super-premium ales that were appearing on the supermarket shelves. Since then, they have settled in to their own niche and, despite their strength, failed to spark any outbreaks of drunken misbehaviour. Indeed, Marston’s Pedigree VSOP, which I thought was one of the better ones, now seems to have disappeared.
My local Tesco, rather oddly, stocks bottled stouts in a separate area from the general run of premium bottled ales, but some conventional paler beers sometimes seem to sneak into that section. And it was there that I recently came across for the first time Wells Bombardier Reserve: The Colonel’s Choice. With a strength of 6.0% ABV, it comes, creditably, in a brown bottle and was on sale at £1.99 (66p per unit), although it wasn’t included in Tesco’s current 4 for £6 offer.
It pours dark amber, similar in colour to Directors and notably paler than the standard Bombardier, with a solid, lasting head. The label says “If you like hops, you’ll simply love this beer. Yes, there are more hops in this beer than you can shake a stick at.” While it undoubtedly is hoppy by Wells & Youngs’ standards, you shouldn’t expect a Punk IPA-style hop bomb. Instead, it’s a fairly complex, multi-layered beer, with a firm, dry malt underpinning, a distinct alcohol kick and a strong hop overlay. It’s quite assertive all round. If anything, as with the colour, it’s more like a turbocharged Directors than a boosted Bombardier.
I’ve long regarded Wells & Youngs as about the best of the bigger ale brewers* (and not because they once gave me some free samples) and this beer certainly didn’t disappoint. One that will definitely merit a repeat purchase or two.
* Most people would say Fuller’s but, while I respect their brewing skills and dedication, the distinctive bittersweet, biscuity house character of their beers just doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid.