Sunday, 12 January 2014

Watney's Strong Ales 1922 - 1965

Today is a real treataroonie. As long as you're a table fan. And I don't mean a rotating cooling device mounted on a desk. Probably didn't need to tell you that.

Watney. A name pretty much erased from history. I can remember when that process started. Back in the early 1980's I believe it was when Watney began removing their name from the outside of their tied houses. If you saw a pub without a brewery logo and some bollocks like "Traditional Ales" very prominent on the signage you could be sure it was an ashamed Watney's pub, trying to pretend it was something else.

The 1898 merger with Combe and Reid left Watneys as one of the largest brewers in the country, producing over 1 million barrels annually. They also had a considerable tied estate, especially in London. This was obvious before they started removing their name from their pubs.

Right let's crack on with the beer. Or beers, as there are a couple of different ones in the main table. The majority are KK or draught Burton. As I've told you 60 gazillion times, Burton was one of the standard draught beers in London pubs until the 1960's. Along with Mild, Bitter, Stout and in the 1920's, Porter. Also cropping up a couple of times is bottles Stingo, a type of strong beer mostly associated with Yorkshire. Feel free to think of it as either an Old Ale or a Barley Wine. It's your choice. Then at the end there's Export Gold, which I guess you could call a pale Barley Wine. If you were obsessed with labelling everything to within an inch of its life.

Starting with the Burton, you can that's mostly a tale of falling gravity. 1922 is the year when things got back to normal after WW I. Price controls were abolished the year before. The impact of a reduction in duty from 100s. per standard barrel to 80s. per standard barrel can be seen with the reduction in price from 9d. to 8d. per pint. At the same time the gravity was increased a little.

How does Watney's KK compare to other London Burton's? Let's take a closer look. The Whitbread Gravity book has lots of analyses for 1922, especially for London beers. This is no coincidence. With the end of price control, Whitbread would want to know what their competitors were up to.

London Strong Ales in 1922
Year Brewer Beer Price size package FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation
1922 Barclay Perkins KK 9 pint draught 1011.7 1056.2 5.80 79.18%
1922 Beasley KK 9 pint draught 1014.4 1056.6 5.49 74.56%
1922 Cannon Brewery KK 9 pint draught 1015.4 1054.4 5.06 71.69%
1922 Charrington KK 9 pint draught 1015.6 1055.9 5.23 72.09%
1922 City of London KK 9 pint draught 1008.5 1056.7 6.30 85.01%
1922 Courage KK 9 pint draught 1013.2 1053.7 5.27 75.42%
1922 Hoare KK 9 pint draught 1015.5 1056.5 5.33 72.57%
1922 Huggins KK 9 pint draught 1012.6 1056.1 5.67 77.54%
1922 Lion Brewery KK 9 pint draught 1010.7 1056.7 6.00 81.13%
1922 Mann KK 9 pint draught 1013 1057 5.73 77.19%
1922 Meux KK 9 pint draught 1007.4 1058.4 6.68 87.33%
1922 Truman KK 9 pint draught 1013.8 1052.8 5.07 73.86%
1922 Wenlock KK 9 pint draught 1010 1054 5.74 81.48%
1922 Whitbread KK 9 pint draught 1016.3 1054 4.89 69.81%
Average 9 1012.7 1055.6 5.59 77.06%
1922 Watney KK 9d pint draught 1012.5 1058.5 6.00 78.63%
Source:
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

As you can see, all of the beers were pretty similar. Note, too, how many decent-sized breweries there still were in London. And see how they fit in with the last set of price controls:

Price control 1917-1921
Oct 1917 Apr 1918 Feb 1919 Jul 1919 Apr 1920
2d <1019
3d <1023 1020-1026 <1019
4d <1036<10301023-1028 1027-1032 1020-1026
5d 1036-1042 1030-1034 1029-1034 1033-1038 1027-1032
6d 1035-1041 1039-1045 1033-1038
7d 1042-1049 1045-1053 1039-1045
8d >1050 >1054 1045-1053
9d >1054
Sources:
The Brewers' Almanack 1928 pages 100 - 101.
"The British Brewing Industry 1830-1980"

Most are just over 1054º, which was the minimum gravity to be able to charge 9d per pint.

For the rest of the 1920's the gravity was pretty stable: in the high 1050's. The price is equally rock solid. Of course, that all changed with the tax rise in 1931. The price remained 8d. per pint, but around 10 points were slashed from the gravity. I can't imagine that went unnoticed amongst Burton drinkers.

