Artyfacts from the Nyneties #6: Beers of ’94

Sainsbury's Biere de Garde.
SOURCE: JS Jour­nal Online (PDF).

Yesterday we stumbled upon a 2006 ‘top ten bottled British ales’ listicle by Pete Brown which we shared on Twitter, and which reminded us of something we found during research on Brew Britannia: a list of 101 bottled reviewed by Michael ‘The Beer Hunter’ Jackson’s for an article in British tabloid the People in 1994.

It appeared in the Sun­day edi­tion for 21 August that year and offers an excel­lent snap­shot of what was then read­i­ly avail­able in British shops.

It’s from just the moment when Pre­mi­um Bot­tled Ales were com­ing into exis­tence in their almost-a-pint bot­tles and at around pub strength, shov­ing aside tra­di­tion­al half-pint brown and light ales.

There are some sur­pris­es but, gen­er­al­ly, we think, it brings home how far things have come.

Jack­son sub­scribed to the view that it was a waste of time to write bad reviews when you could focus on things you’d enjoyed but in this exer­cise was essen­tial­ly forced to give a short note for each beer, some of which were unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly sting­ing.  Carls­berg Spe­cial Brew, for exam­ple, he found “sweet and yucky” and Scor­pi­on Dry prompt­ed him to ask: “Where’s the sting? More like cab­bage water.”

On the whole, though, he remained quite gen­tle, even find­ing diplo­mat­ic words to say about some fair­ly bland lagers such as Rolling Rock with its touch of “new-mown hay”.

The aster­isked beers are those he par­tic­u­lar­ly rec­om­mend­ed – quite a high bar, evi­dent­ly.

Beer Vol. ABV Price
Becks 275ml 5% 85p
Black Russ­ian 500ml 4.8% £1.69
Black Sheep Ale* 500ml 4.4% £1.25
Bud­weis­er 330ml 5% 95p
Car­ling XD 330ml 5.5% 99p
Carls­berg Spe­cial Brew 275ml 9% £1.10
Chi­may 330ml 7% £1.59
Chi­may Pre­miere* 750ml 7% £3.69
Cooper’s Best Extra Stout 375ml 6.8% £1.25
Coop­er’s Sparkling Ale* 375ml 5.8% £1.19
Courage Impe­r­i­al Russ­ian Stout* 170ml 10% £1.69
Courage Light 275ml 3.2% 65p
Courage Strong Pale Ale 275ml 4.2% 65p
De Kon­inck* 250ml 5% 99p
Dou­ble Max­im 550ml 4.2% £1.05
Duv­el 330ml 8.5% £1.49
Eder’s Dun­kles Stark­bier* 500ml 7.5% £1.39
Eder’s Alt Bier 500ml 5% £1.25
Foster’s Export 330ml 5% 90p
Foster’s Ice Beer 330ml 5% £1.20
Franziskan­er Weiss­bier* 500ml 5% £1.29
Grolsch 450m 5% £1.20
Guin­ness Orig­i­nal 330ml 4.3% £1
Harp Lager 275ml 3.6% 68p
Heineken 330ml 5% 99p
Hol­sten Pils 275ml 5.5% £1.09
Hooper’s Gin­ger Brew (Tennent’s) 330ml 4.7% £1.05
John Smith’s Low Alco­hol 275ml 1% 65p
Kaliber 330ml 0.05% 50p
Kilken­ny 330ml 5% £1.15
Kro­nen­bourg 1664 330ml 5% £1.09
La Trappe Tripel 330ml 8% £1.35
Lam­ot Pils 500ml 5% 99p
Maisel’s Weisse 500ml 5.7% £1.19
Mann’s Brown 275ml 2.8% 85p
Marston’s Albion Porter 500ml 5.4% £1.29
Marston’s Owd Roger 180ml 7.6% 75p
Marston’s Pedi­gree* 568ml 4.5% £1.39
Marston’s Stout 500ml 4% £1.29
Marston’s Union Mild 500ml 4% £1.29
Marston’s Indi­an Export* 500ml 5.5% £1.39
Max­im Light 275ml 0.9% 22p
Mich­e­lob 330ml 5% £1.09
Miller Gen­uine Draft 330ml 4.7% £1.19
Moose­head 355ml 5% £1.19
Mor­land’s Old Speck­led Hen 500ml 5.2% £1.45
Mor­timer Bière Fort 250ml 8% £1.25
New­cas­tle Brown 550ml 4.7% £1.40
Newquay Steam Bit­ter 450ml 4% 89p
Old Growler 500ml 5.5% £1.59
Pok­er Alice (US import) 330ml 5% £1.05
Rein­deer Nor­vic Old Ale* 330ml 4.6% £1.25
Rolling Rock 330ml 4.6% £1.30
Sainsbury’s Bière de Garde 750ml 6% £1.99
Sainsbury’s Bière de Pres­tige 650ml 6.5% £1.99
Sainsbury’s Black­fri­ars Porter 500ml 5.5% £1.49
Sainsbury’s Bot­tle-con­di­tioned Ale 500ml 4.5% £1.29
Sainsbury’s Pre­mi­um Ale* 500ml 4.8% £1.35
Sainsbury’s Trap­pist Ale (La Trappe?) 500ml 8% £2.79
San Miguel 330ml 5.4% £1.10
Sap­poro 330ml 4.7% 89p
Satzen­brau Pils 275ml 5.5% £1.22
Schlitz 330ml 4.6% £1.20
Scor­pi­on Dry 330ml 5% 77p
Shep­herd Neame Bishop’s Fin­ger* 500ml 5.4% £1.29
Smithwick’s Ale 250ml 4% 60p
Sol 330ml 5% 95p
Spat­en Pre­mi­um Lager* 330ml 5.2% £1.15
T.A.G. (lager) 330ml 5.3% 99p
Tennent’s Gold Bier 330ml 5% 95p
Tesco Bavar­i­an Pil­sner 330ml 4.9% 75p
Tesco Bière d’Alsace 250ml 5% 47p
Tesco Organ­ic Beer 500ml 5% £1.35
Tesco Select Ales Porter 500ml 5% £1.29
Tesco Select Ales Stout 500ml 4.2% £1.29
Tesco Span­ish Lager 330ml 5.5% 72p
Tesco Tra­di­tion­al Pre­mi­um Ale 500ml 4.1% £1.12
Tesco Vratislav* 500ml 6% 99p
Trap­piste Konigshoeven (La Trappe) 330ml 6.5% £1.25
Tusker Pre­mi­um Lager 355ml 4.8% 99p
Vieux Bruges Ceries Kriek 375ml 5% £1.25
Vieux Bruges Fram­boise 375ml 5% 89p
Vieux Bruges Gueuze Lam­bic* 250ml 5% 89p
Vieux Bruges Peche 250ml 3.5% 89p
Whit­bread For­est Brown 275ml 2.7% 65p
Whit­bread Gold Label 180ml 10.9% 79p
Whit­bread Pale Ale 275ml 3.4% 65p
Whit­bread Stock Bit­ter 275ml 5.4% 69p
Whit­bread White Label 275ml 1% 59p
Wor­thing­ton White Shield* 275ml 5.6% 89p
Young’s Brown Ale 275ml 3.1% 90p
Young’s Extra Light 275ml 1% 80p
Young’s Light Ale 275ml 3.2% 89p
Young’s Old Nick 275ml 6.8% £1.16
Young’s Strong Export* 275ml 6.4% £1.12
Young’s Ram Rod 275ml 4.8% 98p

