Bombardier is one of those beers that just doesn't do it for me. Kegged, casked or bottled, it's a deceptively delicious-looking dark ruby ale with virtually no redeeming features in the flavour department. Not that it tastes unpleasant, I just find it dull as proverbial. It doesn't help that the brewery's nationalistic brand campaign is rather daft: country of origin as a selling point? Is that all you've got? But then all flag-waving, anthems and the whole things-being-objectively-better-owing-to-the-imaginary-boundaries-within-which-they-were-created seems incredibly stupid to me. I think it's because of where I grew up.
Anyway, my reservations about the brand and the basic beer weren't enough to put me off buying a bottle each of two new ones that Charles Wells has put out under the Bombardier marque. It was the porter that attracted me in particular, but I reckoned the golden ale would be worth a punt too, even though I wasn't expecting to like it. The marketing department, brand consultants and focus groups seem to have decided that phrases from William Blake's Jerusalem, England's unofficial national anthem, were the best way to name these oh-so-patriotic brews.
So first up is Burning Gold, and as you can see from its clear glass bottle, it's a lovely rich shade of amber. The aroma is delightfully pungent, the brewers having plainly decided that it would benefit from extensive light-conditioning before drinking. The body is big and rich: none of the wateriness that occasionally plagues the UK's paler summer ales. But there's bugger all by way of actual flavour. Rolling it around on the palate I get a vague bittersweet orange flavour, briefly, but the label promises "zest" and there's nothing here I'd dignify with that term.
As I said, I wasn't expecting much from the gold one, but I had higher hopes for Satanic Mills, a beer which glooped out of the bottle quite beautifully, forming a thick, slow-rising, beige head. Once again they have fashioned a superb texture; but that marvellous creamy mouthfeel is an empty stage. There's a faint hint of roasted plumminess in there, but it makes you work to find it. The viscosity means it's one for drinking slowly, but without any big flavours to entertain the drinker between sips, this beer amounts to a complete waste of time.
I'm adamant that my informed prejudice against Bomabardier the beer and its Al Murray sensibilities have not coloured my dim view of these new ones. I'm fairly sure what we have here are dumbed down versions of styles which somebody in the non-brewing end of the business figured there was a demand for, and which the company ought to be exploiting. This is beer designed by and for a committee, and you'd want to be insanely loyal to the brand to derive any enjoyment from drinking them.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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