beer reviews Beer styles

St Austell Cornish Saison for M&S

Marks & Spencer, the slightly upmarket English supermarket-stroke-department-store, has been doing interesting things with its beer range for a few years now but the idea of a Cornish-brewed Saison really grabbed our interest.

It’s produced for them by St Austell, a brewery very much on our trusted list, and has evolved from an original small-batch brew designed in collaboration with beer writer Melissa Cole. It has 5.9% ABV, comes in a cute purple 330ml can, and costs £2. (Or less as part of the current four-for-the-price-of-three promotion.)

But is it a bargain, or do we have a Hatherwood situation on our hands?

Saison in the glass with can nearby.

It is perfectly, almost astonishingly clear in the glass, with a decent head of foam that stops short of Belgian voluminousness. (Perhaps it’s harder to achieve the necessary pressure in cans.)

On tasting, the model is clear: it is an homage to Saison Dupont, which is fine by us. There’s the same familiar spiciness from the yeast and the same golden colour. It isn’t a slavish clone, though: this beer is cleaner, more bitter, and seemed to have a lot more orange peel and coriander character.

In fact by the end of the glass we were wondering if it might not almost be described as a kind of Kristall Wit — that is, an application of the filtering technique used to clarify certain wheat beers in Germany to the spicier, more citrusy Belgian equivalent.

It’s a fascinating, very enjoyable beer that could easily pass for something genuinely Belgian. (We know St Austell’s head brewer, Roger Ryman, is a Belgian beer fanatic.) So, yes, that means it’s good value, and we’ll certainly be buying some more next time we pass a branch of M&S.

In general, we do like how M&S packages its own-brand beers these days. Quite apart from the cool and colourful graphic design they’re (a) clearly identified as own-brand but (b) with clear information about who brews them. That means we can make an informed choice about which to take a chance on (Oakham, Adnams, St Austell) and which to avoid (sorry, Hogs Back).

beer reviews bottled beer

Cornwall and beer on the train


We’ve just returned from a week in Cornwall, in the far south west of England, so expect a few posts in the coming days on our beery adventures around St Ives.

We got the week off to a good start on the train from London last Saturday with a few bottles of Marks and Spencer’s relatively new Cornish IPA.

We were pleased to see that the supermarket chain are now crediting the brewers of their own-brand bottle-conditioned beers on the labels (we  beer geeks like to know where our booze is coming from) and that this is a product of St Austell.

We guessed it would be a rebadge of their brilliant bottle conditioned Proper Job, but it’s not. It’s weaker (5% as opposed to 5.6%) and also has a lighter body and drier finish. It’s much closer, in fact, to cask conditioned Proper Job. We thought it was delicious. One of the best bottled beers we’ve had in a long while.

Thanks, St Austell and M&S, for a great start to our break.