today my glass is half full following an enjoyable night of pleasing food and good wine. In order to pick the right beers for such an event I went to a major retailer. That's right, a seething behemoth of a foreign owned conglomerate, in order to buy beers that would go well with my evenings menu. Christingfer was the subject for my raw fillet steak carpaccio followed by 6 hour bolognese experiment (no guests were injured in the course of this test), and the might of Asda was tested for the beer purchases.
In an ideal world, I would buy almost all my bottled beer from Archer Road Beer Stop. Well of course I would, I used to work there, am still good friends with Dave, and I continue to honestly and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone. However, its an hour bus journey each way, and I had a simmering bolognese to contend with, so wanted to be out of the house for no more than about 40 minutes, hence I went to the supermarket.
Like all major supermarkets, Asda thinks its leading the way in proffering a range of different ales for sale, has jumped on to the local produce bandwagon and offered bottle from a couple of local breweries, and offers 2 BCA's from a range of about 40. The thing, is, this is barely any more than any other major supermarket chain.
The best range available anywhere was always Safeways, but they were bought by Morrissons who quickly replaced any quirky or unusual bottle lines with endless varieties of Greedy King, Wolverhampton and Dudley and Refresh UK products, all conveniently having different brewery names so it looks like there is a massive choice. And whilst I admit that they do offer some unusual foreign ales and interesting English offerings like White Horse, they can only dream of being as good as Safeway were. And I don;t think they offer a single BCA.
Anyway, back to Asda, and they recently dropped their 3 for £4.00 promotion on all British bottled beers (which they don't adorn with a sign they are ciders according to the cards on the aisle). Cause for celebration you might say, finally a supermarket taking heavy alcohol discounting seriously, but, er, no, that's not how it pans out. Certain beers are still at the above price, but only recently have they included a lower gravity beer. If you want to encourage responsible drinking, your range of products has to viably offer for sale products that are lower in alcohol. There are perhaps only 4 of the range that are below 4%, but only the Brakspear Bitter is currently in the offer. And when they have been reviewing prices in the past, Brakspear Bitter has always been £1.70 or more, making it as expensive as their Triple, at 7%, and Innis and Gunn's offerings at 6% or more.
So, if you want to drink lower alcohol beers you have to pay more, is essentially the message. If you can find the lower ABV beers then don't expect to be able to match them for a reduced price either - that is available only with the W+D and Greedy King beers, including of course their stronger brands. I know that I shouldn't be surprised, which is good, because I am not. It still makes you wonder though what they think they achieve by making responsible drinking less convenient and more expensive than getting tanked up on super strength cans or gruesome spirit mixers.
So, onto the beers, and there are 3 to sample this time.
A : Brewery & Beer - Brakspear/Tillverkare "double dropped" Bitter
B: Strength - 3.4%
C: BCA or none BCA - none.
There is a lovely malt flavour to this beer, but there is enough bitterness coming through to make it refreshing, and its not to sweet, which is a bonus for a beer of this strength. There is a nice citrus aroma and you can taste it clearly in amongst the light hop flavour, and there is also barley on the nose. The colour is a light golden brown.
Overall a nice clean lightly bitter ale with a traditional English flavour and appearance. The question is, who brews it ? I thought Brakspear beers were brewed by Refresh UK along with Wychwood, since Brakspear brewery closed down some years ago, but the label says "brewed in England for Tillverkare The Brakspear Brewing Co" so who knows ?.
A : Brewery & Beer - Naylors Brewery Pinnacle Blonde
B: Strength - 4.3%
C: BCA or none BCA - none.
I thought I had picked up the wrong bottle from the shelf when I tasted this - the next bottle along was a ginger ale from the same brewery and I swear you can smell ginger when you open this, and taste it initially as well.
The bottle tells me its a beer brewed with optic malt and a touch of wheat, perhaps its this combination that lends itself to suggesting spice such as ginger - it does state that the are citrus and spice notes to the beer. The hops are Hallertau, which gives it a nice bite and this combines well with the malt, neither ingredient is allowed o overpower the overall taste.
The bottle states that the beer is matured for two weeks then cold filtered. I am not sure what kind of benefit in terms of taste in the finished product, that this affords, but its a clean tasting strong almost spicy bitter with a long dry aftertaste. Very nice beer to wash down something in a thick sauce, and would also be good as an appetiser.
A : Brewery & Beer - Cains - Finest Export Lager
B: Strength - 5.0%
C: BCA or none BCA - none.
A pleasant change, a strong lager malt flavour and barley come through, mingling with more traditional bitter beer aroma and flavour. Its a pleasant gold colour, but not overly pale like many beers brewed with lager malt. This is a good attempt at making a lager using the less than helpful British ingredients - the label mentions the finest hops, which s well as being fairly ambiguous also doesn't necessarily mean they are British, but also the Maris otter malted barley.
So traditional is maris otter in beer making in the UK its nice to see that this is a lager made to show lager producers that we can have a stab at their a\rt, albeit this lager is not a patch on Edelstoft or Augusteiner or Fruh kolsch, but its a pleasant drink and worth buying to cleanse your palette after a big meal.
So, overall, an interesting selection, purchased from the supermarket, but affording a good mix of styles nevertheless.
More reviews in the next few weeks.