(cham­pagne yeast beer)

275ml 8% £1.10
Zhiguli Beer 500ml 4.5% £1.09
Żywiec 330ml 4.3% £1.10

12 thoughts on “Artyfacts from the Nyneties #6: Beers of ’94”

  1. Does the item reveal who was brew­ing those beers for Tesco and Sains­bury’s back in 1994, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Porters. Fuller’s did­n’t revive its Lon­don Porter until 1996, so unlike­ly to be them. Does “Black­fri­ars” in the Sains­bury’s name hint at a Lon­don (though there are Black­fri­ars else­where) ori­gin – so Young’s? Or Marston’s, super­mar­ket badg­ing vari­ants of theirs, with dif­fer­ent ABVs? Tim­o­thy Tay­lor per­haps, who restart­ed rebrew­ing a Porter in the Eight­ies? Any­one recall who else was brew­ing Porters in the ear­ly Nineties?
    Inter­est­ed, giv­en the gen­er­al per­cep­tion is that Porter was still almost a ‘dead’ beer style at that time, that both Tesco and Sains­bury’s chose to include exam­ples in their beer ranges.
    Have thought hard, but can’t recall see­ing, let alone remem­ber sam­pling, either of them from the super­mar­ket shelves unfor­tu­nate­ly.

    1. Although the Fos­ters we know is as Aus­tralian as me. And I’m not Aus­tralian.

  2. There were a few porters around in the ear­ly 90s (Young’s and Nether­gate off the top of my head) and I’m sure there were far bet­ter UK beers wide­ly avail­able in 2006 than those in Pete Brown’s list; he can’t have been look­ing very hard.

  3. The eye water­ing thing for me here is the price that were paid then are bare­ly dif­fer­ent to the prices in the mults now. No won­der there’s been pres­sure on cost cut­ting!

  4. I’d clean for­got­ten Nether­gate Porter – it was the bot­tled porter at one time, or at least the wide­ly-avail­able bot­tled porter. Black­fri­ars is a dis­trict & the name of a street in Sud­bury, where Nether­gate are based, so it may have been their choice of pseu­do­nym. Or it may be a com­plete coin­ci­dence, of course – there were quite a few ‘black’ (Domini­can) fri­aries around the coun­try at one time, so a lot of places have a ‘Black­fri­ars’ dis­trict.

    1. Sounds plau­si­ble. Mind you, both the cur­rent ASDA’s Whitechapel porter and the Sains­bury Lon­don Porter are brewed in the well-known Thame­side loca­tion of Faver­sham.…

      Sheps don’t have a porter in their own line­up at the moment, although they have brewed one spo­rad­i­cal­ly in the past.

      Fas­ci­nat­ing to see things like Union Mild in there though. It would be hard work to just do a sim­i­lar com­pre­hen­sive review of all the beers in just one super­mar­ket these days – any­one fan­cy it?

      1. I don’t think that was all that com­pre­hen­sive, to be hon­est – no Sam Smiths beers, for a start…

        1. Did Sam’s have nation­al dis­tri­b­u­tion in the off-trade back then? I have a vague mem­o­ry of being excit­ed to see it in York­shire, imply­ing it was­n’t read­i­ly avail­able out­side York­shire around that time, although the mem­o­ry could be play­ing tricks.

  5. Whit­bread Porter was around in the ear­ly 90s too, brewed by Cas­tle Eden, iirc.

  6. Sam’s cer­tain­ly had off-trade out­lets in South Cum­bria, Lan­cashire and Cheshire in the ear­ly 1980’s, via Booths super­mar­kets and Leg­endary Lan­cashire Heroes off-licences

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