Craft Keg Arrives in Cambridge

I popped into the Cambridge Brew House at lunchtime, as I was dropping off a couple of bottles of homebrew for James, the head brewer of the Cambridge Brewing Company. As he was telling me about his future trip to a hop farm to pick up some green hops, my eye wandered to the back of the bar, where I noticed a load of keg fonts coming out of a keg attached to the wall. I’ll admit to suddenly blurting out “you have Thornbridge Jaipur on keg…!?!” and stopping James in his tracks; it’s not everyday you see that sort of thing round here.

So evidently the Cambridge Brew House have installed a few more keg lines and have some national and international craft keg on tap! Today there was Camden Pale Ale and Freedom Organic Lager on the main bar fonts, plus Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, Thornbridge Jaipur, Adnams Clump Sagin and Redhook Long Hammer IPA on the new keg fonts. If you can make out the prices on the photos above, you’ll notice that they’re craft keg prices, so a pint of the Jaipur would set you back £4.50. Which isn’t too steep if you’ve ever drank in Cask, Craft or The Euston Tap.

This is a definite step forward for pubs in Cambridge, especially as James told me that they had some Magic Rock stuff waiting to go on too. Which I’ll probably miss, due to being on holiday for the next three weeks, but those are the breaks. When I get back, I’m going to have to go down and see what they have on, fingers crossed for some Magic Rock

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2012 Round-Up

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Today sees the grand final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt and I’ll be there! So while I drink free beer, eat cheese and listen to Jolly Olly, you can see if you agree with who I’d like to see in the Grand Final. Firstly though, you might want to re-familiarise yourselves with what I though of each of the entries, but if you don’t want to take my word for it, then you can get a quick overview of nearly all of them on Landells’ Rock n Roll Beverage. Here’s the links:

The format of the competition has slightly changed for this year, so instead of the top ten going through to today’s Grand Final, it’s the top two from each of the five regions. While this at least guarantees that the whole country has representation in the Grand Final, it could mean that some beer that deserves to be in the final isn’t. I don’t think that’s going to be the case though, as to be honest, quite a lot of the beer in this years competition wasn’t that great, at least in my opinion.

I can only comment on the bottles that I’ve bought, as with everything on this blog, the reviews I’ve given these twenty beers are just my opinion. You may very well find that you don’t agree with me and that the bottles you have bought tasted completely different. Based on my reviews though, here’s who I’d like to see in the Grand Final:

Williams Bros Brewing Co. – Prodigal Sun
Harviestoun Brewery – Wild Hop Gold

South East (East, Home Counties, South Coast)
Sambrooks Brewery – Pumphouse Pale Ale
Wolf Brewery Ltd – Poppy Ale
South West (Wales / West Of England)
S A Brain – Willy Nilly
Wye Valley Brewery – Dorothy Goodbody’s Blissful Brown Ale
North England
Wold Top Brewery – Scarborough Fair IPA
Beartown Brewery – Wojtek
The Midlands
Blue Monkey Brewing Ltd – 99 Red Baboons
Ridgeway Brewing Co. – Ivanhoe

I’ve no idea who’ll win, as the Grand Final judging panel will no doubt be a diverse bunch and I doubt they all share my tastes. For me though, there were three standouts, Harviestoun’s Wild Hop Gold, Sambrooks’ Pumphouse Pale Ale and Wold Top’s Scarborough Fair IPA. The Scarborough Fair IPA was my favorite, it beat the Wild Hop Gold, mainly due to it having the bitterness that I thought the latter was lacking.

By the time you’ve read this far, I’ll know who the Grand Finalists are, so you may want to check my twitter feed, as I’ll be trying to keep it up to date with developments. To be honest, I’m quite excited, I can’t wait to find out who’ll win.

Great British Beer Hunt: Bad Elf and Wild Hop Gold

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Right, lets get the label of Ridgeway’s Bad Elf out of the way first; in my opinion, it’s terrible. I really don’t get on with that whole cartoon elves and goblins type label thing, it’s just not my frothing mug of beer. I know that some people like it though, a few folk I chatted with at the regional heat thought it was great, or funny, so your milage may vary. However, part of the judging criteria at the regional heats was to take the label into account, so for me, it shouldn’t even be in the competition, no matter what it tastes like.

