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Sourcing Beer

31 Oct

Today I shall be sharing my experience on what is step 1 for beer drinking: actually getting hold of the beer. Some good beer can be found in the supermarket, and in the UK shops like Asda, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Tesco are starting to do a decent amount of beer, mostly stuff from bigger breweries. Sierra Nevada, Weihenstephaner, Erdinger, Goose Island, Brooklyn and more, can all be found in supermarkets across the land. For smaller breweries though, a bit more effort is required. Again, supermarkets usually do stock a variety of local beers, for example the Tesco Extra in Cardiff sells Rhymney, Tomos Watkin, and Brains beers. However the selection is rather limited. Some towns, again such as Cardiff, are lucky and have good local beer shops. These vary in quality across the UK, and can be anything ranging from worse selections than supermarkets, to amazing shelves piled high with beers from all across the world. When no good shops are available, the easiest option left is web shops, such as Beers of Europe or Ales by Mail. With these you usually get a great selection at a decent price, however there is still a risk of damage, a long wait, out of date beer, and pretty high delivery charges. Another option is simply to try and buy it directly from the brewery, in person or by post. If all this fails to get you the beer you desire though, one last option is left, trading beers with anonymous strangers on the internet. A lot less risky than it sounds, especially if you do it through sites such as Ratebeer or Beeradvocate. Basically you send some beer you can easily get to someone who has beer you want but can’t get. They send you the beer you want in exchange.

Supermarkets recently have caught on to the “craft beer” trend so have been improving the range of beer they stock. It’s still mostly mass-produced lagers but there are some gems from local breweries and from international breweries. Sainsburys does some decent “craft beers”, like Sierra Nevada and Brewdog; Tesco also has a good stock of stuff like this, with a few more locals from what i’ve seen; and Morrisons does a really good lot of locals. Other good supermarkets to look at are discount ones, such as Aldi, Lidl and B&M Bargains. Aldi and Lidl are German owned so usually have some German beer in, mostly their own brands such as Graftenwalder and Arcobrau, though sometimes you get some really nice beer popping up for really good prices. Once I got La Gauloise Blonde, a very passable Belgian Pale Ale, from my local Lidl. B&Ms don’t have anything regular but what they do have in stock they have for amazingly low prices so it’s worth a visit if you want some good beer on a budget.

Beer shops are always a nice place to visit, especially if you have a good one locally. I’m quite lucky in that I have Discount Supermarket

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(Belated) Golden Pint Awards 2012

7 Jan
Best UK Draught Beer
Timothy Taylor “Landlord” – a classic hoppy pale ale. There’s no real ale quite like a well cellared pint of this, served at perfect temperature (a few degrees below room temperature). Drank in the Pen & Wig, Cardiff.
Runner up – Arbor Ales “Full of Beans” Mild
Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
Tiny Rebel “Hot Box” – a “Smoked Indian Ale”. This was a one off brew but I sorely hope they make it again, if possible adding it to their regular line-up. “Hot Box” to me was the epitome of balance, it was smokey, malty and hoppy, all working in perfect harmony to create a truly brilliant beer.
Runner up – Brewdog “Hops Kill?” Red Ale
Best Overseas Draught Beer
Boon “Kriek” – not a particularly rare or sought after beer, but this was my first kriek (cherry lambic) and I really loved it.
Runner up – Southern Tier “Unearthly” IPA
Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
Westvleteren 12 – the one and only, argued by many to be the best beer in the world. It was certainly a very complex beer, and very tasty. Though I have to say though, that perhaps the hype surrounding this beer usually results in a hint of disappointment when you drink it. I much preferred the Quad made by Struise – “Pannepot”, which I had in 2011.
Runner up – Ayinger “Brau Weisse” Hefeweizen
Best Overall Beer
Would have to be “Hot Box” for me.
Best Pumpclip or Label

Cwtch

Best UK Brewery
The Kernel, London – the most consistent brewery I know. Great pale ales and brilliant stouts.
Best Overseas Brewery
Struise, Belgium. For Black Albert, Pannepot and Ignis et Flamma.
Pub/Bar of the Year
Cask Pub and Kitchen, Pimlico – tied with Euston Tap.
Supermarket of the Year
Sainsburys for making a vague effort with their annual beer festival.
Independent Retailer of the Year
Discount Supermarket, Cardiff – tied with The Bottle Shop, Cardiff. Both excellent in their own respects.
Online Retailer of the Year
Beautifulbeers.co.uk – gets hard to get Dutch and Belgian offerings, prompt service and reasonable prices
Best Beer Blog or Website
Here obviously! No, for me it would be http://www.camrgb.org/ which has a really good, simple and objective outlook on beer drinking.
Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Real ale in sausages. Made by the giggly pig company in Essex, they were the best sausages I’ve ever had.
In 2013 I’d most like to…
Visit Belgium for at least a day trip – get some bottles from Cantillon, go to the Struise shop in Brugge, and generally have an orgy of Belgian beer and food.