03 September 2008

Data systems and why I love them

Over the last year or so, Superquinn's attitude to beer has been that of a skittish yet inquisitive kitten when faced with a new Object in its midst. The supermarket chain had always been very positive to Irish beer, and I remember fondly the days when they would have shelves resplendent in beers from the Kinsale, Finian's, Dublin Brewing, Irish Brewing and Carlow Brewing ranges. Sadly, only the latter of these brands remains in existence, and Superquinn's selection suffered as a result, reverting back to the macro rubbish that everyone seems to prefer.

And then, around the time of last year's rugby World Cup, we started to see some new and interesting stuff appear for a few weeks, then be gone just as suddenly. Deuchars IPA was one of the first, then Theakston's Old Peculier. Maisel's. Samuel Adams. Paulaner. Competing supermarkets took up the call and we have now a modest yet highly gratifying range of decent beers on our supermarket shelves. I don't buy many of them -- the independent retailers are far more interesting -- but this, I firmly believe, is where the revolution in Ireland's beer market will happen: in the aisles of Tesco, Dunnes and Superquinn.

So I barely batted an eyelid, a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed my local Superquinn had added Samuel Adams Boston Ale to their selection. €1.95 a pop: good enough; better than buying a basket of six anyway. I took my bottle to the checkout.
*bip*... *bee-bawwp*
"Oh, it doesn't like that."
*bip*... *bee-bawwp*
*brrrrrring* "This won't scan in for me."
The supervisor with a face like a bag of spanners inspected the barcode. "Naw, you have to buy six of these, see."
They weren't shelved in six packs (see above right), and they were priced individually, but I was in too much of a hurry to fight it.
"No, it's fine, I'll leave that aside then." And on I went.

And then, a week or so later, I was back in Superquinn.
*bip*... *bee-bawwp*
"Oh, that's not scanning in right... It's free. Company policy."
That's more like it.

On pouring, it looks a lot like the amber Boston Lager -- it's far from an unattractive colour, but I don't buy beer to look at it. The first taste also resembles its stablemate: that Malteser-like sharp maltiness, though sitting on a slightly less carbonated base. It is, in fact, much less fizzy than most of the bottled American ales I've had. The hops kick in later, and don't quite cut through those big sticky malt notes. What this needs is some of the floral, tannic, English hop flavours to raise the bitterness a notch and add a fruity complexity which would sit very well with the beer underneath.

Still, I'm liking it and I'd buy more. In fact, I'd even deem it worth my while arguing with Spanner-Face Manager about company policy to get a stash of this for free. Compliments don't come much higher on this blog...


  1. I have found my local Sainsbury's has expanded its range of beers considerably over the last year and even my smaller local Tesco Metro has created space for a reasonable selection of ales. I seem to have developed a worrying addiction to checking out the local supermarket/off licenses wherever I am to see what gems might be sitting on the drinks shelf. Always nice to hear of those rare events where technology failure actually works in your favour...

  2. I just read this morning that Sainsbury's are one of the parties sniffing around Superquinn at the moment.

    There's an outside chance something good might come of that: Sainsbury's seem to take their beers quite seriously.

  3. bailey7:53 pm

    Our local Sainsburys has an appalling selection of beer and it's getting worse -- just lots and lots of boring brown bitters. They had a decent "festival" recently, though, which was quite exciting, except that several of the beers tasted skunky. Our local ASDA is tons better for beer, but I feel a bit wrong when I shop there...

  4. Have SQ moved the beers behind closed bars yet? It was a nice comfortable wide aisle they had the booze in after their remodelling when I left Dublin, but the selection hadn't been good for a while.

    On an aside, have you popped into that new off-license across the road yet? They had a grim selection unless you were a wine drinker.

    (for others: yes, we were neighbours!)

  5. They haven't moved the booze, and they're not required to as that part of the new Booze Act hasn't been brought into force. However, the decent beer selection is pretty much as depicted above. Beside it there's acres of cider, alcopops and macrobrews.

    I've been in the offy across the road a couple of times. They definitely scaled back on the good beers they had starting out. None of the locals were interested in La Trappe Quadruple, it seems. It's probably just as well that they're not making the effort as they didn't know how to price. Nobody's going to pay €3 for a bottle of Duvel.

  6. I'm always happily surprised when I wander into Superquinn. The news of Sainsburys snooping around is promising. I recall a breathtaking selection of ale in the ones near my family in Surrey. I'm not anticipating that kind of selection here if they get into the market, but it's promising.

  7. I had the same experience with this beer not scanning a week or so back. Got it for free but would have got it anyway as they are doing a buy 5 get one free promo. Nice beer though. Got more today, still free!

  8. Well done, Beer Novice. When I went back they had cleared the shelves. Grrr.