Let's see what the other London brewers did:

London Strong Ales in 1932
Year Brewer Beer Price size package Acidity FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation
1932 Barclay Perkins Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1051.9
1932 Beasley Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1048.4
1932 Charrington Strong Ale 9 pint draught 1050.7
1932 Courage XXX 8 pint draught 0.10 1010.2 1044 4.39 76.82%
1932 Hoare Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1047.6
1932 Ind Coope Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1052.3
1932 Mann XXX 9 pint draught 0.10 1015.2 1051 4.64 70.20%
1932 Meux Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1047.2
1932 Taylor Walker Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1049.1
1932 Truman Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1047.5
1932 Whitbread Strong Ale 7 pint draught 1045.3
Average 8.1 0.10 1012.7 1048.6 4.52 73.51%
1932 Watney XXX 8 pint draught 0.06 1008.8 1046 4.84 80.87%
Sources:
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
Truman Gravity Book document B/THB/C/252 held at the London Metropolitan Archives

Much the same as Watney - they cut the gravity and maintained the 8d. price. Only Charrington and Mann increased the price to 9d. and, unsurprisingly, those are two of the only three beers over 1050º. Watney's Burton was one of the weaker ones, a couple of points below the average gravity.

After the tax increase was reversed in 1934, Watney didn't revert to the pre-1931 gravity, but instead increased the gravity by a few degrees and dropped the price to 7d. What did their local rivals do? Let's take a look, shall we:

London Strong Ales in 1938
Year Brewer Beer Price size package OG
1938 Barclay Perkins Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1056.0
1938 Charrington Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1056.5
1938 Courage Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1054.7
1938 Mann Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1051.8
1938 Meux Strong Ale 7 pint draught 1047.4
1938 Taylor Walker Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1053.6
1938 Truman Strong Ale 7 pint draught 1048.9
1938 Wenlock Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1053.6
1938 Whitbread Strong Ale 8 pint draught 1060.0
Average 7.8 1053.6
1938 Watney Strong Ale 7 pint draught 1049.1
Source:
Truman Gravity Book document B/THB/C/252 held at the London Metropolitan Archives

Only Meux and Truman kept the 7d. price and a gravity below 1050º. All the others restored their gravities to something like the old level and maintained the 8d. price. Which left Watney's Burton 4.5 points lower than the average.

The war doesn't seem to have had that much impact on Watney's Burton, though there are only a couple of analyses. But their 1948 KKKK was hardly any weaker in 1948 than it had been in the 1930's. How did that compare with other brewers in London?

London Strong Ales in 1948-1949
Year Brewer Beer Price size package Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1948 Barclay Perkins Burton 21 pint draught 0.06 1010.5 1042.1 17 + 40 4.10 75.06%
1949 Charrington Strong Ale 19 pint draught 1044.2 132
1949 Courage Strong Ale 19 pint draught 1043.0 128
1948 Fullers Strong Ale 16 pint draught 0.07 1008.2 1043.6 8 + 40 4.61 81.19%
1948 Whitbread Strong Ale pint bottled 1012 1045.5 4.35 73.63%
Average 18.8 0.07 1010.2 1043.7 4.35 76.63%
1948 Watney KKKK 21 pint draught 0.06 1010.5 1046.1 18 + 40 4.63 77.22%
Sources:
Truman Gravity Book document B/THB/C/252 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
Thomas Usher Gravity Book held at the Scottish Brewing Archive document TU/6/11

Watney's was a couple of points above the average gravity, but 2d. a pint more than the average price.

Moving on to the 1950's, I'm surprised at how strong Watney's Burton became, moving up to the mid-1050's. A level it hadn't attained since 1931. Here's a comparison with their competitors' beers:

London Strong Ales in 1954
Year Brewer Beer Price size package Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1954 Barclay Perkins KK 21 pint draught 0.06 1011.1 1043 19 + 40 4.14 74.19%
1954 Courage XXX 20 pint draught 0.08 1013.8 1046.2 31R + 40B 4.20 70.13%
1954 Mann Dragon Ale 24 pint draught 0.07 1019.1 1051.2 25R + 40B 4.15 62.70%
1954 Meux Treble Gold 20 pint draught 0.04 1006.5 1042.2 23 4.65 84.60%
1954 Taylor Walker KKK 21 pint draught 0.05 1017 1049.1 17R + 40B 4.15 65.38%
1954 Truman SA 22 pint draught 0.05 1009.3 1049.1 17 + 40 5.19 81.06%
1954 Whitbread KKKK 23 pint draught 0.06 1011.9 1051.2 15 R + 40 B 5.11 76.76%
Average 21.6 0.06 1012.7 1047.4 4.51 73.54%
1954 Watney KKKK 24 pint draught 0.10 1013.5 1055.2 23R + 40B 5.42 75.54%
Source:
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Watney's is the strongest of the lot: 1% ABV stronger than the average and 8 gravity points. But also 2.5d more per pint.

I'm not sure what more I can say about Stingo other than that it's very strong and quite highly attenuated. I'm pretty sure it was still brewed after WW II, but sadly I have no analyses from later than 1938.

Export Gold looks very similar to Whitbread's Final Selection, another beer of the same era. Both are pale in colour, have gravities of just under 1080º and around 85% apparent attenuation.

