As one of these Southern types from that London, I’d never encountered the Northern supermarket chain Booths before the start of this year, although various mutterings had made me aware of this magical realm of charcuterie and infused olive oil. When I heard that they had a decent beer selection, I put it on the To-Do list, and as luck would have it, it turned out that they had a branch in Media City. After a lunch date there one afternoon, I nipped into the shop to have a scout around, and was very impressed. Their range of beers is undoubtedly the best I’ve seen outside of a specialist off-licence.
As well as a solid range of standard ales, they have a sizeable selection of bottles from local breweries, which is always wonderful to see. They also have a number of continental stalwarts, and even a few bottles from America, Mexico, and New Zealand. Dotted throughout the shelves are little note cards highlighting certain beers as picked out by a member of staff, with a handwritten description of why he likes the beer. This personal touch makes it feel less like a supermarket and more like a proper beer shop. That Booths care deeply about beer is quite obvious. Hawkshead brew their own-label beers, such as Booths 1847 Winter Ale (6%), a red ale with festive spices, and Festival Ale, brewed for their yearly beer festival.
Browsing the shelves, I picked out a few treats:
Duvel Tripel Hop 2013 (9.5%) – I’m not sure how well the Sorachi Ace worked in this one.
Celt Experience Bleddyn (5.6%) – an excellent beer full of fruit and bitterness.
Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime (5%) – dry and roasty, nicely understated.
Hawkshead/Booths 1847 Winter Ale (6%) – I’m not keen on one of the spices, but it’s solid.
Thornbridge Halcyon (7.4%) – huge tropical gloriousness.
Ilkley Pale (4.2%) – fresh, clean, easy drinking.
Cerveza Mexicali Red Pig Mexican Ale (5.6%) – just malty, really.
Monteith’s Original Ale (4%) – pretty uninspiring.
Steven’s Point Brewery Point IPA (5.6%) – The hops have basically disappeared in this one.
Aside from the fact that the hops in the beers from further afield seem to have gone walkies, it’s a great range, and very reasonably priced. I do like Booths, and while, of course, I do prefer to support independent beer shops, I’ll certainly pop in and stock up if I’m in the area. As well as all of the beer, they also have an excellent cheese counter, where you can buy a wedge of something special to go with your beer. Kit Calvert Wensleydale with a fruity pale ale, anyone?