Thanks to its range of budget food items, random lifestyle goods and a canny marketing campaign, supermarket chain Lidl is going through a boom in fortunes. My nearest supermarket is a Lidl store so I’ve become well accustomed to their Belgian buns, buckets of loose nuts and fine selection of pickled fish. But usually their choice of beer is less impressive, with just a handful of beers sitting on the booze aisle, all from a few large breweries who are able to knock out sufficient volumes at the requisite low prices.
But occasionally it’s possible to find a real treat in store, and recently I’ve been filling my basket with Shepherd Neame’s Double Stout, currently retailing for just £1.49 a bottle. Shepherd Neame proudly boasts of its status as ‘Britain’s oldest brewer’ and is a suitably large outfit. I find most of their beers are perfectly drinkable, with a few that stand out a little more, but that level of faint praise cannot be applied to this bottle of Double Stout: it is a magnificent brew.
It’s a big, black beer – looking every bit the archetypal opaque, shiny stout, topped with a welcoming, creamy head, and full of well-balanced flavours. It’s the kind of beer you pause to look at before the first mouthful breaks its sheen of beery perfection. And it’s not shy of announcing its heavily roasted flavours – the initial hit of burnt toasty bitterness immediately awakens the taste buds and leaves behind a long, dry mellow bitter finish. And its final trick is provided by the texture that creamy head promises – it has a super smooth dose of dairy chocolate goodness that coats the mouth with velvety satisfaction.
It would be easy to assume that a mass produced beer, sold cheaply in Lidl, lacks the craft of beers more than twice the price, but this is a beer that proves assumptions can be very wrong. I’ll certainly be watching out for when it’s next in store and will make sure there’s room in my basket for a good few bottles.
Brewery: Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent
Beer name: Double Stout