I apologise for using the c word in the title of this post. Its just that I thought entitling it Supermarket cancer or Supermarket c*nts may provoke something of the wrong reaction. Worse still, I could have entitled it Supermarket Christmas. Eeeurrgh. That makes me shudder....
Anyhoo, as am bereft of funds I popped t'asda to grab some essentials and a few cans of beer. Alas they had run out of Bass but Ringwqood Razorback was on offer at 95p for 500ml so I got two of them, and then I found some beer in the "craft" (whatever that is) section which was £1.25 a 330ml can for a 5.6% West Coast Pale ale from BadCo. I don't mind their output, although its not a go to brewery, so I bought a can and took it home. Its only when I looked at the can in detail I noticed it said on the front "Brewed exclusively for Asda".
I immediately feared crystal malt. Its not a pathological fear you understand, but it is valid. I can on rare occasions, even detect it in disappointing potations, and share a dislike of it with many in the drinking and brewing circles that I rotate in.
One thing I don't know is, why would anyone add it to a "craft" (whatever that is) beer? Is it cheaper than pale ale malts? Or does it just remind less up to date drinkers of mass produced golden ales? Looking down the ingredients the beer has a decent hop line up, summit, cascade (not sure if UK or US) and chinook, but in the malt list was Light Crystal. I feared the worst.
Light crystal may explain why the beer retained its pale colour - because I have found that other supermarket own brewed, i.e in secret, pale ales, are bitter coloured. Am not sure if crystal malt is to blame, but lets assume it is. And to be fair to BadCo the hops were prominent, and I could appreciate them. And this was better than Razorback, so all is fine.....
Back in August Wee keefy, horrified at my spending £6.00 a can on Verdant and Cloudwater soups, took me to his to enjoy some supermarket own brand "craft" (whatever that is) ales. I was assured that they cost as much for 4 cans as one of those ones that I wasted my money on did. The selection was laid on mainly to prove a point, and stimulate a blog post. Alas, no point was proven, except that they in some cases, tasted five times less good than Verdant beers. The interesting thing though, was the ingredients used.
Having got them from Aldi or Lidl or Rialto, which is a shop I have made up for vaguely alliterative reasons, the four tried were Red Rye captain pale ale, a 4.6% pale with "notes of caramel and toffee", Twisted knots, a 5.5% American IPA with " a grapefruit aroma" and notes of "citrus zesty fruits", Bitter Iron IPA at 5.4% and Plunged Orange pale ale at 6.0% which was "refreshing" and featured "tangy orange sweetness".
The red rye captain was the joint worst - it was hardly pale and worse still featured what I can only guess was crystal and caramalt, to mask the pale colours, and hide any vestige of hops. The twisted knots was better, mainly because it featured a decent line up of hops including Columbus citra and centennial (but also Dark Crystal malt), and the Bitter Iron IPA was the second joint worst, featuring as it did a more underwhelming hop load but crystal malt again. The best of the four was the Plunged orange pale ale which managed to hide some of the sweetness of the orange with Rakau and Mandarina hops, and also managed to avoid the temptation of using any type of crystal malt whatsoever.
The thing is, churning out hoppy pale ale in a factory is never going to hold the same appeal for me. And I have to admit that. And I also have to pay more for the beer that I like. Which means, funnily enough, that I also drink less beer than I used to (although its generally stronger, so am not trying to claim any health benefits).
I think the positive thing though, from this brief snapshot of supermarket own brand beers, is that things have really really improved in the last five years, and that this improvement has likely been started by the likes of Lidl and Aldi. Although am never going to seek them out, its good to know that I still have some beers to go to when funds run low.
Many thanks to WK for his generosity, and kudos where kudos is due, to the supermarkets mentioned for taking the time to work with brewers (identified, and sadly in secret) to produce decent beers at a knockdown price. Now, where's that can of Verdant and Equilibrium Keep Left....