Sainsbury – Great British Beer Hunt 2013


This is the third year of this competition, but I have to confess that years 1 & 2 almost passed me by completely. It was only in the aftermath of the 2012 iteration, that I picked up on the 2 winners Mocha by Batemans (slightly sweet, but v moreish) & J W Lees’ Manchester Star – a recreated recipe of a 19th century beer initially created in collaboration with Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, I think I still have a bottle of that lurking somewhere!

This year however, I picked up on some of the buzz via Twitter & Facebook and headed to my nearest branch.

The competition works like this. This year, over 150 bottled beers were entered in the four regional competitions (Scot/NI, North, East & West) and, through customer tasting sessions, were whittled down to five from each region. These 20 beers are then stocked across the Sainsbury estate and, via volume of sales, are further whittled down to 12 which go through to a final judging by “beer experts” (sorry, couldn’t help myself – Just can’t get over Worthington White Shield winning Champion Bottle Beer of Britain at GBBF!)

Prize for 1st place? Shelf space in over 250 stores. 2nd place? 100 stores. A significant deal for almost any Micro!

Walking in to my branch at Bolton, the beers were clearly on display and separated from the main booze aisles. Now, despite a thoroughly undeserved reputation as a bit of a lush, there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to attempt all 20 beers! So I got selective. I bought 10 or so different bottles (in varying quantities) Here’s the best of the bunch that I bought.

One further point. My usual format for listing changes here, as all the beers were bought from the one retailer and all cost the same price – a ludicrously cheap £1.50!!!

WMere Pale Label

1. Windermere PaleHawkshead Brewery (Staveley , Cumbria) – 4% abv –  Pale Ale – 500ml

Firstly (and I feel like I’m back at school here!), I misplaced my photo of the poured bottle. I did take one, honest sir……it was there this morning……

Pale as a spring morning but with the pungent aroma of autumns harvest of that beast of a hop, Citra! If you have ever had this on draught….It’s just as pale, just as hoppy. Sweet and sharp on the nose with pineapple and grapefruit, light bodied but absolutely PACKED with hoppy flavours with more grapefruit having the edge. A nice slightly sweet rich tea biscuit base allows the hops to party. Nice very dry bitter finish. Slightly boosted in strength to 4% (draught on cask being 3.5% abv) but loses none of its refreshing ability. More please!


2 Gonny No Brew ThatWilliams Bros Brewing (Alloa, Scotland) – 3.8% abv – Pale Ale – 500ml

I thought that at this strength, that this beer might suffer in comparison. Not a bit of it! Pale and gold with a pineapple marmaladey nose. Quite full-bodied for this strength with a doughy bread base balanced by a cutting orangey bitterness. A nice fruity bittersweet finish. Nice beer at this strength.


3. Crafty Dan – Daniel Thwaites (Blackburn, Lancashire) – 6% abv – Strong Pale Ale – 500ml

Brewed on a smaller brew kit used for Thwaites seasonal range, this is one of quite a few Thwaites beers I’ve had this year which is seriously impressive. Deep gold, abundant white foam head with an aroma of orange marmalade on warm bread. In the mouth, more slightly bitter Seville marmalade hops with a nice big biscuit malt base. Hints of warming rum or Curacao. A nice bitterness in the finish with a spicy orange tang. A Blackburn Belter!


4. India Pale AleHarbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 5.2% abv – IPA – 500ml

One of two Harbour beers that I bought. Not had much of their stuff, but what I have had has been impressive, but on keg. This was a bronze coloured beer full of citrus aromas. Medium bodied and really citrus fruity with gum tingling piney resins swirling around the mouth. A really nice hoppy bitter beer with sufficient malty sweetness for just the right balance – with the hops on top that is! Very tasty indeed!


5. Porter No 6Harbour Brewing Company (Trekillick, North Cornwall) – 6.8% abv – Porter – 330ml

Just to ramp the strength back up and to introduce some shade into all this light stuff! The second from Harbour. A deep ruby, nearly black beer with a surprising raisin wine aroma (for this strength). A mouthful of caramel maltyness with a nice coffee and sweet chocolate flavouring. This was quite warming as it slipped down – again, surprisingly so at this strength point. A touch sweeter that I usually like my porters, but a truly cracking bottle!


