24 October 2016

Just super

The SuperValu supermarket around the corner from me has featured in a few posts this year, including the one about them setting up their own growler station (no, I haven't seen anyone actually use it since then). Their bottled beer offer continues to improve and today's post is about three that I found on the shelves there that I'd not seen in the independent off licences where I normally buy my beers.

In the interests of blogger ethics I should point out that I've done a couple of recent paid gigs for SuperValu's parent company, but I think it's indicative of how serious they're taking their beer offer that they're willing to commission content from a communicator as talented, handsome and modest as myself.

To the beers, then. The first is Kelly's Mountain Lager. This Kildare microbrewery is better known (to me anyway) for its safe and mostly quite dark beers. I'll admit I was sceptical of their lagering abilities, and the wonky label didn't exactly inspire confidence. I put this to the full sensory test for lager, ie consuming it cold from the fridge on a sunny evening after I put manners on my lawn. It's only 4.2% ABV but it has the dark gold colouring of a bock, or even a märzen. And the flavour is along those lines: heavy with a golden syrup sweetness, accentuated by the low carbonation. There's no discernible hop character and only a couple of very minor technical imperfections -- I get a bit of green apple and some greasy esters -- but the finish is clean and it's properly crisp and quenching. Not the world's greatest pale lager but it does the job that the style is best at doing.

The Kenmare brand is exclusive to SuperValu and its sister companies, I think, with the beer brewed at Brú in Meath. Kenmare India Pale Ale talks a big game for a supermarket beer: "Extra Hopped IPA" says the front label, with "a blast of citrus" promised on the back. Well! It's dark orange with a slight haze and the aroma is quite sweet, with a sort of chocolate and caramel effect that isn't very IPAish at all. There's a definite fun spiciness in the flavour, even a touch of herbal dank, but that heavy residual sugar is there too, and it's the sugar that builds on the palate as you drink, to the point that it becomes cloying, more cloying than you'd expect at a modest 5.1% ABV. I think this may be one of those beers where the label copy was written before the hot liquor tank was plugged in, and describes what it's supposed to be, rather than what the contract brewery delivered. It's not a bad beer but it doesn't really let the hops shine the way they want to: the balance tilted just a little too far towards the malt.

Last up is Garage Days from Corrib Brewing under their Wild Bat label, a pale ale at a full 5% ABV. I got huge fizz from this, though at least some of that was down to the glass I chose. Beneath the foam it's a rich amber colour with a slightly funky orange smell once you get past the gassy CO2. It's another malt-heavy one, but not as sweet as the Kenmare, more rounded and balanced. The hops bring a decent amount of fruit and spice but it's all very old world: jaffa, cloves and pepper. There's also a slightly hard metallic edge and some headachey hot alcohol. The label refers to how the recipe started life as a homebrew favourite and I get a definite homebrewish feel from it. It's enjoyable to drink but doesn't seem as polished as most commercial pale ales.

OK, so SuperValu has a good selection of new stuff but they all seem to lack a wow factor. Nobody goes to the big multiples to be wowed, I guess.


  1. Professor Pie-Tin11:55 am

    I was in Belfast at the weekend and called into Woodworkers on the strength of your review earlier this year.
    It is indeed a fine place and the pints of Gamma Ray I settled on were excellent.
    Thanks for the tip-off.