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Oddbins Wine Merchants

  • St. Patrick's Day

    Paddys-Day-Blog-Banner Irish Whiskey for St Patrick's Day

    It’s St Paddy’s Day on Saturday! Where we can all ruin various delicious beverages by chucking a load of green food colouring in them. Our favourite is the river in Chicago that changes colour for a few hours; it’s reminiscent of when someone would micturate in a public swimming pool and an incriminating stream of green would lead straight back to the source. Was that real or was it a lifeguard conspiracy to keep us all docile and law-abiding? They were such squares; guarding our lives! We say, let’s march (but not run as it’s slippery) onto poolside, topple those ivory high chairs, give the swimming pools back to the people and dye them all green for St. Paddy’s Day! Woo revolution!

    If you are celebrating St Patrick’s Day we have some wonderful Irish whiskies and gins that will go down an absolute treat, we must also ask you to not attempt to overthrow the management of your local swimming pool, they’re actually doing a fine job.

  • International Women's Collaboration Brew Day

    If you’re one of the 7 people left in this fine country that still listen to British politicians, you may be under the impression that the key to everlasting happiness is the division of ‘boy jobs’ and ‘girl jobs’. Going on the One Show (which by the way is clearly Blue Peter for the over 60s) and singing the virtues of 1920s domesticity seemed like an odd campaign choice but who are we to judge? We forgot to even run!

    Right, last week was International Women’s day and in honour of this we’d like to hail the rise of female brewers in the craft beer scene. Throughout this month we’ve highlighted some of the amazing female winemakers that are blazing trails and smashing ceilings but we thought, what about beer? Perhaps, even more than in wine, brewing is perceived as the prerogative of men. Why? Female brewing can be traced back 9000 years in fact, throughout history women typically had a greater stake in beer than men (maybe not in the monasteries).  In Mesopotamian culture, Ninkasi was the goddess of beer but in the modern day we’re supposed to accept that in some corners of the industry, it is essentially a middle-class boy’s club, naming beers things like ‘Double D – double IPA’. (Apparently that’s a coveted bra size and seemingly allows you to put a balloon chested pinup girl on your pump clip.)


    We’re proud to say that for the last couple of International Women’s days we’ve taken part in IWCBD (International Women's Collaboration Brew Day). Last year, our former Head Beer Buyer Sarah, along with other prominent women in the beer industry such as female brewers from Wild Card, East London Brewery, Five Points Brewing Co, Fourpure, Weird Beard Brew Co and Stroud Brewery canned a ridiculously delicious Rhubarb Pale Ale under the Unite branding. Last Wednesday, our buyer Jenny (who has taken over the beer category), went to Wild Card Brewery and under the careful guidance of Wild Card Head Brewer Jaega Wise and with the support of many other talented female brewers, they filled up those fermentation tanks for IWCBD. Keep an eye out in stores for the tropical delights of the finished beer!

    We believe that boy jobs and girl jobs are whatever the respective boy or girl would like to turn their hand to, and if that happens to be a fermentation tank then that’s hopping brilliant. Now go and put the bins out Theresa, the 20s are over.

  • Women in Wine

    We at Oddbins like a good bit of flag-waving, particularly if it’s used to land planes full of delicious imported wine. That was a stupid joke; no one lands planes anymore, it’s all done by Sat-Nav. In recent years we’ve stood on our soapbox (or winebox ay? Even inside brackets these dad jokes are embarrassing.) and supported independent brewers, artisan growers, organic, biodynamic and natural winemakers. Whether invited or not, we like weighing in on hot wine topics. That being said we think it’s long overdue that we all have a little chat about gender disparity in the wine trade... Imagine if we now just went on a sexist rant claiming women are too emotional to be at professional tastings or how menstrual cycles upset fermentation in the winery. You would all just have to go “o great we’ve got to hate Oddbins now, where am I going to buy my Primitivo?"  But seriously, there are people in the world that believe *@!$ like that! Whilst, the numbers are increasing dramatically every year, women are still in the minority in the winemaking world. Women winemakers are also less likely than their male peers to own their own winery; just as in so many other industries, the glass ceiling of the wine trade still seems to be pervasive.

    With that in mind it’s unsurprising that women have had to fight for their right to ferment, many have done just that though and claimed leading roles in the industry. Our buyers have noticed at trade tastings and on their travels to wine producing areas across the world, a significantly increasing female influence, even in traditionally male dominated regions. The fact is we have a growing number of wines made by women in our wine range (currently standing at approximately 20%). We are not actively searching for female winemakers per se (because we recognise and admire talented men and women winemakers equally) but this growing breadth in the range is happening, we hope, because it is a microcosm of the wider wine world. Throughout 2018 we will showcase some of the finest wines in our range that also happen to be grown, vinified and bottled by women. Below we are featuring 4 female winemakers, that produce some of our top selling wines.


    An oenology graduate of the prestigious Adelaide University, Debbie has become a cool climate specialist, having made wine overseas in the cool regions of Alsace, France; Marlborough, New Zealand; Niagara, Canada; Sonoma, California, in Australia at Piper's River, Tasmania and in the Victorian High Country on the mainland.

    Now in the role of Senior Winemaker, Debbie relishes the challenge of taking high elevation wines to another level with the impressive resources of Cumulus Estate. In the last few years, she has created some intriguing new additions to the Cumulus range, such as Sparkling Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Moscato and Rolling Pink. We at Oddbins were lucky enough to receive a parcel of her amazing value Rolling Hills Chardonnay and Shiraz that have pushed the perception of these varietals grown in Australia.  Watch this space for more of her innovative work.


    Samantha arrived in South Africa seeking the ‘Californian dream’ and bought a former dairy farm in Greyton on the Western Cape. With her nearest wine neighbours over two hours away, the local shop 30 minutes away and a daily school run with her two toddlers taking an hour, she had little time to second guess her decision and so embarked on a 13-year journey that has resulted in the wine world clamouring for her wines.

    When O’Keefe was starting her wine career and considering which vines to grow in the then-untried Greyton area, she took advice from Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson, who said: “If you succeed, you will be considered a pioneer; if you fail, no-one will care.”

    The pioneer soon found that the barren mountain-top shale soils produced exceptional wines, not least the Syrah, which has gained recognition from Robert Parker in his list of the 50 Best New Releases from 2015, and was highly praised by Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate with 94 points.

