Waitrose Own Label Beers

Waitrose own label beers...

I’ve always passed over the Waitrose own brand beers, probably because they stock Thornbridge Jaipur. I thought it was about time I tried them and found out what they were like.

First up was their German Pils, which poured a pale yellow colour, that lightened, or darkened depending on what you held it up against. The head was one of those that was reluctant to get going, but then burst to life and produced a massive, very loose, fluffy white head. It didn’t last and dropped to pretty much nothing after a few minutes.

During the pour, a noble hop aroma came streaming out of the bottle, but after the pour, you had to cup your hands over the glass to really get anything. It was a sweet marmalade kind of aroma, with vague remnants of stale carbon dioxide.

It felt pretty full bodied in the mouth, with lots in the way of sweetness and little in the way of counteracting bitterness. There was a bit of a mouth tickle after the initial sweet onslaught, but it was brief and made little impact in the building sickly sweetness. The aftertaste was all sweetness, with vague hints of orange about it.

I normally get about halfway down a bottle of German Helles or Pils before being put off my the sweetness, but this was just too much for me right from the outset. If it had had a decent level of bitterness like Jever, for instance, it might have been OK, but it was just sweet, sweet, sweet, followed by a bit more sweetness for good measure. Really not my cup of tea at all…

To be fair, once I got to the bottom of the glass, it did feel slightly less sweet and that it had slightly more bitterness about it, but only just.

Next up was the Czech Pilsner, which poured a similar colour to the German Pils, maybe slightly more golden, with less of an anemic urine kind of appearance. The head was good and solid, with little bubbles forming the thick frothy topping. While it didn’t last very long, it didn’t disappear completely, leaving a thin skin of bubbles over the surface.

There’s only so many ways a noble hopped beer can smell, it was as you’d expect; slightly grassy, with sweet orangey malt undertones. It didn’t smell anywhere near as sweet as the German Pils, but it wasn’t overly fresh with hop aroma either.

It felt pretty full bodied in the mouth, with the initial malty sweetness kept in check by a nice wave of bitterness and carbonation. The sweet orangey malt soon reasserted itself, before a, slightly sweet, but at the sametime, satisfyingly bitter aftertaste lingered for a while.

I really liked this one, there was a nice balance between the bitterness and the sweet orangey maltiness, with maybe the bitterness just edging it. I thought it was dangerously drinkable and wouldn’t hesitate to buy it over something like Budvar in the future.

I broke out my proper wheat beer glass for the Bavarian Hefe Weissbier, which poured as you’d expect, a murky copper, with a large fluffy white head. The nose wasn’t overly bready, clovey or bananay; having instead a spiciness about it that I couldn’t place.

It was a similar story with the taste, it wasn’t overly anything, other than having a strong generic spiciness about it. Cloves have a really pungent and distinct aroma and taste, this wasn’t like that, it was more the spiciness you get from lots wheat or rye malt, which is a bit unsurprising in a wheat beer.

If I stuck my neck out a bit, I’d say it mostly reminded me of bubble gum, but not overly so; it seemed to be pandering to a middle ground and you could say was pretty forgettable because of it. It was nice enough, in that it slipped down without too much though, which was maybe the problem.

I had a feeling the Belgian Blonde would be similar to something Duvel, after all, it ‘s in the same style of 330ml bottle. It poured a slightly hazy golden straw colour, due to a tiny touch of sediment in the bottle. The head was white, thick and creamy and in my Duvel tulip glass, fed by a constant stream of bubbles, it remained at about a finger thick.

The nose had some spicy undertones to it, but also smelled vaguely like the Bavarian Hefe, with some banana type aromas too.

The spiciness was carried over into mouth being there both at the beginning and the end. There was also a touch of orange and a sweetness that could be the honey that was mentioned on the label. Given the ABV, it was unsurprisingly full bodied, but at the same time, there was a certain flabbiness about it, that made it feel a touch lighter of body than maybe it actually was.

It was nice enough, but it’s no Duvel.

Overall they weren’t bad. I really didn’t get on with the German Pils and wouldn’t buy it again. The Bavarian Hefe was too anonymous and I think there are better wheat beers available in most supermarkets, similarly I would buy Duvel over the Belgian Blonde any day of the week. That just leaves the Czech Pilsner, which I’d have no qualms about buying again and again, I thought it was really nice.

Update: 02/05/14
I popped into my local Waitrose in Newmarket the other morning, I needed to pick up some breakfast and lunch. While I was there, I did what I always do, which is to have a quick scan of the beer and cider shelves, to see if there’s anything new and interesting worth buying. I noticed that they had an own label Bavarian Dunkel Weissbier sitting next to their own label Bavarian Hefe Weissbier.

This one is also made by Arcobräu and for my money, is nicer than the Hefe. Which was a surprise, as I normally much prefer Hefe to Dunkel when it comes to wheat beers. It poured a murky brown, with a massive head that dropped to a covering after a while.

The nose was full of those Germanic wheat beers aromas; a bit of crusty bread, a touch of banana, a hint of clove and a smidgen of bubblegum. In the mouth it felt just about right, with a lightish body, but with enough flavour to carry it off, so it never felt watery or flabby. The finish was all spicy, malty and yeasty, but all nicely blended together, rather than competing.

I had this just after I finished bottling AG #10 – Coronal Mass Ejection: Kohatu, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin and it slipped down a treat. It’s one of those beers where is slips down so quickly and easily, that you wish you’d bought another as all gone without you realising.

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