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Sainsbury's Beer Competition

by Tom Cannavan, 09/09

2009 is the second year of the Sainsbury’s Beer Competition. In 2008, the first two winners - Bath Ales Barnstormer and O’Kells IPA - were subsequently launched into 262 stores and have gone from strength to strength, selling 7,000 bottles in one week alone when featured in Sainsbury’s Christmas Drinks Magazine.

The 2009 Competition was launched in November 2008 and attracted 115 entries from 57 brewers. Eventually that was whittled down to 15 finalists, and those beers are now in Sainsbury's stores. They will remain on sale until 15th September, and the way the competition is decided is simple: the beers that sell best during this period will then be offered a full listing in Sainsbury's, becoming part of their regular beer range for at least six monts, and hopefully going on to emulate the success and sales of last year's winners.

The full list of the 15 finalists follows, and then some tasting notes on half a dozen of them to whet your appetite!

The Beers

Allgates Brewery Porteresque - Wigan, Lancashire
Bath Ales Golden Hare - Warmley, Bristol
Bays Brewery Bays Breaker- Paignton, Devon
BrewDog Chaos Theory - Fraserburgh, Scotland
BrewDog Dogma - Fraserburgh, Scotland
BrewDog Hardcore IPA - Fraserburgh, Scotland
Greene King Bretwalda - Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Hambleton Ales Taylor's Tipple - Melmerby, North Yorkshire
Williams Bros Brewing Co 80/- Ale - Alloa, Scotland
Williams Bros Brewing Co Birds n' Bees - Alloa, Scotland
Williams Bros Brewing Co Ceilidh - Alloa, Scotland
Williams Bros Brewing Co Williams IPA - Alloa, Scotland
Wood Brewery Shropshire Lass - Wistanstow, Shropshire
The Wolf Brewery Wolf Whistle - Attleborough, Norfolk
The Wolf Brewery Woild Moild - Attleborough, Norfolk


BrewDog, BrewDog (Scotland)
Brewed with 'insane hops' according to the boys of BrewDog, this strong IPA pours a dark, burnished copper/chestnut colour with a light tan head that is creamy and thick. The first impression if of chocolaty, dark malts and alcoholic sweetness, but there's quite an intense fruitiness lying behind this too. In the mouth it's a big, no-hold-barred brew, with masses of creamy-textured body and a wallop of bitter hops that play against that notion of sweetness. But it is the dark, rich, roasted fruit flavours and hoppy grip that win out in another striking beer from Brewdog. Not for the faint-hearted. 7.1% ABV, 33cl, £1.59, Sainsbury's.
Greene King, Bretwalda (England)
Brewed using a blend of pale and crystal malt with Fuggles, Goldings and Styrian hops, the name Bretwalda refers to a Saxon overlord also known as King of the English. It pours a dark bronze colour with creamy head, and the nose of roasted grain and brown sugar, also has notes of spicy autumn fruits. The texture of the beer is creamy and dense, with a certain sweetness and a pillowing depth of caramel malt. There is some bittersweet grip to this too though, in quite a subtle, supple beer that gains a little extra intensity and bite than sneaks up on the finish. 4.1% ABV, 50cl, £1.89, Sainsbury's.
Hambleton Ales, Taylor's Tipple (England)
A beer made with malted Maris Otter from Yorkshire and the North East is supplied by Thomas Fawcett and Sons from Castleford, and UK-grown hops. It pours a dark, chestnut colour with a thick, fluffy head, and offers malty, warming aromas of spices and orange peel, and with some chocolate and raisins in the mix. In the mouth it is dense and textural, with lots of bitter hop flavour. A cushion of malt and clean acidity is there too, but this is a chewy, grown-up beer with real bite. Delicious. 4.5% ABV, 50cl, £1.89, Sainsbury's.
Williams Bros, Birds & Bees Golden Summer Ale (Scotland)
No fewer than four of William Bros' beers made it through to the final of Sainsbury's Beer Competition in 2009, including this, which pours a fairly deep gold with a fluffy, off-white head. It has a hugely aromatic nose, with elderflower and gooseberry, something floral and a suggestion of citrussy sharpness. In the mouth it is richer and more dense than I might have guessed, with quite a chewy, malty weight. But then that sharp, hoppy bite of the beer re-asserts, with a lemony sharpness too. Maybe lacks a bit of follow-through, but a very nice summer beer. 5.0% ABV, 50cl, £1.99, Sainsbury's.
Williams Bros, Ceilidh Premium Scottish Lager (Scotland)
Involving Czech and American hops, Belgian Pilsener malt, German yeast and Scottish water, this United Nations of a lager pours a full, golden colour with a fairly thin white head. There's plenty of orange and lemon fruitiness, but a nice nettle and grassy cut too in an attractive nose. In the mouth this has plenty going on: the antithesis of industrial lagers, there's malty body and richness to this, and a very nice tension created between an underlying sweetness and an oily hop richness, with sharp lemony fruit too. Chewy and moreish lager. 4.7% ABV, 50cl, £1.89, Sainsbury's.
Williams Bros, IPA (Scotland)
Williams Bros' India Pale Ale is made with malted barely and wheat, and 'aggresively hopped' with Brambling X and Amarillo. The beer pours a light golden colour, with a puffy, rich, white head. There's plenty of those hops apparent on the nose, with nettles and chicory, and grassy notes. Some lightly-roasted grain adds another aromatic layer. In the mouth this has a certain luminosity: it is medium-bodied and feels quite nimble on its feet, and yet that decisive core of bitter hops is instantly assertive. There is some malty sweetness in there, and even little citrus and pear notes of fruitiness, in a beer with good length and layers of complexity. 5.0% ABV, 50cl, £1.99, Sainsbury's.

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