    The reception of Sam’s wines at Oddbins from both staff and customers, have been truly astonishing. We tried the Lismore Viognier at our annual Oddbins Christmas meeting and from MD to wine advisor, the room was struck dumb.


    In 2008, when Karoline was 24 and Dorothy just 22, Karl-Heinz, their father who was running the family winery, was suddenly taken ill. The daughters returned, prematurely, to Sausenheim, and took charge. They have had to finish their education on the job, though they have been helped where necessary by their wider family and by some of the winemakers Karoline did placements with during her studies. There are five full-time employees: the two daughters, their mother, who does the accounts, a female intern and a token man, who drives the tractors. Under Dorothy & Karoline’s tutelage the Gaul range have become a beautifully modern expression of German winemaking. Their Dornfelder and Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) are defined by freshness and intensity of fruit; they’re absolutely delightful if you’re in the business for a lighter red.

    Watch this space for our next update on female winemakers.

  • Ctrl Alt Delete

    What a mad world we live in where a keyboard shortcut that has existed for less than a quarter of a century and only on IBM PCs is such a pervasive metaphor it now holds more meaning to most than a bloomin’ Shakespeare quote. Did you know ol’ Bill coined the phrase “the leopard does not change his spots”? Yeah, you thought Romeo & Juliet was good, how often have you heard that metaphor?

    Imagine how many times it’s been said at parole hearings for evidence of recidivism; “sure, Dennis has converted to Buddhism, spent the last 5 years helping disabled inmates, gained a PHD studying the impact of Gandhi on Colonialism and has even started using conditioner on his beard but… the leopard thing. God you’re right, give him another 10 years!”

    It’s okay, Dennis was wrongfully convicted so you shouldn’t feel bad that you’re hoping he breaks out of Pentonville and makes it to Zihuatanejo. (Yes, apparently that is how you spell that beach in Shawshank.)

    At Oddbins, we’re feeling a little more accepting of change. We’re not saying the world is as ruined as that half-drunk bottle of Pinotage that’s been sitting on our office windowsill for the past 3 months but umm, we are a little concerned we’re living inside an Orwellian allegory of political polarisation and the death of accountability in our leaders.

    The point is, at the start of 2018, we’ve been wondering what it would be like if we could just press Ctrl Alt Delete on much of 2016 & 2017. We could get Bowie and Alan Rickman back! We could Ctrl Alt Delete Brexit so that maybe we could have a referendum that addressed some facts opposed to purely dealing in “post-truths.” (You know what we actually wouldn’t; as decidedly bad as Brexit seems to be going, nothing would make us jump back into that abyss of hyperbole and ennui.



    We might suggest that Ctrl Alt Delete be pressed on the Trump/Kim Jon Un thing but they’d probably both just get confused and jam their tiny rat claws onto their respective red buttons and blow up Norwich. (Poor old Delia, your creamed scallop soup will be missed.) Perhaps it’s positive we don’t have the power to just reset life and it’s certainly positive that Delia Smith and the rest of Norwich are absolutely fine.

    Yet, every year, most of us try to reset in some way. After getting out of breath walking to the fridge to claim another cold goose-fat glazed roasty we think next year is going to be different. “2018 will be the year I’m so healthy and so successful that one day, on my walk to work, I’ll just dissipate and join a higher realm of consciousness, like a Dali Llama in Prada.”

    Then when January actually arrives everyone realises kale is disgusting, gyms are full of people that like going to the gym and being outside is generally horrifying. Well, it’s February now; you’ve smashed through Dry January, the 5:2 diet was a relative triumph despite the regularity with which you hallucinated that your loved ones were giant steaks and you’ve successfully braved the gym a total of 3 times. O well, it’s done and none of us have to worry about it for a whole year. Proper 2018 can start now and we reckon it’s going to be great, it’s time to log back in!

  • L.L.A.M.A.

    Oddbins is delighted to announce the arrival of our newest ambassador, Guillermo. Although he is renowned as a hip hop artist, known as ‘L.L.A.M.A.’, his knowledge of wine is exceptional given his extended exposure to viticulture in his home country of Chile. We’re excited that he will be taking an active role, in stores, educating our fantastic staff on some of the new lines we have brought in for the Christmas period. While with Oddbins, Guillermo will be studying for the Llama of Wine (LW) qualification. For those of you unfamiliar with this remit of study, the Llama of Wine is the most challenging industry qualification a domesticated South American camelid can take, comprising of an all-encompassing theory exam and a gruelling 2 hour tasting exam. Guillermo has agreed to keep a diary of his experiences of this study process, we hope you’re looking forward to hearing about the trials and tribulations of his education as much as we are. Welcome to Oddbins, Guillermo and best of luck in your endeavours!

    Guillermo blog 1

    I imagine you’ve just read some Oddbins’ stuff, above right? Telling you how I’m a rap enigma and a sommelier pope. You can ignore all of that, the only person gifted enough to express the nuances of Guillermo’s story, is Guillermo. With that in mind, congratulations on reading my Llama of Wine blog; your reward is experiencing gonzo journalism the likes of which Kerouac would envy.

    For those of you not caught up; I recently escaped the vitriol of Chilean law enforcement on a trumped-up, ‘spit-by’ charge. Absolute sheeet! I mean, my hombre Carlos was totally guilty, but those elephant seals had it coming. So, I came to Oddbins; real hood high street heroes. Only a company that calls it as they see it and doesn’t isolate wine drinkers with esoteric bo****cks could secure the services of a true legend, like Guillermo. The Llama of Wine qualification; you ever heard of that Russian dog Laika, first dog in space? Well imagine that level of significance and difficulty and then times it by ten, that’s what I’m engaged in, wine immortality, that’s what I’m pursuing. It’s simple, I’ve conquered the music industry, now it’s time to conquer the wine world.