Surprisingly, this is the first bottle I’ve had in this years competition that’s been bottle conditioned, I’ve been quite surprised at how few of this years selection are. That meant the pour was slightly more delicate than all the others so far, I didn’t want any sediment in the glass. It poured a marmalade copper colour, with a very loose marmalade tinged head. The head was slow to form and I had to pour from a bit of a height just to get a single fingers worth. It was one of those heads that foams as you pour, a melee of bubbles popping into and out of existence. It didn’t last long and dropped to a patch in the centre of the glass in short order, before disappearing completely.

I didn’t get much on the nose, at least not much that I could identify, as whatever was there was so faint, I couldn’t pick it out. If I’m being generous, I’d say there was a faint aroma from some of the malt, what it actually smelled of though, I couldn’t say.

It was instantly obvious from the first sip that this bottle hadn’t conditioned correctly, as the beer was practically flat. That meant that it was really soft in the mouth and the flavours were a bit muddled because of it, it could really have used a bit of effervescence to lift the differing flavours apart. It had a good body though, but for my tastes, wasn’t quite balanced enough, the malty sweetness overcoming what little bitterness revealed itself. I’m going to have to be generic here and just say it tasted malty, because there’s nothing else I can really say, there was no obvious marmalade, caramel, toffee or any other kind of obvious malt taste, just a general maltiness. At least until the aftertaste, which had a spiciness to it, think ground coriander and that kind of thing.

  • RateBeerRidgeway
  • Bad Elf, 4.5%, 500ml

All in all, a disappointing bottle from last years winning brewer. However, like all bottle conditioned beers, it could just be this bottle being duff, I’ll have to buy another and see if it exhibits the same problem. My main gripe though, is that claim that there are three pounds of hops in every barrel, implying that it will be quite a bitter beer. All I can say is that it must have been a very big barrel, as it really wasn’t that bitter at all.

Ah, there’s nothing quite like a bit of brand extension to get the heart racing, or maybe not… Harviestoun’s Wild Hop IPA was one of my favorites in last year’s competition, so it was a bit disappointing to see them doing a Greene King (IPA Gold, IPA Reserve…!?!) and releasing a different beer under the Wild Hop name. Why not just call it something else, Golden Hop or something, it’s almost like they’re trying to cash in on the fact they had a similarly named beer in the stores last year. I’m sure the beer buying public could handle a different name.

Anyway, it poured a surprisingly light copper colour, I certainly wouldn’t have called it golden. It had a loosish white head that was easily formed, but dropped fairly quickly. The nose was chock full of ripe mango which was really nice and thankfully without any of the cat wee aroma that using too many Citra hops can result in. I’m not sure I picked out any Simcoe though, it’s normally quite resinous, what a lot of people would describe as piney, for me it was tropical fruit all the way.

This was probably the most flavourful beer I’ve had from the competition yet, with massive hop flavours rampaging around the mouth. It was quite well balanced though, not overly bitter, but just bitter enough that you couldn’t really discern any flavours from the malt backbone. In fact, it almost felt a bit watery in the mouth at the start, but this might just have been down to the fact that it made the mouth water with all the juicy tropical bitterness. Ripe mangoes, pineapple, maybe even a bit of lychee and passion fruit, it was fantastic. The only letdown was a little bit of that Citra cat wee flavour coming in right at the death of the aftertaste, but it was just a teeny bit and didn’t really detract from what is so far, my favorite beer in the competition

If I have any complaints, it’s that I thought it could have done with a touch more bitterness. It was very, very flavourful, but not overly bitter. I would have loved for it to just have had a bit more bite, but that’s brand extension for you, I’ll just need to track down some bottles of Wild Hop IPA for that.

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Yesterday saw the finalists in this years version of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt hit the shelves of 300 Sainsbury’s stores nationwide. They should be in the seasonal aisle of your local store, if you’re lucky to live near one, until Tuesday the 2nd of October, with the Grand Final taking place in London on Friday the 5th October.

