M&S IPA: Marstons v St Austell v Adnams
Working reasonably long hours, I often find it difficult to get to the shops on a weekday, and as a result end up spending slightly over the odds in the Marks & Spencer Simply Food in Leeds station. Whilst M&S is typically quite expensive, it does have a reliable range of beers commissioned from decent breweries, including Cropton’s M&S Yorkshire Bitter and a Meantime M&S London Porter.
When I noticed that they had three different IPAs from three different breweries, I thought it was worth comparing them:
Marstons M&S Staffordshire IPA (5.5%)
This beer is sold as a hoppy traditional Burton IPA. It has very little nose with perhaps a slight biscuity smell. It has a refreshing flavour with a slightly acidic, broadly fruity hoppiness coming through into the aftertaste. It’s quite a light-tasting beer for 5.5%, but has a nice mouthfeel.
Initially not a particularly interesting beer, it grew on me as I got towards the bottom of the glass and the bitterness started to build up. Probably good for a session, if you can cope with a few at this strength.
St Austell M&S Cornish IPA (5%)
A slightly weaker beer, this immediately smells much more interesting, with a fresh, piney, grapefruity smell that carries through into a wonderful wash of bitterness. Unlike the Staffordshire IPA this beer is bottle conditioned, resulting in smaller, more delicate bubbles that perfectly compliment the balanced but powerful American hop taste.
St Austell’s Proper Job – a lovely, unusually oily IPA made with Williamette, Cascade and Chinook hops – became one of my favourite cask beers when I was on holiday in Cormwall last summer. Without a bottle of Proper Job to compare the Cornish IPA to, this nonetheless seems like a very similar recipe, although it is 0.5% stronger*. A very nice beer indeed and one that I often pick up when I buy my dinner in Marks.
Adnam’s M&S Southwold Winter IPA (6.7%)
I was pleasantly surprised to see such a strong IPA in M&S, and suspect that a number of well-to-do wives may inadvertently find their husbands in a slightly more louche mood at the end of the evening. This beer has a slightly boozy smell, a viscous mouthfeel and wheaty maltiness that leaves you at risk of missing the hops, which are apparently Boadicea, Columbus and Styrgian Goldings. An interesting beer, but not quite as enjoyable as the St Austell one.
These are all good beers and it’s a credit to M&S that they bring these beers to the middle class, but you do have to consider the price. £2.19, £2.39 and £2.39 respectively is a fair amount to pay for a 500ml bottles to take away. Nonetheless I remain happy to part with my cash for the Cornish IPA in particular, which is the most expensive and the weakest at the same time.