    I turned up to the Court of Llamas of Wine a little late for the first day, it ain’t a thing I just taste wine better when I’ve slept till 11. I kicked in the door - I wasn’t particularly angry I just don’t have apposable thumbs to work the knob - 10 camelids turned to face me. “Guillermo, I assume? You are quite late,” the tutor reprimanded. “The Sommelier Pope is never late, he arrives precisely when he means to,” (Gandalf reference, represent my boy in grey) I answered. Life lesson from Guillermo – Never apologise, never explain. “Yes well, please take a seat we’re currently engaging in a horizontal of 2004 Medocs.” I sat down because, well, ya boy loves west bank Bordeauxs. We tried some dope grand crus but for price point you know what stood out? Oddbins newest cru bourgeois they're stocking; Château le Meynieu Haut-Medoc. It was face-meltingly sophisticated fam. Rich blackcurrant, plum and bramble, perfectly harmonising with indicators of age like leather, cigar box and smoked game. Twas boom and at £19 even you non-rap-gods can afford it!

    Ch Meynieu blog


    “Good work everyone, let’s break for lunch. Can I ask you all to be back for 2:15 so we can start on Burgundy nice and promptly for the afternoon session?” The tutor announced to us. Most made a move for the door, however, I stayed seated; I was packing my own pino empanadas. I glimpsed a taupe-haired alpaca eye-balling me. I gave it right back, not blinking and spitting in the general direction of my spittoon. He changed direction to approach my desk, flanked by two lighter haired alpacas. “Good day. I am Jeremy Reese-Mongoose the 9th alpaca resident of the Earl of Lytton and you might be?” “Guillermo,” I replied bluntly, not breaking eye contact with Jeremy who was smirking at me. “I would shake hooves but I’m just about to eat and I’d rather not wash your new world slime off me. I doubt I’d be able to get the stench off before supper.” The other alpacas around him roared with laughter, spitting and stamping their hooves.

    Jeremy alpaca blog

    Every llama in Santiago used to come to me to pay respect, Godfather style, and now this short-ass domesticated piece of Hertfordshire is stepping to me, nah Che! This guy is 'más loco que una cabra con pollitos!'. l I stood up to impose my height advantage, “you think you know wine just because you’re wearing a monocle? What couldn’t afford two and make yourself a pair of glasses?” Their laughter stalled as Jeremy sized me up, “and I suppose you know more about wine do you, what did you call yourself? The sommelier Pope?” He drawled while fits of laughter re-erupted around him. “Prove it, beat me in a blind taste off,” Jeremy challenged. I stepped in real close and whispered, “O it’s on Jezza!”


    We stood facing one another, 2 glasses between us. Wine was poured from a labelless bottle. “And taste!” I got a big whiff, dark fruit, sweet spice, coffee. Same on the palate, it was super full-bodied with an amazing structure. “2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape,” I bellowed.

    CNDP Remy Ferbras blog

    I saw Jeremy’s face and I knew I’d fragged this one, “2013 Cote-Rotie” he announced, smugly. “Correct!” The invigilator stated, while holding up the label to prove it. Even Jesus had off days but I wasn’t gonna take this lying down; like a common cow predicting rain. Sure, he’d bested me this time but believe it or not, we have other ways of settling conflict, than wine tasting, in the favelas. I kicked over the table and started swinging my neck, spraying spit everywhere, getting ready to show this posh poncho wanna-be how we throw down in Chile, neck-wrestle style. As I approached a female voice yelped “No!” I turned and was stunned to see the most beautiful llama I had ever seen, a prominent muzzle with perky ears and a round white face like a giant hamster. I started spitting for a different reason… “Wind your neck in, he’s trying to provoke you.” She said bundling me out of the door. Jeremy waved, calling after us “see you later Mo, don’t let the door hit you in your vestigial hump on the way out.”

    It took me a while to calm down but eventually managed to mutter a thank you, “no drama llama,” she replied. “What do I call you?” I enquired. “Lilyanna, Lily the Llama if you like” she responded, seeming a little coy “and you are?” “The rap enigma, that is Guillermo!” She chuckled, obviously digging my vibe. “You’re not like the other llamas I’ve met in the wine industry, who are you representing?” “Oddbins, the greatest wine merchants in the world, the only company worthy of Guillermo ambassadoring them!” She clucked again, “do you want to go share a bottle of Veuve Clicquot NV, they’re on offer at Oddbins at the moment?” “That sounds lovely,” she replied.

    Veuve NV blog

    Relax hombres, nothing happened, we just chilled, drank some dope Champagne and talked about wine yeah … You know what happens when I make my move, updates on my life, same time same place, peace!

  • Chimpanzees and Christmas Giveaways

    Is there anything better than a good giveaway? Suppose it depends on what’s being given away really, if someone’s trying to gift you a pair of used sports socks you’d probably make a polite excuse and carry on with your existence, prize free. Thank goodness, we at Oddbins feel we’ve got customer giveaways right, in fact, we’re getting rather renowned for them. With Christmas fast approaching *gulp* this week we have officially launched our earth-shattering winter promotion… drum roll, please…

    This year we’ve teamed up with Karma Group to send one Oddbins customer and 9 of their friends to the luxury resort Karma Kandara in Bali, for a week! This includes return travel to the resort in Bali and Luxury pool villa accommodation for 10. While in Bali the winner and their 9 guests will enjoy an exclusive wine tasting experience in Bali’s best panoramic wine cellar, with an amazing selection of wines matched with canapés. The winner and their friends will be able to indulge in local delicacies in the comfort of their own villa, hosted by an Executive Chef, who will curate a tailored menu to the guests. Finally, the prize recipients will enjoy exclusive access to a VIP table for an amazing sunset beach party, Ibiza style session, featuring an incredible soundtrack, Tapas and a magnum of Rosé.
    To enter, simply make any purchase with Oddbins in stores or online, there is no limit on the number of entries that can be made but must be in by midnight of the 17th January 2018.

    However, we thought before we look forward, let’s have a peak backwards. Last year, throughout the Christmas period, Oddbins customers had a chance to win a fantastic 2-week trip to Malaysia and Borneo. In September that lucky winner jetted off and fortunately for us, she agreed to write us a blog, to document her amazing experience. Thanks Katy!

    We hope you all enjoy reading about Katy and Brenda’s trip as much as we did and be sure to get your entries in for this year’s giveaway, this time next year we could be telling your winning story!

    Katy Gwilliam – Oddbins customer for many Years.
    "I usually pop into store for wine or Prosecco. My favourite bottle is
    Follador Prosecco Superiore."

    Katy winning

    I couldn’t believe it when I received the phone call from Oddbins to tell me I was the winner of an incredible prize – a two-week holiday in Malaysia and Borneo. Things like this never happen to me! I’m still pinching myself!

