You might have heard of the Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt. Indeed, if you regularly buy beer from Sainsbury's you might have been invited to judge. I like the scheme because it's not based purely on taste, although obviously taste plays a huge part.
Don't get me wrong, I see the point of blind tastings, and on pure technical brewing skill there is no better test. However, the best beer in the world is pointless if the drinker isn't attracted by it's bottle label. Great beer could stay on the shelf gathering dust if the buyer walks on by. Clearly a brewery name can count for a lot, a sense of security, the buyer knows what he is getting. Equally a great label design can be the difference between success and failure.
The Sainsbury competition starts with the judges choosing a number of bottles they like the look of. Clearly any preconceived notion of the breweries trustworthiness, the appeal of the bottle label etc will have an influence. The judge is then asked to rank the the top 5 from their choice based on subsequent tasting.
We entered four beers, including Infra Red. We couldn't enter any beers that were already listed in Booths, as this would be against the rules. This eliminated Continuum, Code Black, Azimuth and Queboid. Still, it left Infra Red, which we had requested should be permitted to go through to the National Finals, were it to be good enough.
And it was, good enough that is. I have no idea if it did well because it's a Hardknott beer, and there are people who know and trust our beer. I can't say if perhaps the very good work done by LemonTop Creative influenced a few who had never heard of us. Or perhaps the beer is just a good beer that impressed. I may be biased, but I do think it's a great beer, mainly due to the huge amount of Cascade and Centennial hops we pile into the stuff and a healthy balance of maltiness.
I suspect it is a combination of all three. But, never the less, we got through to the National competition. This involves us selling quite a lot of beer to Sainsbury's at a price a little below what we'd really like to sell beer for. It will then appear on the shelves all over the country. People will buy it and if enough people buy it then we will get a prize of a more permanent listing.
The good news for you, the drinker, is that our beer will be available for a short while at a really great price. The good news for me is that if lots of you go out and buy it from Sainsbury's whilst it's on offer we'll get a more permanent listing that, by the time we average out the promotional deals and the regular prices, will actually be worth doing.
So, if you'd like to see out beer more widely available, go and buy Infra Red from Sainsbury's during September, and tell your mates to do the same.
Now, you'll have to excuse me, I need to order a huge amount of Cascade and Centennial hops.