Name of beers
Burton Union India Pale Ale
Jennings (Westmorland Ale)
Marstons (Burton Union IPA)
Cockermouth, Cumbria (WA)
Burton Upon Trent (IPA)
What the brewer says
WA: A lovely golden amber ale with subtle hints of toffee and caramel, beautifully balanced by hoppy notes from the Fuggles, Goldings and Challenger hops. This beer has been brewed in the heart of the Lake District by the brewers at Jennings. Pure Lakeland Water, drawn from the brewery’s own well, combined with the very finest ingredients and traditional brewing methods make this ale one to savour. Delicious with Cumberland sausage and mash.
IPA: This traditional IPA has fresh aromas of white flowers and citrus with a clean, bitter hop flavour. This classic India Pale Ale is made in Burton upon Trent, the home of British brewing. The recipe uses Fuggles, Goldings and Cascade hops and yeast from the Burton Union System, only used by Marston’s Brewery in Burton. The famous Burton water is also used in the brewing process which helps give this ale its distinctive flavour.
I went for a meal in the week with some business associates, quite an informal affair. We all grab a drink on arrival, have a nice meal, some convivial chat and settle our own bill.
On arrival, I ordered a bottle of an IPA from the bar. It was a little bottle, from memory maybe 330ml. It cost me £4. This isn’t a whinge column, I’m sensible enough to accept, albeit a little begrudgingly, that this is a fairly standard price these days, particularly in bars and hotels.
It got me thinking this morning, though, when considering what beer would help me celebrate the start of the weekend. You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy a nice ale. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, the supermarkets are a great place for a nice selection of beer that doesn’t cost the earth.
But then I thought, actually, you don’t even have to go so far as to spend the £1.80 or £2 or whatever on a “branded” beer. Just like with many product groups you find in the supermarket, there are store’s own label beers that are not only great value, but are actually made by the same brewers as the branded items.
So, while other supermarkets are available, with their own brands, as I was in Sainsbury’s. I thought I would pick up a couple of beers from their “Taste The Difference” range, both to enjoy and to also give me something to write about.
For the princely total of £3, I picked up a Westmorland Ale – actually made by Jennings – and an IPA that seems loosely labelled as “Burton Union” and is brewed by Marstons.
What’s more, both come in 500ml bottles. As I write this, I think back to my extended stay in the Black Paw Brewery tap last Saturday, where I spent that per pint (and bloody loved it).
First up is Westmorland Ale, which lives up to the notes on the bottle and is a nice, fairly light, sessionable ale. The word “uncomplicated” springs to mind, you could easily just sit back with it and see the afternoon or evening out (morning drinking is for pre-match pints when there’s an early kick-off).
I’ve had much worse for much more. It’s quality ale, without being too exciting, but isn’t that what you want from a good Cumbrian ale?
Equally full of quality, and packing a fuller, more bitter flavour, is the India Pale Ale from Marston’s.
It’s clearly a stronger beer, without having to look at the ABV on the bottle, so less a sessionable beer unless you think yourself a hardened beer drinker. I’d still suggest sticking to a couple at a sitting, however.
Again, it’s not complex. It’s solid in flavour, malty, enjoyable.
The point is, these are both good beers. I’ve had as much enjoyment from these beers as most of the 82 distinct beers Untappd tells me I’ve sampled this year.
Now, I’m not saying you should avoid those £4 a bottle beers, and certainly don’t dodge your local brewer offering £3 a pint – we simply must support our local brewers, but let’s not get disheartened and think anyone’s priced out of great beer. Just keep your eyes open and, if you spot one you’ve never heard of, or see a supermarket’s own brand, take one for the team and let your friends know what’s good and what isn’t – whatever the price.
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I’m 44, I don’t (always) have a beard (partly because when I try it is patchy, has gaps, with ginger and grey bits) and don’t take a clipboard to the pub. So, I’m not the stereotypical real ale fan of old, in the style that I was always told to look out for...read more