This year’s twenty finalists, four more than last year, have been split into regions. The top two performing beers form each region will go forward to the final, where two overall winners will be announced. The winners will receive a guaranteed minimum six-month listing in stores nationwide from November. The twenty finalists, which are currently on a 3 for £4 offer, are:


Traditional Scottish Ales – Double Espresso Premio Caffe Birra
Brewed with double strength coffee beans which give this beer a unique character. A superb silky texture. Great with a good steak or beef dish.
Williams Bros Brewing Co. – Prodigal Sun
A delicate, fruity and aromatic blonde beer. Enjoy with fish and chips.
Cairngorm Brewery – White Lady
Bavarian style wheat beer, with additional hints of roasted malt for colour. Brewed with orange peel & coriander to give fruit flavours with a hint of spice. Good with curries, spicy food, or with barbecue dishes.
Harviestoun Brewery – Wild Hop Gold

A simple malt background and earthy English hops overlaid with citrus and spicy character from the Citra and Simcoe hops. Complements spicy foods such as Thai green curry.

South East (East, Home Counties, South Coast)

Sambrooks Brewery – Pumphouse Pale Ale
A fine citric aroma leads into sweetish cereal notes then hoppy marmalade tones. Drink with barbequed meats.
Wolf Brewery Ltd – Poppy Ale
A delicately flavoured golden ale infused with honey and fruity hops. A must with a variety of world cheeses.
Cotswold Brewing Co. for Beer Counter Ltd – Bad Elf
A light bright and floral pale ale with a bit of a punch. Try with a Thai curry.
Nethergate Brewery – Lemon Head
Lemon and ginger combine to create a wonderful zesty beer. Ideal with spicy food.

South West (Wales / West Of England)

Cotleigh Brewery – Snowy
A straw coloured golden winter ale made with pale Flagon malt and Goldings hops for a full bodied long lasting and morish ale with hints of citrus fruits. Delicious with fish.
S A Brain – Willy Nilly
A distinctive ruby ale with a traditional rich hop aroma, complemented with a fruity and more-ish finish. Goes exceptionally well with chicken.
Wadworth Brewery – Horizon
Pale gold colour with zesty, citrus and hop aromas and a crisp, tangy finish on the palate. Goes well with any spicy food.
Wye Valley Brewery – Dorothy Goodbody’s Blissful Brown Ale
A bottle-conditioned brown ale with a fruity aroma and rich full flavour. It features raisin and malt sweetness and a rounded roast-grain finish.

North England

Batemans – Batemans Mocha
A rich smooth coffee and chocolate beer made with real Arabica coffee and Belgian chocolate
JW Lees – Manchester Star Ale
Hefty body and a deep smoothness. Malt, caramel and unsweetened dark chocolate flavours with modest hopping for balance. Fruity alcohol with a long lingering finish of ripe fruit. Great with game.
Wold Top Brewery – Scarborough Fair IPA
Strong and well hopped with a pale Wold grown malt base, a triple hop blend and maize for good head retention. Serve with hot, full flavoured foods
Beartown Brewery – Wojtek
A powerful, deep golden beer full of character. Tremendous with spicy sausages.

The Midlands

Castle Rock – Screech Owl
A pale amber beer with a distinctive rich pungent hop. There’s fresh upfront bitterness, smooth citrus and a long hop finish. Drink with Lamb Dhansak.
Elgood & Sons Ltd – Indian Summer
A Premium style pale ale, with a golden hue and refreshing slightly sweet palate. Ideal accompaniment for summer foods, fish & curry dishes.
Blue Monkey Brewing Ltd – 99 Red Baboons
A dark and interesting ale, combining fruity hoppiness with a dark, malty side. Great with roasted meats and game.
Ridgeway Brewing Co. – Ivanhoe
An old fashioned, balanced, 100% English, red ale which is neither malty sweet nor overly bitter. Try with good nutty English cheddar cheese.

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt beers on the shelves

I said it last year and I think it’s worth repeating again, I think that this is competition is a great thing and we should all applaud Sainsbury’s for doing it. I was lucky enough to attend one of this year’s regional selection heats and it was really interesting to chat with the members of the public who had been invited along to try all the beers and pick their favourites. I think it’s fantastic that one of the big four supermarkets is engaging with its customers in this way and I’m really looking forward to trying all the beers.

