I left my previous supermarket post talking about selected Northern Irish beer at Sainsbury’s and Asda and now it’s time to move on to another couple of big guns, Tesco and Lidl.
I confess that Tesco was one of my go-to places when I started my liaisons with different beer. I make no apologies for admitting to delving head first into bottles of Leffe or Innis and Gunn back in the day, and d’you what? I still would from time to time – always remain true to your roots. My local Tesco Extra has a massive selection and I first lifted a bottle from Ahoghill brewery Hillstown. Their 7% ABV Horny Bull Stout is one from their original core range. Poured a deep black and although the head disappeared disappointingly quickly, this is a tasty smooth stout with nuances of coffee bean and deep raisin. The story goes that Hillstown farm originally brewed this stout to feed their bulls but it was deemed to good for them! I’m glad they decided to offer it to humans.
Also on offer in Tesco is Yardsman IPA from Belfast brewery Hercules. This crystal clear 4.3% ABV golden beer has a slight floral aroma with hidden elements of orange and tropical fruit on the tongue. I say hidden because I know they’re in there, I’d like to see just a touch more of them. There’s more of a malt-than-hop profile to this and I’d call it a golden ale rather than an IPA, but it’s a decent start point if you’re new to the craft scene and are standing in Tesco wondering what to buy.
Moving on to Lidl. Now I have a bit of a beef with Lidl – not only do they not stock any Northern Irish beer but the NI stores also don’t sell any of their own branded Crafty Brewing beer (brewed at Rye River in County Kildare). Crafty Cider is here but not the beer. Other bloggers and commentators in the Republic have given its American Pale Wheat and Irish IPA the thumbs up and I’m informed it’s even being distributed across Europe, but failing to find its way north of the border. Lidl have been contacted on this issue but the generic “computer says don’t know” reply arrived – so your guess is as good as mine if it’ll come here. So what DO they have?
From Bristol, 4.5% ABV Butcombe Gold is a new arrival – it has that creamy butterscotch and smooth caramel taste but unfortunately the one I had was a touch flat. Golden ale characteristics of a more malt driven than hop profile as you would expect but it just lacked any pizzazz and failed to excite me in any way. Moving on.
Abbey de Vauclair’s Bière Blanche stands out from the shelves mainly due to the 750ml corked bottle. Aye that’ll do, let’s have a go. Now Abbey de Vauclair… hmmm, not a real micro but coming from the French macro giants Gayant – you may have seen their La Goudale on your travels. Vauclair is labelled as a 4.5% ABV wheat beer with coriander so expect an opaque greeny yellow beer with lots of lemon up front followed by a spicy backdrop, that of star anise or aniseed more than coriander really. This is one of Lidl’s better beers, easy drinking and well worth the £2.50 price tag.
There’s a lot of snobbery surrounding supermarket beers. Don’t forget we all started at some point on our craft beer journey and more often than not it’s been in a supermarket. Yes of course the independent off licences will be the ones stocking the rarer and more exclusive beers, yes I’ll continue to give them my support and yes the folk buying the supermarket ’48 pack for £20′ aren’t usually doing it for the taste but don’t tar everyone with the same brush.
Give a little encouragement to ones wanting to dip their toe in the craft beer water. That’s only to be applauded.