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.
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)