A quality brew in unsuspecting surroundings...

Sometimes, tucked away amongst a range of conventional bottled beers is something a little special, which can go by almost unnoticed.

In a strange way this is not unusual (given the particular environment) as many beers masquerading under a supermarket name can be anything but exciting

'Buyers Own Brands' ( or BOB's as they are abbreviated in the trade) are a curious enigma, which you often approach with a certain amount of trepidation.

With beers, they will often be produced to fulfil a particular style within a range ( such as a bottled Pilsner  or IPA ) where a supermarket feels their product (less in price than the major names) will score with the public and entice them away from the established brands.  

Often they represent a supermarkets will to gain ground in a particular sector,  but are hampered by the time honoured image of offering only 'second best' be it by way of the chosen producer for the product, poorly designed artwork (with over prominent positioning of the supermarket name)  or ultimately, the 'quality' they offer.

Here the relationship with the originator of the beer, the brewery, can be at its most quizzical. Whilst some supermarkets are clearly happy to name the source of origin, others go to great lengths to suppress it, which, for the consumer who wishes to know more about the product, ironically, fuels further suspicion. 

So when you occasionally come across a beer which seems to counter many of these preconceptions you know it must be something a little special - and Tesco's Finest Traditional Porter is one such beer. 

The brew is produced by the respected Harviestoun Brewery at Alva in Scotland and is believed to be based on their renowned  Old Engine Oil Porter, be it under the Tesco guise.

What struck me in particular was the label design with its impressive simplicity combined with a traditional feel for the style.

The use of black on white gives the label a simple elegance and impact, allowing the information to be conveyed clearly. It is good also to see the breweries name to the fore adding kudos to the brand. 

The label captures a flavour of Victoriana in its design, but also reminiscent (fittingly) of many  'grocer' brands of the 1930's, when prominence was given to the 'retailer' rather than the 'supplier' of the wares. Something supermarkets in general have not quite shaken off successfully, but have done so here.


The beer inside the bottle is equally impressive, with deep clean aromas of gently roasted coffee bean and mocha. The palate has a touch of warming caramel intermixed with roasted espresso and subtle liquorice notes,  with a long lingering finish. 

None of the flavours are overbearing or out of balance, and the strength of 6%alc/vol. is ideally suited to the bottle size. 

The Tesco Finest Traditional Porter is good example of getting several individual elements right for the good of the whole, from design and packaging through to the all important content within.

In this instance it is definitely not a brew that should be overlooked, but rather, a beer definitely to be sought out!


Tesco Finest Traditional Porter retails at  £1.49 per bottle and is available in their larger stores, or direct online.

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