17 February 2011


I have a drink problem and it's caused by cheap supermarket beer.

Specifically, my problem is that I can't stop buying the Shepherd Neame "Master Brewer's Choice" beers in Lidl. They've almost all been bland or horrible, yet every time a new one appears I'm there, shame-faced and guilt-ridden, with my €1.50 to buy it. If these are what the master brewer chooses, incidentally, someone needs to have a word with him about his suitability for the job.

My latest stumbling block is Amber, 4% ABV like all the others and professing to be a winter warmer. It's a nice middling amber shade behind the clear glass but releases a nose-burning skunky jet when the cap comes off. A big fluffy head is formed by lots of fizz, pushing out more of that lightstruck aroma, plus a stale cheap chocolate whiff I've met in these beers before. Mercifully, the flavour is lacking rather than actively unpleasant: that dusty Milk Tray is evident and a big carbonic dryness from all the gas, but not much else. The body is nicely rounded so I'd almost let it away with calling itself a winter warmer. But not quite. Overall it's a nearly bland, rather off, crappy cheap ale. See you at Lidl for the next one. Sigh.

While I'm doing some clearing out of winter beers in clear glass, I've also found this: Rocking Rudolph from Greene King subsidiary Hardys & Hansons. Does it taste as bad as the label suggests?

The answer is no, but then that's one hell of a twee label. The beer is quite sweet and fruity, full of ripe raspberries. The texture is rather thin, though, and there isn't really much of a hop balance (no skunking, thankfully!). A few sips in and an astringency develops which makes it increasingly difficult to drink. I do like a bit of tannin in my brown beer but this takes it a bit far.

Still, with that bit of clearing out done I can look forward to not having to drink any clear-glass-packaged English Christmas ales for another, oh, eight or nine months. Lovely.


  1. Do you imagine that if the Shepherd Neame brews were in brown bottles, there'd be any improvement in taste? I didn't mind the Goldings summer ale as a lwanmower beer.

  2. For some them, it might. And for the decent regulars I'd say it would. But a few of these specials seem to be a case of Bad Beer Made Worse.

  3. Well, I've said it before and will happily do so again. Shep's beers are piss poor. And they shouldn't be.

  4. Give it a couple of weeks and you can say it again, I'm sure.

    I'm quite fond of Bishop's Finger and 1698, though.

  5. I rather like Bishop's Finger, especially in its cask form - indeed that was the beer that turned my head away from the mass produced lagers and smoothflow ales of this world.

  6. Jonathan9:47 p.m.

    I had a nice porter by Shep a few years back but I have to say that they are just about the only brewer whereupon I enter one of their pubs and immediately opt for a Guinness. They give ale a bad name as all four of their ccre range are piss-poor.