Thursday, 28 November 2013

As plain as red and white

Worthington’s bottle-conditioned White Shield is one of the classic British beers and one that I will often go back to despite experiences of variable quality that I have reported previously.

A few years ago, the 4.2% ABV Red Shield was launched as a kind of little brother to White Shield. Although it was also made available in bottle, the main motivation was to provide a beer to offer in cask form, as the 5.6% White Shield is too strong to find many takers in the pub. However, it’s not, as you might expect, a weaker beer of the same general style, but in fact a distinctly different brew in the contemporary blonde beer idiom.

As far as I can see, it hasn’t exactly been a roaring success in either form and I’ve rarely seen them available, although I think I have sampled both on occasion. However, I was interested to spot a large supply of the bottles on sale in my local Home Bargains store at a mere £1 – which does hint at a level of surplus stock. So I had to give it another go.

It comes in the same dark-brown, round-shouldered bottle as its stronger stablemate. Despite being bottle-conditioned, the yeast sticks firmly to the bottom of the bottle so it’s easy to pour. It’s a bright pale gold colour in the glass, with a dense, rocky head and visible spires of carbonation rising through the beer, just as a good bottle-conditioned beer should be. So top marks for presentation and condition.

The actual flavour is less impressive, though. The whole thing is fairly subdued, light-bodied, basically dry with a malt underpinning and a hint of citrussy hops. It’s a good beer for refreshment, but not particularly distinctive, and overall too subtle for its own good, rather like Young’s London Gold which I reviewed a couple of years ago. So by all means snap up a few at £1 a bottle, but if paying full whack there are plenty of other beers I would prefer.

The bottle says, as with White Shield, that it is “closer to cask”, which is really a pretty inaccurate and misleading statement. While both bottle- and cask-conditioned beers undergo a secondary fermentation, they emerge as distinctly different products. It’s also interesting to see that, in the latest redesign, Molson Coors have adopted the same overall look for canned Worthington Creamflow as well as White and Red Shield. I doubt whether there is much overlap between the target markets, though.

Incidentally, if you’re not too concerned about the overall breadth of range, Home Bargains is a good place to stock up on premium bottled ales at notably lower prices than the major supermarkets, even taking their multibuy offers into account. Much of the selection comes from the Marston’s and Thwaites stables, but you can find other rarities and one-offs as well. (And before someone pipes up and says “B&M Bargains is just as good” – yes, I know, but their branch in Stockport isn’t licensed)


  1. This blog would be far better if the main theme of it was places to find cheap grog, rather than banging on about smoking bans.

  2. I got some of this from Home Bargains too. Sadly it tasted of so little that I was worried there might be something wrong with it. Maybe not, however.

    It's a pity, because I love White Shield.

  3. Professor Pie-Tin28 November 2013 at 22:00

    I remember a couple of years ago seeing my first bottle of this in Ireland in the Vicarstown Inn in Cork.
    Standing there on the shelf surrounded by bottles of industrial Irish cider it looked like an old friend from the Empire finally poking its head back up amongst unfriendly natives.
    Alas, it tasted of nothing other than English industrial nopttle dbeer.
    Great label but a triumph of style over substance.

  4. B&M bargains is a good shout for cheap beer.
    Picked up some Oakham Citra and JHB. Also some Guinness Foreign Extra for 89p a bottle and a 4 pack of Krusovice cerne for £1.49. Getting pretty close to it's best before date mind you.

  5. I'm with Cooking Lager: can we not set up some sort of gazetteer/database of outlets knocking out cheap grog?

  6. Red shield was on the shelf in my local 'bargin booze' outlet for over a year, always for a £1 and often for a deal of eight bottles for 7 quid so it seems more a persistent pricing strategy rather than a surplus offloading one?

  7. I want E. Does that ever show up in any of these places?

  8. Unfortunately we don't have any branches of "Home Bargains" here in the soft-south, in fact I've never even heard of them.

    I've never heard of "B&M Bargains" either. Am I missing something?

  9. They do get down your way, Paul - I think this may be your nearest branch.

    Both chains sell a lot of branded groceries, toiletries, household items etc. at very reasonable prices and, as with the beer, may sometimes have some unusual lines.

    Incidentally, they now seem to have sold out of Red Shield.


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