Monday, 3 September 2007

Brewery Manual 1971

I don't need to tell you again of my passion for beer books. As long as the kids are getting a meal every day or two, everything else I earn is spent at Abebooks. You wouldn't believe how many books there are out there that I want to buy. Just call me Imelda.

Brewery Manual 1971 is quite a dry tome. 99% of it just lists breweries, with handy details about their share structure, directors and head brewer. Sure, it's 35 years out of date. That just adds to its charm.

Pages 50 and 51, which discuss the prospects for the brewing trade in 1971, constitute the only proper article in the whole book. But you won't need to buy it yourself. Oh, no. I've picked out the highlights for you. Aren't I kind?

Why am I happy with a book with only two pages of text? Ah, well. You may have noticed me enquiring on a couple of beer forums about the number of breweries in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Explaining precisely why I need this information is beyond my current boundaries of being arsed. For something I'm wrting, let's leave it at that. The Brewery Manual doesn't limit itself to the UK. One section covers everywhere else in the world, but with a particular emphasis on the British Commonwealth. Now I know how many breweries there were in Australia in 1970. (Not very many, if you're interested.) Loads more lovely stats for my spreadsheets. I'm so excited.


This is my second mention of Watney's. The early 1970's had a deep impact on me, as you can see. They epitomised all that was bad about big breweries and no-one has mourned their passing. The following paragraph may explain why.

"Early this year it was announced that Watney Mann are making a revolutionary
change by scrapping their 20 year old keg beer "Red Barrel"and replacing it with
a new one "Watney's Red" a premium bitter at the same price and strength as Red
Barrel but which tastes sweeter and which has a creamier head. Watney's decided
on this because they believe customers' tastes have changed. The new beer is to
backed by Watney's biggest advertising estimated to cost 500,000 pounds
." p. 50

It's typical of the "innovation" breweries come up with when marketing men and accountants have taken over from the brewers. What has happened? They've made a minor change to the name and made the beer blander. Making a product sweeter is the policy of the clueless and desperate. Oh, but it's because customers' want a sweeter beer. In which case, why did they need to spend half a million quid persuading them to drink it?

The inability of large breweries to come up with new ideas remains the same today. Look at Guinness Red or Beck's Gold. (Why do marketers love colours so?) Let's hope the current bunch of shallow and unimaginative megabrewers share Watney's fate.

Licensing law reform

During the late 1960's and early 1970's psychics would predict the end of Vietnam War every year. True enough, eventually they were right. Reform of the archaic British licensing laws was similarly expected to change at any minute by optimists in the industry. How naive to think it might happen in 1971. Only three decades out.

"Big changes in the licensing laws may be in prospect which could have a
profound influence in determining the shape of things to come for the brewery
industry. A committee under the chairmanship of Lord Erroll will "review
the liquor licensing laws, taking into acccount the changes recommended by the
Monopolies Commission and any other changes that may be proposed and make

Basically, the Monopolies Commission suggested that retailers satisfying
certain standards should get a liquor licence and compete with pubs ownedby
breweries. The assumption is that the Erroll Commission may favour aless rigid
system than that now ruling under the licensing laws, so that public houses
could open at times when demand is greatest in a particular district, and they
may also take the line that drinks should be available with meals whenever
." p. 51

Let pubs open when people want a drink? What sort of crazy idea is that? Give anyone competent a pub licence? Anarchists!


Many of you probably don't realise that the terms "naturally-conditioned" and "cask-conditioned" weren't invented by CAMRA, but come from the brewing industry itself. This is the entry for my favourite Australian brewery.

"Cooper & Sons Ltd.
Produces ales (naturally conditioned top fermentation brews), beers and


Steve said...

I've a copy of the original CAMRA Good Beer Guide which in the Brewery list gives Watneys the accolade "Avoid at all costs".
I understand the guide first went to press saying "Avoid like the plague" but was withdrawn due to the threat of legal action. Can anyone confirm this and has anyone got one of those copies that might have escaped?

Ron Pattinson said...

I have a reprint and it says "Avoid at all costs".