Lidl, the German discount supermarket chain, has become ever more popular with the "squeezed middle classes," at least if the The Times is to be believed. As someone who likes to think themselves as middle class I never really understood the appeal of the place. Every time I walked past one of their stores and peek inside at the brightly lit, sparsely decorated warehouse, with stock placed around haphazardly while miserable looking folk trooped around putting no name brand foods into their trolleys, I would think to myself "This is not the store for me." Food shopping is not my favourite activity even when the shop is trying to be as welcoming as possible so to shop in a recreation of 1960's East Germany didn't really appeal.
Recently however The Lovely Jemma encouraged me to actually go inside Lidl and do a shop. I was sceptical at first but I thought I may as well give it a chance. Maybe those bleary eyed shoppers knew something I didn't. I'll give one thing to Lidl - despite the completely unwelcome and slightly oppressive atmosphere, it sure is cheap in there. For some things anyway. Fruit, veg and diary products seem reasonably priced and the quality is decent as well. The fresh meat is probably best avoided - the chicken we bought had enough water in the packet to hose down a small cat.
What has this got to do with beer you ask? Well along with all the usual groceries, and the bizarre aisle of tat in the middle of the store where you can buy everything from mini fridges to cat playpens, and whatever else the Lidl buyers have nicked from a passing lorry, you can find some ale. My local branch tends to have Shepherd Neame beers - I'm not sure if this is the same across all stores or if they have regional variations. The beers are nearly always 99p a bottle and even though they've never been great, I can't really complain at that price. I've tried Neame's Amber Ale, Up and Under and Dragonfire and to be honest they have all tasted very similar, slightly murky with hoppy flavours pushing through. I've also seen Hobgoblin and Jennings Cumberland Ale on sale, and they seem to get excess stock from other brewers as well.
While I certainly wouldn't recommend a special trip to Lidl for the beer it is nice to pick up a bottle for 99p while doing the rest of your shop. Oddly every shop I've done in Lidl has come to £33, no matter what I buy. Maybe their tills can't count any higher.
Next week I'll be letting you know about my visit to the newest Brewdog outlet in London down in trendy Shepherds Bush. Hope you can join me!