13 October 2008

Blake's 2

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.


  1. I find some of the marketing in the ale world quite disturbing. The backbone of the market are the real beer lovers, not carling fan lager boy types. I would have though that by brewing to more of the extreme end of the styles would impress the punters more, and thus transfer into sales. But brewing inoffensive versions of beer styles is just an attempt to attract the major market share, which is fuelled more by price and brand loyalty. It just doesnt add up?

  2. It's not prejudice. As an out-and-out Englishman I find the bog-standard Bombardier dull and the Burning Gold pointless. The Satanic Mills is slightly more tolerable but provokes no real excitement. I don't rate Wells or Youngs really.

  3. Well that's what surprises me, 'cos I do. I'm quite partial to Young's Ordinary, and Double Chocolate, and Banana Bread Beer, and Kew Gold; and I've no objection whatsoever to Director's Bitter. They seem well capable of decent beer to me, yet this is their flagship?

  4. I realise I'm probably in the minority but I find the 'Ordinary' just that and the cask 'Special' anything but. The Double Choc Stout is nice though and Directors isn't really Wells/Youngs is it?

  5. Fatman2:11 pm

    'Drink of England' ?

    During the height of that campaign someone in production let slip to a trade magazine that it was hopped with german hop oils to give it that 'distinctive Wells hop aroma'. I doubt it still is...

  6. Isn't it? What are you asking me for: I only saw it on Wikipedia, font of all my beer "knowledge" (contrary to Zythophile's advice).

  7. ^^^^
    @ Dubbel.

    Fatman, that's hilarious.

  8. Was the infamous Courage Director's Bitter until January 2007 when S&N sold it to W&YBC but was already a shadow of it's former glory by then IMHO.

  9. I did notice yesterday that Young's ordinary is bottle conditioned now, and it has improved a lot since production moved from Wandsworth.
    Its a pity that Young's pubs around London have become a bit poncy after refurbs. The Brook Green and The Stinging Nettle are the latest casualties.

  10. I must confess to rather liking Bombardier from the bottle. The cask didn't excite me though.

    I thought the Satanic Mills a bit harmless and didn't even bother buying the clear glass bottled Burning Gold. I'm glad I didn't miss out on anything.

  11. jocko2:38 am

    Sometimes you have to try a beer more than one once to appreciate it.My local has had satanic mills for at least a year and i think its a very good porter style beer.Probably the only good thing to come out of the Wells and Youngs merger.

  12. My policy on this is if lots of people tell me "no, that is in fact a really good beer you're dismissing", I'll give it another go. I'm even ready for my third pint of Landlord, but I think that'll have to be in Stonch's Landlord Laboratory some time, where its condition is guaranteed. Then I'll finally give up on it.

    However, as you can see from the comments above, Jocko, I'm not hearing a lot of love for the Bombardier Babies.