Over the last few months the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt has been taking place providing a welcome opportunity to try some different beers from the familiar supermarket shelves.
And in October Bad King John from Ridgeside Brewing was crowned winner of a six month national listing in 300 Sainsbury’s stores. Bad King John beat beers from around the UK to the throne via four regional heats (120 beers), a three week stint in Sainsbury’s stores (16 beers) and a grand judging final in London (final 8 beers). Spearheading the competition was Caesar Augustus by Williams Bros of Clackmannanshire which clinched a listing across 150 Sainsbury’s stores.
This year’s 16 finalists were:
Flying Dutchman Wit Bier, Caledonian Brewing Co, Alva, Scotland
Orange peel and a herbaceous twist make Flying Dutchman easy to identify. Intriguingly, caramel and liquorice offer something the average wit beer might not, and something syrupy-sweet mops everything up. An interesting start!
Golden Seahawk, Cotleigh Brewery, Somerset
An aroma of freshly cut garden weeds (those sticky buggers that find their way onto the bottom of shoes, gloves, the seat of your pants); flavours of wholesome cereal doused in honey. A nice golden ale.
Frederic’s Great British Ginger Beer, Frederic Robinson, Stockport
Perfect with fish and chips it says. Well I’m late home from work, sore from five a side and soaked through with autumn rain. The (award winning and only nearby late night) chippy was shutting but let me jump the chairs blocking the doorway to pick up fish cakes and scraps. Perhaps any beer would have done but Robinson’s Ginger Beer cut through the sweat of the chips like no other: spicy, tongue tingling and sweet. Still, I couldn’t help feeling I’d rather just have had a Ben Shaws…
Wild Hop IPA, Harviestoun Brewery, Clackmannanshire, Scotland
A beery lemon marmalade on just-golden toast, with a contradictory bitterness – sharp but simultaneously mellow. The hops might be wild but the beer isn’t: its gentile, moreish and gulp-able – beautiful with undercurrents of sex. In a beery kinda way.
I lust this beer.
Full Bore, Hunter’s Brewery, Devon
A whopper at 8%, it’s a shame Full Bore smashes toffee and not a lot else at me (a left hook of honey perhaps?), thus feeling like an opportunity missed. But drunk after three other Sainsbury’s Beer Hunt beers it feels like I missed the opportunity to give it a fair crack of the whip. Now to find a bottle left on the shelves and give it a fair trial…
Two Hoots Golden Ale, Joseph Holt, Manchester
Through the clear bottles it’s a vibrant golden ale but poured and tasted it’s flat and sun kissed to the point of no return. Crystal malt is about the only flavour discernible behind disintegrated hops. Unfair to pass judgement except on the colour of the glass.
Stronghart, McMullen & Sons, Hertfordshire
Strong and ruby-tinted brown like creosote, Stronghart packs the a bitter punch and a wallop of brandy-seeped raisins. Sweet and tart like opulent plums and just a tad balsamic. Don’t let it knock you out – it’s strong enough to.
Bishop’s Farewell, Oakham Ales, Peterborough
All Oakham’s ales (that I’ve tried) are citrus influenced and this is no different. A decent beer to sup on an evening but nothing makes me want to wax lyrical on the joy on hops like some of Oakham’s ales do.
Churchill Ale, Oxfordshire Ales Ltd, Bicester
Toffee apple aroma introduces a strong malt backbone perfumed with citrus hops. Far from your typical strong IPA this is a gentle and very English pale ale. A soft spot for Churchill (because I used to work not far from them) was enough to make me go back twice for more, but the first bottle remained the best.
Ivanhoe, Ridgeway Brewing, South Oxfordshire
If the label takes you back in time then it’s a warning that pale ale in this context might mean ‘paler ale’ (compared to what was available in the days of Ivanhoe, anyway). Harvest fruits and English malt make for a pleasant beer drinking experience. We’d be lying if we said we bought it, we saved a few pounds by remembering this bottle.
Bad King John, Ridgeway Brewing, South Oxfordshire
Spent cocoa beans and a boozy Bailey’s aroma, perhaps a dash of vanilla. Dark, dry, sweet and roast: a cacophony of intriguing characteristics emerges from the depths of nowhere. Bad King John must have been a complicated fellow. Thick without cloying, the King has soul and a long bitter aftertaste. It’s Ivanhoe’s nemesis and it’s even more memorable.
Worcester Sorcerer, Sadler’s Ales, Stourbridge
Toffee apple and raisin nose, and smells just a little like my Burton Ale home brew. The flavours defy this initial bouquet, revealing a muskier side, molasses and burnt grain. Call it Worcestershire Sauceror and serve with roast dinner. Strangely likeable.
