I'm not a drinker of own brand beers really. I kind of think they are likely to be not very good with one or two exceptions. These exceptions are usually where a very good brewery has been commissioned to produce a particular kind of beer as part of a range. But what about those low end "cooking lagers" which aren't brands, but are set up to compete with "brands"? The nice people at Aldi sent me some beers for me to find out for myself. A pretty unusual task for this writer, but I thought it might be fun and that I might learn something.
Now I'm a fan of Aldi. I like many of their things, though like all supermarkets, you have to pick and choose. I have bought beer from them in the past, more of which later, but not their canned offerings, competing with the big boys on taste and bettering them on price. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, me and E decided to give them a whirl. I set them out in order of strength and one at a time, off we went.
First up was Galahad Lager. "Crisp and Refreshing" is the claim for this four percenter. The beer itself pours a nice clear gold with a lasting white head. E picked out the metallic nose straight away. High carbonation and a thin body followed with a touch of wheat spiciness and a slight lemony taste. The verdict? You could do worse actually and it does what it says on the tin. Crisp and refreshing? Yes indeed.
No range it seems these days would be complete without a French 25cl stubby bottle. BrasseriePremium is just such an animal and displays all the usual faults of the breed. All taste and character has been brewed and filtered out to leave a thin, brasso like fizzy liquid. Buy on price only. At 4.5% Lowenstein gives every impression of being brewed in Germany, down to the rheinheitsgebot conformation, but it is brewed yet again in France. All barley this time and you can smell it on the toasty nose, but it is let down by thinness, lack of a hop presence or any depth or body from the malt.
Last up is St Etienne which is set to compete with Stella. So brewed in Belgium then? Sorry, no. France again. I read up on this one on the web and it seems it used to be brewed in Belgium, but now isn't. Commentators have noted the tail off in quality. The beer manages to be both sharp and sweet simultaneously. It has a bit
of a wet dog nose, no hop presence and sort of dies in your mouth.
Pretty horrid really and not as good as the Galahad. E chucked hers into the hedge after a few sips.
Now I pointed out above that I used to buy beer from Aldi. That beer was Wernesgruener Pils, a real classy German Pils, alas no longer stocked in the UK. I'd recommend that Aldi find a decent German import again in 33cl bottles, or re-stock Wernesgruener. Branded German beer is cheap as chips to buy and even with UK duty added, well worth the effort. Those of us who aspire to something better would certainly appreciate it. Those that just want a cheap quaffer could do a lot worse than buying the Galahad.
Oh and maybe don't have all your own brand beer brewed down to a price in France.
I do know that from time to time Aldi does have branded German lagers in stock, but these tend to be offers in half litres.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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