The Rise and Fall of Watney’s Red

Watney's Red, originally known as Watney's Red Barrel, is a historic brand that has undergone various transformations over the years. It was first introduced in 1931 by Watney Combe Reid & Co. Ltd, a British brewery based in London. This pale quickly gained popularity and became a household name.

In 1971, the brand was rebranded as “Watney's Red” and continued to be a favorite among beer enthusiasts. However, its journey was not without challenges. The rise of the Campaign for Real (CAMRA) in the 1970s posed a significant threat to Watney's Red Barrel, which was considered a symbol of industrialized beer production.

Despite the challenges, Watney's Red Barrel remained on the market until the late 1970s, when it was largely retired from the UK market. This decision was seen as a response to the growing influence of CAMRA and their promotion of traditional real ales.

However, Watney's Red Barrel continued to be sold as an overseas brand in markets where the politics of ‘real ale' were less prominent. It found a loyal following in these markets, allowing the brand to persist.

Interestingly, Sleeman Breweries, a brewery, produced a 3.9% ABV pale lager called Watney's Red Barrel until 1997. This shows the enduring popularity and recognition of the brand, even outside its original market.

Today, a 6.0% beer with the name Watney's Red is still brewed by Alken-Maes, a Belgian brewery. This demonstrates the continued relevance and appeal of the Watney's brand to beer enthusiasts around the world.

The story of Watney's Red is one of adaptation and resilience. Despite the challenges it faced from the rise of CAMRA and the decline of industrialized beer production, the brand managed to maintain its presence in foreign markets. Its legacy as a historic and iconic beer brand lives on, making it a significant part of beer history.

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Does Watneys Beer Still Exist?

Watney's beer still exists today, although it has undergone some changes over the years. Originally introduced as “Watney's Red Barrel” in the 1930s, it gained popularity as a pale lager with a 3.9% by volume (abv). However, in 1971, it was reformulated and relaunched as “Watney's Red,” possibly with some changes to its recipe or branding.

In the late 1990s, Sleeman Breweries acquired the rights to produce Watney's Red Barrel and continued selling a 3.9% abv pale lager under that name until 1997. However, it seems that Sleeman Breweries eventually stopped producing this version of the beer.

Nevertheless, a 6.0% beer called Watney's Red still exists and is currently brewed by Alken-Maes, a Belgian brewery. It is worth noting that this beer may have a different taste or characteristics compared to the original Watney's Red Barrel or the reformulated Watney's Red.

To summarize:

– Watney's beer still exists.
– The original Watney's Red Barrel was discontinued by Sleeman Breweries in 1997.
– Watney's Red, with a 6.0% abv, is currently brewed by Alken-Maes.

Who Took Over Watneys Brewery?

Watney Mann Ltd, a well-known brewery, was taken over by Grand Metropolitan Hotels Ltd in 1972. The merger of Watney Mann Ltd and Truman Hanbury Buxton and Co. Ltd took place in 1974. Some other notable breweries that were acquired in the past include Usher's Wiltshire Brewery Ltd in 1960 and Samuel Webster and Sons Ltd in 1972. It is worth mentioning that Watney Mann Ltd had a rich history before its takeover, having been established in 1837.


Watney's Red has had a complex and varied history. Originally introduced in 1931 as a draught , it gained popularity and became one of the most well-known beer brands in the UK. However, the brand faced criticism from beer enthusiasts and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) due to its use of pasteurization and artificial carbonation.

Despite attempts to rebrand and relaunch the beer, such as the introduction of Watney's Red Barrel in 1971, the brand struggled to maintain its position in the UK market. The retirement of Watney's Red from the UK market in the late 1970s was largely seen as a response to CAMRA's influence and the growing demand for real ale.

However, Watney's Red continued to be sold overseas where the politics of real ale were less influential. The brand still exists today, with a 6.0% beer of the same name being brewed by Alken-Maes. This serves as a testament to the enduring legacy of Watney's Red and its ability to adapt to changing consumer preferences.

Watney's Red is a beer brand that has had a tumultuous history. It experienced both success and criticism, ultimately leading to its decline in the UK market. Nevertheless, it remains a recognizable and respected name in the beer industry, particularly in international markets.

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Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.