Live Blog: Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013 Grand Final

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013

I’m currently sitting on a train on my way to London, for the Grand Final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013. I’m going to attempt to live blog the event, so updates might be a bit patchy and at the death, will probably appear on Twitter before they appear here. The format for the day looks similar to last year; turn up and drink some beer, have lunch while drinking more beer, find out who wins while drinking beer, then stand around chatting while drinking the winning beer until we’re thrown out, where upon we decamp to the pub.

To be honest, I’m quite surprised by some of the beer we’ll be drinking, as the final twelve are quite different from those I mentioned in my round-up. They are:

Scotland and Northern Ireland

North

West

East

The region I’m least shocked at is the West, as I had a feeling that’s how it would turn out. I’m agog that the Hawkshead Windermere Pale didn’t make it through in the North region though, as that semed to be the popular choice amongst the people I’d been talking to and I thought the two Maxim beers were forgetable. While I’m secretly glad that Ridgeway didn’t make it through the East region, I’m also a bit annoyed, as it means that both the Batemans beers are through. I know that this is all a matter of opinion and that I don’t like spiced beers, but I was really shocked that the Hilden Barney’s Brew made it through in the Scotland and Northern Ireland group; I’ll be avoiding that like the plague laster on.

So, I’m nearly in London. Update will come as and when, so check back…

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Too busy chatting to brewers to update the blog…

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The judges have all finished, the votes are being counted. It’s time for lunch…

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Lunch is over, time to get down to business…

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Annnnnnnnnnd…

Runner-Up

Thwaites Crafty Dan

Winner

Bateman’s B Bock

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Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013 Round-Up

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013

Today is the last day of this years Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt. So if you want your favorite to have any chance of reaching Friday’s grand final, you’d better pop into your local store and clear the shelves. That is, if they haven’t been cleared already, as I’ve been trying to get hold of some more Harbour IPA and Thwaites Crafty Dan, but both my local stores have been out of stock for some time.

The format has been tweaked again this year, with the beers coming from four regions, rather than five. This means that the top three beers from each region go through, so there will be twelve rather than ten beers contesting for the Sainsbury’s listing on Friday. Unlike last year, where I thought a lot of the entries weren’t so good, this year has seen some pretty damn good beer, from all over the country. Before I try and predict which ones will make it to the grand final, you can read what I thought of them by clicking on the links below:

Now for the standard disclaimer. I can only comment on the bottles that I’ve bought (or been sent, although I bought all of them anyway), 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; that’s fine, beer is like art, it’s just a matter of opinion. Based on my reviews though, here’s who I’d like to see in the grand final, not that I’d necessarily put all of these beers forward given the choice:

Scotland and Northern Ireland

North

West

East

  • Reindeer Droppings — Ridgeway Brewing
  • Querkus — Ridgeway Brewing
  • Lavender Honey — Wolf Brewery

If attending the last couple of grand finals has taught me anything, it’s that the judges and I don’t agree. So while I’d love to see something like the Harbour IPA, Thwaites Crafty Dan, Hawkshead Windermere Pale, Harbour Porter No. 6 or Hardknott Infra Red win, I’m not even going to stick my neck out. What will be, will be.

I’ll be attempting to live blog from the grand final on Friday. The last time I tried to live blog, I ended up consuming a ridiculous amount of beer, taking twice as long as normal to cycle home, crashing the bike on the driveway and sleeping on the sofa. I think this attempt will go slightly better, although I may end up just posting stuff to twitter

Great British Beer Hunt: Devon Dreamer and Reindeer Droppings

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013

I choose to drink these two together, as they appeared to be the only two bottle conditioned entries in this years Great British Beer Hunt. Both breweries are old hands at the competition, with Hunter’s having their Full Bore reach the grand final, in the same year that Ridgeway won with Bad King John. After that final, I had a few more of the Hunter’s bottles, which I found to be good solid beers, if lacking the necessary to really excite a beer geek.

Hunter's Devon DreamerDevon Dreamer on the other hand, has Citra in it, according to the back label; that alone should be enough to excite a few people. It poured a very slightly hazey marmalade amber colour, with a loose off white head. The haze was due to a bit of the sediment getting into the glass, mainly as this bottle was a touch over carbonated, so some of it got lifted from the bottom of the bottle when I cracked it open.

I was surprised that there wasn’t much in the way of an aroma, I was expecting a hint of ripe mango at the least. You could tell it was a touch over carbonated in the mouth, as it was tending to soft bubbles the moment it hit the tongue. Flavour wise, it was nice enough, in a subtle and well balanced kind of way, although it did had a nice bitter tickle about it. The effect of the Citra was muted, but definitely there, lending a slightly tropical flavour to the end of the mouth.

