Summer has arrived and with it the supermarket beer fest, superstore shelves are currently heaving with heavily discounted craft or craft-a- like brews. Of course the appearance of Scottish craft beers on supermarket shelves is a great thing both for customers and for the industry with more great, well made beers available to a broad audience; but the aggressive pricing structure adopted by large retailers has drawbacks, particularly for small independent retailers like Beer Zoo.
So, instead of complaining about it here’s a short list of some great beers you can find in your local indy, that you may not find in most supermarkets and at prices that won’t break the bank.
Tempest Brewing Co
For many Summertime is all about a few pints of cool lager in the garden. German Helles is growing in popularity and some of the best German examples (Augustiner) are widely available but UK breweries have been getting in on the act with excellent interpretations of the style. Tempest’s Modern Helles is a beautiful pale, rounded example of the style with Mandarina Bavaria bringing subtle tangerine to the party. A 660ml bottle will set you back less than a pint of mass produced cooking lager in most pubs.
Modern Helles Lager
4.1% ABV, £4/660ml
Magic Rock Cannonball IPA
IPA is the big seller in the craft market with a vast array of products available. It can be hard to settle on one given that variable consistency across batches can be an issue. Magic Rock are one of the largest UK craft operations and have carved out a justified reputation as one of the best in the business for consistency, especially when it comes to packing hop flavour into their beers. Over the last year their limited can specials have blown people away but their core IPA Cannonball remains, for me, one of the very best in the UK. It’s got that classic inviting tropical aroma complementing the malt and an assertive bitter finish that is really refreshing, at £2.80 a can it represents excellent value for money for people looking for dependable hoppy thrills.
7.4% ABV, £2.80/330ml
A new local brewery based out of Dalkeith that have developed a great core range since launching last year Cross Borders aren’t mucking about with weird recipes or esoteric brewing techniques, they’ve just concentrated on getting their beer tasting as good as it can, whether it’s on cask, keg or in cans. A few bars in Leith have started offering their Pale on keg at ridiculously competitive prices and it would be my immediate go-to for a cool pint on a sunny afternoon watching the world go by on Leith Walk. Their cans are great value, beautifully conditioned and have a smart, minimal look. I’m particularly fond of their Heavy, a no-nonsense, quintessentially Scottish beer.
4.1% ABV, £2.60/330ml
Boon Oude Geuze Black Label
Geuze is beer made from a blend of lambics (beer brewed by allowing wild bacterial cultures present in a handful of Belgian breweries to develop in wort without introducing any other yeast) refermented in barrels then finally in the bottle. Geuzes age and develop over time in the bottle with rare and limited bottlings fetching can fetch huge prices/value on trade and secondary markets. But you shouldn’t be put off by perceptions of exclusivity or inaccessibility, here are lots of great value “ordinary” Geuzes out there. Probably the best value Oude Geuze is Lindemans Cuvee Rene but I really love the zestier, more accessible Boon Oude Geuze Black Label.
Straw pale it’s got an amazing mineral complexity with green apple, lemon zest and a bone dry finish, on a warm day at a wedding or any other celebration I would swap this for Champagne in a heartbeat. At £8.60 for a 75cl bottle it’s a great, inexpensive way to introduce yourself (or friends) to the wonderful world of Geuze.
6.4% ABV, £8.40/750ml
One of the things I have enjoyed in my beer adventures over the last decade is how accessible it can be. Sure, some craft offerings are expensive with limited edition tallboy cans or wine-sized bottles topping out at £20 but it’s reasonably easy to find genuinely world class beer for comparatively little money. There are lots of examples from Belgium (Orval, Rochefort 10, Saison Dupont) but Westmalle Triple really stands out for me. It’s a subtle, heady beast at 9.5% with a killer combination of fluffy head, smooth drinking, inviting pear dusted with almond on the nose and fruity esters from the yeast at the finish, it’s one of my favourites. At £3.50 for 33cl this is great value for world class beer.
9.5% ABV, £3.50/330ml