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While the major supermarkets undertake a serious cull of their beer ranges – the number of lines stocked are already down 2% year-on-year for the six months to July – Marks & Spencer is taking a wholly different tack having just launched its biggest ever range of bottled beers.

It recently bagged the ‘Retailer of the Year’ award at the International Beer Challenge for the second year running, as it continues to push forward with what was already a pretty decent selection. It not only caters for the mainstream drinker new to the category but also has more than enough interesting brews to keep the more adventurous drinkers happy.

At a recent tasting at the company’s HQ in central London it showcased its ‘craft’ beer range that now runs to 12 beers encompassing a broad range of styles. All the beers are own-label M&S lines and have been created through collaboration with a variety of high quality UK brewers.

Oakham Brewery has brewed Double Hopped Citra IPA that draws on its ground-breaking Citra ale, and sits alongside Salted Caramel Porter from Meantime Brewing Company, Island Hoper Pale Ale from Windsor & Eton Brewery, Sorachi Saison and White IPA from Adnam’s, and Battersea Rye from Sambrook’s Brewery.

The distinctive labels and 330ml bottles give the range stand-out on the shelves from the rest of the M&S range that also continues to expand. One area it has tested the waters with is a range of single-variety hop beers highlighting some lesser known UK hops including Boadicea, Cascade, and newcomer Jester.

Adding to the interest for committed beer drinkers are some new speciality brews such as Monnet Cognac Barrel-aged Greenwich Ale and Winter Spiced Porter – both from Meantime Brewing Company.

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Where to start…

The overseas range remains rather limited but as it seems clear M&S has chosen to concentrate on championing the ingredients, styles, and skills of the UK brewing industry this isn’t a big deal.

Especially when taken in the context that while other food retailers lose interest in the bottled beer category M&S is doing the very opposite.