Adnams Brewery Tour

There seems to be a bit of a pattern with my blog posts. I do something, or go somewhere and then don’t bother blogging about it for months, if at all, then someone else comes along and blogs about the same thing, but infinitely better than I could ever do. It happened with Rome and now it’s happened with Adnams.

My gorgeous lovely wife, knowing how much I like beer, gave me an awesome presant for my birthday, an Adnams brewery tour. So at the end of October, the pair of us spend the weekend in Southwold, staying at The Swan Hotel and going round the brewery on the Sunday morning. I have to say that I was quite excited, as I really like Adnams beers and I’d never been to an all singling, all dancing modern brewery before.

My first brewery trip was with the Heriot-Watt University Brewing Society, way back in 1990 or 1991, I can’t remember exactly as it was so long ago. We visited the Harviestoun brewery, back when they were in a farm shed outside Dollar. It took two or three hours to wander up the shed and back down again, all the time being plyed with free beer. There was a bit of a sing song on the bus on the way back…

Since then I’ve been in the old Tolly Cobbold brewery in Ipswich, the Milton Brewery in, er, Milton and most recently The Kernel Brewery in London. I’ve not been to many, but apart from the historic Tolly brewery, they’ve all been small and manual affairs. Hence why I was excited to be going to Adnams, the thought of all that stainless…

The Adnams brewery is facinating, the complex is spread over multiple buildings and if you didn’t know what some of them contained, you’d think they were ordinary houses on a street. In fact, you start the tour by going through what looks like someones front door, only to end up in the cask and bottle filling hall. From there we were taken through the yard, I’ve never seen so many empty casks in my life and into the brewhouse.

This is where my jaw hit the floor, so many pipes, so much stainless, so much technology! I was like a kid in a sweet shop, I didn’t know where to look! I have no idea what the tour guide was saying at this point, I was too busy turning circles, my mouth agog, trying to take it all in. It’s amazing to think it’s all controlled from a computer screeen in Fergus’ office and can switch itself on at four in the morning and start a brew without anyone being there.

The fermentors are in another building acorss the street, so all the wort is pumped back and forth under the road. I’m not sure why, but after seeing the ultra modern brew house, I was expecting all the fermentors to be cylindro-conical affairs, they weren’t, they appeared to be all rectangular cuboids. The fermentation building felt very calm and chilled, as opposed to the industrialness of the brew house, a perfect place to be quiet and contemplative, while the yeast works its magic.

The tour finished up in the sample room, which is in yet another building, where we got to try a few different Adnams beers. I think our tour over ran by about 15 minutes, which unfortunately limited the time we had to sample the beer. It wasn’t all bad though, as I got to try the Green Bullet special they did for the Mitchells & Butlers pub chain (I’ve since been lucky to find it in a pub too; it’s a fantastic beer). I was really impressed by the Adnams brewery, it was great to finally see a large modern brewery, even if it wasn’t actually running on the Sunday morning that we were there.

There is a link in the first paragraph of this post that you should check out. Jeff Alworth of the Beervana blog recently toured a load of breweries in the UK and Europe and his article on Adnams is facinating. Like he says, "it’s as close as you’ll come to getting a brewery tour without going on one". Having said that, I’d have no hesitation in going for another tour, it’s the perfect excuse to stay overnight in Southwold and drink copious quantities of fresh Adnams beer in some cracking pubs.

Does Familiarity Breed Contempt, Or Is It A Safety Blanket?

Way back at the end of July, I won a Don’t Drink Hophead t-shirt from Dark Star via Twitter. The idea appeared to be to get people wearing the t-shirts at GBBF, as some sort of reverse psycology subversive stealth marketing. One thing I didn’t expect I’d get while wearing it was abuse from other GBBF punters. Most of which was good natured, I have to say, but there were a few people who made it be known, in no uncertain terms, that they thought Hophead was shite.

Their complaints seem to be along the lines of it’s not what it used to be and this got me thinking. I came up with three possible reasons for their complaints, one, the beer has actually changed for the worse over time. Two, they have drank so much of it, that they have now become so used to it and are thus ambivalent toward it. Three, they have under gone some level of Lupulin Threshold Shift and can’t taste the hops anymore.

