Peter Ranscombe fetches his bottle opener as he gets to grips with the latest supermarket beer festivals.
SUPERMARKET beer festivals are like number 26 buses in Edinburgh.
You wait all winter for one and then two come along at once.
Lidl’s summer craft beer festival kicked off last week, with Aldi’s spring Scottish beer festival having got underway at the end of last month.
Both the German discount chains have been strong supporters of Scottish micro-breweries, with their beer festivals often giving small businesses their first exposure to a much wider audience.
Aldi has selected 30 beers from 13 breweries for its latest biannual festival, with Lidl chalking up 19 tipples from 11 producers.
But, with so much choice, which beers to try?
While it’s been hard to get my hands on all the cans and bottles on offer, here’s my rundown of the beers I have been able to review…
71 Brewing Gear Shifter Single Hop Citra India Pale Ale (IPA) (5%, 440ml can, £1.79)
I’m a big fan of citra – including its use by Oakham Ales down south – and so it’s great to see the variety of hop being celebrated in the first of 71 Brewing’s two beers for Lidl. Classic grapefruit, lemon, and pine on the nose, and then a nice balance between the acidity and the mouthfeel on the palate, with a decent weight. Peach joins lemon and grapefruit on the palate.
71 Brewing Mystic Origins Kveik IPA (5%, 440ml can, £1.79)
For its second exclusive beer for Lidl, 71 celebrates Kveik, a farmyard ale yeast from Western Norway. The lemon on the nose is a more savoury lemon rind, and the pine and grapefruit are subtler than the Citra. That sharper and more savoury lemon theme continues on the palate, where it’s joined by a slightly smokier note too.
Six Degrees North Paradise Wheat Beer (5.5%, 330ml bottle, £1.49)
All the heavy, hazy head you could ever want from a wheat beer, with that distinctive mix of lemon sherbet and cereal on the nose. The heavier mouthfeel is balanced by a sour lemon flavour, with a chewy sour cherry influence coming through as well.
St Andrews Brewing Yippie IPA American IPA (6%, 330ml can, £1.49)
Get your best – or worst – Bruce Willis impression ready, it’s “Yippie IPA”. Aromas of lemon, tangerine, and a metallic meaty note lead into fresher and juicier mandarin, lemon, and pink grapefruit on the palate. That mouth-watering juiciness lasts all the way through to the lemon rind note on the finish.
Stewart Brewing Tropical VL IPA (4.6%, 440ml can, £1.79)
My pick of the Aldi beers I tried comes from Stewart Brewing in Edinburgh, where Steve and his team have created a tropical beer that delivers depth of flavour without falling into the tinned-fruit trap. There’s a real depth to the peach and pineapple on the nose, with the bitterness on the palate balanced by the tropical fruit. It’s not over-the-top and stays fresh through until its finish.
Drygate Brewing Disco Pogo Stick Mango Ale (5.1%, 440ml can, £1.79)
Mango by name, mango by nose, with passionfruit and lemon aromas also joining the party. On the palate, it’s another impressive example of retaining fruit freshness without those flavours turning into a tinned fruit nightmare from Grandma’s house.
Williams Bros Brewery Roisin Tayberry Beer (4.2%, 440ml can, £1.79)
Williams Bros helpfully reminds us that a tayberry is a cross between a raspberry and a bramble. If you were still unsure after seeing its lurid pink colour then the pronounced raspberry aromas on the nose leave you in no doubt that this is a classic fruit beer. Sticking your nose near the glass is like taking a walk around a pick-your-own fruit farm in the drizzle. The proper fresh fruit taste is following by a nicely bitter finish too.
Fierce Beer Café Racer Coffee & Vanilla Porter (6.5%, 440ml can, £1.79)
Sniffing Café Racer is like stepping inside a branch of Starbucks on a cold winter’s day, when the air inside is heavy with roast coffee and hot chocolate. Those heavy coffee and chocolate flavours dominate on the palate, with the hint of vanilla relegated to the back row. What’s most impressive is that the body is light enough to stay in porter territory rather than segueing into a full-on stout, which is a skill given how much coffee flavours is packed into the can.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s beer, wine and whisky reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain