I’ve amassed a weird and wonderful array of beer glasses over the years, from an extravagant Innis & Gunn goblet through to tall elegant vessels from the likes of Kestrel and West. But one of my favourites is a dull and dependable tankard emblazoned with the logo of Aldi, the discount supermarket.
Back in November 2012, the chain launched its first Scottish beer festival, with 27 beers going on sale at its 44 stores throughout Scotland. Today, the company is launching its sixth festival, with 50 brewers each supplying a tipple for the shelves of its now 60 shops.
Promotions such as this give drinkers an excellent opportunity to try new and exciting beers and, with such a brand range of breweries taking part, there’s the chance to discover some of the brews from the new kids on the block too.
Aldi launched this spring’s beer festival at Drygate in Glasgow, an experimental brewery in the East End that brings together two of the best-known names in the business: Tennent’s and Williams Bros. To kick-off the festival – which will run for the next six weeks or until stocks run out – Drygate offered six beers alongside some interesting food pairings, with a trio of bite-sized starters followed by an indulgent macaroni cheese and then a flight of three small dessert samples. Here’s a run-down of the beers served with the food, including their prices during Aldi’s promotion:
Hollyrood, Stewart Brewing, 330ml (£1.29)
On the nose, Steve Stewart’s pale ale is full of hoppy aromas of lemon and grapefruit. On the palate, it’s dry, with rounder lemon and lime flavours, plus a refreshingly bitter finish. It paired really well with the smoked mackerel rillette served on an oatcake, with the hoppy beer cutting through the richness of the fish.
Outaspace Apple Ale, Drygate Brewing Co, 500ml (£1.49)
This is an interesting mix, sitting somewhere between a beer and a cider. The flavour comes from the addition of apple juice to the beer, rather than fermenting the fruit, and the result is refreshingly crisp, with sweet red apple notes along with hints of sharper green apples. It’s a lovely pale gold colour and is sweet without being cloying, making it a good match for the black pudding bonbon with wholegrain mustard mayo, a classic combination.
Long White Cloud, Tempest Brewing Co, 300ml (£1.49)
Loads of hoppy grapefruit, lemon and lime notes on the nose followed by a smooth and rounded mouthfeel on the palate. This was a great match for the macaroni cheese, served with a rosemary and garlic crumb on top for a bit of crunch. The dry and hoppy extra pale ale cut through the richness of the cheese.
Ritual Pale Ale, Alechemy Brewing Co, 500ml (£1.99)
Something slightly richer and deeper from Livingston’s Alechemy. Ritual may still be a pale ale with all its hoppy citrus flavours, but there’s also a bit more body and some sweeter caramel notes. Another good pairing with the macaroni cheese, yet with a bit more force behind it, like a traditional India pale ale.
Hipsway, Williams Bros, 500ml (£1.49)
Named after the 80s band, Hipsway uses Scottish strawberries to add a subtle flavour. The berries are infused with the hops rather than being fermented, so the taste is well integrated. There are caramel and toffee aromas alongside the grapefruit, leading into a rich, syrupy finish. Hipsway was served alongside the trio of desserts and paired best with the “Drygate mess”, which consisted of whisky, honey and berries.
Schmankerl Wheat Beer, Top Out Brewery, 500ml (£1.99)
“Schmankerl” translates as “treat” or “delicacy” and that’s exactly what German head brewer Michael Hopert was looking for when he created his wheat beer. Lots of banana aromas come through on the nose, along with sweet spices like cloves. The banana flavours follow through onto the palate too, along with a touch of coffee and smoke. There’s a good level of acidity to match the sweet flavours, which come from the use of Hefeweizen yeast, and the beer nicely contrasted with the sharpness of a lemon posset.
To find out more about Aldi’s Scottish beer festival, visit www.aldi.co.uk/scotland