Watney Combe & Reid

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Watney Combe & Reid
Industry Brewing
Fate Acquired
Predecessors The Stag Brewery
Successors Watney Mann
Founded 1837
Defunct 1958
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Products Beer

Watney Combe & Reid was a leading brewing business in London. At its peak in the 1930s it was a constituent of the FT 30 index of leading companies on the London Stock Exchange. It produced the beer brand Watney's Red Barrel.[1]


Watneys Red Barrel logo
The Stag Brewery, Mortlake in 1989.

The Watney family were the main partners in the Stag Brewery, Victoria, for much of the 19th century.[2] In 1837 James Watney became a partner in the brewery, followed by his sons James and Norman in 1856.[2] On his death in 1884, the brewery became a private limited company.[2]

In 1889 James Watney & Co., acquired the Mortlake Brewery (latterly referred to as the Stag Brewery of Mortlake), which had been owned by Charles James Philips and James Wigan since the 1840s.[3]

In 1898 the company merged with Combe Delafield and Co. and Reid and Co., and was subsequently known as Watney Combe and Reid.[4] The amalgamated company was the largest brewer in London.[4] The Combe brewery in Longacre and the Reid brewery in Clerkenwell closed almost immediately, and production was concentrated on the Watney Stag Brewery in Pimlico.[5] The company had an annual output of 1.8 million hectolitres.[5]

Watneys Red Barrel key fob

Watney Mann was formed in 1958 with the merger of Watney, Combe, Reid & Co. Ltd with Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd.

When the Stag Brewery in Victoria was demolished in 1959 the name was transferred to Mortlake Brewery.[6]

The business acquired other brewers, including Wilsons of Manchester, Phipps NBC of Northampton, Samuel Webster & Sons of Halifax and Ushers of Trowbridge, before being taken over by Grand Metropolitan, a hotels and catering group, in 1972 and closed in 1979.[7]

Watneys Red Barrel [edit]

Watneys Red Barrel was a bitter popular in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s and was a cultural phenomenon in that era,[8][9] as evidenced by references in the Monty Python "Travel Agent" sketch[10] and the BBC series Life on Mars (Series One, episode three). It was introduced in 1931 as an export keg beer that could travel for long distances by being made stable through filtering and pasteurising – as such it was the first keg beer.[8] It was renamed to just "Red" in 1971.

The beer could be purchased in cans called the Party Seven and Party Four (at seven and four pints, respectively), introduced in 1968.[8][11]

A 3.9% abv pale lager with the name Watneys Red Barrel was sold by the Sleeman Brewery until 1997[12] and a 6.0% beer with the same name is still brewed by Alken-Maes.[13]


For many years, Watney's advertised with the strapline "What we want is Watney's".[14]


  1. ^ Dougherty, Philip (1986-10-23). "Biederman Is Named For Watney Red Barrel". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c British History on-line
  3. ^ National Archives
  4. ^ a b P.L. Cottrell (5 November 2013). Industrial Finance, 1830–1914: The Finance and Organization of English Manufacturing Industry. Routledge. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-136-59735-0. 
  5. ^ a b "Combe Beers". "Shut up about Barclay Perkins". blogspot.co.uk. August 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  6. ^ The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records, 1990, Richmond L. and Turton A. (eds.), p.263
  7. ^ Directory of UK Real Ale Breweries
  8. ^ a b c "Watneys Red Barrel". RetroWow. Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  9. ^ "Critics' choice". The Sunday Times. 1 September 2002. Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  10. ^ "Travel Agent / Watney's Red Barrel". www.montypython.net. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  11. ^ Turnbull, Tony (2007-07-07). "Roll out the barrel". The Times. 
  12. ^ "Watneys Red Barrel from Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. (Sapporo) – Ratebeer". ratebeer.com. Retrieved 13 July 2009. 
  13. ^ "Belgian Beers – Belgium Travel Guide – Eupedia". eupedia.com. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  14. ^ "Advertising Slogan Hall of Fame". AdSlogans.co.uk. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 

External links[edit]