They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Tuesday 4 September 2012

A Special Brew

We sell a lot of different beers at Beer Ritz, around 600 in fact, but there is one out of all those 600 which is more well known, more famous than any of the others. You tell people the name and they know it, even if they've not tried it, they know it. I know I've never tried it and I know it. The reasons why it's so well known in this country are probably for the wrong reasons... You see, this beer is rather strong, but looking at the bigger picture you can buy a lot of beverages these days which are much stronger than 9%...

We hardly sell any of this beer these days at Beer Ritz, in fact I can't remember the last time I sold one. The reason for this is a simple one... when the Strong Beer Tax was introduced last year, the price of this beer was raised so much higher than previously that people turned their noses up at it. This, a beer brewed since 1950, which I can add is probably decades older than most UK breweries, has now been relegated to a corner of the shop to gather dust thanks to a tax which seems so unintelligent it borders on the obscene.

Looks rather nice wouldn't you agree? Apparently this is how it's served at the end of the brewery tour where it's produced. It's seen as one of their best beers and is served in chalices and shown off to people. It's only in the UK where it's looked down upon, something which the brewers do not understand.

As I'm drinking it, I don't really see what all the fuss over here is about. Sure it's not the best beer I've ever had, but it's by no means the worst I've ever had. I've had so many beers that weren't even up to this mark and I know this by fact. It would be very interesting to put this in with a group of Belgian Triples or strong French Ales and have people taste blind to see their reactions. I reckon no one would actually be able to tell what it is. After all, how many of you out there have pre-judged this beer without ever trying it... I know I did.

But we now end up in a situation where it no longer sells because of tax laws... could other beers go this way?

A Special Brew... we don't sell it anymore

People round here buy cheap Vodka instead

Well played Government.


  1. its one of the first beers I ever tasted, down by the beck with mates, we were all about 14-15 years old. It tasted revolting then :)

  2. I don't mind it myself. I last drank it after walking across the highlands to stay in a bothy, and it went down OK and did the job.

  3. It's still on the shelves of my local Tesco - and if they bring in minimum pricing that will effectively take away the tax penalty.

    If you really want revolting try Tennent's Super.

  4. I've had it sprung on me in a blind tasting once; while it wasn't the most amazing beer ever, it was certainly quite pleasant and drinkable.

    pdtnc - surely all beer tastes pretty revolting when you're 14? :)

  5. This is an excellent post. Made us feel very guilty for using Special Brew as shorthand for shite beer despite not having drunk any recently.

    It does look great in the photo.

  6. Given Watney's Red Barrel (I metioned it in a post the other day) can't defend itself (so to speak) maybe this warrants a twitter tasting to disavow us of some prejudices about 'bad beer?' Open to suggestions on a hashtag. ;)

  7. Gareth -- or, as with our John Smith's obsession of a few month's back, to confirm those prejudices...

  8. I've drunk Special Brew plenty of times. Sometimes in Britain it's the only option at the higher end of the alcohol spectrum. Like you, I've had plenty of worse beers.

    You missed out the strongest argument in its favour: it was first brewed for Churchill.

  9. I tried to be as even handed with my review as possible, but frankly, Special Brew is heavy going. It's all booze with quite crude, intensified lager flavour. At least Belgians tend to have the taste to back up the ABV.