Saturday, 1 September 2012

The World's Best Bad Beer?

What's the most under-rated beer ever? Well , how about Watney's Red Barrel? Perhaps being too young to remember it is a good thing, but I've never tried it. It's just something that gets talked about (a lot) as the basest of beers, a sort of benchmark from which the only way is up. When I first started going to pubs cask beer was the norm, not an exception. The first pubs I regularly drank in with my mates, the choice seemed to be mild or bitter; lager didn't really figure, perhaps it was expensive. I do have more experience than I care to remember with 'smooth' type keg beers, the entire purpose of which seemed to me to be to take a beer and give it an additional, unpleasant chemical taste. We used to describe it as 'bitter flavoured lager' in one of the pubs I used to work in, although I think any claim it has flavour is something of an exaggeration.

Curious? *
But things are always relative. Just as the next series of 24 had to feature more torture, explosions and killings (more than seven anyway - see 4m30 in if you don't get the reference) then for some breweries their next release has to be proclaimed as better, and therefore gets more hyped than the last, and there surely comes a point where the beer can't live up to the press.

Since Watney's Red Barrel is almost a synonym for bad kegged beer I wonder exactly how bad it can be? As opposed to just tasteless.

Have a look at Scotland's most under-rated beer over at the beercast for a (slightly) more serious approach which made me think of this.

* Picture taken from Martyn Cornell's blog article here.


  1. A few years ago my local, which generally carried Old Bear on cask, had Webster's Green Label on pump. As the Old Bear beers were often too strong for regular drinking I turned to Green Label and it wasn't too bad for a 70s anachronism - it appears to be brewed by Burtonwood now and is still resolutely keg, but certainly tasted better than the John Smiths Smooth.

  2. It's like sitting through a film you know is going to be terrible - yet you still kind of want to watch it, to see just how bad it is. I would love to try Watney's Red Barrel - just to get some kind of a benchmark of how bad things were. Sadly, history has robbed me of the opportunity... ;-)

  3. This could be the way for CAMRA to recruit more on the youth membership front: Sponsor a re-brew of Red Barrel. Give samples out and say 'Look you crazy kids, if you don't fight for Real Ale you'll end up drinking this!'

    If it's as bad as its press it would get loads signing up I reckon.

    Cheers for the comments guys!

  4. See also: this excellent post on Special Brew by Ghost Drinker.

    We've used both Red Barrell and SB as shortcuts for bad beer despite never having tried either. (Actually, Boak has drunk her share of special brew, but she was a teenager, and not taking any notes...)

  5. I drank Red Barrel once (under-age) and it was awful.

    The only way to describe it is as beer-ade - it was as if somebody had developed a "beer flavour" syrup for a Sodastream. If you could press a button on the fizzies hose and get beer out instead - that's Red Barrel.

    Special Brew is perfectly decent, on the other hand - or at least it was when I was drinking it.