Name - Guardsman
Brewer - Windsor & Eton
Classification - Best bitter
Strength - 4.2% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye - Rich, deep, fulsome amber.
On the nose - Lemon, ginger cake, wild-grasses. Nice.
On the tongue - Drinks like a modern classic. High citrus hops over a gently nutty base.
On the subject - Windsor & Eton Brewery have an ambition to have their beers take a place among the most recognised sights in their illustrious town. In my opinion, they are setting their targets far too low, because their beers are just far too good.
On the market - Criminally rare. Decent local coverage but drinkers everywhere deserve access to this brew. Fortunately, someone invented the internet for just such a purpose - so try Ales By Mail.
On the whole - 9/10
This is lovely.
I tried to talk myself out of kicking-off this review with that opening line - but this beer was in absolute control of what was to be written right from the start.
It is true to say that certain beers are so well crafted that they write the reviews themselves. With these beers, every element has been engineered with such precision that the experience of drinking them is a clearly defined one, and leaves no room or need for interpretation or embellishment.
Such beers reach you with an impossible sense of immediate familiarity - even though you never tasted them before in your life. It's a strange magic, and always intensely pleasurable.
This is as good an example of such a beer as any.
Where to start?
Well, there is a dryness to the high-citrus principle flavour theme which makes for one of the satisfying sequences of opening sips I've yet experienced here on The Year.
But that's only where the fun begins. As your bedazzled mouth gradually starts to come to terms with what's happening to it - a further string of highly pleasant surprises begins to play out, with all manner of complementary flavours mingling and interweaving at multiple intensities, ultimately amounting to an enormously gratifying glass of beer.
The label reads 'Oak Crafted', and I have to say that this made me a little wary before the pour - probably due to a mild phobia of 'oaked' wines that I've been unhappily developing over recent years. But, mercifully (and perhaps quite perplexingly) I could detect no sense of any kind of 'oak' at all. In fact, regardless of the role oak has allegedly played in the brewing of this ale, I can cheerfully report that it has had no discernible effect on it's taste. I can only suppose the oak was used to assist in the silky smooth feel of the drink, in which case it was probably a very wise move.
But, key thing is what this ale does taste like.
In short, it is veritable kaleidoscope of zesty bitterness, brought mesmerically into balance by an exquisitely delicate nutty base.
That skilfully pitched nuttiness provides a delightfully savoury backbone for the beer - the fruits are never allowed to rampage freely about the place as I suspect they would like to - everything just feels very tightly honed and orchestrated.
I like this brewery more and more with every new title I try. Every beer of theirs is excellent, but somehow every new one seems to outdo the last.
This is easily the best yet.
It is a quite glorious ale.