Caesar Augustus, Williams Brothers, Alloa, Scotland
Wowser. Now this is a good beer! Caesar’s honey gold complexion and medicinal Saazy nose tingles nerve endings (perhaps helped by 24 hours in the fridge the first sip hits my front molars with a scintillating pulse!). Caesar Augustus is boundlessly refreshing. An innovative lagered IPA? Come on, the result is a crisp and vibrant pilsner, surely? A joy to behold.
Profanity Stout, Williams Brothers, Alloa, Scotland
A vodka and vanilla nose, followed by reams of bitter Green & Blacks mellowed by a lingering smoked coffee bean dryness. Sophisticated but living on a thin line: its ABV may deceive you.
Golden Summer, Wold Top Brewery, Yorkshire
An old favourite from one of the most consistent brewers in Yorkshire. I tend to buy Wold Top’s beers from the most charming farm shop near Bradford, on the road between Halifax and Keighley, usually alongside strange vegetables and local cheese. Against The Grain was unremarkable to many, but as a gluten-free beers go I think it was a triumph. And Golden Summer is no different, on the face an unremarkable beer but it’s incredibly perfect in too many situations to be called average. As HopZine say, a great bridging beer, and in my mind eminently versatile. You can find grapefruit and lemon if you try, but it’s the cereal backbone that I love. A summer beer that genuinely shines.
Wye Not, Wye Valley Brewery, Herefordshire
…because the other beers are probably more enjoyable. Weighted in the favour of its malt ingredients, it never quite lives up to its biscuit billing. Should malt be your thing though, you could do much worse.
And if we’d been picking the winner? Well Wold Top’s Golden Summer and Harviestoun’s Wild Hop IPA were stand outs, whilst Bad King John fought the corner of the darker beers and Stronghart offered something a bit different. But for sheer brazen excellence, Caesar Augustus provided the most enjoyment and refreshment. It’s exactly the sort of beer I’d pick up regularly in the supermarket, and for that reason, we’re firmly sold.Tags: caledonian, harviestoun, hunters, joseph holt, mcmullen, oakham, Oxfordshire, Ridgeway, robinsons, sadlers, sainsburys, Sainsburys Beer Competition, williams brothers, wold top, wye valley
Christmas Beer Gift PacksChristmas is not much more than 24 hours away and you haven’t finished all your shopping. There’s always at least one thing that’s slipped your mind, one extra gift to buy, a mad dash to the shops or the supermarket to ensure you’ve bought enough for that special person. And for the beer lovers in your life? What better than a fancy gift pack of a beer they haven’t tried with a fancy glass. Or even if they have tried it, it’s the thought that counts, eh?! We’ve compiled a selection of some of the Christmas Beer Gift Packs we’ve come across on our travels – some we’ve bought, some we’ve snapped on shop shelves and some have been pointed in our direction by breweries or PR companies. If you need a last minute beery gift some will be easier to find than others. Hopefully there’s a bit of something for a variety of different beer drinkers! Merry Christmas!
WARNING: these gift suggestions are not (I repeat not!) suitable for your beer widow!!! Read the rest of this entry »Tags: beer gift packs, black sheep, broughton, carlow, christmas, Cobra, curry, gifts, hogsback, Hook Norton, Hooky, house of fraser, innis & gunne, john lewis, la trappe, m&s, MileStone, presents, purity, sainsburys, wiliams brothers
December 8th, 2009Comment
It feels like I’ve been writing about these Sainsbury’s beers for a long time. To be fair it is, but once I’d started I wasn’t giving up!
The actual competition finished quite a while ago, and it’s probably a good idea to round up what happened.
In 2008, Sainsbury’s first launched their beer competition. Breweries provided the supermarket giant with their finest new ales, a selection of which would make it through to the final, where the beers would find themselves in stock and on sale in stores nationwide.
The top selling beers would win a nice big order from the Sainsbury’s to be stocked on a permanent basis, a veritable cash cow and holy grail for many brewers.
The first year saw Bath Ales Barnstormer and Doctor Okells IPA (both very good!) take the title.
This year Scottish brewers dominated the challenge, with no less than 7 of the 15 finalists in stores across the country coming from the industrious BrewDog and their contemporaries the brothers William.Tags: bath ales, birds and bees, BrewDog, chaos theory, golden hare, sainsburys, williams brothers
BrewDog Chaos Theory
Complexity in the universe is often based on simple, fundamental rules. We don’t know all of the rules but we understand some of them; however despite this, life is still, at our level, an unpredictable and seemingly random existence.
