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: Lavender Honey and Gower Gold

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013

The Norfolk based Wolf Brewery had their Poppy Ale in the final of last years Great British Beer Hunt, which also happens to be a beer with honey in it. It was one of my favorites at the regional heats and given how much I liked the Williams Brothers The Honey Thief from this years competition, I was quite looking forward to trying another honey beer.

Wolf Lavender HoneyLavender Honey poured a light copper, burnt golden colour, with a loose fluffy white head. The head dropped to a covering fairly quickly. I didn’t get much on the nose, just a general fresh feeling.

It initially felt quite full bodied in the mouth, but as it washed down the throat, it felt a touch light. The honey flavour was pretty subdued and subtle, it was there, but you really needed to concentrate, especially to pick up any of the lavender. The generally honey flavour and sweetness built with each mouthful and whatever lavender quality was there, was more detectable in the aftertaste. It wasn’t particularly bitter, at least it didn’t feel that way, as what bitterness there was, wasn’t quite enough to counteract the honey flavours and sweetness.

It was quite a nice, light and refreshing beer, although I thought it could do with a touch more body and a touch less sweetness.

I’ve not had any beers from the Gower Brewery before, so I Wasn’t sure what to expect. Given the wording on the label, I was quite intrigued to see if it lived up to them. Gower Gold poured a slightly hazy light coppery amber colour, with a thick white head. It was slightly hazy, as it had thrown some sediment and I hadn’t noticed, so tipped it all into the glass. The head didn’t last and dropped pretty quickly to a patchy covering.

Gower Brewery Gower GoldAs the back label claimed that the beer had the lovely aroma of Cascade hops, I was expecting something with a pretty powerful bouquet. It didn’t really deliver, as you had to cup your hands over the glass and inhale a lungful to get any real idea of what the aroma actually was.

It felt pretty nice in the mouth, just on the lighter side of full bodied, so it was nice and juicy and refreshing. While it wasn’t overly bitter, it was balanced more toward the bitter side of things than the malt side of things. The bitterness was quite flavourful though, with subtle floral citric flavours, to complement the slightly sweet maltiness.

It was quite a nice beer, just balanced the way I prefer, with more flavour from the hops, than from the malt. While it’s more solid than stellar, it’s certainly one to try if you haven’t already.

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: Horizon and Poppy Ale

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Wadworth’s Horizon Golden Ale, is another entrant to the competition in a clear bottle, so again, while it shows off the colour beautifully, it can lead to light struck beer, unless they’ve used stable hop extract. The colour was a definite light golden hue, quite pale and bordering on the colour of slightly dehydrated wee. While the head was easily formed, it disappeared pretty sharpish, leaving only a faint ring around the edge of the glass.

My first though as I poured it, was the similarity in aroma to the Elgoods Indian Summer. It had the same Rhubarb and Custard crossed with Pear Drops estery thing streaming out of the glass. I’m not sure the nose was quite as powerful as the Indian Summer, it appeared fresher and the penny chew notes were fainter and more subdued. There was hint of something else around the edges, but it was too fleeting and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

In the mouth things weren’t so great, it felt like it had been slightly over carbonated, so that the liquid was just turning to bubbles on the tongue as you rolled it around the mouth. It had a good body about it, neither too thin nor too thick, but there wasn’t a lot of malt flavour to support the hops and it all felt a bit unbalanced. The penny chew flavours were evident pretty early on in the taste, disappearing under a pleasant enough bitter mouth prickle. The after taste wasn’t so great, all the flavours seemed to drop out after the mouth prickle and while the mouth was left feeling quite juicy, there was also a bit of a manky taste left behind.

It wasn’t quite an ashtray flavour, but it was along those lines, maybe there was a bit of cardboard in there too. Either way, it was quite off putting and was a disappointing end to what would otherwise have been an unchallenging and pretty forgetful quaffer.

Wolf Brewery’s Poppy Ale poured a very pale golden colour, with a slight haze, so pale, that you wouldn’t look twice if you’d poured it by accident instead of a Pilsner. The fluffy white head was easily formed, but it dropped fairly quickly to a very thin covering. The nose was subtle, which is another way of saying that there wasn’t much of one. If I’m being generous, I’d say it was delicate, with very subtle honey notes.

In the mouth it probably felt slightly less full bodied than it actually was, there was a certain watery, juiciness that crept in around the edges, which made it feel a bit thin at the end. There was a nice soft maltiness at the start, which was replaced by a pleasant bitter mouth prickle, before the honey took over. The aftertaste was all honey, with some subtle lemon thrown in for good measure. The mouth eventually was left with a lemon tinged bitterness that slowly dissipated over a few minutes.

This was one of my favourites in the regional tasting, it’s easy drinking, light, with a nice bitter edge and then that lovely honey. It’s not perfect, I do think honey works better in dark beers, it can be quite a powerful flavour for a light beer to carry. I have a feeling that this will not be to everyone’s taste, as I think some people wont get on with the honey in the aftertaste.

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.

The Three Tuns

Last night was an exception, the kids were staying over night at their grandparents, so my wife and I took the opportunity to go out to the pub. We decided to go the The Three Tuns in Great Abington, which is a few miles down the road. It’s a free house that has a good reputation for its Thai food, I’d never been before, so was quite looking forward to it.

The pub is on the High Street and you can’t miss it as you drive through the village. It looks like it might once have been thatched, it certainly looks like a classic country pub from the outside. Inside there are two rooms with a bar in each, the ceiling is low and the over all felling is of a really nice an cosy local, especially with all the wood.

My only gripe has to be the selection of beer that they had on the three hand pumps. I just think that a free house in Greene King country to be selling Greene King IPA is really disappointing. I can get a pint of Greene King IPA is practically every pub I pass on the way to and from work, it’s so ubiquitous in these parts, there’s just so much better local beer. They were also selling St Austell Tribute, which I’ve seen as a guest beer in my local Green King tied pub.

Wolf Straw DogLuckily all was not lost and the third hand pump had Wolf Straw Dog on, which was in very nice condition and slipped down dangerously well. My wife went for a couple of bottles of Singha lager beer to go with her curry, so I only had the one. They claim to get through 200 different beers a year on their website, so maybe we were just unlucky. However, the list of their regular beers, isn’t the most exciting for a beer geek.

The menu doesn’t have a lot of choice if you’re a vegetarian, but there is enough as long as you’re not going every week. Service was quick and attentive and the battered vegetable starter would have been more than large enough for my wife and I to share. Neither of us had room for desert after finishing our starters and mains, so if you’re not that hungry, you’d probably be able to get away with just a main.

They are have a very nice looking accommodation block in the garden, it looks very plush inside if the website photos are anything to go by. So if you have to drive and you fancy a drink, you could always stay over, or use it as a base to explore Cambridge and it’s environs.

Over all The Three Tuns get a big thumbs up, the beer and the food were both good and I’d certainly go back in the future.