The name Watney conjures up very different emotions either side of the Atlantic. Many North Americans nurture fond memories of Red Barrel as a quality import. Older Brits mostly harbor a lingering contempt. But what’s the truth about Watney’s beer? Was it really that bad?
When a beer is labeled “best by,” the brewery makes a judgment weighing freshness against shelf life, and, presumably, the brewery’s bottom line. With “bottled on” dates, buyers must decide for themselves.
Best-by dating is the kind of amorphous, arbitrary tactic that only a manufacturer could love. Masquerading as an effort to help consumers, such dating of beer results in the illusion of honesty, leaving drinkers with no actual tangible information on which to base purchasing decisions.
We Americans drink far too much stale beer, all the while pretending it’s the best stuff on Earth. Whether it’s from Belgium, Germany, Japan or a few states away, our willingness to spend big bucks to get burned time and again has to be some form of gastronomic psychosis.
Adriana Bravo and her team of chemists at the Caracas-based food and beverage conglomerate Empresas Polar have discovered that controlling a chemical process called the Maillard reaction could do a lot more to protect that just-bottled freshness.
I once served a five-year-old bottle of craft beer to a college buddy, just for laughs. As he popped the top, I waited in anticipation for his first sip, which he promptly spit all over my coffee table. I deserved it.