Beer history bottled beer

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.

Black Russian500ml4.8%£1.69
Black Sheep Ale*500ml4.4%£1.25
Carling XD330ml5.5%99p
Carlsberg Special Brew275ml9%£1.10
Chimay Premiere*750ml7%£3.69
Cooper’s Best Extra Stout375ml6.8%£1.25
Cooper’s Sparkling Ale*375ml5.8%£1.19
Courage Imperial Russian Stout*170ml10%£1.69
Courage Light275ml3.2%65p
Courage Strong Pale Ale275ml4.2%65p
De Koninck*250ml5%99p
Double Maxim550ml4.2%£1.05
Eder’s Dunkles Starkbier*500ml7.5%£1.39
Eder’s Alt Bier500ml5%£1.25
Foster’s Export330ml5%90p
Foster’s Ice Beer330ml5%£1.20
Franziskaner Weissbier*500ml5%£1.29
Guinness Original330ml4.3%£1
Harp Lager275ml3.6%68p
Holsten Pils275ml5.5%£1.09
Hooper’s Ginger Brew (Tennent’s)330ml4.7%£1.05
John Smith’s Low Alcohol275ml1%65p
Kronenbourg 1664330ml5%£1.09
La Trappe Tripel330ml8%£1.35
Lamot Pils500ml5%99p
Maisel’s Weisse500ml5.7%£1.19
Mann’s Brown275ml2.8%85p
Marston’s Albion Porter500ml5.4%£1.29
Marston’s Owd Roger180ml7.6%75p
Marston’s Pedigree*568ml4.5%£1.39
Marston’s Stout500ml4%£1.29
Marston’s Union Mild500ml4%£1.29
Marston’s Indian Export*500ml5.5%£1.39
Maxim Light275ml0.9%22p
Miller Genuine Draft330ml4.7%£1.19
Morland’s Old Speckled Hen500ml5.2%£1.45
Mortimer Bière Fort250ml8%£1.25
Newcastle Brown550ml4.7%£1.40
Newquay Steam Bitter450ml4%89p
Old Growler500ml5.5%£1.59
Poker Alice (US import)330ml5%£1.05
Reindeer Norvic Old Ale*330ml4.6%£1.25
Rolling Rock330ml4.6%£1.30
Sainsbury’s Bière de Garde750ml6%£1.99
Sainsbury’s Bière de Prestige650ml6.5%£1.99
Sainsbury’s Blackfriars Porter500ml5.5%£1.49
Sainsbury’s Bottle-conditioned Ale500ml4.5%£1.29
Sainsbury’s Premium Ale*500ml4.8%£1.35
Sainsbury’s Trappist Ale (La Trappe?)500ml8%£2.79
San Miguel330ml5.4%£1.10
Satzenbrau Pils275ml5.5%£1.22
Scorpion Dry330ml5%77p
Shepherd Neame Bishop’s Finger*500ml5.4%£1.29
Smithwick’s Ale250ml4%60p
Spaten Premium Lager*330ml5.2%£1.15
T.A.G. (lager)330ml5.3%99p
Tennent’s Gold Bier330ml5%95p
Tesco Bavarian Pilsner330ml4.9%75p
Tesco Bière d’Alsace250ml5%47p
Tesco Organic Beer500ml5%£1.35
Tesco Select Ales Porter500ml5%£1.29
Tesco Select Ales Stout500ml4.2%£1.29
Tesco Spanish Lager330ml5.5%72p
Tesco Traditional Premium Ale500ml4.1%£1.12
Tesco Vratislav*500ml6%99p
Trappiste Konigshoeven (La Trappe)330ml6.5%£1.25
Tusker Premium Lager355ml4.8%99p
Vieux Bruges Ceries Kriek375ml5%£1.25
Vieux Bruges Framboise375ml5%89p
Vieux Bruges Gueuze Lambic*250ml5%89p
Vieux Bruges Peche250ml3.5%89p
Whitbread Forest Brown275ml2.7%65p
Whitbread Gold Label180ml10.9%79p
Whitbread Pale Ale275ml3.4%65p
Whitbread Stock Bitter275ml5.4%69p
Whitbread White Label275ml1%59p
Worthington White Shield*275ml5.6%89p
Young’s Brown Ale275ml3.1%90p
Young’s Extra Light275ml1%80p
Young’s Light Ale275ml3.2%89p
Young’s Old Nick275ml6.8%£1.16
Young’s Strong Export*275ml6.4%£1.12
Young’s Ram Rod275ml4.8%98p


(champagne yeast beer)

Zhiguli Beer500ml4.5%£1.09

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

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.

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

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.

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!

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.

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?

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

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.

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

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

Comments are closed.