuse­ment British – Watney’s in Bel­gium, 1969”

Q&A: What Was the First Kegged Craft Beer?

What was the first kegged “craft”? Freehouses had keg lines – something must have been number one.’ Paul, Edinburgh (@CanIgetaP)

Bai­ley has recent­ly been read­ing What Was the First Rock­’N’Roll Record? by Jim Daw­son and Steve Propes. Rather than declare an answer it puts for­ward a list of 50 can­di­dates from 1944 to 1956 and explains the claim each has to the title. We’re going to steal that approach.

Watney's Red Barrel (detail from beer mat).

1. Wat­ney’s Red Bar­rel, Lon­don, 1931.
Wait, bear with us! It was the first keg bit­ter, full stop, and when it first emerged was a well-regard­ed export qual­i­ty beer. We’ve tast­ed a clone of a 1960s ver­sion and it was bet­ter than some keg red or amber ales cur­rent­ly being put out by larg­er brew­eries through their craft sub-brands.

1970s photograph of two men in horn-rimmed glasses inspecting beer.
Tom­my Mar­ling takes the tem­per­a­ture of draught Guin­ness watched by Mr Bill Steggle, licensee of the Cock at Headley near Epsom. SOURCE: Guin­ness Time.

2. Draught Guin­ness, 1958.
Please con­tin­ue to bear with us. In the mid-20th Cen­tu­ry draught Guin­ness was a super-hip beer and appar­ent­ly very tasty, but hard to find. Tech­ni­cians at the brew­ery worked out a way to reli­ably dis­pense it from one ves­sel with a creamy head and it went on to take over the world. It was brewed in both Dublin and Lon­don. CAMRA vet­er­an Bar­rie Pep­per is once report­ed to have said that if all keg beer had been as good as draught Guin­ness CAMRA would nev­er have got off the ground.

a. Ger­man and Bel­gian beers began to appear more fre­quent­ly in Britain at the end of the 1970s, usu­al­ly  bot­tled, but occa­sion­al­ly on draught. In the mid-1980s Sean Franklin at Roost­er’s and Peter Austin at Ring­wood con­sid­ered keg­ging their beers but nei­ther bit the bul­let.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Q&A: What Was the First Kegged Craft Beer?”