Let’s look at each of these points, firstly, has the beer actually changed for the worse over time? I doubt it, but like all real ale, it’s susceptible to variations in malt and hops from year to year, so I would think the recipe gets tweaked every now and again to compensate. It’s also at the mercy of pub landlords and we all know they can fuck up a perfectly good beer and make it taste like shite. However, I really doubt Dark Star would deliberately modify one of their flagship beers to make it taste worse, as it just doesn’t make good business sense.

Secondly, have they become ambivalent to it? I know that I go through phases of drinking certain styles of beer or certain beers, but then I want a change and I don’t go back to those beer styles or beers for ages, if ever. Take BrewDog Punk IPA, I’ve drank loads of it, it’s still the beer I’ve checked into more than any other on Untappd. It’s not a bad beer, but I’m just so over it, it doesn’t excite me anymore, that coupled with their legendary consistency issues and knobend (IMHO) marketing and I’d rather spend my money on another brewers beer.

I’ve also drank loads of Thornbridge Jaipur and I now ration it, so that it doesn’t go the same way as Punk IPA. If I’m in Waitrose, which I’m not that often anymore, then I might buy one if I see it, but gone are the weeks of drinking it endlessly. So it’s perfectly possible that these people have drank so much Hophead, or had too many duff pints, that they’ve become ambivalent to it and in some cases quite anti the beer.

Finally, could these punters have suffered from the mythical Lupulin Threshold Shift? While this last point is slightly tongue in cheek, it’s certainly possible, as one of the most vocal abusers works in a Cambridge pub and I know he’s a bit of a beer geek and has tried all sorts of exotic beer. Maybe Hophead is now too subtle for him and he craves more bitterness, more ABV or more of something else. Having said that, he was highly critical, scathing and negative about practically everything, so you have to take these things with a pinch of salt…

For the record, I’ve only ever had a half of Hophead, it’s not a beer I’ve come across very often, in fact, I think I’ve only ever seen it for sale twice. I really liked it and I can see why lots of people hold it in such high esteem. I’d love to try some more, but I always feel that I’m missing out on something if I don’t try beers I haven’t had before. There’s something to be said for the familiarity of a certain beer though, a know quantity, especially with some of the shockers you end up trying in your quest for the next great beer.

Bailey, of Boak and Bailey fame, commented on my bemoaning of Free Houses that serve the same beer as tied pub in the same locale. He relates a tale of locals haranguing the Landlord:

And, a bit of insight – we were in the George Inn at Middlezoy in Somerset last year where the landlord had gone to a lot of trouble to get local beer from Moor, Butcombe and (I think) RCH, but was being harangued by his regulars: "Get London Pride on!"

He explained that it cost more for him to buy, had to travel a long way and that he liked local beer.

They didn’t care. "Get London Pride on!"

This got me thinking again, while familiarity can breed ambivalence and contempt, maybe it can also act as a safety blanket. Bailey’s comment reminded me of an incident at my wedding, I’d gone to the trouble of getting in a couple of polypins of beer from the local Milton Brewery and was quite chuffed to have some decent beer to offer the guests. I told my parent’s next door neighbour, who I’ve known since I was a child and so was a guest, as I know he likes his beer. I was shocked at the time by his reply, as he said he’d rather just have a few pints of John Smiths, as this is what he drinks down the pub on his weekly outing with his friends.

To him, the constant nature of John Smiths is a safety blanket. He goes out once a week and knows that the few pints he has, will all be the same and will all taste the same as they did last week and the week before that. If they choose to go to another pub and it serves John Smiths, he knows it will taste the same there, he has his safety blanket. He’s not interested in trying different styles of beer, chopping and changing between pale and hoppy, stouts, lambics and the like. Maybe he doesn’t want to run the risk of having a bad pint, he’s only out once a week after all, so just wants to enjoy himself with a known constant.

