Sunday 9 March 2014

Watney Burton Ale quality 1922 - 1924

We're as far as Watney, one of the surprise winners with their Mild. Why a surprise? Mostly because of their later reputation. Though they do seem to have been one of the biggest brewers in London in the 1920's, based on their profits compared to others.

I've included the traditional chairman's report. I couldn't leave out this one as it's the wonderfully named Cosmo Bonsor. You don't get people with names like that nowadays. Not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. Like all the other chairmen, he had a good moan about government policy.

"Watney, Combe, Reid and Co., Ltd.
The ordinary general meeting was held in London, Mr H. Cosmo O. Bonsor (chairman) presiding.

The Chairman, in moving the adoption of the report, said the, company had had a prosperous year. Referring to the accounts, he said their claim for return of excess profits duty was for something over £200,000, but there were certain deductions to be made. Sundry creditors were larger in consequence of the fire at Mortlake. That fire was very inconvenient. They had closed down their malting for the summer; they had finished their make of malt. The fire was confined entirely to the maltings; it did not touch the brewery or the manufacturing premises, but it destroyed practically all the malt that had been made in the season, and which they were hoping would be used during the months of hot weather. Consequently they had suffered no pecuniary loss because the maltings and the stock were fully insured outside their own insurance fund.

There was a big increase in the freeholds and leaseholds and in trade investments. The trade investments were up in consequence of their having acquired during the year the whole of the share capital of tho Cobham United Breweries, Limited. During the current year they had purchased several houses on the Duke of Westminster's estate. The leases were getting short; they had acquired the freeholds, and they were absolutely satisfied that this was a most excellent investment, although it took up a considerable amount of cash.

Proceeding, the Chairman said : On the whole, I think you will consider that our figures are satisfactory. Turning to our report, you will see that we recommend the same dividends as last year, and we also recommend that out of the year's income £200,000 should be carried to reserve, and that any repayment of excess profits duty should be carried to the same reserve. Those sums will be invested in our business, if they have not already been so invested. That reserve, therefore, will not be a cash reserve. I think you will appreciate that a business like ours cannot possibly stand still. We must either progress or go backwards. We all wish, naturally, to progress, and there are only two ways that I know of finding the money for progressing. One of those ways is by the provision of fresh capital — a thing which I think the shareholders, and certainly the board, would deplore. The other is to set aside a certain amount of the profits of the year for maintaining the business and for going ahead. Under the 1904 Compensation Act we lose a certain amount of trade each year, and it is our object always, if we can, to replace it.

There is another way of spending these undivided profits — namely, in developing our existing channels by rebuilding and improving our present public-houses, and increasing the attractions and giving the facilities to which the public are entitled. That is the policy which we are pursuing.

Referring to the reduction in the price of beer, he said: A penny a pint means 24s. a barrel, and the arrangement was that the Government would give a rebate of 20s. per barrel, and the trade were to find the additional 4s. That is, of course, a serious burden, but it was pointed out that increased consumption would assist the trade to recover that 4s.

When we issued our report we had  before us the results of May and June, and I am bound to say that they were not at all encouraging. Since then, however, we have had beer-drinking weather, and our trade has certainly crept up in a very satisfactory way. It will average itself over the year, and we shall be able to tell you more about it when we meet twelve months hence. In creating our reserve our object is to endeavour to maintain our existing dividends as they are to-day until such time as circumstances will allow us to ask you to increase them.

Mr. Charles J. Phillips, deputy-chairman, seconded the motion, and it was carried unanimously.

A final dividend of 10 per cent., making 16 per cent. for the year on the deferred ordinary stock, was declared.

Mr. Richard Combe and Major Arthur C. Bonsor were re-elected directors."
"The Brewers' Journal, 1923", pages 473 - 474.
Ah, the traditional fire in the maltings. Those things were always going up in flames. They must be the cause of three-quarters of brewery fires.

They did well to prise any freeholds out of the Duke of Westminster. I thought he hung onto those for dear life. Being, presumably, in the mist expensive part of London, they must have cost a packet. But, as Cosmo himself said, they had to keep acquiring new pubs to offset the closures caused by the 1904 Compensation Act.

Watney definitely seem to be one of the most aggressive London breweries. They had clear goals in terms of buying pubs and expanding their business. Something that continued past WW II and on to the 1970's. Which is when everything started going wrong.

Do you know what I love about Watney's Burton? It's not effing identical to all the others. It has a significantly higher OG, pushing 1060, and is almost 6% ABV.

Now for the scores.

Watney Burton Ale quality 1922 - 1924
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Appearance Flavour score
1922 KK 1013 1058.5 6.00 78.63% cloudy v fair 2
1922 KK 1012 1057.2 5.87 78.67% bright fairly full 1
1922 KK 1014 1055.9 5.46 75.13% v bright good 2
1922 KK 1011 1056.3 5.94 80.82% bright unpleasantly bitter -2
1923 KK 1013 1059.4 6.06 78.28% fairly bright good 2
1923 KK 1014 1056.6 5.60 75.97% bright poor -1
1923 KK 1015 1059.5 5.79 74.79% hazy only fair 0
1923 KK 1015 1059 5.72 74.58% bright good 2
1923 KK 1014 1058.2 5.73 75.60% bright going off -2
1923 KK 1015 1061.8 6.12 76.05% bright fair 1
1923 KK 1011 1061.6 6.67 82.79% not bright fair 1
1924 KK 1014 1059.5 5.91 76.30% bright fair 1
1924 KK 1015 1060 5.84 74.83% bright v good 3
Average  1013 1058.73 5.90 77.11% 0.77
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Nine of thirteen clear - that's one of the best yet. Still not up to my standards, mind. I'd expect every pint to be clear. For flavour, the score of their Burton is a bit worse than their Mild, which ranked second with a score of 1.25. There are three negative scores and nine positive ones, including a three. Leaving an average of 0.77. Still not bad.

The 1923 -2 score was for a beer bought at the Admiral Napier in Deptford. Remember to steer clear of that pub.


Phil said...

Should have asked this ages ago, but... what beers would actually have been available in these early-20s pubs? Were mild & Burton the cheapest & dearest of a range of beers, or would it be a case of mild, Burton and, er, that's it?

Jeremy Drew said...

The Admiral Napier must have had something going for it - the licensee was Amy Osborne and she held it for 24 years until 1944 according to this

Ron Pattinson said...


The range would be:

X Ale 5d or 6d
Porter 5d
Bitter 7d
Burton 8d
Stout 9d

Ron Pattinson said...


thanks for that. That's a pretty long tenancy.