For as long as Lidl keep bringing out cheap Shepherd Neame specials, I'll keep buying them. Some day they'll produce something as good as Bishop's Finger or 1698. But that day is yet to come. There were three in the latest round, labelled as the "Master Brewer's Choice", all 4% ABV and on sale for the totally-worth-a-punt sum of €1.49 each.
The most promising of the three was called Tapping the Admiral but the anticipation was short-lived: when the cap came off there wafted out an unmerciful stench of lightstruck hops. Open a window and don't nobody smoke: something's crawled into this beer and died. Of dysentry. Ignoring the stink, the beer is an attractive gold colour, but that's it's best feature. Amazingly there's no trace of those pungent hops in the flavour. Instead there's a woeful sickly cheap-chocolate sweetness. This is apparently supposed to evoke brandy, but offers no heat, no wood and no fruit; just a box of Milk Tray from three Christmases ago you found at the back of a cupboard. Avoid.
Autumn Blaze was next. It looks the part, all auburn and russet and the other adjectives from that shelf in the hair dye section. There's no assault on the olfactory nerve, though up close it has a sort of maple syrup woody stickiness. Nothing really jumps out in the flavour: a little bit of roastiness but there's nothing more than fizzy water behind it. Put it on cask to bring out the malt more and this would perform adequately as a workhouse brown bitter. As-is it's perfectly drinkable, but so laid back flavourwise as to be comatose. Your granddad will like it.
Palest of the lot is 4-4-2, with its daft claim to use ten different hop varieties. Using up leftovers, were we? This made its first appearance during the World Cup and my first impressions on tasting it is that they've gone straight for the lager-swilling demographic. Rather than the cascade (see what I did there?) of multitudinous hop flavours it has a vaguely grassy Germanic feel to it. Beneath that there's slight toasty malt and lots of fizz. If the aim was to produce a clone of Beck's or Carlsberg then they've done a bang-up job. But as a tasty pale ale it's a poor show.
And there you have it: two beers that are so-so in their own way and one absolute (literal) stinker. In all honestly I can't say if there's better beer going for €1.50 a half litre in Dublin. Maybe the Franziskaner next to it in Lidl. I'm actually slightly intrigued as to what the Shep-Lidl Alliance is going to throw at us next. I dub this game "Kentish Roulette".
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