I used to have a regular beer too. When I was a student at Heriot-Watt, I lived just off Leith Walk for a year and we used to frequent Robbie’s. The round was two pints of Scrumpy Jack and a Harviestoun Ptarmigan and we were in there so often, we didn’t need to ask, just a nod and the drinks were poured. I couldn’t tell you what other beer they sold, I only had eyes for Ptarmigan 85/-, as it was called back then. I don’t go to the pub often enough to have a regular beer anymore and the pubs I like to frequent, don’t normally have a regular beer either, which suits me just fine.

I started this blog because I’d got stuck in a rut, I was drinking the same old beers at home, week in week out. I suppose drinking them week in and week out was a safety blanket of sorts, I knew what I was getting. However, I can’t remember the last time I had a bottle of Adnams Explorer, Fullers Discovery and Wychwood WychCraft at home. I wouldn’t say that familiarly bred contempt, I’ve just moved on, my tastes have since changed.

I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say with this blog, I feel like I’m rambling, so I think I’ll try and conclude.

Just because one person likes to drink John Smiths at the exclusion of everything else, doesn’t make them a bad person who has no taste, they just want something different from you and me. Also, just because a beer tastes different to how you remember it, doesn’t necessarily meant that beer has changed. Our tastes can change over time, the change can be quite subtle, or happen in a heart beat. Just because we no longer drink a certain beer due to our tastes changing, doesn’t suddenly make it inferior or bad, just different.

If I were to make a point though, I suppose it’s that everyone is different and wants different things from beer. Just because someone wants something different from you doesn’t mean their wrong, or that you’re wrong. I don’t think there is a right and wrong when it comes to beer, just a difference of opinion.

My opinion? I’ll be drinking Hophead at the next available opportunity. I’m a sucker for reverse psychology…

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2011 Round-up

I’ve now reviewed all the beers that are in the final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2011. You can access all the reviews below:

What I think should win and what will win, are probably two different things. I’m sure the judges will have an eye, not just to how good the beer actually is, but on how well it will sell. I don’t see much point in Sainsbury’s listing a beer if it’s just going to languish on the shelves for six months. So what beer do I think will win a six month listing? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the two winners came from Golden Summer, Flying Dutchman, Bad King John, Golden Seahawk, Wye Not?, Worcester Sorcerer and Stronghart.

Spreading my bets with that selection I know, but I’m not one of the judges and I don’t know how they think. I just have a feeling that it’ll be a conservative choice, but I hope I’m wrong. I’d rather see Williams Brothers utterly lush Profanity Stout and Harviestoun’s hoptastic Wild Hop IPA as the two winners, as they were my favourites and the only two beers I bought more than one of.

The winners will be announced at an event on the 30th of September in London and I’ll be there! I’ve never been to this kind of thing before, so I thought I’d accept the invite, as it would be a good opportunity to see how this kind of event works first hand. Expect a blog about the final in early October.

Great British Beer Hunt: Wild Hop IPA and Bad King John

First in today’s Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2011 reviews, Harviestoun Wild Hop IPA, which doesn’t actually have any wild hops in it. I’ve had it on cask before, it was on special for a previous Wetherspoon festival and I really, really enjoyed it, so I was more than happy to find it in bottles.

It poured a crystal clear golden colour with a large fluffy white head. The head dropped quite quickly to a thin covering. The nose had some subtle citrus notes, it took a while to pin the, down to grapefruit, although there may have been a bit of mandarin in there too.

It was smooth in the mouth, with a nice full body. The bitterness built and built and reached a nice crunching fruity crescendo, before tapering off. The main flavours seemed to be soft and subtle grapefruit and mandarin, they were joined in the after taste by a hint of pineapple.

This was a really, really nice and moreish pale and hoppy beer, I could quite happily drink a shed load of it.

Ridgeway’s Bad King John had me confused from the start, it said bottle conditioned on the label (and what a label it is), but there was not one iota of sediment in the bottle. It looked black sitting in the glass, but it was just a really, really dark auburn brown; only becoming see through when held up to a light. It took a while to get the head started and it never got much bigger than a finger, it dropped pretty quickly to a patchy covering.

The nose was all roasted malts and smelt really inviting. The mouth feel wasn’t as big as I was expecting for a 6% beer, it was maybe a tad on the thin side for my liking. The initial roasted flavours gave way to a nice complementing bitterness, before both combined in a lingering dry after taste.

