Bottled beer was regarded as a super-premium category by the supermarkets a couple of years back and they seemed to like it. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda each held annual competitions to find the best new ales from UK brewers to help promote the category.
As a beer drinker it is sad to see that they appear to have lost some interest in bottled beers as all three of the major grocers have gone very quiet on their competitions.
Maybe their attention is too firmly focused on pushing through cheap booze in packs of 24 bottles. We’ve all seen Stella, Carling and Budwieser knocked out at dangerously low prices.
This seems a surprise because in the US one of the few areas of very strong growth is in super premium beers and selected imported ales – the category has been growing at 15% this year. Contrast that with the falling or flat sales of the mega brands.
One person helping to keep bottled beers in supermarkets interesting is Steve Holt, managing director of Vertical Drinks, who made a name for himself importing the renowned US beer Sierra Nevada Pale Ale into the UK’s bars, bars and major grocers.
He is also on a mission to do the same with the German Pilsner Veltins. It is currently in around 300 pubs throughout the UK including All Bar One and off licence Oddbins. The next step is to get it listed in the supermarkets as Holt reckons German beer has been under-represented in our big grocers.
He suggests a beer like Veltins with its strong provenance should hit the spot with UK drinkers – for afficionados (like Alan Giles at Fat Face) it is produced to the German purity laws of 1516 using spring water from alongside the brewery in the Sauerland region of the country.
It will almost certainly be in the supermarkets by next summer – with Waitrose possibly interested because of its premium positioning and Morrisons a contender if the price is right. The latter recently struck a deal to get Brewdog beers on its shelves.
This innovative Scotland-based brewery is also producing a beer for the Tesco Finest range called American Double IPA (aka Brewdog Hardcore IPA) at a chunky 9.2%.
This suggests the supermarkets are far from having lost interest in the bottled beer category but it would be good to see them re-introduce their competitions to really show that they are just as enthused by quality beer as before and are not just focused on doling out cheap tasteless fizz from the big global brewers.