    After months of anticipation, the adventure finally began when Brenda (the lucky friend who got to come with me) and I arrived at Heathrow airport on 1 September. We went straight to the Premier Lounge for a glass of champagne before boarding the plane for our 12-hour flight.

    Upon arriving in Kuala Lumpur, we were greeted by our friendly driver who took us to the Traders Hotel. Our room overlooked the Petronas Towers and we had spectacular views of some of the city’s most famous landmarks.


    We were desperate to sample the local cuisine, so travelled to KL’s famous Jalan Alor street to check out the food markets. The entire street was lined with hawker stall after hawker stall: dumplings, seafood, noodles, barbecued meats, curries, durian – pretty much anything you could imagine. The dishes were not only delicious, but also ridiculously inexpensive, so inexpensive, in fact, that we considered having two dinners! But that would be greedy…

    The next day we ventured to Batu Caves where an enormous statue of the Hindu god of war, Murugan, stood tall at the foot of a steep staircase. We climbed the 272 steps leading into the caves, making sure to keep a tight hold of our bags and phones so they couldn’t be snatched by the monkeys. Once inside, I got the opportunity to feed these cheeky creatures. They made no attempt to put on airs and graces, but they were very cute!


    The next morning, we flew to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo. Having checked the weather religiously for the past two weeks, I was convinced our entire holiday was going to be rain and storms. Lo and behold, when we touched down at KK airport it was chucking it down! “Oh well – at least we’re in paradise!”, I laughed to Brenda. Almost as quickly as it had started though, the rain stopped and in its wake formed the most breath-taking sunset I’d ever seen. As it turned out, this was to be the weather pattern for the rest of our holiday: blazing hot sunshine in the morning, a quick shower in the afternoon, and stunning sunsets in the evenings. The perfect tropical paradise.


    We were driven to the amazing hotel that was to be our home for the next three nights: the 5* Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort. This place was heavenly! The people were so friendly and nothing seemed like too much trouble. The food was exquisite and every morning we were presented with the biggest buffet you can imagine – cuisine from all corners of the globe. I didn’t let a day pass without having both a prawn cracker and a chocolate-covered marshmallow, simply because I could!

    Our stay at the Rasa Ria was the perfect time to relax and make the most of the sea, sand and sun. The hotel had its own private beach, which offered a host of water sports and activities. One day we decided to try out the parasailing, which was brilliant fun as we floated 100ft above the boat, taking in the view of Mount Kinabalu in the distance.


    During our stay, we managed to clock up five massages between us, all of which were divine! We sampled the food at all five of the resort’s fantastic restaurants, even experiencing a fire-eating show at the Malaysian banquet on one night.

    After a few days of chilling, it was time to visit the jungle. We flew from Kota Kinabalu airport to Sandakan, where we were transported to the MY Nature Resort – an eco-friendly resort located in one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world.

    Here we watched flying squirrels jump from tree to tree as it grew dark and enjoyed some of the local delicacies before bed. The next morning, bright and early, we set off for the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. We arrived just in time to see the babies being fed, which was highly entertaining. It was easy to identify the bully of the group – he swung audaciously from pillar to post, grabbing fruit from the other orangutans who dared to get in his way! They were so funny to watch as they play fought and hung upside down from the monkey bars.


    As we moved through the centre, we were also lucky enough to see pygmy elephants – baby-faced elephants that are far smaller than their fully-grown counterparts, with oversized ears and plump bellies. The sun bears also came out to play. These cute creatures are the smallest bears in the world at around 120cm in height and are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    Later that day, we caught a boat to our next destination: Abai Jungle Lodge. Here our brilliant guide, Abbas, took us on a river boat trip to explore the local wildlife. The highlight of this trip was seeing a mummy and baby orangutan in the wild – a really rare sight, considering they are highly endangered and there are only around 50,000 left in the world. The Proboscis monkeys were also a great spot. They are famous for their big noses – the bigger the nose, the more attractive the male! After a brilliant couple of days in the jungle, we travelled back to the Shangri-La for the final leg of our trip. Arriving at the resort was like coming home! We made the most of our chill-out time here, with massages, sun-bathing and tons of food and we even managed a night out on the waterfront in Kota Kinabalu, which ended with a dance-off against the locals in the town’s famous 999 club!


    Before we knew it, the time had come to fly home. After a teary farewell and goodbye photo, we jumped in the taxi back to KK airport and prepared ourselves for the 18-hour journey back to London.

    All in all, it was a truly fantastic trip with so many special memories and amazing experiences. I cannot recommend Borneo enough and have been waxing lyrical about my brilliant holiday to anyone who will listen! Thank you so much to Oddbins for making this happen. I couldn’t have asked for a better prize :)

  • "Getting all sloshed up in the name of love..."

    OddBeers Logo


    This month has been the month of love, or at least, getting all sloshed up in the name of love. A stag do in Marbella, one in Budapest and a wedding at the historic and graceful Athelhampton House has seen me testing my liver and brain function to the limits.

    Before I start romanticising about Weird Beard, Fallen and the rest, I'll talk a little about my holiday romance in Marbella. Her name was Alhambra Reserve Rioja, a cheeky Spanish surprise that had decidedly more flavour than the omnipresent Saint Michael. I had another fling in Budapest, with a German IPA whose name escapes me. This is sad, as she was heavenly. Sigh, it's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all...



    Notes from the Editor:

    The vast majority of our craft beer is small production and sourced locally. The reviewed beers are not always available in all of our stores, however, we have put a guide to availability under each review. Please use our store finder to locate your nearest branch and call ahead to guarantee stock is available.


    So they've switched from 500ml bottles to 330ml cans. I won't bore you with the myriad reasons for this, but colour me unimpressed. Thankfully, after pouring it out, my disappointment dissipates. She looks like caramel apple sauce, with a thin lacing head. She smells like a grapefruit in a biscuit tin.

    Throwing it into my mouth, it delivers a dark and burnt malt profile, a hamster's hats worth of coffee, with grapefruit and traces of the more sickly tropical fruits. Mid carbonation, tight bubbles, pretty refined.

    This is not a session beer, but a lively and worthy addition to any bag of cans. Deep and complex, like a hallucinatory conversation with Jung. And as promised by the marketing blurb on the can; a long, dry and bitter finish much like Paul McCartney and Heather Mills' divorce.

