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
Zeiss

(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. 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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