It's bizarre how much time I've spent discussing Watney and their beers. Because even though they were plenty of them around, there's only one of their beers I ever tried: Fined Bitter. It was OK, if you couldn't find anything better. It didn't come in normal casks but some weird modified keg. I wonder when that was last brewed?
Watney - or Watney, Combe, Reid to give them their offical name - was created by the first big brewer merger. Three largish London brewers joined together to form a huge one. They were an ambitious company and embarked on an advertising campaign, mostly through the form of posters. The Red Barrel logo appeared surprisingly late - in 1930. A competition, open to the general public and with a prize of £500 for the winner, was held to find a design. There were more than 26,000 entries, from which the Red Barrel was chosen.*
A long-running campaign were the so-called "brick wall" posters. I think the reason they were called that is pretty obvious - they were in the form of graffiti chalked on a brick wall. The series kicked off in 1937 with the classic "What we want is Watneys" and continued through the war years and beyond.**
This is from Advertisers Weekly, quoted on page 50 of "The Story of Watneys":
"Giving Watneys Wall the appearance of a real brick wall was more than a good stunt. It made the poster look bigger whenever it appeared on a hoarding fixed to a brick wall (in the same way as a Press advertisementwithout a border is often enlarged by the white margin; of a red bus poster looks bigger when it merges with the red of a London bus).
And so, Watneys Wall - first considered by some critics just as a shortlived stunt - gradually became a friendly, familiar sight. And when the face of some streets had changed as a result of the war, Watneys Wall, too, reflected this change. Overnight it developed cracks, overnight it became partly ruined . . . yet carrying the optimistic message: 'Build up with Reid's Stout' . . . with a bit of blue sky showing."
Having damaged walls on wartime posters is absolutely brilliant.
Right. That's enough advertising crap. Let's slide gently up to our pint of Watney's Porter. But time for a quick recap on the scores so far. Watney has been doing well. Second palce of seventeen for their Mild with an average score of 1.25. Their Burton didn't fare so well, coming ninth of fourteen, but still averaged 0.77. Their Pale Ale more than made up for that slightly disappointing showing by coming second of fifteen with an impressive average of 2.21.
Let's see how their Porter did:
|Watney Porter quality 1922 - 1923|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001|
Pretty damn well, is the answer. Only one with a negative score and no less than six samples with a score of two. Leaving a very healthy average score of 1.44. Even more surprising given this is one of the weakest Porters, with one example under 3% ABV.
I think I'm starting to agree with the wall. What I want is Watneys. At least in the 1920's. Obviously it's to be avoided like the plague in the 1970's.
* "The Story of Watneys", edited by Walter Pearce Serocold, 1949, pages 48 - 49.
** * "The Story of Watneys", edited by Walter Pearce Serocold, 1949, pages 49 - 50.