    If this is the new world, I want in.



    Fruit, surfing a wave of the mineral rich Scottish water, coming to a dry hoppy finish. I'm pretty sure I love you.


    MattforscoreFresh, fruity, fizzy.


    Availability: Scotland stores


    This one pours a deep yellow colour. Hazy, loose bubbles, no head. She smells like citrus hops, syrupy tinned peaches and papaya.

    The first sip is a little spiky, with moderate to heavy carbonation. The sharp carbonation doesn't kill the flavours but it does get in the way. Citrus, straw, tropical fruits, and a dry, bitter finish. The missus burped like a truck driver.


    JamesforscoreTo use street parlance, "This aaaiiight!". Some fruit, some dry hops, some clean Scottish water all amounting to tasty belch fuel.

    3.5theMRSLight in flavour, colossally fizzy, would make Godzilla belch.


    Availability: Scotland stores


    She looks like an old puddle in a breakers yard; deep, hazy and rusty looking. The smell is dominated by caramel, burnt biscuit and malt, with a little marmalade and yeast on the side.

    She has a luxurious body, full with the right level of carbonation. The taste is medium sweet with a good showing of piny hops and a caramel, malty backbone... There is a darkness in there somewhere. A yeasty shadow lurking in a darkened recess, just enough to make its presence known.


    Very good, I could drink this until I lose my vision, and at 6.9% that'll be sooner rather than later.


    theMRSAnd I quote, "yeah, it's quite nice that".


    Availability: Selected London stores


    I like a good amber, so I'm all smiles whilst pouring. She looks lovely, a deep reddy brown, with a big, loose head like Boris Johnson but twice as smart and orders of magnitude more respectable.

    She smells like malted milk biscuits with a squirrel's coin-purse worth of floral hops. There might be some candied orange peel in there for good measure.

    The flavour is initially bittersweet before the caramel maltiness kicks in, which in turn yields to a complex swirl of citrus peel and caramel sweetness. The Resultant belch sounded like the battle cry of the undead.


    JamesforscoreNot what I was expecting from an amber in all honesty, as it's sweeter than it is malty, but a damned fine session ale.


    theMRSI don't smell much, taste much. It's fine. (And with that breathtaking input...she's fired!)


    Availability: Scotland stores


    She looks nice, a rich mahogany brown. It would look the business in my wood panelled library (of the mind - sadly it doesn't exist), I have many leather bound books*. The pour leaves a very slight, off-white head.

    The smell is sweet, like honey or candied fruit. It's not sickly though, there is a bready, malty backbone there, but it's undeniably sweet.

    Well balanced with sweet bready malts, an earnest sweetness, sticky, honeyed ribs. It's formidable though, I think 4 or 5 of these at most before it gets more cloying than a post-election Theresa May at No.10.


    JamesforscoreMedium bodied, full flavoured, nothing outlandish, just a bloody good beer. Happy to Pig Smash that into the lowest hole in my head.


    *I have few.

    Availability: Selected London stores


    Finally, a beer with a big ol' foamy head. I didn't have to pour from three storeys up to get it either. She's a glorious shade of light orange, the name of the colour swatch would be something lame like "Nectarine Dream".

    She smells deliciously fruity, how I'd imagine the sweet room at the Wonka factory. Doesn't smell like a beer, but it does smell delicious - candied orange and berry fruits.

    As with all Weird beers, it feels luxurious in the mouth, they really know how to condition. Now on to the business end, there's a powerful hoppy punch up front, peppery, before some fruity action in the rear <insert your own Frankie Howard noise here>.

    Not too saccharine, not too cloying, just fruity enough; think John Barrowman over Elton John. There's a little bitterness in the tail to hammer home its IPA credentials.


    A unique experience for sure, and one I'd recommend to a friend.


    Availability: Selected London stores

  • An Oddbins Adventure: Chenin Man, Buttered Coffee and Spider Pig

    The below is an adventure, what began as a buying trip to South Africa and turned into a true love of the region, the people, the culture and of course the wine! Working for Oddbins is unique in that we are a tiny buying team (just 3 of us), which requires a very involved approach where listing a new wine is more than it seems. It's a new partnership and during my journey I tasted some wonderful wines but also met some truly fantastic people. So, my story is of course about the wine but perhaps more importantly, about the people behind them.

    It began with a challenge to revitalize the range, followed by a tasting in our London boardroom, it wouldn't do; I knew that I had to go to South Africa to experience the region and taste the wines in their natural habitat, alongside the people that made them, to get it right. In what seemed like a whirlwind, I touched down in Cape Town just a few weeks later! I remember landing and thinking to myself 'Okay, you're here. Now what?'

    I had a lot of ground to cover, from Constantia to Swartland, out to Hemel en Aarde to Greyton in just a 10 day period. I hadn't been to SA before and I was alone with no comfort of a travel buddy, at least at this point...but things have a funny way of working themselves out and as I walked into arrivals there was a man holding a sign with my name on it. This was my first encounter with who I would come to call the 'legendary Cambell Jooste' Zoom Safe Trips and Tours. At this time he was simply a ride from the airport to the hotel. I had no idea he would become such a significant part of my trip. From the get go I went to hop in the back seat, but Cambell was having none of it,"in the front with me", he said. And that would be my seat for the remainder of the trip, next to Cambell, not just my driver, but my tour guide, wake-up call, lunch buddy and friend.

    There was no better way to start day one (ease into it) than at the serene Stellenbosch farm owned by the legendary Ken Forrester - The Chenin Man! Ken has been making wine for many years and his speciality is Chenin Blanc, which aged to leesy and textured, but for me it is the purity and quality of the 'Petit Chenin' that I loved - no oak, just straight up quality fruit and varietal character - bring on the crunchy apple, honey and linalool! During the visit I wandered down to Ken's barrel room to take a look around. In the back corner was a barrel with 'Roussanne' written on the face...'what is that?'. I love Roussanne, a native white Rhône grape. It's rare to see it completely on its own, especially from South Africa, and rarer to see it done right. Slightly hesitant, I tasted it and was wowed! At this point it was only sold via Ken's farm in SA, but it was so good I had to bring it back and share with the fellow wine lovers in the UK.