6. WayfarerOrkney Brewery (Cawdor, Nairnshire, Scotland) – 4.4% abv – IPA – 500ml

A really pale beer with a distinctive citrus aroma, reminiscent of bitter lemon. Balanced malt base but overlaid with cascade and amarillo hop zing, more grapefuit and lemon puckering the lips. Really refreshing beer with a dry and slightly resinous finish. First Orkney I’ve had in a while. A cracker.


7. Infra RedHardknott Brewery (Millom, Cumbria) – 6.2% abv – Red IPA (I suppose!) – 330ml

This almost exploded as I opened it. A ruby red beer with an aroma of cough candy, spicy and slightly yeasty. Again, in the mouth, the cough candy of the crystal malt is evident, but with quite a bitter hoppy hit. Quite bitter and spicy in the finish with a spicy hop lingering.

There you go. I didn’t burden you with the ones that I didn’t quite get. The Querkus Smoked Porter was particularly disappointing and the Hunters Devon Dreamer was a bit yeasty (may have shaken and not settled to be fair)

I know that this is now a bit late in the game, but if you bought any of the above, you’d be doing yourselves a favour IMO! And, you only have until next Wednesday. What are you waiting for???

If you ask me for my favourites….I’d have to say the Crafty Dan, and the Harbour Porter. The others just being shaded, but only just! Certainly, if the Bolton stores’ sales are anything to go by, the Hawkshead Windermere Pale has been selling well. Just look at the picture at the top!

On that note…’til next time…(probably Hornbeam MTB at The Salford Arms tomorrow evening!)


Bottled Ales – September 2013 Pt 2


(The Hawkshead Windermere Pale is FLYING off the shelves

at Sainsburys in Bolton!)

Before I start in earnest, a quick note. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of major supermarket promotions, The Sainsbury Great British Beer Hunt is on now. This is where Sainsbury holds regional contests for bottled ales and the top 5 from each region go through to a National contest. The winners (2) going on to National distribution for at least 6 months. For some micros this is A BIG THING! The winner being decided democratically. By number of bottles sold.

So. In you nearest Sainsbury now, there all the beers in the GBBH should be on the shelves. These include such luminaries of the UK Micro scene as HardKnott, Harbour, Hawkshead, Williams Bros, etc…. All these beers are at the bargain price of £1.50 per bottle. get in and grab some bargains. You’d be bonkers not to! Oh yeah, The contest lasts 3 weeks. So get in before it’s over!

Now, back to my usual wafflings!

“Pardon me, I’m drunk again and when I’m drunk I make no sense,

but I crack more jokes and that’s my self-defence.

You caused me to think and I thought of what I’d have home without you,

You drove me to drink and I never had the courtesy to thank you!”

(“Pigeons In The Attic Room” – Everything But The Girl)

If you have ever read one of these before, you will know what is comes next!……The format remains….

1. The Beer, 2. The Brewer, 3. The Strength, 4. The beer style, 5. The Price & Size (including discount, eg: for CAMRA membership, where applicable). 6. Where from,  and, If a website for the vendor exists, the hyperlink to the shop / brewer website, just in case you are inspired enough by my ramblings to make a purchase! Here goes…

20130901_194254(A cracking debut!)

1. New World IPANorthern Monk Brew Co (Bradford, West Yorkshire) – 6.2% abvIPA – £2.48 (330ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Launching only this summer, this is a REALLY new brewery! I picked up on the buzz on Twitter and asked Adrian & Vicky at Yorkshire Ales to put a couple aside. Then promptly forgot to pick them up! A few weeks later, I popped back in and rectified. Therefore, this review comes a bit late in the day really. This was their sole beer at launch, but they have subsequently released an Imperial Stout – Strannik and brewed at least two collaborations, both with favourite brewers of mine – Allgates of Wigan and Weird Beard. I have a bottle of the Weird Beard collab “Bad Habit” and hope to pick up the Allgates collab soon….anyhow…What the hell does it taste like? Good question!

It’s a burnished gold in colour with a glass-clinging lacy white head. The aroma that I got was some toffee with a nose-tingling spicy hop. In the mouth was more caramel toffee sweetness with a growing grassy fruity bitterness with a tongue-drying grapefruit note. A lovely lingering grassy bitterness in the finish. A proper hoppy UK IPA.

Check out their website above. Really stylish design which has carried into the bottle label. Classy.


2. 09/02Brew By Numbers (London) – 6.3% abvNut Brown Ale – £3.50 (ish) (330ml) – The Ale Man (Castlefield Market, Manchester).

