Bah, what a unexciting topic to start on eh? Well I think you’re wrong. I think supermarket beers are exciting. We are at a tipping point right now where our supermarket shelves are no longer just home to big breweries. Yes, “beer connoisseurs” will sneer that these beers are just watered down versions of what they could be but you just have to accept that, maybe, these beers are not aimed at you.
I like to call these beers entry level beers or gateway drugs. They allow the standard big beer drinker to experience nicer beers and surely people drinking nicer beers is a good thing?
I remember I used to hate beer, only drinking Guinness if I had to choose. That was until I discovered my own gateway beers, Leffe and Duvel (whilst on a booze cruise with my parents). I would never have heard of chocolate porter if I hadn’t tried a Meantime chocolate porter (still their best beer if you ask me). We all start somewhere.
Take my workmate Martin (Hi Martin if you are reading). Two years ago, Martin was your bog standard big brewery lager drinker. He came to the Great British Beer Festival and was disappointed to learn of the lack of such lager there, claiming to hate ales and cider it was a waste of a ticket. Fast forward to now and Martin has told me recently that he is, in fact, looking forward to the beer festival and that he had dabbled in some ales. A few weeks ago I witnessed Martin drinking a dry-hopped Adnams lager. I’m pretty sure that two years ago Martin wouldn’t have a clue what dry-hopping was. These beers are for people like Martin and I’m glad they have access to them.
So I intend to review a selection of the supermarket offerings starting with Tesco.
I visited Tesco on the OKR (Old Kent Road). The variety is huge and I’m a bit embarrassed that I didn’t get a photo of the shelves (might pop back to do this). There were APAs, IPAs, saisons, stouts, ambers, wit biers and even a chocolate lager (brave Tesco, very brave. Too brave for me to try). I picked a selection and got to work.
Revisionist Saison – £1.79 500ml
I’ve put this in the good category as it is a lovely refreshing mild saison which I feel is a nice easy introduction to the style. It has a great fruity smell and has a herby, grassy finish from the Styrian and Lubelski hops. The saison yeast is very quiet but there is a slight spiciness there and as I said it’s a great one to introduce people to the style. I know Martin didn’t know what a saison was as I brewed one last year and had to explain it to him so it’s great that this style has made it to the supermarket so more people can see it.
Not sure what a Saison is? A Saison is a beer style originating from the farmlands of Wallonia (a French speaking region of Belgium). It’s a beer the farmers brewed and stored over the winter ready for drinking in the summer where they were consumed by seasonal workers (“les saisonniers”). The style is a pale ale with spicy and/or fruity tones coming from the yeast which is, typically nowadays, brewed at a higher temperature than normal. Modern Saisons are stronger and are often flavoured with spices, fruit and herbs.
The not too bad
Tesco Finest American Double IPA – £1.99 330ml (bargain)
What is this doing in the not too bad eh? Well, this is what we all know as Brewdog’s Hardcore IPA. It has been rebranded for Tesco, I dunno, maybe Hardcore is just too brash for them. It’s a great beer but it’s in the not too bad section due to it’s strength. I fear someone like Martin would see that it’s 9.2% and bawk, yeah you would wouldn’t you Martin? You big girls blouse!
As I said, it’s a great beer, big citrus on the nose. Overripe melon and malty honey on the tongue and an everlasting finish. It feels good and tastes good in your gob. If you hadn’t noticed, it’s only £1.99 in Tescos. Get down there!
Metropolitan Big Bad Wolf IPA £1.25 330ml
This is not big, it is bad but it’s certainly not wolfy. I’d not heard of Metropolitan so I did some googling and found it is in fact Greene King in disguise. It is, apparently, brewed using 7 different hops (Cascade, Amarillo, Styrian and Centennial being some of them). So I got excited, expecting a hop party in my mouth. Boy was I disappointed. It has the typical Greene King big malt and yeast taste going on but it’s really overly grassy and unbalanced which I think is surprising for a supermarket beer. I thought they’d want balanced, easy drinking beers to appeal to more people. Not hoppy enough to be called an IPA considering the 7 hops claim.
Innis & Gunn – White Oak Wit Bier with Blood orange and Bergamot
This is described as a kristallweizen style wheat beer infused with dried bergamot and blood oranges. Sounds exciting right? That is until you factor in Innis & Gunn’s oakerator technique (they pump the beer over oak chips) which makes all of their beer taste like vanilla. Vanilla in my wheat beer, no thanks. Have they made a stout? Their technique is crying out for a stout. The bergamot and blood orange are negligible amongst the strong vanilla taste. It smells like a chardonnay (which I hate). It’s not fizzy enough to be a krystallweizen (my bottle was pretty flat) and not tart enough. I had a few mouthfuls then tried to get my other half to drink it. He couldn’t so it was a drain jobbie.
I’m off to Newcastle at the weekend so if anyone knows of any good places for me to pick up local beers please hit me up on twitter @katrinnas.