Tuesday, January 26, 2010


M&S can always be relied upon to provide some of the tastiest nibbles on the high street. Sadly the beer selection often does not match the quality of the food on offer. In Ireland we generally don't get the beer that is on sale in the UK. I do not know who decides which of the available M&S beers make their way to Irish shelves, but he/she must be influenced by sales alone because until recently only the blandest of English ale made it. I imagine their thought processes were along the lines of the Irish not being interested in English ale, what with all the Guinness we have to drink over here. In part they are correct - except that the Irish are in fact much like the British in that the beer of choice is lager, every bit as cold and bland as that on sale in the UK. Being persistently disappointed by the beer on offer has curtailed my trips to M&S, but last weekend I hit pay dirt in one of the larger stores in west Dublin. I was greeted with a wide range of beers from around Europe, not to mention some promising English ale. I grabbed a few and headed for the till.

Another strange aspect of the beer from M&S is the mysterious nature of it. Rarely is the brewery listed on the bottle - we merely have to accept that M&S source only the very best of food and drink. This practise left Irish beer lovers trying to figure out who was brewing the M&S Irish Stout that was on sale all over the UK. It turned out to be The Carlow Brewing Company, and true to their selection strategy, they couldn't have picked a better stout. Another example of this was their Cornish IPA, which turned out to be St Austell's hop packed Proper Job  - a beer not made available in Ireland.

The guessing games are over now. On these most recent bottles full recognition is given to the brewery, and not before time. As a result we now know that their solid Norfolk Bitter comes from Woodeforde's. While the silky sweet Cheshire Chocolate Porter comes from Unicorn Brewery of Stockport, and their rich malty Southwold Winter Beer can be attributed to Adnams and is likely a derivation of their Broadside recipe.

It is important to know who brews the beer we drink so we might give recognition for great achievement, or know to steer clear in the future.


Whorst said...

What's going on with your brewing??
I just made a film on my process which includes a musical landscape by Killing Joke.

Bailey said...

I wrote to M&S a couple of years back making exactly this point, as I guess did quite a lot of others.

I can't believe that such a supposedly quality brand as M&S has taken this long to get beyond 'Biere d'Etoile' -- fake Stella!

Thom said...

Whorst - I don't brew nearly enough. Things have been hectic recently and my brewing kit has to be assembled in my kitchen from various storage places around my house, which is a pain in the arse.

Bailey - nice work on contacting M&S. Most of the beer they sell is brewed by reputable brewers, with a few exceptions, so I always thought it strange that they were not acknowledged.