    Rouossanne Wine

    Now that I'm warmed up and have had a few sips of Chenin, it's time for a different experience...I hopped back in the car with Cambell and set off to stop no.2. Through the green, mountainous terrain of Stellenbosch and out into Swartland. It looks more like a desert, but has some super gnarly bush vines! We pulled up to a small farm house and made our way up the driveway. I was met with a curious glance that implied 'who the heck are you?''Jenny', I said, anticipating the questions. He tried to act like he hadn't totally forgotten that I was coming, and what a better way to do that than offer up a plastic cup of a new vermouth they were producing (ok, I can roll with this). Pretty soon though, we were laughing about it along with the fact there is a cheap brand of wine called 'Oddbins' sold in Checkers (the local supermarket) that doesn't have the best reputation for representing winemakers and he had thought that was who I represented! (Note to self - say Oddbins UK moving forward). A few minutes later, the man behind the establishment showed up - Adi! We went to chat in the cellar which was a stark contrast to Ken's place. It contained open top fermenters with all sorts of interesting things bubbling and was being watched over carefully by a big picture of a 60's pin up girl. Adi offered me an espresso - 'do you take butter?' [Huh?]. I truly thought he was taking the piss. A sort of 'let's mess with the tourist' kinda thing, but then he simply plopped a dollop in his own cup - not my cup of Joe please. I later asked Cambell if he had an answer for me. Nope! But he did laugh (mystery to be solved - if you have the answer, feel free to tweet me @oddbinsbuyers). Anyway, I tasted some awesome this space!

    Wine Blog

    Next on the list is Miles Mossop! Miles' story is a good depiction of what's happening in the SA wine scene at the moment. He started at one of the more established estates, making wine for Tokara and was allowed to vinify a small amount under his own label each year as a bit of a side project (quite common). The culmination of this is three awesome wines, yes, awesome. As a couple of months before my visit, Miles has moved on from Tokara, hopefully giving him even more time to focus on what's not a side project anymore. These wines are seriously wonderful. Saskia - an oaky, leesy white Rhône blend, Max - a rich and juicy Bordeaux blend and 'The Introduction', an old vine barrel fermented Chenin from the Swartland.

    Introduction Wine

    Okay - it's impossible to go through every stop, even the ones with some of the more memorable wines, but at this point I've been in SA for a few days now and I'm slowly settling in and Cambell is definitely helping. On day three, he is waiting downstairs with a cup of coffee, settling into his routine of reading the morning paper in the lobby whilst I'm usually 5-10 minutes late. We hop in the car and we're off again, this time to meet one of the sweetest and most talented people I've met, Adam Mason. Adam is the brainchild behind Mulderbosch Wines and again, has a side project.

    The wine is called Marvelous! Finding wines in the UK sub £10 on the shelf that are REAL, crafted wines is difficult. Many a time they are shipped over in large tanks and bottled here. Marvelous is Adam's baby and these are small volume parcels of grapes taken from sites that best suit each varietal, blended to create three seriously delicious wines - a Red Bordeaux blend, a Red Rhône blend and a wonderful White Rhône blend. Also from Adam, and two of my favourites, are his Yardstick Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - the Pinot is juicy, silky and fruit driven and instantly appealing, and the Chardonnay is toasty and rich. Adam is coming over in October to do tastings in the stores. Watch our Twitter feed for when he will be at your local Oddbins.

    Adam Mason

    Next stop! Not another farm though, this was a different approach. A way to cover more ground and soak up a bit of the culture. Cambell and I were off to Publik - a wine bar in Cape Town run by Dave and Dave (both Dave's actually make wine). They are all about getting the weird and wonderful into the bar and showcasing some of the interesting projects that are happening in the region. While some are awesome, some are a work in progress and some are downright scary, but that was the fun of it and either way it's great to see so much innovation. Over a plate of Charcuterie including Biltong, we tasted through a line up of wines. Part way through, Dave put this bottle down in front of me, with a totally serious and straight face - 'try my wine!'. So, I too kept a straight face, staring at the red headed man affectionately cradling a baby pig! The rosé was simple, charming and quite appealing, but was the UK market ready for Spider Pig to make an appearance on their dinner table? That was up for debate! Either way, the night turned into a great evening and eventually the story of THE Spider Pig was revealed, which made me like the wine even more, but that is a story for another day...The same evening, I came across Samantha O'Keefe's 'Lismore' from Greyton. Sam is an amazing lady and basically pioneered the region way up in the mountains. She is making a Rhône style Viognier, a Syrah that will blow your mind and has just added a Pinot Noir. I tasted these and was so impressed that I rescheduled my trip and Cambell and I drove two hours out to Greyton to meet Sam the next day. Her wines will be arriving into Oddbins in September.

    Pig and Lismore Wine

    Next up - Alex Dale from Radford (Winery of Good Hope). This guy is a true talent and the range is fantastic. We already work with Alex but I popped by for a lovely lunch with some of the vineyard staff anyway (this is a daily routine - stop, chat, live and enjoy - we could learn a thing or two!). He introduced me to Gus, his brother who grew up making wine in Burgundy. Gus is now working at Paul Roos on a tiny (literally tiny, just 3000 bottles) project, which I only found out about after I tasted and fell in love with his wine. These wines are very old world in style. The white, Paul Roos Die Skoolshoof is a co-fermented blend of Chardonnay/Chenin - really hands off winemaking here that is made in a Burgundy style - it is nutty, roasty, oaky and mineral and a gorgeous and wonderful red Bordeaux blend, the Paul Roos Die Filantroop which is a rustic and earthy Shiraz blend. A true boutique wine, which to top it all off, gives the proceeds back to provide education for the farm workers families. When the wines were listed in Oddbins there was so much pride amongst all the workers, which is exactly what it's all about.

    Paul Roos Wines

    When the trip came to an end, I was sad to go, and I was very humbled by my experiences and the wonderful people I had met. I received a text message 1 day after landing from Cambell Jooste making sure I had made it home safely (enough said).

    Meet Jim!

