One of the greater things about watching football in America is that most matches, especially those of the EPL, are early in the morning American time, giving people an excuse to daydrink. This is part of our series discussing exactly what to drink when you’re at the pub, presented by our resident homebrewer, Keith.
The Beer: Wells Bombardier, Wells and Young’s Brewing Company, Bedford, United Kingdom
The Pub: The Queen Vic, in Northeast DC
What you need to know: I covered the ESB as a style in last week’s post. Bombardier is of the same style, though it has a much longer pedigree than Newcastle Founder’s Ale.
Wells and Young’s Brewing Company was created by the merger of two long-storied brewers in 2006. Young’s, which was founded in 1831 (though the site on which the brewery was founded has been brewing since 1581, according to Garrett Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table), owns 40 percent of the merged company; we’ll cover their full history later in this series. Charles Wells Ltd., founded in 1876, owns the controlling 60 percent. Charles Wells, a former Chief Officer in the British Navy, founded the brewery after his father-in-law-to-be insisted that Wells leave the Navy or kiss his sweetheart goodbye.
With the purchase of a small brewery at Horne Lane in Bedford were included 35 pubs, which Wells eventually built into a brewing and serving giant. The fifth generation of the Wells family continues to run the brewery and pubco operations of Wells and Young’s today, which also includes the ales of the John Courage Brewery after a 2007 purchase, and McEwan’s Scottish Ales, purchased in 2011; after moving operations from the original Horne Lane Brewery to a site near Bedford Town Hall in 1976, Wells also handles the UK brewing of Kirin, Red Stripe and Corona.
Wells Bombardier is the current flagship brew of the Wells brewery, and it was first brewed in the early 20th century. Purportedly, the beer is named after the boxer “Bombardier” Billy Wells (no relation to the brewer), the first heavyweight to win the Lonsdale belt, traditionally given to Britains best pound-for-pound boxer.
So, about this beer: Bombardier pours a clear copper color, with a pillowy off-white head, which fades to a light centimeter of foam about halfway through (but thick lacing sticks to the glass the whole way through). The beer comes to the nose with heavy biscuit and floral hop and yeast aromas. The taste is really well balanced; brown sugar, raisin , and malt meet the palate, while the tastes of mineral water and mild hop bitterness finish it off. Mouthfeel is slightly thin, with a really nice bit of carbonation.
The Verdict: Bombardier is just about my favorite ESB that gets imported to the U.S. (My actual favorite, which I hope to be able to post about sometime in the not-too-distant future, is John Courage Directors). Where the Founder’s Ale is a little thin, ephemeral, and not all that grounded, Bombardier just tastes grounded and mature. I could drink this all day, and while it may not be my all-time desert island beer, I wouldn’t be desperate to leave a desert island that had this available to me.