Marstons Revisionist Beers: Isn’t Everything Crafted?


Pronunciation: krɑ ː ft

1. An activity involving skill in making things by hand

  • 1.1 Work or objects made by hand.
  • 1.2 Skills involved in carrying out one’s work.
  • 1.3 Denoting or relating to food or drink made in a traditional or non-mechanized way by an individual or a small company.

Recently Tesco unveiled a range of beer brewed for them by Marstons under the title “Revisionist”.
Now that’s a really odd word to use.
On the surface, and I’m guessing this is what the marketing men were after, the term simply means rethinking commonly held beliefs.
But the fact is that Revisionism is part Marxist/Socialist theory and a derogatory term used for someone who changes their thinking for divisive reasons, as the Oxford English Dictionary states,

“A policy of revision or modification, especially of Marxism on evolutionary socialist (rather than revolutionary) or pluralist principles.”

GroupThe range of beer is packaged well, and from a distance could be mistaken for a small batch micro brewery.
But when you get up close and personal, and you see the list of ingredients includes Carbon Dioxide above Hops – does this mean there’s more air than hops in the beer? Because usually ingredients are listed from greatest to least on foodstuffs – you have to wonder whether the beer you’re about to drink is going to be anywhere near what a “craft” beer drinker is after, or if it’s just another mass produced drink with the C word attached to it.

Having tried the four beers I could find in the range I’m afraid that I have to disagree with what Marstons say on their website,

We believe that all great beers are born from creativity, passion and not always following the rule book.
We have given our team of brewers free reign [sic] to ‘revise’ beer styles and create their own new interpretations using contemporary ingredients and techniques to deliver memorable drinking experiences.
There are only two guiding principles, fresh thinking and fresh beer.

And why do I disagree?
The beer doesn’t taste “fresh” or provide a “memorable drinking experience”.
In fact all the beer I tried had the background hum of Pedigree to it.
Revising beer styles?
What does that mean exactly?
Certainly what Marstons mean is that they are revising their thinking rather than being revisionist, as that is a very different thing.
I’m not too sure, but a more accurate description of the range might be Bandwagonesque, as coined by Teenage Fanclub whose album’s cover was a big bag of cash.
After all, the word still has that ring of amateur craftiness to it that Marstons seem to be trying to achieve.
Personally I’m not a fan of the term Craft, and each time it gets used as a marketing sledgehammer I like it even less.

So, the beer.

Steam BeerCalifornia Common Steam Beer (4.7%) is probably the best of the four, though it’s pretty unremarkable.
There’s barely any aroma to speak of (often that seems to be a mark of hefty filtering and dare I suggest it, pasteurisation?) and as you take a swig you’re greeted by an overly sweet toffee and cornbread malt with burned sugar syrup at the edges and some decent walnut and pear woodiness.
The hops give you a soft spicy herbal thing but it’s pretty fleeting.
And that’s about your lot.
Drinkable in small quantities, but that’s it.


Red AlePacific Hop Red Ale (4.2%) is another beer with barely any aroma.
It pours a decent conker red, but taking a sip you find an almost identical malt flavour as you get from the Steam Beer, with maybe just an added hint of cherries in the background which isn’t altogether unpleasant.
But the Pacific hops that this beer is supposedly brewed with are noticeable by their absence.
I struggled to find anything that I’d expect, with none of the jelly sweets and citrus I’d hope for.
Instead there’s an OK resinous stickiness and a hint of chamomile tea before a weird seaweed (yes, seaweed) slippery finish that’s ever so slightly not right.

Wheat BeerHefeweizen Wheat Beer (4.8%) has a smell rich in bananas and flowers, but only if you imagine it.
And you need to imagine very hard indeed.
The malting is very thin, watery, bland, with a bit of caramel and a lot of sickly sugary sweetness.
You get the vaguest hint of cloves and then wet, limp hops that try their best to be sharp but wither to nothing after their initial lemon snap.
The finish contains a wholly unappetising chemical aftertaste.



Saison1Belgian Saison (5%) contains absolutely nothing resembling a Saison.
Nothing at all.
In fact it tastes rather like a thinned down bottle of Pedigree.
There’s a flaccid caramel sweetness, some pastry crumbs and tired and bored hops that whimper to you about how they could have been contenders.
Instead they’re the feint memory of mown lawns and very little else.
And as with the Hefeweizen there’s a terrible chemical aftertaste that made me pour this beer down the sink.
Very bad indeed.

About Simon Williams

Founder of CAMRGB. Member of The British Guild Of Beer Writers. Leftist bigmouth. Old and grumpy.
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18 Responses to Marstons Revisionist Beers: Isn’t Everything Crafted?

  1. Had the black ipa in this series on cask the other week. Not massively different from what you mention above. Was a reasonably drinkable dark best, but not really anything like I think a bipa should taste…

  2. Peter Comaish says:

    I’m sorry you are so negative about craft beers. They are the way forward and are really interesting. To use the derogatory phrase “they have a background hum of Pedigree” is just a ridiculous piece of prejudice from someone stuck in the Victorian era. You can say anything with words. I am a fan of BrewDog and I understand why they are so angry with CAMRA and all its Victorian attitudes. I say lets move forward and try new things that are very very good!