Wasn't that both entertaining and informative. I've still a little more information to pass on. About what sort of condition Watney's Burton was in when served. That's for next time.


Watney's Strong Ales 1922 - 1965
Year Beer Price size package Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1922 KK 9d pint draught 1012.5 1058.5 6.00 78.63%
1922 KK 9d pint draught 1012.2 1057.2 5.87 78.67%
1922 KK 9d pint draught 1013.9 1055.9 5.46 75.13%
1922 KK 9d pint draught 1010.8 1056.3 5.94 80.82%
1923 KK 9d pint draught 1012.9 1059.4 6.06 78.28%
1923 KK 9d pint draught 1013.6 1056.6 5.60 75.97%
1923 KK 9d pint draught 1015 1059.5 5.79 74.79%
1923 KK 9d pint draught 1015 1059 5.72 74.58%
1923 KK 9d pint draught 1014.2 1058.2 5.73 75.60%
1923 KK 8d pint draught 1014.8 1061.8 6.12 76.05%
1923 KK 8d pint draught 1010.6 1061.6 6.67 82.79%
1924 KK 8d pint draught 1014.1 1059.5 5.91 76.30%
1924 KK 8d pint draught 1015.1 1060 5.84 74.83%
1926 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1059.1
1926 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1057.2
1926 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1057.9
1926 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1055.7
1926 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1058.1
1926 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1059.1
1927 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1059.4
1928 KK 8d pint draught 1017.9 1058.2 5.23 69.24%
1928 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1056.4
1928 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1058.3
1929 KK 8d pint draught 0.06 1014.2 1057.3 5.61 75.22%
1929 KK 8d pint draught 0.10 1013.5 1057.7 5.76 76.60%
1929 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1058.1
1930 KK 8d pint draught 1017 1060 5.59 71.67%
1930 KK 8d pint draught 1011 1059 6.27 81.36%
1930 KK 8d pint draught 0.09 1009.2 1056 6.12 83.57%
1930 KK 8d pint draught 1016.2 1059 5.56 72.54%
1930 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1057.6
1930 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1058.6
1931 KK 8d pint draught 0.07 1014.4 1058.7 5.77 75.47%
1931 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1054.6
1931 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1055.6
1931 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1046.5
1931 XXX 8d pint draught 0.07 1011.4 1047 4.63 75.74%
1932 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1047.4
1932 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1046.08
1932 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1044.4
1932 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1047.8
1932 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1048.1
1932 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1047.5
1932 XXX 8d pint draught 0.06 1008.8 1046 4.84 80.87%
1933 Stingo 6d nip bottled 0.10 1017.7 1090 9.51 80.33%
1933 Strong Ale 8d pint draught 1045.6
1933 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1049.5
1933 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1046.2
1933 Strong Ale 10d pint bottled 0.06 1021.6 1070 6.29 69.14%
1933 Strong Ale 6d half bottled 0.10 1010.4 1068.7 7.65 84.86%
1933 XXX 8d pint draught 0.08 1013.4 1048 4.49 72.08%
1934 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1048.4
1934 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1048.6
1935 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1049.06
1935 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1049.5
1935 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1048.5
1935 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1048.4
1936 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1049.7
1936 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1049.7
1936 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1050.6
1937 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1045.78
1937 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1048.64
1938 Stingo Ale 7d 7 oz bottled 0.07 1020.3 1092.8 9.53 78.13%
1938 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1049.43
1938 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1049.5
1938 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1047
1938 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1049.1
1939 Strong Ale 7d pint draught 1050.3
1944 Strong Ale 1/4d pint draught 0.10 1011.8 1044.9 19 + 40 4.30 73.72%
1948 KKKK 1/9d pint draught 0.06 1010.5 1046.1 18 + 40 4.63 77.22%
1950 Strong Ale 18d half bottled 0.10 1014.5 1061.1 40 + 16 6.07 76.27%
1954 KKKK 2/- pint draught 0.10 1013.5 1055.2 23R + 40B 5.42 75.54%
1955 Burton Ale 17d half bottled 0.05 1018.5 1054.1 100 4.61 65.80%
1960 Burton Ale 16d half bottled 0.06 1019.7 1053.6 125 4.38 63.25%
1964 Export Gold 19d nip bottled 0.06 1012.1 1078 23 8.67 84.49%
1965 Export Gold 19.5d nip bottled 0.06 1010.6 1078.6 30 8.96 86.51%
Sources:
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
Truman Gravity Book document B/THB/C/252 held at the London Metropolitan Archives

1 comment:

marquis said...

I once visited the Lord Nelson in Burnham Thorpe which is basically unchanged since Nelson's time.As I was going in a man came out and the landlord Les Winter said that man was Mr. Reid and he said to me-"whatever you do don't alter or spoil this pub."
"That coming from him when you see what Watney Combe Reid has done!"-these were the days when Watney's were painting out the Watney's signs.In that part it became "Norwich Bitter"