    Meet Jim

    Days later, I was in one of my local branches and got to chatting to a customer named Jim who is from Johannesburg, about my trip and the wines. Jim and his buddies had signed up to ride the Prudential 100 miles to raise money for children's education in South Africa - He tells me a bit more about the Bokamoso Trust and I am in awe and touched (yes, Buyers do have hearts!). Jim bought himself a few bottles of Paul Roos and in the spur of the moment, I told him that Oddbins would sponsor his team in their ride (oops, how do I sell this to the powers that be on Monday?!). He was surprised and cheekily asked if in addition to the money for the charity, his team could have wines for the ride - my answer was no. Oddbins doesn't do cycling and drinking! But we did agree that they'd get a case of South African wines for AFTER the race. In addition to the £500 being donated by Oddbins on their behalf to the charity, for every 10 minutes Jim shaves off his goal time, the charity will get an extra £50. The ride takes place on July 30th and you can follow Jim's journey @oddbins #OnYaBikeSA

  • A flea's hat and an otter's pocket...

    OddBeers Logo

    On paper, this box looked very interesting. Some familiar names, some new, a wealth of pales of varying styles and a couple of swerve-balls.

    The weather was almost warm enough to set foot outdoors without succumbing immediately to exposure, which is good enough for an Englishman to fire up the BBQ. With the grill loaded, the nuts decanted form bag to bowl and the tunes set to 'chill', we began...

    Overall, a good box ranging from average to sublime. Here are some bullet points for ease of digestion.

    • Scottish breweries seem to be killing it. Cromarty's 'Man Overboard' was exceptional
    • The Anchor Chilli Dark Lager is proof that gimmick led beers can enchant

    Notes from the Editor:

    The vast majority of our craft beer is small production and sourced locally. The reviewed beers are not always available in all of our stores, however, we have put a guide to availability under each review. Please use our store finder to locate your nearest branch and call ahead to guarantee stock is available.

    Cromarty Brewing Co. Man Overboard Double IPA
    This one came out a deep, cloudy, orange colour with a thin, white, lacing head.

    The smell's clean, uncomplicated and lightly citrusy - favouring the orange end of the spectrum as opposed to the yellow/green end.

    Wow! This is full bodied, with moderate, yet tight carbonation. The flavour is equally impressive; this reasonably sweet, malty gem has accents of tangerine, peach and mango.

    James Beer Score
    A good dose of caramel up front. Good depth, sweet over bitter.

    Score 4.5
    Matt Score
    A full on malty backbone holding up an array of fruits.

    Beer Score 4.5
    Availability: Scotland stores, Blackheath Beer Store

    Victory Headwaters Ale

    This was aggressively fizzy, I thought it might take the French polish off the dining room table, but I just about managed to get it in the glass before it geysered itself everywhere. The resulting pour left a big, foamy off-white head atop a clear amber liquid.

    Aromas of fresh, piney hops gives way to caramel, biscuit, malt and a hint of candied orange. It smells pretty good.

    Feels nice in the mouth, medium body, low to moderate carbonation. Flavour is fairly light, bittersweet with a dry, earthy finish.

    James Beer Score
    Very drinkable, a decent session ale.Beer Score 3.5
    Mat Beer Score
    Very hoppy, tasty and easy to drink. Smelt like a brewery.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Availability: Blackheath Beer Store, Aberdeen stores, Chorlton branch

    Five Points Brewing Company IPA
    I tend to like these bold, strong IPA's so...

    It looks suspiciously murky, like rusty water. It has a short-ish, off-white foamy head, which didn't hang around.

    The smell was a cocktail of sweetness - citrus, passionfruit and maybe a fleas hats worth of banana - and a bitter, earthy quality. The underlying earthy odour incongruous with the sweeter notes.

    Medium bodied with low to medium carbonation, on point for an IPA I'd say.

    It tastes much like it smells, there's a little citrus, a little passionfruit, a soupçon of banana, which tails off into a piney, bitter finish.

    James Beer Score
    This is just a little bitter for my palate, a solid IPA for those who like the bitter end of the spectrum.

    Beer Score 3
    Matt Beer Score
    Very bitter and it lingers, good if you like that sort of thing.

    Beer Score 3
    Availability: London stores

    Five Points Brewing Company XPA
    Admittedly I had to look up 'XPA' because...what is it? Apparently it's something like an American Pale or an IPA, and something like an exercise in marketing.

    Whether XPA exists or not, this beer does and it's hazy, straw-yellow liquid with a short white head that laces the glass.

    It smells mostly citric, lightly tropical, slightly malty and rightly hoppy.

    It felt a little like soda water, a little too watery in the body. It's a little malty, a decent showing of citrusy hops with a dry-ish finish. It's not quite as juicy and fruity as the marketing spiel implied, a little thin with a medium bitter finish.

    James Beer Score
    Not bad, a little too light to write home about, but a decent bet for a session.

    Beer Score 3
    Matt Beer Score
    Nice tropical fruit aroma. I would session this.

    Beer Score 3
    Availability: London stores

    Brauerei Heller Lagerbier
    Let's get this out of the way, it is a truly awful label. Looks like a stock Word template for a German style beer. I'm sure it's awesome though.

    As a Helles should be, it's golden and frothy in appearance. It has a pleasant scent, mildly sweet and floral with an Otter's pockets worth of smoke.

    Light on body with tight carbonation, there is however, a reasonable depth of flavour...for a lighter beer style. Clean grains, malt, not too sweet, not too bitter.

    James Beer Score
    Indicative of the style, really good session beer.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Matt Beer Score
    Good nose, not a big flavour, but what's there is good.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Availability: Blackheath Beer Store, Edinburgh stores, Aberdeen stores and our London Bridge and Chorlton branches

    Stewarts Brewing
    A deep copper coloured pour, with a short lasting thin, white head.

    The aromas of fresh, grassy hops against floral notes make this smell like a rainbow's end bathing a spring meadow in colourful glory as the birds flutter and sing. Not really of course, that would be horribly trite, unlike this beer, which smells fresh.

    It feels thick and full with low carbonation resulting in a smooth and full beer, rather than watery. The flavour has candied citrus peel, clean grains, a little yeast, sharp and bitter grapefruit, and a slight metallic quality. It's an interesting journey, starting sweet and ending quite dry and bitter.

    James Beer Score
    Not for a session, but this is interesting and complex.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Matt Beer Score
    A mix of bittersweet fruits and biscuit malts. I liked it a lot.

    Beer Score 4
    Availability: Aberdeen and Glasgow stores

    Weird Beard Brew Co. Mariana Trench Pale AleSuspiciously cloudy and yellorange in colour with a slight, white fluffy head.

