THIS is one that I’ve been wanting to try for some time. From the English Wells and Young’s comes Bombardier. But this bottle isn’t the widely available, regular premium bitter. This, is Satanic Mills. No, not a jibe about professional wacko Heather Mills, but rather a different kind of bitter. Let’s try to figure out what they’re on about.
You might not have noticed it on the shelves next to dozens of other oddly shaped bottles, but this one is different. Not different in the way that most others surprise, by being very small. But by being ever so slightly bigger. Have a look at the neck label to see what I mean.
This, and the rest of the Wells Bombardier range is a pint. Not the typical, continental 500 millilitres that leaves your pint glass part empty. Finally, a brewery that sees sense. It’s confirmed on the other side too. That this is 568 millilitres. At last. Now if only every other brewer in the world would follow this example.
On the main front label, the first thing you notice is the St. George’s Cross planted firmly in the centre. This is going to be a fiercely English beer. And why not after the many fine Scottish ales that I’ve reviewed of late. Looking a little closer, this has a volume of 5.0%. And under the Wells name we’re told that they have been brewing since 1876. I like the design of the front label. The black background. The silver patterns. And the symmetry. It all gives a very professional appearance.
Turning the one-pint bottle around, and things aren’t so pretty. On a decent sized label, they have tried to cram a European Constitution’s worth text. And the route they’ve chosen to do that, is by using very very small text. What do you make of this?
I’m not looking forward to deciphering this. But I know that you’ve all come to expect impossible levels of detail from me. So here goes.
First of all, it transpires that the Satanic Mills name comes from the words to William Blake’s Jerusalem song. That like their original, and more widely available Premium Bitter, the water used for this beer comes from their own well. That they use English ‘Fuggles’ and ‘Goldings’ hops. And that this helps the drink to be fruity and smooth. But of course, I’ll be the judge of that.
It goes on in great detail to explain that Satanic Mills is brewed using ‘Ale’ and ‘Chocolate’ malt that is then intensely roasted. Not only that, but that the malt is carefully crushed instead of ground because doing so makes the flavours more complex and the head creamier. I didn’t even know that that was important before reading that. Not stopping there, it continues by telling us that it gets brewed for seven days.
Then we get to the various little details scattered all over the label. And they truly are scattered. The symbol telling us that this bottle contains 2.8 UK units of alcohol is half-way up the right-hand-side. On either side of the barcode we have the numerical volume of liquid and on the other, something telling us that this pint bottle has 13.6% more that a standard 500 millilitre bottle. In another little corner, we get a summary of the ingredients which as malted barley and oats in this case. And the address of their website which is http://www.bombardier.co.uk/.
Chaps, the front label is terrific. But the back label is a mess. It’s as if over the years, lots of little additions have been made. But no one has taken a step back and said “do we really need it all?” Cut some out. Separate the details from the story behind it. And for goodness sake, use larger sized text so we can actually read it.
With the pleasantries out of the way, we can finally see what this is like to drink. Once in the glass, it was as dark as a stout. But the head wasn’t as creamy as the label had promised. Even so, look at the sight of this. After so many bottles over-filling or under-filling the glass, it’s great to finally have a full pint.
One of the things that hit me was the smell. There’s no need to put the effort into actually sniffing this drink. You can smell the drink malt and barley from quite some distance. It might be a bit overpowering for some, but not if you like stout. Which is what this is turning out to be. Lets see if it tastes like a stout too.
I’m not sure. Admittedly, that’s probably down to my utter lack of knowledge regarding beers. But it’s definitely similar to, but not identical to stouts. Does that make this a variation on the dark ale instead? I don’t know the answer to that either. The label bills this as a ‘premium bitter’. And yes, it is bittery. But the dark character of Satanic Mills is thoroughly different to any other bitter I’ve tested.
How can I describe what this is like to drink? It is mildly bitter, but not as strong as I was expecting. And it doesn’t have any nasty after taste either. Surprisingly, it’s not got much to offend your palate, whatever drink you usually stick to. I’m not a fan of bitters and half-expected to be unimpressed by this. But Satanic Mills is turning into a surprise.
It’s not at all gassy. And it has a heavy, full-bodied character to it. But without the downsides of strong lingering aftertastes. I expected to find this hard-going, but it’s not. Completely unexpectedly, Satanic Mills is one of the most pleasantly drinkable bitters I’ve yet sampled.
How can I sum up Satanic Mills? Instead of being the tough, heavy, dark bitter I was expecting; Satanic Mills is a heavy, dark, drinkable, lightly-bitter drink. And none of that was mentioned on the back label. This is an exceptional English bitter with plenty of complexity and character. If only they’d communicate it better. Lastly, I grew to enjoy this brew. But drinkers who like their beers refreshing might want to look elsewhere.
Have you tried Satanic Mills? What did you think?
Any suggestions for what I should review next?
Comments, ideas and insults below please.