Posts Tagged ‘bombardier’

Beer Review: Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter

16 June, 2009

BACK to normal this post, and I begin with an apology. So far, I’ve enjoyed Wells’ outstanding Satanic Mills and tasty Burning Gold Bombardier bottled beers. But managed to completely overlook the much easier to find English Premium Bitter. I don’t normally go for straight-up bitters as they’re usually uninteresting, but the ubiquity and patriotism of English Premium Bitter means it must be tried. And, of course, it fills a gaping hole in my coverage of the Wells’ splendid Bombardier range. So here it is. A bottle of Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter. Bought for £1.99 pence from a shop on Bethnal Green Road in London’s East End.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter bottle

Looking as solid as an old English oak tree, Wells choose their bottles well. What’s more, they’ve been learning what you should do with the neck label. Brewers, take note, they have put useful information on it. Have a look at this.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter front of neck label

Well, okay, on closer inspection it’s more marketing speak than useful information. But it’s a start. Does “burnished copper ale” mean anything to anyone reading? If so, leave a comment at the end of the post.

The front label keeps things simple, traditional and English.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter front label

What more can you say about it? It’s a shield in the design of St George’s Cross. The middle keeps things simple. It has the “Wells” logo with the words “Brewers Since 1876” which is a long time ago, but not a very long time ago. Under that are the banners and crest saying “Bombardier” “English” “Premium Bitter”. Under which is that all imported alcoholic volume. 5.2% alcoholic volume makes it strong, but not very strong.

What of the back? The neck label is again the place to start.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter back of neck label

It looks like a lot of information until you realise that it’s the same piece of information in many languages. All you need to know is that it was brewed by “Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Limited, Bedford, UK, MK40 4LU.” So there you have it. Interesting beers from a boring place.

The back label proper is where the real detail lies.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter back label

They open with a description so informative and concise, I don’t need to paraphrase. Instead, here it is in full: “Our own natural mineral water, the ripest English Fuggles hops and crushed Crystal malt deliver this experience of England in a glass. Peppery aromas give way to the perfect balance of malty richness, tangy hops and sultana fruit on the palate, with a long, soft spicy finish”.

Mouth watering stuff. And, remarkably informative and concise. Not like the marketing speak and dearth of facts we normally put up with. Well done Wells.

Under that is the list of ingredients. And it’s good new again. It’s the full thing, not the one or two ingredients you usually get. Nothing too out of the ordinary apart from two E numbers. Now they’re not welcome. British ale is supposed to be as natural as a hedge covered in brambles. For the curious, the list is “Water, Malted Barley, Sugar, Hops, Yeast, Colour E150C, Stabiliser E405.”

Under all the uninteresting small print are a few bits of miscellany. The web address is www.bombardier.co.uk. And, with an alcoholic volume of 5.2% and a 500ml bottle (why not a full pint?), Bombardier English Premium Bitter weighs in at 2.6 UK units of alcohol.

With that out of the way, we get to the fun bit. What does Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter actually taste like? Is it any good and should you buy it? Let’s find out.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter poured into a glass

Frustratingly, this English Premium Bitter fails to fill my English pint glass. The blotchy head doesn’t improve matters either. But the “burnished copper” thing starts to make sense. The photo might not show it, but it’s the colour of copper that hasn’t been cleaned in a few years.

What does Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter smell of? It’s not a smell hat fills the room. Hold your nose over the glass however, and you’re rewarded with a luscious smell of hops. The label described the smell as “peppery”. There’s certainly something giving it an edge.

What does Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter taste of? The first two gulps are nice ones. And ones that tell me this is to be sipped, not gulped. First impression is that there’s not a whole lot of flavour or taste. It’s there, only being a little more subtle than your typical English football fan.

A few more sips, and I’m making some sense of Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter. The label described things like “malty richness, tangy hops and sultana fruit” and a “soft spicy finish”. I think it’s got most of those things, but less of them than you’d expect. There is a mildly fruity taste, but blink and you’d miss it. The aftertaste is soft and gentle, but with such a long, lingering finish, you don’t miss it as easily. I’m going to describe it as malty, biscuity and hoppy.