I thought it was a nice beer, but just wish it had had a bit more body.

  • RateBeer Ridgeway
  • Bad King John, 6%, 500ml

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2011

Sainsburys Great British Beer Hunt 2011

The 16 finalists of this years Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt should now available to buy in your local store and will be available to buy until the 27th of the month. The competition prize is a permanent listing in Sainsbury’s stores nationwide. The 16 beers available are:

Wild Hop IPA, Harviestoun Brewery
Caesar Augustus, Williams Brothers
Profanity Stout, Williams Brothers
Flying Dutchman, Caledonian Brewing Co
Ivanhoe, Ridgeway Brewing
Bad King John, Ridgeway Brewing
Stronghart, McMullen & Sons
Bishops Farewell, Oakham Ales
Wye Not, Wye Valley Brewery
Churchill Ale, Oxfordshire Ales Ltd
Golden Seahawk, Cotleigh Brewery
Full Bore, Hunter’s Brewery
Two Hoots, Joseph Holt
Golden Summer, Wold Top Brewery
Frederic’s Great British Ginger Beer, Frederic Robinson
Worcester Sorcerer, Sadler’s Ales

I’ve decided to buy each beer and review it, so I popped into my local store over lunch and managed to pick up 14 of them. Missing from my local store were the Wild Hop IPA and the Two Hoots Golden Ale, so I’m going to have to pop back and pick those up at some point. Not sure when I’ll get round to drinking them, but look out for reviews appearing on the site soon.

Update: I meant to say that these are all on special offer at the moment; 3 for £5.

Belgian Kriek Bier, Traditional Porter and American Double IPA

More supermarket beer, three different ones from Tesco’s Finest range.

Van Honsebrouck - Tesco Finest Belgian Kriek BierFirst up was a small bottle of what was claimed to be a Belgian lambic style kriek. It poured a vibrant red, with tinges of auburn. It was topped by a loose pink head that quickly dropped to a patchy covering. The nose was all sweet cherry, like a can of cheap fizzy drink. There was also some almond notes around the edges, but mainly just the overpowering aroma of sweet cherry.

The taste was similar to the smell, all sweet cherry. I could still detect a sweet cherry taste in my mouth five minutes after drinking it. For what is supposed to be a classic lambic style beer, there wasn’t even the tiniest hint of sourness. It was terrible, I’d avoid at all costs…

Harviestoun - Tesco Finest Traditional PorterTesco Finest Traditional Porter is essentially a re-badged Harviestoun Old Engine Oil, which is an old favorite. As I haven’t seen a bottle of Old Engine Oil down these parts for years, it’s a welcome addition to the shelves. It poured an ultra deep brown, so that it appeared black in the glass, you could only tell it was brown at the edges when the glass was tilted at a high angle. A dirty tan head was easily formed and dropped to a ring round the edge fairly quickly.

The nose was full of dark chocolate with hints of coffee and really appealing. The mouth feel was super smooth, with some subtle roasted notes coming through at the end. Coffee was more to the fore in the taste, with the bitter dark chocolate playing second fiddle. Really, really nice.

  • RateBeer Harviestoun
  • Tesco Finest Traditional Porter, 6%, 330ml

BrewDog - Tesco Finest American Double IPAFinally we get to Tesco Finest American Double IPA, which is a slightly tweaked BrewDog Hardcore IPA. You’ve got to give a bit of love to everyone involved for getting a beer this big and aggressive on to the shelves for a major UK supermarket. It poured a glorious deep amber colour, with an off white rocky head. The head dropped fairly quickly and formed a patchy ring around the edge of the glass. The nose was amazing, full on resinous hops. It was so powerful that I don’t even have to get very close to the glass to smell it.

The mouth feel was aggressive, with a big malty body that laid an excellent platform for the hops to invade. And what an invasion it was, full on mouth prickling bitterness that washed over everything and lingered long, long into the aftertaste. I may have had this bottle for a few months, so I think it may have lost a bit of its edge, as I’d had other bottles that have been even more in your face.

  • RateBeer BrewDog
  • Tesco Finest American Double IPA, 9.2%, 330ml