Cleaning Bottles

Soaking bottles...

Stripping empty bottles of their labels can be a bit of a chore. If you want your homebrew to look the part though, it’s a chore that has to be done. Here’s a few techniques that are working for me.

If only everyone used the same kind of glue and label material, stripping them from bottles would probably be a lot easier, as there would be one commonly know way of doing it. As there appears to be almost the same number of glue and label combinations as there are breweries, it can take a while to work out the techniques required for each type. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth trying to strip the labels from certain bottles, as the level of effort required is just too high. This poses a problem, as if you only ever drink beer from breweries that use a glue that could survive a nuclear explosion, then you’re a bit screwed.

Bottles stripped of labels... In certain circumstances it’s worth taking the pain though, especially if you are after a particular bottle shape or size. Take the Thornbridge bottles, I’ve given up on taking the labels off those, as they are nigh on impossible to get off cleanly and thus require lots of extra clean up. There are loads of beers I drink that come in 500ml bottles, where the effort to remove the label is much, much less, so I just use those instead; I’m particularly thinking of German beers here. I take the pain when it comes to Moor bottles though, as I want that particular bottle shape and size; at least I did before they changed it. Getting the labels of those is a complete bitch, but worth it.

No matter what kind of bottle you have, a good long soak in hot water is a good starting place. You could, if you wanted to, put your bottles into your homebrew boiler and hold them at simmering point for twenty minutes or so as well. The idea here, it to soften the glue and if you’re lucky to have the labels float off without you having to do anything; German bottles are great for this. If you’re going to simmer them, just make sure they are completely submerged, otherwise you run the risk of getting a tide mark on the neck of the bottle, which can be brutal to shift.

Scrubbing the sticky off... Once the glue is soft, it’s time to remove the label. If you’ve simmered the bottles, they’ll be hot, so take the necessary precautions, or let them cool down first. Labels on BrewDog and Hardknott bottles come off quite easily after a soak, just try and be consistent with the pressure you use to pull them off, as stopping and starting can lead to lines of adhesive being left in the bottle. The Ridgeway Querkus bottle in the photos, has a clear plastic label on it, it came off without a fuss and left pretty much nothing behind it.

Some labels will come off and leave a very sticky patch of glue, or label base behind them, I’m looking at you Thornbridge. The Harbour Brewing bottle in the photos did a similar thing, but it wasn’t quite a sticky as some. You might also get bottles where the label and glue part company, the label floats off while the glue stays on the bottle; a bit like the Brasserie Larché bottles I brought back from France. In some cases the film of glue left behind can just be wiped off, in other cases, it’s worse than the sticky label backing on Thornbridge bottles.

If you’re lucky, all you’ll need to do after getting the label off is to give the bottle a wipe with a cloth and you’re done. If you still have any adhesive, or sticky label backing on the bottle, it’s time to use a bit of elbow grease. I’ve tried in the past to use one of those green scouring pads, but they just get clogged up and become next to useless. Clean and ready to use... I’ve also used the metal scouring pads, which suffer from the same problem, but only if used without first applying some washing up liquid to the bottle. That appears to be the key, dunk the bottle in some water, apply a bit of washing up liquid and scrub away. You should eventually end up with a clean bottle.

You may find that with some bottles, like the aforementioned Moor ones, you can’t get the labels off for love nor money. I’ve found that when the labels have had a really, really good soak, that you can rub them off with the back of a knife. Or, if they’re ultra stubborn, the sharp side of a good chopping knife. It’s a lot of effort, but if you really want that size and style of bottle, you’ve no choice. You’ll most likely have to scrub the bottles quite a bit after the scrapping of the labels too.

Have you found a better way to get the labels off bottles…? If so, please let me know!

Update

I have tried BrotherLogic‘s oven method and can confirm that it works, sort of. I set the oven to 120°C, popped the bottles in and gave them ten to fifteen minutes. Then using a sharp kitchen knife, it was easy to pick a corner of the label off the bottle and then pull the rest of using my hand. Depending on the bottle though, the label would either come off cleanly, or leave all the glue behind it. I’ve found that this is the only easy way to get labels off Prosecco and Cantillon bottles, for example. I’ve also found this this method doesn’t necessarily mean that labels on Moor bottles will come off, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I have no fucking idea what glue they use, but I really wish they’d use a different one…

Update

Thornbridge's new embossed bottles...Just a quick update about Thornbridge bottles, as they’ve changed. There are three labels on a Thornbridge and they’re all different, it’s the back label that seems to cause the most grief, the residue left by the other two cleans up with minimal fuss. However, they’re now using custom embossed bottles that have the Thornbridge T embossed around the shoulder, so if you don’t like using embossed bottles, you’ll have to find another source for this style.