As for bitterness, the whole flavour and taste experience is so soft and gentle, I’m amazed it’s even called a “Bitter”.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about beer, but if, like me, you were expecting an onslaught of taste and bitterness, Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter will come as a surprise.

What do I like about Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter? I like how well it’s packaged. I like the subtlety of flavours and taste. I like how that subtlety was such a surprise. I like how easy to drink it is; and how much of a surprise that drinkability is. And, like the other Bombardiers, it is very well made with some excellent ingredients.

What don’t I like about Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter? I don’t like my English Premium Bitter to adopt a Euro 500ml and failing to fill a pint glass. Personal preference here, but I was hoping for flavour and taste that the human tongue could detect. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, it is still better than most lagers, but the labels built up hopes of more. Lastly, those E numbers. Is quality ale supposed to have E numbers? Experts, do please leave your thoughts in the comments at the end of the post.

To sum up, Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter is a surprisingly soft and gentle bitter that’s nearly as easy to drink as lager. I think some people might call it a “session ale” for those reasons. It reminds me of Fuller’s London Pride and Marston’s Pedigree. If you want a drinkable ale, but don’t want a summery taste or to feel like you’re easting it, this is the one to choose.

Rating: 3.8

Have you tried Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter? Can you answer any of the numerous questions raised in the ‘review’? Do please leave your answers, opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Wells Bombardier Burning Gold

18 March, 2009

I COULDN’T believe it either. But my local Tesco Metro is selling something interesting again. And it is a golden ale from England’s most patriotic of ale brands: Well’s Bombardier Burning Gold. That’s the same Wells that brought us the delectable Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, quirky Banana Bread Beer and sublime Bombardier Satanic Mills porter. I’m looking forward to gold in bottle shape.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold bottle

Just look at it. You won’t mistake it for many other bottles. It’s as if someone made a gold coloured jelly in a bottle shaped mould, and then stuck some labels on. Look closely and you’ll see the Wells bottle design with the words “Independent Family Brewer” embossed around the shoulder.

Here is the front of the neck-label.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold front of neck label

Whatever your take on English patriotism, the label ticks all the right boxes. And that’s worth celebrating because so many brewers get it wrong. Look past the “Drink of England” and the tenuous link to William Blake’s Jerusalem and you find some useful information.

They describe it as a “lively, refreshing golden ale”. Every bottle of beer should have that sort of description on the neck label. It just makes your ‘buy’ or ‘not buy’ decision in the shop so much faster.

The neck-label doesn’t end there though. It wraps around. And the back of it helpfully tells you who brewed it, bottled it, and where.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold back of neck label

For the curious, the full name of Wells is Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Limited. And they come from Bedford. And I can’t think of anything interesting to say abut Bedford. If you can, leave a comment at the end of the post.

The front-label takes the standard Wells shield and makes it gold.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold front label

It doesn’t say any more than it needs to say, either. The Wells name proudly sports the date 1876. Which is good. And the alcoholic volume can’t be missed. The 4.7% in Burning Gold isn’t bad. Not strong, nor weak.

Over on the back label, and Wells’ polished house style continues its gold theme.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold back label

It goes straight into a more detailed version of the description from the neck-label. They describe it as “an instantly refreshing beer”. That the aroma is “zesty”. And that it has a “dry, crisp flavour with more than a hint of citrus on the palate and a smooth lasting finish”. Sounds yummy. When you read the back of a beer bottle in the shop, that is the sort of thing you want to read about. Not a back story involving legendary figures and ancient traditions.

The ingredients are water, malted barley, hops and yeast. In, presumably, order of proportion. And that’s good because usually, they are not. Water, if it gets a mention at all, it hidden away at the back of the list.