    It smells pretty tasty, a good showing of fresh and floral hops, bitter pine resin and citrus fruits.

    It has tight carbonation, but not so fizzy you'd struggle to discern the beer's character. I thought this beer was really well balanced, the fragrant, piney hops and sweet malt working in tandem for a flavourful citrus and tropical, fruity ale. Not too bitter.

    James Beer Score
    Fresh floral hop odour. Light, but pleasing. A fine and tasty ale.

    Beer Score 4
    Matt Beer Score
    Sets the standard for a good, drinkable APA without impressing too much.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Availability: London stores


    Remember, ale's well that ends well. Until next time.







  • Fancy an OddBeer...?

    OddBeers Logo


    "In the recent past, premier grape-juice peddlers Oddbins, offered up - by way of competition - the role of beer blogger, in exchange for a Twitter application. 'Erudite, well-travelled beerhemouth seeks savvy, customer-focused retailer to taste beer and review for #OddbinsBeer' was my winning tweet and golden ticket to the special sauce, hand-selected by Oddbins' own merchants of gold standard no-no juice.

    I should state at this point, that I am not a professional taster. I have no background in competitive tasting. I have never taken a course in beer tasting. What I do have is an appreciation of well-made things by passionate enthusiasts rather than cynical businessmen. In beer terms, this means I would usually avoid the flavourless, filtered fizzy water created on an industrial scale by corporate robots. It means that I enjoy complex flavours brought about by studying the process, ingredients and endless experimentation."

    "...and just to make sure James doesn't disappear up his own back cavity in a pompously grandiloquent celebration of hipster beers, I, being Matt, James' buddy has been forced to drink, opine and say "shut up" when he uses words like 'mouthfeel'."

    So, let's get going then. Here are the wondrous delights of Box Numero Uno...

    Notes from the Editor:

    The vast majority of our craft beer is small production and sourced locally. The reviewed beers are not always available in all of our stores, however, we have put a guide to availability under each review. Please use our store finder to locate your nearest branch and call ahead to guarantee stock is available.


    Well, this is as black as Donald Trump's heart, but fizzier than you'd expect, with a short-lived biscuit coloured head. Unfortunately Mr Trump's biscuit coloured head isn't as short-lived...

    It smells a little like cola, coffee and chocolate. I tried really hard to get the hint of coconut mentioned on the label, but I just didn't smell any.

    It would benefit from a little less fizz and a slightly fuller body, but it's smoky, roasted malts play well with the sweet chocolate. By now, I'm (or at least I've talked myself into) tasting coconut. This is what happens when I read the label before tasting. Overall, it's good. Not as full bodied as some, which actually makes it a going concern for a session.


    I would tear through these pretty quickly. Not one you'd labour over.



    A fine milk stout. This is fast becoming my favourite style of beer.


    Availability: Scotland stores only


    This is the latest in a growing line of fine collaborative brews with some of the finest independent breweries. This hazy, light gold effort, despite discernible effervescence, was headless like the horseman. Maybe the...ahem...bartender was to blame.

    This, rather oddly, smells like cured ham. Not entirely of course. The smoked wood comes through loud and clear with a smattering of grains. I'm hungry. I'm getting some cheese from the fridge.

    The flavour comprises of sweet bread, smoked malts, biscuit, caramel and stewed apples. The smoky quality is less a whiff as promised, but abundant and strong. The yeast does cut through the mix a bit and it goes really well with Gruyere.


    Have it with cheese or cured meat. Then again, have everything with cheese.



    For better or worse, you get exactly what's written on the label, oak-smoked and blonde. Best paired with food.


    Availability: All stores


    Pretty uninspired presentation, but we're here to judge the beer, not the bottle. In the glass it's a nice deep amber colour with a small, lacing white head. Not overly bubbly, a bit like me in the morning.

    It's a little toffee-like on the nose, with a subtle showing of citrusy hops.

    It lacks body, feeling very watery in the mouth. It tastes malty, with a dry bitter finish. Not really fruity, not hoppy, a little tobacco maybe. A reasonable amber ale but nothing too much to recommend going out of your way for.


    Not bad, but instantly forgettable.



    Not tasty enough for me.


    Availability: Oxford branch only


    Colour me unexcited at the prospect of a Pilsner, though I should mention that the Tempest Brewing 'Easy Livin Pils' is awesome...

    It pours a clear, light golden colour with a fast receding white head. It looks a lot like...a Pilsner.

    My nose tells me of its light, gently floral odour, with an otters pockets worth of washing up liquid. If the taste is a disaster, maybe I'll hand it to a woman from the 50's and demand she do the washing up.

    Thankfully, this is a decent pilsner. A little fruitier than average, it's bright, refreshing and not too heavily carbonated. An ever so slightly oily body, with a mouse's earlobes worth of washing up liquid. Certainly not enough to mar the experience.


    Drink this all day long at a festival, that's an order.



    I'd happily have this again.


    Availability: London stores only


    The trademark comic book Beavertown weirdness adorns the hipster 330ml can. What comes out of the can is a cloudy, rich amber brew with a large, foamy, off-white head.

    It smells good. There's tropical fruit, a bit of citrus and caramel malts. Matt's not so sure on the smell, he thinks it's minerally and a bit like you're down wind from a sewage outlet emptying into the sea. I heartily disagree. Also, Matt's fired.

    The flavour is a good balance of sweet and bitter. A good showing of malt, like a sweet bread. It lingers a little, but the tail is caramelised hops with a light to moderate bitterness, so...stay as long as you like.


    I could session this. Dangerous at 6.2%.



    Big flavour, trailing bitterness but good balance.


    Availability: All stores


    Oh dear, it looks like a kidney patients sample. I wonder if I should drink it out of a bag, using a catheter as a straw?

    The smell is all over the place, and as evasive and unknowable as a latter day Howard Hughes. I smelled, at different times, caramel, sherbet (though this fades after a while), grass, rubber, fish. This is a real nasal curve ball for me. A smelly blind spot.

    The taste fairs better. It's yeasty rather than hoppy, with subtle straw notes. She's a blonde with a good body on her, foamy, filling.


    A decent, helles style. Perfectly alright.



    I like it. It's nice. (Yeah, thanks for that deep insight - James).


    Availability: West London stores only

    Remember, ale's well that ends well. Until next time.


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