Update

For the life of me, I can’t remember how I stumbled across this, I think someone tweeted about it, but it’s been ages. Anyway, evidently peanut butter will remove label glue from your bottles, this I had to try. So I popped into a local supermarket and bought their own brand smooth peanut butter, I wasn’t about to waste my decent wholenut chunky on an experiment like this, and gave it a shot.

As you can see from the photos, it didn’t really work. I did pick the bastard of all bastard bottles though, as they were from Oakham Ales. The labels on Oakham bottles come off really easily, but the glue, my [insert favorite diety here] the glue! One bottle can clog a metal scourer, no matter how much washing up liquid you use. They’re a complete nightmare, which is why I choose them for this experiment.

The peanut butter did take a bit of the sticky off, so they weren’t quite as sticky to the touch, but they still required an obscene amount of scrubbing to get all of the sticky off. The bottles then required a good clean, as peanut butter is oily and the bottles had an oily residue left on them, even after all the scrubbing.

I’m in no rush to try this technique on any other kind of bottle, especially when other labels come off so easily. Your milage may vary though, as there are a few US based websites promoting the technique. Maybe their peanut butter has something else in it that helps, I don’t know…

Update

The Ormskirk Baron has tweeted me a couple of times with his technique, which is to pour boiling water into the bottle and leave it for a bit. He (and a few others to be fair) claim this is all that is required and that the label and glue will them come off. Can’t say I’ve had much luck with this to be honest, as the labels either rip, or leave the bits of glue behind.

I’m also not sure about the environmental impact of having to boil the kettle lots of times if there are more than two or three bottles to de-label. Kettles aren’t exactly the most energy efficient and I can fit a whole box of bottles into the oven in one go, where I’d have to boil the kettle a minimum of four times (my kettle holds 1.7 litres, so depending on the bottle size).

Again, your mileage may vary and it might work better with certain bottles over others, you’ll just have to try.

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

Great British Beer Hunt: Querkus and Porter No. 6

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013

I’ll be honest and say that my heart sank a bit when I saw that Ridgeway Querkus had made the final of the Great British Beer Hunt. It’s not that I don’t like Ridgeway as a brewery, I’m just not the biggest fan of oaked beers and I positively dislike smoked beers. To say I had a few preconceived ideas about how this one would go down, would be an understatement.

Ridgeway QuerkusIt poured a serious deep reddish tinged brown, so it sat black in the glass. The light tan head that sat on top, while easily formed, dropped fairly quickly to a covering, before parting to the edges of the glass; it eventually disappeared completely. The nose was very complex, but at the same time, very simple; just a subtle waft of wood smoked treacle.

In the mouth it wasn’t nearly as full bodied as I was expecting, it wasn’t that it was wishy washy, there was just a refreshing juiciness running underneath all the other flavours. You could possibly argue the case that it could have benefitted from a touch more body, and maybe you’d win that argument, maybe you wouldn’t.

The smoky flavours made themselves know right from the off, but they didn’t dominate, it wasn’t that they were subtle either, just perfectly pitched. While the majority of the smoked flavours dropped away, they were joined by a subtle woodiness and a touch of mouth prickle, before a lingering juicy, slightly smoky aftertaste. Yes, there were other flavours in there too, like a touch of roasted coffee, but they were playing second fiddle; for me it was all about the woody smoke flavours.

As I said at the start, I had some pretty preconceived ideas about how this one would go down and they were wrong. I can imagine that some people will hate this beer, I didn’t though. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I really quite enjoyed it.

  • RateBeer Ridgeway
  • Querkus, 5.8%, 330ml

It only seemed natural to have the other Porter in the competition on the same night, to see how they stacked up against each other. In a similar fashion to their India Pale Ale, I’d heard good things about the Harbour Brewing Co. Porter No. 6 on Twitter and Untappd, so I was really looking forward to it.