The web address they print on the bottle is www.bombardier.co.uk. I encourage you to visit. It’s not too Flash-heavy and far from the worst brewer website out there. The closest I could find to a homepage for Burning Gold was half a page shared with Satanic Mills. Both well worth reading about, and drinking, but surely they deserve their own obsessively detailed homepages?

The only other bit of small-print worth repeating are the UK units of alcohol. This 500ml bottle and 4.7% alcoholic volume brings it to 2.4 UK units of alcohol. That means you can have nearly two before you are in receipts of an ASBO. And, if Sir Liam Donaldson gets his way, your wallet will be nearly £1.50 pence lighter.

So, will Wells Bombardier Burning Gold be as delicious as I’m hoping it will be? What will it taste like? And should you buy it? These questions and more I shall attempt to answer for you, now…

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold poured into a glass

The colour is no surprise. It’s exactly the same dark golden hue as you saw the bottle. Not much head to speak of. There is a patchy layer of foam, but nothing to imperil your pouring. My pint glass easily contained it all.

The label promised “zesty aromas”. Does it deliver? Impressively. It smells delicious. It’s pungent enough for you to smell it easily enough, too. “Zesty” is definitely the right word for it. There’s all kinds of citrusy and plant-based smells in there. It reminds me of that lemon scented kitchen and bathroom surface cleaner. In a good, unmistakably beery way. It really does smell very nice indeed.

What does it taste like? A couple of gulps in, and it is very pleasant. The label describes the flavour as “dry” and “crisp”, “with more than a hint of citrus”. Yet again, I can’t disagree. Citrus is the main flavour. But I think the dry malty taste adds some biscuit to the blend of flavours.

I can’t disagree with the description of it having a “smooth lasting finish” either. After the flavours pass, the transition to the aftertaste really is as smooth as the service at a Swedish railway station. There is no bitter “bite” anywhere to be seen. Instead, what you get is a lightly malty and hoppy finish that lasts and lasts. You’ll struggle to know what it is you’re tasting, it is that gentle. But you’ll be happy that it’s there.

Nearly half-way through, and I’m finding a lot to like about Wells Bombardier Burning Gold. For starters, there’s enough layers to the flavour and taste to keep you thinking. Everyone of them is blended into something that tastes superb. And it does this while being smooth, crisp, light and refreshing. On top of all those things, it’s very easy to drink. Something that must reflect on the quality of the ingredients and effort that went into it. Also, unlike with some ales, you won’t feel like you’re eating a heavy meal. And, it’s not gassy, either.

However, I do have a few problems with Burning Gold. Foremost among which is what it stands for. Burning Gold seems to be yet another well made summery ale. Yet another one. Why would you choose this, over say, Morrissey Fox Blonde, Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale or any other of the expertly made, delicious, summery ales? There’s nothing wrong with them, on their own. Just a lack of imagination when you round them up together.

Besides that, there’s not much to dislike about Wells Bombardier Burning Gold. I’m not a fan of ‘dryness’, but I’m sure a lot of you out there will love that about it. If I had to nitpick, it would be that it’s still quite hard to find. The stock in my local Tesco could vanish never to be seen again.

To sum up, Wells Bombardier Burning Gold is a delicious, high-quality, drinkable, if slightly unimaginative summery ale. If you normally only inflict cider on your body, treat it to some Burning Gold. This is an outstanding transition ale to help you bridge the flavour gap. Nothing about Burning Gold will put you off. If you’re trying to decide whether to buy it, I say yes. Burning Gold is an excellent use of your weekly drinks budget. I just wish that they had shown a tiny bit more imagination. Put some moss or coconut in and make it truly inspired.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Wells Bombardier Burning Gold? Do you work for Wells & Young’s? What did you think of this bottled ale? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, ramblings, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments. And yes, I do read every single one of them.

Beer Review: Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills

27 March, 2008

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.
Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills bottle

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.
Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills neck label

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.
Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills front label

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?
Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills back label

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.
Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills in a glass

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.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Satanic Mills? What did you think?
Any suggestions for what I should review next?
Comments, ideas and insults below please.


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