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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.