In 1898, the first big merger of London breweries took place. Three of the capital's largest breweries - Combe & Co., Watney and Reid - joined together as Watney, Combe, Reid. The breweries of Combe in Longacre and Reid in Clerkenwell closed almost immediately. Brewing was concentrated in Watney's Stag Brewery, close to Victoria station. (The Stag Brewery was itself demolished in the late 1950's.) The new venture had an annual output of 1.8 million hl, about double that of the next two largest London brewers, Whitbread and Barclay Perkins.
The Combe and Reid names did live on, being used by the new merged company. Reid was used as the brand for Stout and Combe for Brown Ale.
|Combe Brown Ale 1926 - 1936|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.|
|Truman Gravity Book document B/THB/C/252 held at the London Metropolitan Archives|
|Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive|
It's strange reading Barnard's description of the Combe brewery. It was large and modern. Supposedly the second largest brewery in London, with annual production of around 500,000 barrels (818,000 hl). Yet less than 10 years after his visit, it had closed. I won't bore you with a full inventory of their kit. Though it is impressive - several steam engines, attemperators, refrigerators, ice machines, cask washers. They even re-used waste steam and hot water for heating. How very green of them. There are, however, a couple of tidbits I want to share with you regarding Pale Ale.
"Since the year of the Great Exhibition  light pale beers, which then created quite a revolution in the taste of the British public, have superseded the heavier and darker productions, and Messrs. Combe & Co. were amongst the first London brewers who wisely adopted the plan of brewing ales similar in character, colour and taste to those of Burton." Barnard "Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland", volume I, p.289
"On one side of this building, pale ale casks are separately treated, this being a more delicate process, as they require greater care to free them from acidity. After every atom of hop has been removed from them the casks are filled with liquor, and then boiled by inserting a steam telescope-pipe into the bung hole - a few minutes suffice for this operation;- they are then finally steamed and dried." Barnard "Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland", volume I, page 293Never heard that one before. It seems clear that Pale Ale was more easily infected than other beers.