Chaos theory helps us get our heads around this (and then in the next breath turns our perceptions of ‘thought on its head). It also suggests that systems such as our universe are completely deterministic…in theory. But unfortunately we have to pinpoint the exact starting conditions of the system, which is a little more than tricky when every single tiny particle in our universe system was compacted into an unimaginably small space, a little over 13,700,000,000 years ago (plus or minus about 14 million years!).
This chaotic nature has parallels with the brewing process, where we calculate the mix of initial ingredients, follow strict processes and end up with tasty beer at the end. But we can’t always predict the exact end result and consistency and quality in a brew can be more difficult than just throwing the ingredients together and sticking the heat on.
As you might have guessed there’s a parallel between all this and BrewDog’s last beer in our Sainsbury’s beer competition series. Chaos Theory is an ode to chaos theory (although at 7.1% it doesn’t really help me get my head around the physics much!). Read the rest of this entry »Tags: beer, BrewDog, chaos theory, competition, india pale ale, IPA, sainsburys
Before I go any further, this review is only half a review of Allgates Portersque. In fact it’s a review of my tasting notes from memory, so as a beer review it can be taken with a pinch of salt!
I’ve really enjoyed writing this belated series on the 2009 Sainsbury’s Beer Competition, and I’m hoping that there will be a few people eager to find out which beer we think deserved to win the contest. Anywhere, on with the story…
For my birthday my girlfriend bought me a Moleskine notebook, one of the smaller sized ones that just about fits in the back pocket of Levi’s and is covered in thick black leather.
It sat unused whilst I filled up other pads and scraps of paper with the types of daily notes that I sometimes like to jot down, lists that never get completed and what not. And then I started writing intensely about beer for this blog, having a few bottles of ale a week and penning simple tasting notes. At last I had the perfect use for my overpriced notebook and quickly got to work copying into it my beer notes across from the back of receipts and various other cleverly recycled artefacts (I got most done one productive afternoon on holiday this year whilst sipping on Mythos!)
It’s been a life saver really, it even has a small filing section at the back for storing any notes that I still scribble onto post-its or the back of used envelopes, for copying up at a later date.
But every now and then one slips through the net. I flick through the pages searching for that beer that I know I’ve drunk but just can’t remember enough about to write up from memory, and it’s not there, nowhere to be found. On this occasion the beer is All Gates Porteresque. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: allgates, beer, competition, porteresque, sainsburys
Last weekend I was pretty much off the (online) radar compared to usual, and in the 2 days I left the twitterverse to its own devices it seems it all went a little BrewDog mad. With the revelation that BrewDog stitched themselves up deliberately over Tokyo, some people congratulated them on a point well proved whilst others bemoaned their tactics and deception.
I understand and to a point commend BrewDog for standing up to some of what the Portman group do, and appreciate they are not the perfect, unbiased solution – for instance I’m not sure that BrewDog’s labels incite anti-social behaviour as much as a Taste The Difference lasagne does. But, I am annoyed that they pulled last week’s stunt: firstly because they ignore the fact that the Portman group is an alternative to state legislation; secondly that they went out to actively ask people in the beer community to defend Tokyo, knowing damn well they’d sent the letter, and thirdly, does it really help an industry that some days looks like imploding in on itself?
As I’ve found with BrewDog recently, the sentiment and passion is no doubt there, but sometimes, execution lets them down.
BrewDog have moulded themselves into a bit of a cult brand, and one that is gradually making inroads into the wider population, with a rebellious brand persona that many supermarket shoppers and beer drinkers will enjoy and tap into. After all, BrewDog are still unique compared to the traditional brewers available in UK supermarkets.
I say cult because there is something dogmatic about following BrewDog, and I’ve no doubt that people hold BrewDog in high esteem. Much in the same way that they look forward to their favourite bands new release or the next big book by an author, people wait in keen anticipation of every move BrewDog make, regardless of what that move might entail.
Which leads us nicely onto Dogma, the second BrewDog beer review in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series (especially as it’s the 13th post in this series posted on Friday the 13th!)
Dogma is the reincarnation of Speedball, the heather honey infused beer that gave BrewDog their first really big PR piece just before we kicked this little blog off. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: BrewDog, dogma, guarana, honey, jaipur, kola nuts, poppy seeds, sainsburys
Yellow Hammer stood out on the Sainsbury’s shelf like a woodpecker drilling into my brain, the bold yellow type urging me to pick it up.
