Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Day 151, Beer 151 - Salopian's "Oracle"

Today's Beer

Name – Oracle

Brewer – Salopian

Classification – Golden Ale

Strength – 4.0% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Pale, suspiciously hypnotic straw gold.

On the nose – Generous amounts of citrusy marvellousness. (Sometimes only made up words will do.)

On the tongue – A massive grapefruit-heavy thwack from an implausibly 'light' beer. Astounding.

On the subject – Well, there's really too much to neatly sum up here... (Read on.) 

On the market – Oh, how I tire of revealing that a fabulous beer is hard to come by! Shrewsbury based Salopian work overtime providing their own decent coverage of the western areas of England but, like so many other superb small breweries, they can only reach so far. (Will someone please tell the major supermarkets there's been a beer revolution going on for a few years now!) This rare specimen was retrieved by trained specialists at Newark's Real Ale Store.

On the

Full Review

Why aren't the majority of the best UK beers available in supermarkets?

I'm obviously not talking about the beers which are 'known as' being the best – those beers which hog the often minuscule areas set aside for 'proper beer' which come from the likes of Greene King, Badger, Marston's, Greene King and... well, Greene King. These beers are fine in themselves, many of them are more than 'fine', but nobody who follows the beer scene still believes any of these brews represent the best of what's being produced in Britain today.

In fact, most beer aficionados (one of which I hope to be when I grow up) have spent the last five years or so watching a gargantuan gulf opening up between those beers which have been sharing the crown for many decades – and those entirely different beers which really ought to be wearing it now.

But when I walk into most supermarkets, certainly those I work or live nearby, I find I'm still asking myself the same old question...

Where's all the good stuff?”

Incredibly, after a period of such ferocious evolution and creativity within the beer industry, as things stand the only way of seeing bottles of Thornbridge standing shoulder to shoulder with concoctions from Kernel, Magic Rock, Brew Dog, Marble, and any number of other 'well known' contemporary breweries – is at a specialist retailer or within the dispassionate confines of a specialist dealer's website.

I find this bizarre. It's also hugely frustrating.

Most of all though, it's plain old unacceptable.

These massively exciting beers should either be getting some of the existing 'proper beer' shelf space in big supermarkets, or preferably they should be getting a section all of their own. After all, what possible commonalities do Fursty Ferret and Bombardier share with beers such as Jaipur, 5AMSaint, or Conqueror 1075?

Beyond the fact these are all beers – what else is even remotely similar about them?

So come on ASDA, come on Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Morrisson's – aka “The Big Four” – it's time for you all to help your customers to take part in this new and exciting consumer experience. Quite apart from the public service aspect, you're also guaranteed to increase your profits massively, as an entirely new demographic suddenly adds its ever-growing ranks to your checkout lines.

I can but dream...

Until then, I'll just tell you about another fantastic beer you probably won't currently find in your local supermarket, another beer which could be greatly improving your day if only you could get your hands on it.

Oracle is actually something of a liquid surprise. At 4.0% ABV, you could be excused for expecting a beer that's light in impact as well as in alcohol content. This is very much not the case. Many breweries in the aforementioned 'contemporary proper beer' arena take great delight in demonstrating to us just how much flavour can be crammed into drinks of relatively low or 'sessionable' strength, but Salopian have clearly gone to extraordinary lengths here to create what could well be the very best example of this low booze, high taste concept.

Swathes of vivid grapefruit, kiwi, lime, pineapple, orange and gooseberry tumble over each other against a backdrop of subtle savoury biscuit, granary bread and pine nuts. It's not just the wealth of flavours, but the sheer potency of them which instantly and continuously impresses.

Light bodied, infused with a glorious sense of freshness and a stunning clarity of construction, this is a perfect summertime beer which is light enough to stick with until sundown. Here in the gloomiest depths of winter though, I found the experience every bit as gratifying.

I just wish more of us could share in the delights of beers like this without having to drive thirty miles (like I did) or searching around online only to be further restricted into making a bulk purchase.

Change is already long overdue.

Over to you, “The Big Four”.


OllyC said...

Lack of beer choice is just another in the long list of reasons I avoid shopping at the 'big four'.

In my local (relatively small) Waitrose, I can get my hands on beers from Brewdog, Thornbridge, Oakham, and Meantime, as well as other rarities such as Fuller's Vintage Ale and a good range of import stuff.

Mark Dexter said...

Ah yes... Waitrose.

Sitting sufficiently out of shooting range at number 'five.'

Let me know when they plan to bring great contemporary beer to Grantham!

Anonymous said...

“Hi Mark,

We understand how passionate the beer industry is and we are committed to offering as much choice across our products as possible. Yes, we do have a large amount of beers from established breweries such as Greene King and Fullers. We also have a large amount of beers from small independent breweries, the challenge is having these small breweries able to produce on a national level which for some companies is not possible. We do work with small breweries for regional listings and we are passionate to do so if the product fits what our customers in that area will enjoy. For example if you go to a variety of Sainsbury’s across the country you would see a variety of beers from small breweries.

Sainsbury’s lead the way with quality own label beers and we now have 12 Taste the Difference Beers from 7 breweries. Our latest beers, Taste the Difference American Pale Ale and Taste the Difference Tap Room IPA have been produced in America for us and are the next step in adding to the Taste the Difference which includes Kentish Ale, Yorkshire Bitter, Suffolk Blonde, and Scottish Craft Lager.

The Great British Beer Hunt is a competition in which breweries can submit their brews regardless of their size to be in with a bid of winning a national listing with Sainsbury’s. The competition this year was the biggest so far with over 100 beers entered up and down the country and over 1,000 customers, colleagues and industry experts helped select a winner. It was so successful this year that we also offered regional listings to breweries in their You can get some more information on the competition here:

I am always looking to improve the range of my beers through the GBBH or just when I discover a new, interesting beer. So if you have any ideas please share them with us!


Nicky - Beer and Ale buyer at Sainsbury's”

Mark Dexter said...

Thanks for the comprehensive response, Nicky, it's great to see there really is not only an awareness of but also an enthusiasm for contemporary craft beer within the wider Sainsbury's operation.

However, in a word, 'Grantham.'

There's no sense of your reply within that store. None at all.

Go check. It's a true story.

To my mind, within your Grantham store there are only 2 beers (among many) which might fit into the category we are talking about here, and both of these are Sainsbury's own brand products. Your Tap Room IPA is one, and very good it is too. But surely this is not the true extent of the possibilities? Your answer given here would imply it is most definitely not.

So, might there be any chance of even the most marginal shift in approach on that local level?

You might actually save an historic English market town from ruin. Surely that's an attractive notion?

- Mark.

(P.S - As for specifics - Purely on a localised level, Oakham, Brewsters, Oldershaw are all working wonders. But Thornbridge aren't too far away, and why does every other Sainsbury's I know sell BrewDog and Sierra Nevada beers except your tiny stores and a certain much larger store which I happen to live near?)