Another beer grabbed from the cracking stall at Castlefield Market run by Damian O’Shea. Go and pay a visit on a Sunday, he’s got some cracking stuff (and he puts out samples too!)

A lively wee devil this. Incredibly deep brown almost black beer with a latte coloured head and an aroma of a dark chocolate Marathon (showing my age, but never did get the change to Snickers!). Medium bodied, touch of bitter-sweet chocolate with roasted brazils and walnuts. Some residual sweetness with more roasted nut and a finishing snap of bitterness from the Columbus hops. Really nice beer.

Brown ales have truly come as long way from topping up my halves of “Dog” in the 80s – still the only beer that could be relied on to give me a hangover, ahh……. the unlamented 80s!


3. BlondeThe Hop Studio (York, North Yorkshire) – 3.5% abvBlonde Ale – £2.25 (500ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

As pale as a lager, a really pale gold. Light floral and fruity aroma with a nose-wrinkling peppery hop note. A crisp and clean light bodied refreshing beer this with a light caramel biscuit malt more than balanced with some spicy fruity hops (Chinook, Cascade & Nelson Sauvin) and some lovely bitter grapefruit in the finish too.

A beer that is full of flavour at this low strength, this could be a perfect “bridge” beer for a macro lager drinker! Just a thought! (Had their Porter in Pie & Ale in Mcr last night – like chocolate ice cream – lush!)

20130908_212443(Great beer AND the NFL is BACK!!!)

4. Dissolution Extra IPAKirkstall Brewery (Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire) – 6% abvIPA – £3.05 (500ml) – Beermoth (Manchester)

Picked this up on my (rather delayed) first visit to Beermoth on Tib St. Judging by what I saw in the range, it certainly WON’T be my last. Looking for something I hadn’t tried (and sticking to my UK ethos) I spied this, the first bottle produced by this Leeds brewer. Having had some of their casked offerings at Port Street and the superb kegged Framboise, I was looking forward to this one.

Pale gold again with bitter citrus and piney resins on the nose. A big malty backbone was complimented with fabulous earthy and resinous hops climbing all over it! Yummy! This is dry, resinous and HUGELY bitter with some orangey marmalade lurking in the aftertaste. This is a really cracking first bottle from Kirkstall. Hugely impressive.

20130909_214819(Another Mallinsons Single Hop pale? Oh yes please!!!)

5. Bramling Cross (Single Hop Pale Ale) – Mallinsons Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) – 3.8% abvPale Ale – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

Where do I begin….Another Single Hop Pale by Mallinsons. Having had several of their single hop beers recently, they just seemed to get better and better, Not being over familiar with the Bramling Cross hop, I was a little worried that there may be a dud lurking here. Oh no! Another cracking session pale ale from these Huddersfield alechemists!

Bottle conditioned, pale gold and lively with some dark fruit on the nose, maybe damson and blackcurrant with a hint maybe of apple. Swirling around my gob, there was lots of blackcurrant with maybe a hint of tart gooseberry. Lovely, refreshing with a nice dry grassy aftertaste. Some real spice to this that left my mouth and gums tingling. A fabulous refreshing beer. Just wish I could see more of their stuff on draught over here!

I’ve said previously that I think that these ladies have nailed lower strength single hop pale ales. Point made.

20130911_210246(SUCH classy labelling!)

6. South Pacific Pale AleBad Seed Brewery (Malton, North Yorkshire) – 5.8% abvPale Ale – £2.48 (330ml) – Yorkshire Ales (Snaith, East Yorkshire)

I previously had picked up (and reviewed) their India Pale Ale & awesome Espresso Stout from Bierhuis in Ossett. If you read this regularly, you’ll know that I was hugely impressed by this new brewery from Malton. On my most recent visit to see Adrian Pettit (Vicky, sadly, being busy elsewhere!) I picked up the whole range for both myself and a friend. I like the look of these bottles. The only thing that slightly disappointed me was that the name ISN’T derived from Nick Caves’ great band! Never mind eh?

Another goldie this, with the light head yielding a light marmaladey nose. This is medium bodied and more delicate than the beastly India Pale but is no less impressive and is equally delicious. The New Zealand hops (Green Bullet, Pacifica and Pacific Gem) giving up a lovely orangey bitterness laid over some nice almost Digestive biscuity malt. Nice dry grassy quality in the finish too. More of a lightness of touch with this beer and very impressive it is too!

If you get hold of any of these, I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Anyway, that’s it for now!

On that note….’til next time…