Sunday 1 April 2012

Watney's revival - a bridge too far?

The new Red
Barrel pump clip
Watney's used to be a brewery with a respectable pedigree dating back to the early 19th century. Regrettably, it became a pioneer in the keg revolution that produced awful beers which were regularly advertised in the most expensive slots on television, and which very nearly destroyed real ale. Their most famous, or perhaps notorious, product was Watney's Red Barrel.  Advertised using the old music hall song, Roll Out The Barrel, adapted as Roll Out Red Barrel (which you can see here, if you want to see how the 1960s weren't always wonderful), the beer became incredibly popular.  "Incredibly" to us, I suppose, but this was an era when real ale was really hit and miss, and returning drinks could result in summary ejection from the pub (many licensees took complaints about the beer as a personal insult), so many drinkers tended to welcome the consistency of keg.

That was then - this is now.  I'm quite astonished that a microbrewer called Roger Brown has decided to revive the brand, having - I assume - bought the recipes from whoever owns them nowadays, to produce what he describes an "authentic real ale version of Red Barrel". Roger tells us that small quantities of Red Barrel were brewed and sold in real ale form in the 1960s with a view to softening up the public to switching seamlessly to the keg version as it was rolled out. He has decided to reproduce this interim style because he considers it to be a rather good 1960s bitter that was ruined by the keg process. That's as may be.

I can't help thinking that the Watney's brand is still so toxic after all these years that Roger's efforts to rehabilitate it are doomed to failure, although I say good luck to him.  If I see it, I'll give it a try, but I suspect it's likely to be available only in the London area.



  1. Hmm, what's the date today?

    But, given the current "ironic hipster" scene, drinking from dimpled tankards, it could be a winner...

  2. Well, considering Worthington E has been revived, and long before that Double Diamond was rebadged and put in cask as Ind Coope Burton Ale, it might not be a totally "foolish" idea ...

  3. If only.....

    I wrote an email to Heineken asking them whether the brand was for sale. I never got a reply.


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