Great beer shouldn’t be cheap. It’s made with barley and hops that grow on farms and are tended over months. Maltsters turn that barley into malt. Hop farmers wait until the right moment to pick the perfect hop, and each variety has different costs (imported hops tend to be way more expensive). Head brewers train for years, and fellow brewers, engineers, packagers, drivers, marketing and sales people and more all play a role in transforming those plants in the ground into the beer in your hand.
But great beer doesn’t need to be expensive. As much as I want to champion smaller brewers and local beer shops, many of us (me included) opt for the cost and convenience of the supermarket. Browse the shelves and you’ll see a spectrum of beer styles at a variety of prices – and if you know what to look for there are brilliant bargains.
In the main supermarkets, check out the four-can ‘fridge packs’ (usually £5-6) or a pick and mix selection of different cans and bottles (often four for £6). With beer ranges regularly updating, you can constantly explore different brews. Aldi and Lidl have their own brands of craft beer for under £1.50 a can. There’s a lot of great beer available to us now, and something to suit all budgets.
Did you know?
In June 2022, a London pub hit the headlines for selling a 750ml sharing bottle of beer for £105. The San Diego-brewed beer was an 11% blend of barrel-aged strong ales, and still less costly than many high-end wines and whiskies.
Five of the best bargain beers
Perlenbacher Premium Pils, France/Germany 4.9%
Lidl’s lager is a top-quality (and underrated) German-style pilsner with a strong herbal German hop bitterness and a pleasing cereal-like malt flavour. Perfect with pizza. Available from Lidl (£1.09 for 500ml).
Buckthorn Brewery Stateside IPA, England 5.5%
Aldi’s own label IPA is a beautifully balanced bargain of a brew, with layered hop flavours of fresh citrus peel, grapefruit and stone fruit. Great with macaroni cheese. Available from Aldi (99p for 330ml).
Thornbridge Jaipur, England 5.9%
This Derbyshire-brewed IPA is one of the most awarded beers in Britain. It has aromas of orange, elderflower and apricot, and a crisply bitter finish. With its summer fruit and floral flavours, Thornbridge Jaipur is an excellent match for our pasta with pea pesto. Available from Tesco (£5.50 for 4 x 330ml).
Williams Brothers Otis Blood Orange IPA, Scotland, 5.9% ABV
This blood orange-infused IPA is a fun, fruity, fresh crowd-pleaser of a beer, with an orange soda quality and a light citrussy hop finish. Try with jerk-spiced chicken or fish. Available from Aldi (£1.25/330ml).
St Austell Tribute, England, 4.2%
With a smooth richness of biscuity British malts and a zesty hop finish, this classic Cornish Pale Ale is great with tuna pasta bake or homemade fish fingers and chips. Available from Tesco (£5 for 4/500ml).