Harbour Porter No. 6While it initially looked jet black sitting in the glass, it was in reality, just a seriously, seriously dark reddish brown; which became evident the moment you held it up to a light. The tan coloured head was relatively easily formed, and dropped to a patchy covering fairly quickly. There wasn’t a lot going on on the nose, just a faint whiff of some generic plummy, stewed, dark roasted malt notes.

It was big and bold in the mouth and felt pretty much all of its strength. The malt flavours were very nice; smooth and warming, with some vinious fruity flavours to go with main thrust of dark chocolate and roasted coffee. The aftertaste was eventually bitter, but it started out with a treacle, molasses type sweetness that balanced nicely with the bitter flavours.

It really opened up and revealed the depth of its flavours as it warmed; this is not a beer to consume direct from a cold fridge. It’s a very, very nice beer and an absolute ridiculous bargain for only £1.50; If I were you, I’d buy lots of it. A must try if you like your beer dark.

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.

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:

Scotland
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: Dorothy Goodbody’s Blissful Brown Ale and Ivanhoe

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Dorothy Goodbody’s Blissful Brown Ale, is another beer that is only through to this stage in the competition due to replacing another. This time though, there’s no expulsion due to already having a listing with another retailer, simply that due to unforeseen circumstances, Posh IPA from Yeovil Ales has left the competition. Their loss is Wye Valley’s gain, although with a name like that, I’d have quite liked to try it.

I didn’t realise that this was a bottle conditioned beer and nearly turned it upside down to when getting it out of the fridge. Luckily I didn’t, but as there was hardly any sediment in the bottle, I’m not sure it would have mattered much anyway.

It sat in the glass a luscious chestnut brown colour, which to be honest given the name, came as no surprise. I’d have been quite shocked if it had been anything other than that burnished brown. It looked lovely sitting there with lots of little bubbles streaming up the side and a nice light tan coloured head sitting on top. The head was easily formed, but didn’t last, dropping to a thin covering after a few minutes. I didn’t get much on the nose, there was a vague dark malty sensation, but that was about it.

It was lovely in the mouth, soft and smooth, but with enough life to separate the flavours on the palate. While it felt like a malt driven beer, it also felt pretty well balanced, with a subtle bitterness that worked with all the malty flavours, but still left the mouth with a pleasing juicy bitterness. There wasn’t a lot going on flavour wise, it was all very subdued and subtle, but there was definitely some dried fruit flavours in there, think of things like raisins and figs and you’re in the right ball park.

I really liked this beer, it was warm and inviting and the kind of beer that just comforts you after some shitty weather on an Autumn day and allows you to switch off. It wasn’t challenging, it wasn’t genre busting, it was just a bloody nice beer; it might very well have been a case of time and place, but I really liked its simplicity.

Ridgeway’s Ivanhoe got through to the Grand Final in last year’s competition, so I’m a bit perplexed as to why it’s back in this years competition. Personally, if I ran the competition, you wouldn’t be allowed to re-enter a beer that had been on the store shelves, let alone the Grand Final in a previous year, obviously that’s not the case, so here it is again. One has to wonder why, when it didn’t win last year, what’s changed to make the brewer think it’ll win this year? You can read what I thought about it last year here and see if a year has made any difference to the beer or my thoughts on it.

It poured a marmalade coloured brown, with a decent white head. The head didn’t last, dropping to a covering within a few minutes. There wasn’t much to the nose, at least that I could detect, without taking in an absolute lungful. If I’m being generous, I’d say that there was some faint fresh smelling, slightly orangey, cereal grainy type aromas, but very faint.

It felt pretty nice and full bodied in the mouth and was soft and smooth from the bottle conditioning, but with enough life to keep things interesting. It felt reasonably well balanced, with a decent malt backbone and a nice bitterness that swept through the mouth, before lingering long into the after taste. It wasn’t overly flavourful, with the orangey hints to the maltiness, you could maybe even call them marmalade flavours, being quite subtle; although they got a bit stronger the longer it sat in the glass. The bitterness was slightly fruity and complimented the malt flavours pretty well, leaving the mouth with a nice soft, gentle bitter juiciness that took a long time to fade.

  • RateBeerRidgeway
  • Ivanhoe, 5.2%, 500ml

It’s a nice beer and it’ll probably do well, but I don’t think it should be there and that disappoints me, as I’d have liked to tasted the beer that I think should have been in its place.

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:

Scotland

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.

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.