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: 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.

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.

Advent Beer – Dorothy Goodbody’s Imperial Stout

I’ve not had many Wye Valley beers, they don’t really appear on this side of the country much. This bottle arrived via my brother, who sent it for my birthday. It’s a beer I’ve wanted to try for a while, but just never got round to ordering, so I was well chuffed when it arrived in the post. It was a limited edition beer, brewed to mark the 25th anniversary of Wye Valley "producing quality beers". I can’t remember when it was brewed, for some reason I can’t find the news article on the brewery web site, but I do know that it was a while ago, so this is a slightly aged bottle.

It poured a very dark brown, so that it sat black in the glass. The head was a deep brown tan colour and reminded my of the foam you get on top of certain strong black coffees, it just had that kind of look about it. I didn’t really get much on the nose, faint whiffs of carbon dioxide maybe, but a distinct lack of any roasted character, which I was sort of expecting it to have.

It felt very soft in the mouth, there hadn’t been much of a phzzzt when opening the bottle, so I was sort of prepared for it to be like that. It wasn’t flat by any means, just a little on the soft side for my tastes. It felt quite boozy with loads of stewed fruit and some coffee flavours that reminded me of coffee ice cream. It was also sweet, malty and sweet, with a sweet lingering finish. Did I say it was sweet…?

After letting it sit for a while I thought it tasted slightly different, revealing more flavours that I hadn’t picked up on at the start. The coffee flavours were still there at the start, but were quickly supplanted by the sweetness and then some soft sweet dark chocolate notes. None of your 85% cocoa solids here, think more of Cadbury’s Bournville, that overly sweet dark chocolate that is an abomination to mankind and you’re on the right track. It was almost milky in the way the sweetness and chocolate notes interacted and this left no room for any bitterness.

  • RateBeerWye Valley
  • Dorothy Goodbody’s Imperial Stout, 7%, 500ml

I thought It was a solid, if unspectacular beer. I really missed some roasted malt flavours, or a bit of bitterness from some hops. I thought it was just too sweet, you could say a bit one dimensional, as all the other flavours were effectively bit parts to the sweetness. I think it would have been a really cracking beer if that had been the other way round, with the sweetness more in balance with the coffee and chocolate, but that’s just me.

Advent Beer

I’m quite annoyed. On Tuesday a load of posts on this blog were missing, vanished, disappearing into the ether. I luckily managed to recreate them via Google cache and wrote a couple of new posts, one detailing what had happened and the other the list of my advent beers. So imagine my surprise this morning, to find that both the explanation and advent beer list posts were both missing. In their place, the original missing posts and their comments were back, but it meant that I had to recreate this list from scratch, as I couldn’t find a cached copy on line. My hosting company hasn’t responded to my query about why it’s happened yet, which is most unlike them, hence my annoyance.

Anyway, it’s December, that means that it’s time to do some more advent beer. Last year I modified the list half way through, hopefully I wont be doing the same this year, but I am going to Paris this weekend, so some French beer might suddenly appear next week. So without further ado, here’s the beers on my advent beer list, they will be drank in some sort of random order, that days beer being pulled from a hat.

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.