Great Britain Watneys Red Barrel

Discussion in 'Europe' started by rtrasr, Apr 14, 2013.

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  1. rtrasr

    rtrasr Disciple (318) Feb 16, 2009 Arkansas

    As I understand it this is a kegged bitter widely available in the UK back in the 60's and 70's. It was widely derided as such it was one of the main motivations fro the creation of CAMRA. My question is: Was the beer itself that bad or was it diminished by being kegged? Also, was it ever sold on cask and what was it like. I've looked all over the internet for a clone recipe and cannot find one.
  2. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (5,118) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Supporter Beer Trader

    It was widely available on draught in the 70s in California too. I thought it was okay at the time. That's all I've got.:slight_frown:
  3. EmperorBevis

    EmperorBevis Poo-Bah (3,354) Sep 25, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    I've heard a couple of things about Red Barrel.
    I vaguely recall a conversation had about it at the bar with my dad and one of his friends.
    My dad said it was truly awful, bland tasting and overly fizzy.
    My dad's friend said it was a good beer and the rest of the keg beers that followed were as my father described.
    My dad said he was certain it was a lousy pint and his friend had been carried away with the hype and advertising that Watney's had backed the release of Red Barrel with.
  4. marquis

    marquis Crusader (726) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

  5. reprob8

    reprob8 Initiate (94) May 22, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    from what I can remember it was unmemorable, dull, cold, boring brown beer. Luckily the pubs I frequented had better beer on
  6. rtrasr

    rtrasr Disciple (318) Feb 16, 2009 Arkansas

    What was the difference between Red Barrel and Red?
  7. woosterbill

    woosterbill Poo-Bah (2,616) Apr 6, 2009 Kentucky
    Beer Trader

    I know nothing about this beer, besides the fact that it seems to have been ubiquitous enough at one time to form a key running gag in this Monty Python bit. Nothing too off-bolor. :wink:
  8. patto1ro

    patto1ro Defender (622) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    In 1967 Red Barrel was 1037º and 3.4% ABV. In 1972 Red was 1037º and 3.6% ABV.
  9. marquis

    marquis Crusader (726) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    I only know what was in the article I linked to. In particular the replies section where people actually involved in the brewing posted.
  10. rtrasr

    rtrasr Disciple (318) Feb 16, 2009 Arkansas

    I wonder if there is a lot myth surrounding Red Barrel? Marquis, I notice in one of the comments to the article you linked, mentioned that small amounts of Red Barrel was offered on cask and that it was a much better beer. It's too bad that one of your microbrewers (I didn't say craft) could not revive the beer and offer it on cask.

    I wish one of our micro's could do the same and offer it. I bet it would be a better beer on keg with all the improvements to keg over the years. Of course, I would prefer cask but I live in Arkansas.
  11. marquis

    marquis Crusader (726) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    From the article and the follow up comments it seems that Red Barrel began life as a perfectly decent, well brewed beer and then the bean counters got to work on it. Over time the strength was reduced and some malt was replaced with adjuncts and added enzymes.The final result would be what makes strong men still wake up shouting when they have been dreaming about it.
    Perhaps Ron might stumble upon the recipes on his travels through the archives.
  12. rtrasr

    rtrasr Disciple (318) Feb 16, 2009 Arkansas

    It appears that unmalted barley was substituted for malt ( that may work for Irish Whiskey but not beer) as well as the introduction of adjuncts. This appears to occurred with the change from Red Barrel to Red. The company probably thought they could retain their share of the market while brewing a cheaper beer and maintain the same price. This is what happens when a brewing company becomes a marketing company. A sad tale repeated many times in many countries.
  13. patto1ro

    patto1ro Defender (622) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    I've not heard of any of their brewing records surviving. There are some from Reid, but that brewery closed when Watney, Combe, Reid was formed in the 1890's.
  14. smcolw

    smcolw Poo-Bah (6,382) Jan 16, 2004 Massachusetts

    Going through college in the early 80s, I hated beer. The best offering might be a skunked bottle of Heineken. After graduation, I wandered into a faux British bar in Boston with some friends. I avoided beer but one of them allowed me to try his Watney's. That sip started me on the journey of seeking out excellent barley-based beverages. Given the choices now available, I would not put Red Barrel in the top half, but I do have to credit this beer for being flavorful enough for me to consider other beers outside of the ubiquitous macros.
  15. PBMark

    PBMark Initiate (0) Mar 19, 2014

    American, living in Denver, Colorado, in the '80s. A pizza joint (which I came to frequent) had Red Barrel. As one might expect, it was unusual for the time and place. I loved the stuff and sometimes ordered it with Guinness, as a variation of the black & tan. It wasn't long before I sought out other UK brews, ensuring the death of my waistline forever after.
    Aye likes this.
  16. boots60

    boots60 Initiate (0) Apr 23, 2014 United Kingdom (England)

    Watneys red barrel was a pretty awful brew back in the day.
    But it was nectar compared to Watneys budget brew of the 70s, Starlight bitter (my first ever pint!) Available in WMCs everywhere.
  17. chicagoish

    chicagoish Devotee (403) Jun 14, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Back in the early 1980s, it was either Miller, Bud, Coors, or the "exotic" imports like WRB, or Holland Brand. My memory tells me I liked it... But what else was there? Augestinerbrau, and Becks?
  18. Keene

    Keene Editorial Director (857) Sep 11, 2009 Washington
    Staff Subscriber

    Update: The August issue of the magazine (#103) will include a story by @patto1ro that pulls back the curtain on Watney's brewing methods in the 1950s.
    smcolw and Padraig like this.
  19. patto1ro

    patto1ro Defender (622) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Update: some brewing records of Watney's beers do exist. Records survive from at least one brewery they took over and had brew their brands. My next BeerAdvocate article is based on them. And the laughably-titled Watney Quality Control Manual.
    Keene and smcolw like this.
  20. TomFoley

    TomFoley Initiate (194) Mar 19, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Totaro's Tavern outside of Philly carried red barrel in the early/mid eighties. Drank my share of pints. As mentioned earlier, it beat most of the available brands.
  21. patto1ro

    patto1ro Defender (622) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Wait until you find out how they brewed.
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