    • Eh?
      I’m not negative about craft beer in any way shape or form.
      In fact CAMRGB wholly champions “Craft” beer.
      I am however against big breweries marketing bad beer with the word “Craft”.
      There is nothing “Craft,” or “handmade” for that matter, about a beer brewed in vast quantities for a major retailer to jump on a bandwagon.
      BrewDog’s beer is slightly different in that the brewery has grown organically from micro brewed (“Craft” beer) to major league high street brewery.
      And if you look throughout the blog you’ll find that we are trying new things every day.
      Further, as these are personal reviews of products they are going to be subjective.
      So please, before starting an argument try and get your facts right.

    • I think I just realised that, 1. You think we are CAMRA – We’re not and, 2. You have entirely misread the article and think for some reason I have said that ALL craft beer tastes of Pedigree when what I have actually said is that all the Revisionist beer made by Marstons has a hint of Pedigree to it, who’d is unsurprising as Marstons make Pedigree and will probably have used their house yeast for all the beers which’ll be why there’s a marked similarity.
      If you are new to the world of Craft Beer then welcome on board there’s a lot to discover.
      And certainly a lot more than you’ll find on Tesco’s shelves.

    • Eh? Methinks that there is some misunderstanding of Simon’s article here.

      1. This is NOT a CAMRA website. This is CAMRGB (Campaign For Really Good Beer) which may seem subtle, but the manifesto is utterly different.

      2. To complain about the comment “Background hum of Pedigree” is odd. Have you tasted these beers? The comments are spot on and could equally apply to the efforts of Greene King to turn their brewing/marketing muscle to focus on producing “craft” (note the small “c”) beers. Pale facsimiles of what is great about US & UK Craft brewing.

  3. Pingback: Let’s Get It Wrong: Marks & Spencers New “Craft” Beer Range | CAMRGB

  4. Copper says:

    I respect your opinion about the beers,but I think there is a bit of prejudice in your comments.
    It’s funny that you taste the hum of Pedigree in all of them considering that only one of those was brewed in Burton on Trent (Steam beer).

    • I’m pretty is that Marstons Burtonise their water as do Greene King.
      It is a method of stripping everything out of the local water and then replacing all the minerals etc to replicate the original water.
      Mind you, tasting like pedigree will have more to do with using the Marstons house yeast and the lack of anything much else in the way of ingredients and very little to do with where it is brewed.

      • Copper says:

        You should read about Burton on Trent and the characteristics of the water there,I think you are a bit confuse about it. They don’t need to strip anything out,the water is rich of sulphur and that gives the beer the famous/infamous taste (I don’t like Pedigree either),others “burtonise” their water to have same results(like highlight bitterness).
        Marston’s is a group of 5 different breweries with different strains of yeast,where the beer is brewed has got a lot to do with the final result.
        I like your website(the camrgb idea is great) and,as I said before,I respect your opinions,I’m just giving you some more info to allow you to judge the beers with a more open mind.
        Reading what you and BeersManchester wrote seems like you have found out what “craft” really means,please tell me too 🙂

        • You misunderstand me.
          I was suggesting that while the one beer we both agree tastes a little like Pedigree was brewed in Burton, the chances of the others – brewed elsewhere – being Burtonised are high which would lend them to also tasting like Pedigree, along with the house yeast etc.
          I spoke to the brewer who oversaw the brewing of all these beers and we got on very well, though we disagreed on some of the flavour profiles.
          However, she did agree with me that there was a similarity in the body of all the beer in the range which she said was intended to help people get into “new” flavours by introducing them to something that still ad familiar characteristics.
          My argument was that if people find that the slightly more expensive bottles on Tesco’s shelves taste pretty much the same then they’ll quickly revert to what they know and what is cheapest.
          I think you’ll find I’m very open minded about beer, just read what I write, and I do like an open discussion about beer, politics, whatever, but telling me sarcastically that I seem to know what Craft means is silly.
          Just look at how many times I say that I don’t like the term.
          Anyhow, I need to go to work.

          • Copper says:

            I’m sure that the brewer you spoke to knows these beers better than I do. I wasn’t being sarcastic (maybe just a little bit) ,the fact is that many of the arguments about beer tend to be correlated to the concept of “craft”, whatever that means(yes I know you don’t like that word),I was genuinely interested to know your point of view about it. Cheers.

  5. Martin says:

    Do you think CAMRA should have a craft beer ‘section’ as it does with apple, or do you think craft beer should stay separate?

    • I try not to think about CAMRA at all 😉
      I just think they should be supporting all our new breweries and young brewers instead of being so stubbornly prescriptive.
      After all they own shares in Wetherspoons who now serve “Craft”.

      • John Clarke says:

        Err, CAMRA doesn’t own shares in anything. I think you will be confusing CAMRA with the CAMRA Members’ Investment Club. While the membership of the latter is restricted to members of the former that is as far as the connection goes.

        • I don’t agree.
          If CAMRA is an organisation run by and for its members then an investment club run by its members will only opt for things for the betterment of themselves and therefore in favour of CAMRA.
          You can dress it up however you like, but one thing goes hand in hand with the other.
          Not the clearest reply I’ve ever made, but it’s early and I’m tired.

  6. Martin says:

    Sorry, APPLE should have been in caps.

  7. Martin says:

    PS At CAMRA’s AGM it was decided that there would be no negative campaigning, so members are expected not to campaign against craft.

  8. Pingback: St. Austell Brewery Saisonier (5.8%) | CAMRGB

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