Sunday 25 August 2013

What the Colonel ordered

Three years ago I wrote about the new wave of 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.


  1. I heard Wells and Young's brew more lager than ales.

  2. I'm afraid I fall into the Fuller's camp, rather than Wells & Youngs.
    I haven't seen this beer yet in any of our local Tesco stores, but will keep an eye out for it, especially if it's preiced at just £1.99.

    Ed - the same applies to Shepherd Neame, in fact I'd go as far as to say they're a "contract lager brewery", rather than a traditional ale one!

  3. Martin, Cambridge26 August 2013 at 20:52

    One of your most unexpected views Curmudgeon ! Would like to know where you've had good Bombardier, which is notoriously inconsistent between pubs, though I guess that's not the brewer's fault. The rest of the range and the Youngs/Courage are fairly reliable though.

    Agree about Fullers though.

  4. The comment about W & Y was more geared to their PBA range than draught. However, while I always thought standard Bombardier was a beer I didn't like, in fact I've had it on quite a few occasions (often when it was the only cask beer on the bar) and found it surprisingly palatable. There's a post to that effect somewhere in the archives.

    To be honest, I very rarely see any other W & Y beers on cask, although I did have a Young's Special the other day.

  5. I found the Colonel's Choice at ASDA in their 4 for £5 range. Great value at £1.25 and a really good tasting beer. I fell out with Bombardier when they watered it down from 5.2% to 4.7%. This is better than that rubbish.

  6. 4 for £5 is only 41.7p per unit - so Alcohol Concern won't be happy. Also currently included in Tesco's 4 for £6 offer, which is exactly 50p per unit.


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