How times, and, more importantly, people, change over the years. I’m certainly much mellower than I was. And I’ve learned not to blindly dismiss things, just because they aren’t to my personal taste. Though whether Red Barrel was or not, I’ll never know. Because I never tried the stuff. Just like Double Diamond, Courage Tavern and Youngers Tartan. Which keg beers did I try? Not many. I can remember accidentally drinking keg Bass in Cornwall. Bastards were using fake handpulls.
Apologies for wandering off topic. Back to Red Barrel. I’m fortunate enough to have come into possession of a pdf of the Watney Mann Quality Control Manual (thanks to Boak and Bailey). It has wonderfully detailed instructions in how to brew all their beers. Including Red Barrel.
Such a document is dead handy. In some ways better than a brewing record. As it documents many things usually left out of brewing logs. Things like the timing of hop additions. Though it’s for one specific brewery, it still provides an insight into London brewing in general.
Despite its dreadful reputation as absolute dross, there’s nothing particularly different about Red Barrel’s ingredients or production methods. It looks much like other London Pale Ales. In fact the grist has a higher percentage of malt than most. Of course, the damage was done at the end of the process, when Red Barrel was killed then kegged.
I’m not sure what the date of the Quality Control Manual is. But as it says “Watney Mann” on the cover, it can’t be earlier than 1958. There’s a table of amendments at the front with two entries, dated January and February 1965. So it must date from between 1958 and 1964.
Right, let’s crack on with the details. Starting with the grist:
|Watney's Red Barrel grist|
|Dixons Enzymic Malt||1|
|Malt Extract (Paines, Edme or Diamalt)||3||added to the mash tun during mashing.|
|No. 3 Invert (Manbre, Albion or Clark)||2.5||added to the copper.|
94.5% malt is a very high percentage. Around 80% was more typical. And the sugar content is very low. Between 10 and 15% was usual.
Let’s do a bit of comparing and contrasting. Starting with a classy London brewer, Whitbread:
|1959 Whitbread PA|
|no. 1 invert sugar||18.87%|
|Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/126|
Whitbread had some of the most expensive-looking grists, yet the malt content of their Bitter was just 81%, far less than Red Barrel. Whitbread only ever used unmalted grains when forced to during the war.
Now a more typical grist from Fullers:
|1958 Fullers SPA grist|
|no. 2 invert sugar||2.30%|
|Fullers brewing record held the brewery.|
The malt percentage is similar to Whitbread PA, but the bulk of the rest is made up of flaked maize rather than sugar.
And finally a Bitter from the North:
|1950 Lees Bitter grist|
|Lees brewing record held the brewery.|
The malt percentage is higher here at 89%. While the remainder of the grist is all sugar. Note that Lees also used enzymic malt. It was dead popular in the 1950’s.
Next we’ll be looking at water treatment and mashing.