In Australia, finding beer in a supermarket is still very much a novelty. I can remember ducking into an IGA in Canberra and being amazed to find they had beers in their fridges, and some good beers as well.
In NSW the only supermarket I know of that is stocking beer is Aldi. Presumably they’ve gone and applied for a liquor licence, and also presumably, the other big supermarket chains aren’t interested in following their lead because they already own bottle shop chains. I’d checked the Aldi beers every now and then but saw very little that impressed me. Well, actually I saw nothing that impressed me; like much of their stuff it was all beers that looked very similar to existing brands – like James Squire or Stella Artois – but not quite the same. The rest of their stuff seemed to be lager and the last thing I want to spend my money on is supermarket lager.
I ducked in last week and found they had some genuine imported beer – Hopper Whitman from the USA (Rochester, New York to be exact). And it came with labels that looked like someone had put some thought into it. My local store was stocking a Summer Brew Pale Ale and a Belgian White. Now, the pedigree of Hopper Whitman doesn’t seem too great – their website is just a single page, which links to a supermarket chain in the US that stocks them (which implies that it’s brewed for the supermarket).
But I was surprised. Neither beer is bursting with flavour, think of them as entry-level good beers, but they’re definitely sessionable. And, at $12 a six-pack, genuinely great value for money. The pale offers a nice, golden colour with only a smidge of citrus aromas. The taste is more toffee happiness rather than citrus with, curiously, a slight melon fruitiness present as things warm up.
The Belgian White is the better of the two. It has the pale, cloudy colour you want from a Belgian wheat but not much at all in the way of spice on the nose. The flavour is slightly spicy, with a bit of sweetness and an interesting tongue-coating viscosity at times.
If you happen to find yourself at an Aldi, make sure you pick up a six-pack of either of these beers and give them a go.
Would I drink them again?: While I prefer the Belgian White over the pale ale. I’d be happy drinking either of them. They’re both simple, no nonsense beers with a bit of flavour. Sometimes that’s just what you want.