Tasting Beer for Sainsbury’s

18 May

Every year, Sainsbury’s invite customers to have a say in what beers the supermarket will be selling the following year. They call it the Great British Beer Hunt. This year I was fortunate enough to be one of those beer testers. The event took place in the Salford City Reds Rugby Stadium in Eccles, Manchester.

I arrived on time at 2pm and after a short introduction, we were given our scoring cards and asked to start. There were 23 bottled beers on offer, of which we had to choose eight, and of those eight, vote for four. In no particular order, I chose Two Roses First Edition, Weetwood Eastgate, Cropton Yorkshire Moors, Little Valley Stoodley Stout, Cropton Blackout, Little Valley Tods Blonde, Bateman’s Mocha and Cropton Madman’s Slaughter.

The bottles line up

I took my tray to the bar where the chosen beers were served into small plastic beakers. I also sampled different beers from my mate’s tray.

Eight beers for judging

When it came to voting, the eight that I picked, two immediately presented themselves as winners, but then I was left with the decision of which two out of three very good beers I was going to vote for. In the end, my votes went to the following four beers:

Two Roses First Edition, a 4% golden ale with a lovely pale yellow colour. The smell was bright and hoppy, and the taste was wonderfully fruity and hoppy with plenty of grapefruit pith. This beer just blew me away, I really hope it gets selected, as it would be perfect for a summer’s afternoon. A truly wonderful beer.

Little Valley Stoodley Stout. I recently had this beer on tap at the Port Street Beer House in Manchester – see here. It’s a 4.8% stout, just about black in colour with a fine brown head. The taste is rich, sweet, malty and dark with some smoke and a touch of dryness. The mouthfeel is distinctly creamy. A fabulously complex taste.

Cropton Blackout. A 5.0% porter. I had this from the cask at last year’s York Beer Festival. My review of it is here. The bottle didn’t disappoint. The smell is inviting – sweet, toffee notes promising something really good. The taste includes toffee and chocolate hints with a smooth, dryish finish. Beautiful.

Bateman’s Mocha. With a name like ‘Mocha’, there’s a certain expectation of what it’s going to taste like. And yes, it does. It’s a very dark brown in colour, 6% ABV. The smell is a subtle mix of chocolate and smoke, with the chocolate being dominant. The taste is very smooth and creamy with chocolate and dark coffee notes. It’s a stunningly good beer.

The one I had difficulty with and only dropped reluctantly, was Weetwood Eastgate, a beer I haven’t seen in bottles before (one of the stipulations for entry into the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt was that the beer should be new, or new to bottles). I’ve had it on draught, and the draught version is superb. Slightly deceptively, the beer looks like a fairly ordinary bitter, amber in colour, but the taste is utterly gorgeous – smooth, creamy, fruity, sweet and beautifully rounded. My difficulty is that the bottled version is not quite as good. It’s still very good, but perhaps lacking a little something that the cask version has.

Having cast our votes, we walked along a corridor into another large room, where ten brewers had stands and were offering tastes of their beer and were either giving bottles away free or selling them at a much reduced price. Brewers present were from Two Roses, Weetwood, Cropton, Little Valley, Bateman’s, Thwaites, Lees, Stringer’s, Beartown and Holts.

Beartown stand in the ‘Meet the Brewer’ room

I spent longer in that room than I did in the tasting, and drank considerably more beer!The brewers were all very approachable and interesting, and I learned a lot from chatting with them.

Two Roses stand in the ‘Meet the Brewer’ room

In all this was a fantastic free way to spend an afternoon. I’ll be looking out for next year’s event, and booking my ticket early.

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Posted by on 18 May, 2012 in Bottled Beer


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