Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Grow your own

Although they sell large quantities of generic own-brand canned lagers and bitters, the major supermarkets have always struggled to make an impact with own-label products at the more premium end of the beer market. However, Morrison’s have now made a major investment in the category with the launch of a range of five new British premium bottled ales, all of which declare the brewery of origin.

These are as follows:

  • Golden Ale – oddly coming in two versions, 4.2% brewed by Black Sheep, and 4.5% brewed by Titanic. “A light and refreshing hidden treasure.”
  • Amber Ale (4.5%) brewed by Black Sheep. “A smooth, fruity brew with a bitter finish”.
  • American Red Ale (4.5%), brewed by Titanic. “A rich and warming British brew”.
  • Dark Ale (5.0%), brewed by Everards. “A rich, silky ale to rival red wine”.
  • IPA (5.8%), brewed by Marston’s. “A smooth and floral British classic”.

The American Red is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch, a robust, full-flavoured beer with a strong malt underpinning but avoiding any sense of sweetness and with a distinct hop overlay. The Dark Ale, which is more of a ruby ale than a black one in the style of Old Peculier, is surprisingly good too. The Golden Ale is pleasant enough in a soft, easy-drinking style, the Titanic version being better than the Black Sheep. The IPA is a bit underwhelming given its strength and claims of hoppiness, while the Amber Ale, while not a bad beer as such, has that slight muddiness of flavour characteristic of Black Sheep products.

Nevertheless, all are creditable additions to the PBA category and none are attempting to be obvious clones of something else as you often find with own-label products. Pricing may be an issue, though. Currently all are on offer at an introductory £1.50 per bottle, but the official sticker price is £1.79, which doesn’t look too good when Morrison’s will sell you three bottles from their extensive standard branded PBA range for £4.50.

There’s also always a nagging doubt with own-branded beers that you are basically drinking something brewed to a specification rather than an authentic product with its own distinctive character. It may be entirely psychological, but it’s hard to avoid the thought that these beers might be better perceived if sold under the breweries’ own labels.

7 comments:

  1. So creatively named too.

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  2. Well, they do what they say on the can (or bottle in this case). And if they came up with contrived brand names for them it would just appear gimmicky.

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  3. Get yourself down Home Bargains, fella.

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  4. Naming the original brewery makes the difference. Just calling a beer IPA, for example, wouldn't encourage me to buy it in case it came from Greene King, whose IPA is the most boring beer since Tetley Bitter.

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  5. I appreciated being told the brewer, it meant I only bothered buying the Titanic one, which as you say, wasn't bad at all.

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  6. I can't see the point of Morrisons going to all that trouble unless their own label is going to be significantly cheaper than an equivalent 'branded' beer. Asda tried it with a Porter brewed by Fullers that was thin and not at all what I expected.

    B&M Bargains always has a good selection of bankrupt stock/overproduction starting at 99p a bottle (some of their wine can be a fantastic bargain as long as you have half a clue about what you're buying).

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  7. Unfortunately the Stockport branch of B&M Bargains doesn't have an alcohol licence due to an objection by Tesco.

    As Cookie knows, I do call in at Home Bargains from time to time, but their beer range is mostly limited to Thwaites and Marstons products and is not hugely cheaper than the major supermarkets (e.g. Pedigree £1.29 a bottle as opposed to 3 for £4.50 in Morrisons).

    There is a psychological reluctance to buy own-brand beer apart from the cheap stuff which doesn't, I think, apply to cornflakes.

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