Given the other Hunter’s beers I’ve had, this one is certainly more adventurous. Although I have a colleague at work who wasn’t too impressed as he was expecting more Citra influence. As with rest of the beers I’ve tried from them, it’s not going to get a beer geeks heart racing, it’s just a good solid effort. If you like your beer on the well balanced and subtler side of things, but fancy something with just a bit more, then this might just be for you.

Let’s get the branding of this beer out of the way first. I don’t like it, but then, I don’t like the branding on any of Ridgeway’s Christmas beers Santa’s Butt; Bad Elf; Seriously Bad Elf; Criminally Bad Elf; etc. In my opinion, they’re all badly named and have bad artwork. I know they’re mainly for the US market and that you couldn’t even get them over here a few years ago, but still, I hope that the US drinkers don’t think all our beer is branded like that.

Ridgeway Reindeer DroppingsI remember at the regional heats last year, I asked a chap why he’d picked Bad Elf out of all those on offer. He said it was due to the comedy label, I could have cried. But then, that’s part of the competition, it’s not just about the beer in the bottle, it also about what’s on the bottle. So it’s definitely a case of each to their own with regards that that…

Reindeer Droppings poured a copper amber colour, with a good thick white head. The head dropped to a covering fairly quickly, but hung around for a bit before dissipating. I mentioned at the start, that this was bottled conditioned, you can’t tell from the bottle as it doesn’t mention it. Luckily, the yeast was all stuck to the bottom of the bottle, but I can imaging that some people won’t be as gentle when handling and pouring their bottles; I hope it doesn’t detract from their enjoyment.

There wasn’t a lot on the nose, just some subtle marmalade malt notes. The flavour was pretty one sided, with subtle sweet bitter orange flavours, leading to a slightly dusty, yeasty lingering aftertaste. There was a decent bitterness to it, but it didn’t feel particularly bitter, partly due to the sweetness and partly the slight dustiness from the yeast character.

The export version of this beer is 6% ABV, I can’t help but think that one of those would have been a more enjoyable experience. While it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t do anything for me, it was just a bit, well, meh.

  • RateBeer Ridgeway
  • Reindeer Droppings, 4.7%, 500ml

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013

Yes, it’s that time of year again, the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013 finals are underway, with the final twenty beers on the shelves of stores nationwide for the next three weeks. The format is similar to last years, but with five beers from each of four regions, rather than four beers from five regions. Which also means that the top three beers from each region will progress to the grand final, meaning twelve, rather than last years ten, will battle it out on the 4th of October for a guaranteed, minimum six-month listing in stores nationwide.

The pricing of the bottles in store has also changed this year. Last year, it was buy three for £4, with each of the beers having an variable individual price if you didn’t want to buy three. This year, all beers appear to be a flat £1.50, which makes some of them absolutely ridiculously good value for money. It’s also good the see that only one of this years finalists is in a clear bottle, so a definite improvement there.

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013 bottles 1

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013 bottles 2

This year the regions are broken down as follows:

Scotland and Northern Ireland

North

West

East

  • B Bock — Batemans
  • Black Pepper Ale — Batemans
  • Reindeer Droppings — Ridgeway Brewing
  • Querkus — Ridgeway Brewing
  • Lavender Honey — Wolf Brewery

As in previous years, the beers aren’t in the main beer section of the store, you’ll find them in the season aisle; this causes the same confusion every year, but there you go. I’ll be posting reviews of all of the beers as and when I try them, and I’ll be blogging live from the grand final on the 4th of October.

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013 bottles on the shelf of my local store.

Hunter’s

Copyright (c) Hunter's Brewery, used without permission...

It feel like an age since I was at the Grand Final of the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt, which I’ve still not got round to blogging about. While I was there, the delegation from Hunter’s Brewery in Devon kindly gave me a brick of their beers, featuring two each of Crack Shot, Half Bore, Hunter’s Gold and Pheasant Plucker. It was really about time I got round to drinking them and blogging about them.

To be honest, I think the reason that I’ve not had them earlier is due to the fact that I really didn’t get on with, Full Bore, their beer that made the final of the competition. I suppose that I thought that they would all be in a similar vein, overly malty and sweet. I really need to get over these prejudices and start enjoying beer for it being beer…

Hunter's Crack ShotI didn’t realise that these were all bottle conditioned, that’ll teach me not to read the label, again. I didn’t really notice any sediment in the bottle of Crack Shot and it was only while chucking the Half Bore into the glass that I realised my mistake. Anyway, here’s the notes that I jotted down for each beer.

Crack Shot poured a burnished copper amber colour, with a decent, slightly off white head. The head didn’t last and dropped to a thin covering fairly quickly. There was a yeasty hint to the nose, at least, there was a note that reminded me of yeast. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot going on, maybe a bit of malt, but nothing I could pin down.

