Winners of the regional heats, from Devon to the Orkney Islands, gathered at London’s Oxo Tower to hear the results.
Thwaites in Lancashire has created a microbrewery within its brewery to whip up experimental brews, and its Craft Dan – named by staff in honour of brewery founder Daniel Thwaites – finished runner-up.
But the big winner was Batemans, which scooped the top prize for the second year in a row after its Mocha won the 2012 event.
Jaclyn Bateman said: “To win again is amazing. We know what winning the last one did and how much it helped us grow.”
B Bock is a 6% abv ale with a dark brown colour, aromas of caramel and rich fruit and sweet malt flavours.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King called ale a “vibrant and growing industry” and pledged to support British brewers.
He said: “What the country needs is a lot more people turning raw material into fantastic produce.
“We over-trade in bottled beer – we have a 17% food share and we are a little bit north of 20% in bottled ales. We punch above our weight and our shoppers are interested in artisan producers and there’s a real demand for artisan products.”
The Great British Beer Hunt began with four regional beer hunts and at each event hundreds of Sainsbury’s customers sampled all of the beers entered in their region and picked their favourites.
Twenty regional winners competed nationally in 300 stores during September for a place in the grand final and the 12 bestsellers went forward.
A panel of experts judged the finalists on taste, and now both B Bock and Crafty Dan, a 6% abv fruity pale ale, will enjoy a six-month national listing at Sainsbury’s.
Sainsbury’s ale buyer Jack Rutherford said: “It’s been a record year for beer and we have had a record number of entries.
“We sold 320,000 bottles of beer during the festival, which equates to one every four minutes – an amazing achievement.”
Rutherford said there will be no Great British Beer Hunt in 2014, giving the retailer a chance to work with the brewers that entered and overhaul its range, and that the competition will return in 2015.