The famous Travel Agent sketch has a remarkably talkative man going on and on about the perils of modern tourism, and he refers several times to Watney’s Red Barrel. From context, it appears to be a drink of some kind. If so, is it alcoholic? Is it still popular (or was it ever) among Brits? Is it the stereotypical drink of some particular class or type of Brit? Is it still commercially available?
Don’t know that I’ll order any, but I’ve always wondered what the stuff is.
Watney’s Red Barrel was a beer.
It was marketed heavily with a ‘catchy’ tune (reminiscent of the Crunchy Frog).
Howewver it was not considered good quality and was remorselessly mocked by CAMRA (CAMpaign for Real Ale).
I don’t think it’s sold any more.
‘CAMRA’s mission is to act as champion of the consumer in relation to the UK and European beer and drinks industry.’
In the 60s & 70s, traditional beer production & cask conditioning was being muscled out by bland mass-produced tasteless fizzy ‘keg beer’, with Red Barrel being one well-known brand. In 1971 the semi-tounge-in-cheek Campaign for Real Ale was set up…google “‘Red Barrel’ CAMRA” and you’ll find plenty of mentioned of that drink.
When I was in England in the early-1980s I noticed a lot of pubs featured Whatneys signs. In Copenhagen we were told about Carlsberg Elephant Beer. According to the brewery tour guide, it contained 10% alcohol – so naturally, we had to have some! He told us they didn’t sell it in Denmark, but that it was available at Whatneys pubs in England.
Do brewers own many or most of the pubs in England, sort of like PepsiCo has a lock on several fast-food joints? If not, then why ‘Whatneys pubs’?
Looks as though the matter of Watney’s “beer” itself has been put to rest. So, as for it being common for brewery chains to own pubs, yes it is, and the down-side of that is that it is not unknown for such brewery-owned pubs to be laid-out, decorated, whatever, in whatever the brewery in its wisdom has decided would look good - jukeboxes or television that nobody really wants etc. This can lead to rather a lack of character and idiosyncracy.
Of course, you can also find that an independent pub might be run by the most cantankerous of staff, and not keep the beer well, and similar crimes, in which case, the chain pubs may well be better, but often the independent bars will have a better “feel” and better at stocking good local and guest beers … that sort of thing.
If visiting a place you don’t know and looking for a good pub, then the CAMRA Guide often serves as a shortcut to finding a good place, since a pub that cares enough to bother with a range of real ales is extremely likely to care for standards in other areas. Oh, lots of chain pubs are good - as I say, there’s a shortcut for when you find yourself mysteriously transported to some unknown British town.
Hey, you never know - you might tumble out of an aeroplane or something. Full of helpful adice, me.
Where I live, I’ve seen Whatney’s for sale in stores that have large imported beer sections. Never tried it, though.
Since the consensus among those who have drank Whatney’s Red Barrel is that it’s a rather bland mass-produced brew, I was wondering among those who have tried both Whatney’s and American beers what our equivalent be? Budweiser? Miller? Pabst Blue Ribbon? Keystone?
Early-80s, ‘Watneys Pubs’ would have been abundant. Pubs belonging to any and every brewery would also be found, in the relevant localities. But none was a ‘big business’, by any measure.
The ability of large and medium-sized breweried to operate their own exclusive distribution chain through their own pubs was removed during 1980s. The intended result was that pubs would be compelled to offer a wider variety of beer, stimulating competition among breweries. The reality was that breweries sold off thousands of premises, resulting in large corporations that want to make money from selling alcohol, in any form, and to hell with local businesses that supply them. (Partisan, mebbee.)
They’re pubs & bars that operate on the corporate-identity chain-store model. Yates’s, O’Neills, Hogshead, Wetherspoons…identikit outfits up and down the land. And ‘by any form’ I mean heavily promoting alcopops (which have healthy profit margins), and bad lager provided by InBev (the Starbucks of beer).
(Yes, I know Wetherspoons do real ale, but they’re still not a nice place to drink)