#GBBH – bitching about beer

GBBH beers lined up in my kitchen.


To open, a Twitter conversation observed & enjoyed last week:

Next up Quercus Smoked Oaked Porter #Sainsbeerys pic.twitter.com/uwizO743iF

— Phil Hardy (@Filrd) September 18, 2013

@Filrd The crate of that in Sainsbury’s has been untouched, all 3 times I went in recently. How is it?

— Nathaniel Southwood (@NateDawg27) September 18, 2013

@NateDawg27 @Filrd I rather liked that one. Do I like too many?

— David Martin (@rdgmartin) September 18, 2013

@rdgmartin @Filrd Nah, I think some people are being dicks and are too fussy.

— Nathaniel Southwood (@NateDawg27) September 18, 2013

There’s a bunch more to the conversation but as Nate is in Twitter-stealth-mode at the moment you’ll need to be following him to be able to see the juicy bits.


I admit to being one who can be pretty fussy and negative about beer. Although I doubt Nate’s comment above is directed at me as I’m merely one of many similar fussy beer geeks. However, after pondering the conversation I am coming to the conclusion that broadcasting my dislike of specific beers really is being a bit of a dick. I have since unlinked my Untappd from my Twitter. I still want to write my beer notes (which are mainly & most usefully for my own future reference) but I’ve decided that it doesn’t do anyone much good to be telling the (very limited) “world” of my Twittersphere that I think beers are crap – in fact it can be quite the opposite of good. Two reasons:

  1. Being bitchy and negative about a specific beer can upset fellow beer drinkers and can also make brewers angry, or even hurt. (I’m sure I have managed to trigger both together.) This isn’t a positive contribution to the community.
  2. Just because I think a beer is crap doesn’t mean anyone else will – I try to go into drinking a beer with a clean mental palate, but if someone I know has moaned about a beer (or said it is brilliant) this can be difficult. I don’t want to put others in the same situation.

I drain-poured three of the Great British Beer Hunt (GBBH) beers I tried. They just weren’t making my mouth happy and these days I find I have less and less patience for beer that doesn’t sing to me. If I’m not experiencing pleasure in drinking a beer then it is probably going to find itself in the sewer, pronto. I’m beginning to think of my liver as a finite resource.

GBBH beers on the shelves in Sainsbury's

Attention Sainsbury’s shoppers, there’s some damn good beer in isle 3.

What does this say of the GBBH line-up, that there are at least three crap beers in there? No!, of course not. All three have received positive feedback from people who’s beer tastes I respect, and sometimes don’t agree with. I love smoked beers, but really didn’t like Querkus, however Bob Arnott who “positively dislike[s] smoked beers” found that he “really quite enjoyed it“. No – the only thing my own mixed opinion confirms of the GBBH line-up is that it is diverse. That’s what is wonderful about beer above other drinks: the sheer diversity of flavour and experience encapsulated by one small word. For every beer I don’t like there’ll be many who love it, and vice versa.

In fact, what the Sainsbury’s GBBH promotion is doing is shoving a vast variety of beery tastes and flavours right in the faces of their shoppers. They’re backing brewers established and new, big and small – from Thwaites to Hardknott (to make a probably-wrong guess at the extremes of the set). The range covers styles from the everyday humdrum to the truly odd, from the pale and insipid to ichorous mouth-coating flavour-bombs. Sprinkle black pepper on my beer, are you nuts?! Encouraging exploration and experimentation. Half the beers in the range have interesting food paring potential – in fact I really think Sainsbury’s should be pushing a food element as a background theme to the GBBH.

Quite simply Sainsbury’s are doing a FAR better job of championing beer than, for example, the “Let There Be Beer” campaign – and they have been doing it every year for a while now.

I probably won’t buy more of these beers from Sainsbury’s – but that’s just because I don’t really do supermarkets much (once a month at most) and Sainsbury’s is possibly the most difficult of the major ones for me to get to. But maybe if I’m in the area, maybe then. I’ll not declaim this beery marketing exercise, and will diss the beers no further – for Sainsbury’s are doing good work for the promotion of beer diversity, expanding the horizons of beer drinkers, and that is good for all of us.


Now, I can’t promise I’ll never tweet about a beer being crap again – that sounds an impossible task. It’ll happen. Also, I will continue to say exactly what I think of a beer on Untappd, and as always I’d suggest that with any such a website that brewers bold/masochistic enough to look must take any individual feedback with a grain of salt (unless specific flaws are described, especially obvious ones like “half the bottle is now spread across my ceiling”). I don’t “rate” beers any more – any ratings that I have on Untappd are historic. I’ve decided that simple numeric zero-to-five/ten/whatever scales just don’t make sense for the experience of drinking a beer. It’s too complex and too much comes from context, too much is subjective, moods alter experience, as does time and place – I will stick with words, not numbers, even if the words are “this is shit”. I think everyone sensible in the beer community knows the nature of rating/review sites and this is an OK place to put such opinion as compared to the much more social/shared medium of Twitter.