Over the last year or so, Superquinn's attitude to beer has been that of a skittish yet inquisitive kitten when faced with a new Object in its midst. The supermarket chain had always been very positive to Irish beer, and I remember fondly the days when they would have shelves resplendent in beers from the Kinsale, Finian's, Dublin Brewing, Irish Brewing and Carlow Brewing ranges. Sadly, only the latter of these brands remains in existence, and Superquinn's selection suffered as a result, reverting back to the macro rubbish that everyone seems to prefer.
And then, around the time of last year's rugby World Cup, we started to see some new and interesting stuff appear for a few weeks, then be gone just as suddenly. Deuchars IPA was one of the first, then Theakston's Old Peculier. Maisel's. Samuel Adams. Paulaner. Competing supermarkets took up the call and we have now a modest yet highly gratifying range of decent beers on our supermarket shelves. I don't buy many of them -- the independent retailers are far more interesting -- but this, I firmly believe, is where the revolution in Ireland's beer market will happen: in the aisles of Tesco, Dunnes and Superquinn.
So I barely batted an eyelid, a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed my local Superquinn had added Samuel Adams Boston Ale to their selection. €1.95 a pop: good enough; better than buying a basket of six anyway. I took my bottle to the checkout.
"Oh, it doesn't like that."
*brrrrrring* "This won't scan in for me."
The supervisor with a face like a bag of spanners inspected the barcode. "Naw, you have to buy six of these, see."
They weren't shelved in six packs (see above right), and they were priced individually, but I was in too much of a hurry to fight it.
"No, it's fine, I'll leave that aside then." And on I went.
And then, a week or so later, I was back in Superquinn.
"Oh, that's not scanning in right... It's free. Company policy."
That's more like it.
On pouring, it looks a lot like the amber Boston Lager -- it's far from an unattractive colour, but I don't buy beer to look at it. The first taste also resembles its stablemate: that Malteser-like sharp maltiness, though sitting on a slightly less carbonated base. It is, in fact, much less fizzy than most of the bottled American ales I've had. The hops kick in later, and don't quite cut through those big sticky malt notes. What this needs is some of the floral, tannic, English hop flavours to raise the bitterness a notch and add a fruity complexity which would sit very well with the beer underneath.
Still, I'm liking it and I'd buy more. In fact, I'd even deem it worth my while arguing with Spanner-Face Manager about company policy to get a stash of this for free. Compliments don't come much higher on this blog...