My first O’Hanlon’s ale poured a light golden colour with a delicate head. It was pretty lively with a slightly yeasty aroma that many bottle conditioned ale seems to have.
This was followed by the fresh floral scent of Cascade hops, which preceded a golden malt taste that was fresh and sweet. I was right in the mood for it and it came up trumps with a nice balance of hops, malt and sweetness to refresh my palate.
This is a zesty little number, the malt is subtle and it has the character you might expect from the small, lively bird it’s named after. This is a beer that could really hit the spot in a refreshing way.
This beer brings up a question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while: ‘bottle conditioned’ or ‘not bottle conditioned? It’s a debate that every now and then rears its divisive head. This is a nice beer, and I’d certainly have it again, but how much better is it because it is bottle conditioned? (I’d genuinely like to know!).
I’m not sure I like having to take great care and attention pouring this when I’m dealing with what is essentially a light, refreshing golden beer. If I wanted this on a summer night I’d prefer to slightly chill it and not have to worry about sediment escaping the safe confines of the bottle.
That sediment makes a big different if it does end up loose in your glass of beer (a little bit of which did near the end).
Regardless of that this is a good beer that I’d love to try on draft in a beer garden and will definitely try in a bottle again (pouring with more due diligence this time around!).Tags: beer, Bottle Conditioned, competition, golden, sainsburys
Bays are very much an unknown to me, and this is the real beauty of the Sainsbury’s beer competition. Without, it would probably have taken a trip to Devon for me to have stumbled across this beer.
The brewery is a new one, set up in 2007 on the south Devon coast and has three flagship ales: Bays Best, Gold and Breaker. It’s the latter that made the cut in the Sainsbury’s Beer Competition this year and therefore found its way into my trolley a few weeks ago.
I should point out I drank this a little colder than it’s probably meant to be, a result of not very good fridge planning and me been very indecisive about which beers I wanted that night.
Bays Breaker is an interesting beer, it’s almost peppery, sweet and bitter all at the same time, an array of contradictory flavours that sit together better than you’d expect. The peppery aftertaste demands another sip, a sip that will start fruity and soft, and ends with a carbonised bitterness.
In big gulps the malt and fruit shines through and if you sip slower it the bitter flavours linger.
Without becoming a favourite Bays Breaker certainly makes for an interesting tipple and that could well have a couple of food partnerships out there waiting to be found (I reckon this to wash down fish and chips might just work!)Tags: bays, beer, breaker, competition, devon, fruit, pepper, sainsburys, torbay
The first BrewDog in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series is one that we’re relatively familiar with. So far we’ve only got around to reviewing Punk IPA and Dogma, but we have quite a few ‘Dogs ‘in stock’ and it’s about time we wrote something about them.
Hardcore IPA is one of those beers that has a little bit of the ‘wow’ factor (or the ‘woah’ factor depending on your taste buds).
It has a crazy, tropical Um Bongo aroma that’s sweet and exciting. It smells like sweet, e-number fuelled heaven trapped in a bottle.
Fruit salad penny sweet smells give way to a bitter overload, hops completely dominating and filling your mouth. Aromatic beers usually mean bitterness, but the pineapple aroma makes you expect something with an exotic fruit taste.
Beers with an imperial tag usually come at a certain strength and richness. Hardcore has the strength but it’s hidden treasures are perhaps just a little too inaccessible.
If you can work through the IBU frenzy you will get some of that, but boy does that take some acclimatisation.
This is a big beer. Drink it too fast and it becomes medicinal, but sip it slowly and it’s a world of hops, passionfruit and titilating tongue tingles. Oh, and it’s strong as hell to boot, so don’t down one before bedtime.Tags: BrewDog, dogma, hardcore, hoppy, india pale ale, IPA, passion fruit, punk, sainsburys, scottish, Sweet, tropical
The first in our Sainsbury’s Beer Competition series is Woods Shropshire Lass. You might have guessed from the name that it pours a blonde, light beer (why aren’t there any darker beers called brunette?!).
A sniff of this is nice indeed, a floral fruity scent reminiscent of a spring day or a summer morning from a novel.
To drink it’s tasty and refreshing, a crisp, blonde body makes this an easy drinking ale.
Nothing in this beer compromises any other flavour, there are no taste that haggle for your attention or force you to notice them.
It’s a gentle and taste beer, delicately fruity and well balanced.
I reckon most pub goers could fulfil a session on this (during the milder months of the year at least.Tags: beer, blonde, brunette, competition, sainsburys, shropshire lass, woods, woods shropshire lass beer review sainsburys competition