Just over a month ago I was invited by the press office of the supermarket giant Sainsbury’s to attend the grand final of their Great British Beer Hunt, to be held on the last day of September at “the Brewery”, Chiswell Street, London, EC1. The objective was to select two bottled beers to be stocked in Sainsbury’s stores throughout the UK for a minimum of six months. Sainsbury’s had invited entries for all UK brewers in February, then had held four regional judging heats in May – at Edinburgh, Watford, Bristol and Uttoxeter. Beer experts and selected Sainsbury’s customers helped to choose four beers from each region as winners from the 106 entrants. These sixteen beers then appeared at Sainsbury’s stores during September and the two top-sellers from each region formed the eight beers to be judged at the grand final.
Friday 30th was a day of radiant heat. After a stuffy stop-start tube journey on the circle line from Victoria, I changed at Bank for the northern line, emerged at Moorgate into the blinding lunchtime light and strode my way past wavering sheets of shimmering glass to the conference venue that in its former life was Whitbread’s Brewery. http://www.thebrewery.co.uk/
Olly was right. It had been a close-run thing; but the two winners, finally announced, had been among my own top-three tips of the day. The runner-up was my first beer sampled, Caesar Augustus. The winner was the beer I’d been drinking most of since that point, Bad King John, by Ridgeway Brewing, a powerful 6.0% black brew with dark chocolate and fruit notes. Look out for these two at Sainsbury’s stores throughout the UK.
The other five beers? Harviestoun Wild Hop IPA; Ridgeway Ivanhoe; Wye Valley Wye Not?; Holts Two Hoots; and Sadler’s Worcester Sorcerer.