It was quite lively in the mouth, but not overly carbonated. If anything, I thought the body was a touch on the thin side, but it didn’t really detract. It had a subtle marmalade taste to it, with a drying after taste. It wasn’t particularly bitter, but there was a subtle fruitiness from the hops that balanced the malt well.

Hunter's Half BoreHalf Bore poured a near crystal clear copper colour, with just a bit of yeast haze due to the pour. The head was huge during the pour and nearly jumped out the glass. It didn’t last though and dropped to a few patches after a while. There really wasn’t anything on the nose, maybe a hint of malt, but that was it.

It was quite lively due to the bottle conditioning, with quite a bit of prickle in the mouth before any flavour arrived. It wasn’t that it felt thin, but it had a slightly watery edge to it. I couldn’t detect any honey, which normally leaves a particular flavour behind, it was just fruity, from hops rather than malt though. It wasn’t particularly bitter, well balanced you could say, but the after taste did have a hint of hoppy bitterness about it.

Hunter's Hunter's GoldHunter’s Gold Poured, not a golden colour as I was expecting, but a coppery brown. The head was easily formed, but disappeared completely after a few minutes. I did rinse out the glass between this and the Half Bore, which might have had something to do with it. I didn’t really get anything on the nose, maybe a fleeting hint of hops and yeast, but fleeting at best.

It had a good body about it, with a bit of a prickle from the carbonation. It had an initial malty taste that then turned fruity, before a slightly thin drying after taste. Again, it wasn’t particularly bitter, but there was more hop flavour than malt flavour in the after taste. There was also a bit of a yeasty flavour going on too, even though I’m pretty sure I poured this one clean.

Hunter's Pheasant PluckerPheasant Plucker Poured a deep ruby brown, with a very poor off white head. The head didn’t want to form at all and I had to pour from quite a height, to get any sort of head going. What head I did manage to coax, was formed of very large bubbles and didn’t last long at all. There wasn’t much on the nose, my initial thought was that there was a fleeting hint of plums.

The initial taste revealed a beer that had practically zero condition, it was as flat as a pancake. It was really malt driven, with hardly any hop character. The flavours were all malty stewed fruit, right from the initial taste all the way through the after taste. It needed more condition and more hops.

I have to say that I really didn’t get on with the Pheasant Plucker, as it was far too malty for my tastes. But then it might have just been a duff bottle, I’ll find out when I drink the other one. I quite liked the other three though, they were all perfectly balanced, if a little traditional with the varieties of hops that were used. I’ll probably not rush out and buy more, as they’re not really my cup of tea (the clue’s in the blog name). However, I’d happily drink them in the pub if I ever saw them. So if you’re a fan of traditionally flavoured, well balanced ales, check them out.

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: Wye Not? and Full Bore

We’re down to the last two beers and so end my reviews of the sixteen finalists in the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2011.

The penultimate beer is Wye Valley’s Wye Not?, it poured a crystal clear golden, light amber, with a loose white head. The head took a while to get going and dropped fairly quickly to a blotchy covering. The label says this is bottle conditioned and while there was sediment at the bottom of the bottle, it seemed glued there as none came down the bottle during the pour.

Not sure what it smelt of to be honest, I certainly didn’t get any citrus notes, no matter how hard I tried to find them. Once I got to the bottom of the glass thought, I could be kind and say there was a waft of citrus, but I’d be being terribly, terribly kind.

It was quite smooth in the mouth with a subtle malty sweetness. The initial flavour had a cereal quality to it, this was then swept away in a wave of subtle, but prickly, bitterness that filled the mouth. The after taste was a lingering cereal flavour, that lasted for ages and ages.

It wasn’t a bad beer, I quite enjoyed it, although I wasn’t so keen on the cereal quality.

Finally we have Hunter’s Full Bore, the one beer that I was frightened of out of the sixteen. It’s not that it was 8%, but that it’s brewed with both honey and golden syrup, so I was expecting a massively sweet malt bomb, which is really not my kind of beer.

It poured a lovely chestnut brown, with a decent brownish cream head. The head didn’t last long and dropped to a blotchy thin covering, but recovered a bit to a solid compact covering. The nose didn’t appear to have much going on, other than some soft green apple notes.

Taste wise, it wasn’t a million miles from what I’d been fearing. The mouth feel was unsurprisingly large, with seriously sweet malty flavours, the honey was also noticeably present. There was some bitterness towards the end of the swallow with a bit of an effervescent prickle, but it wasn’t enough to counter the immense sweetness. The after taste was complex, with honey flavours in the mix, but was mainly just lingering sweetness.

It wasn’t a bad beer, it just wasn’t my kind of beer.

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.