Name - Celebration Shield
Brewer - Worthington
Classification - Commemorative strong ale
Strength - 8% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye - Rich, toffee amber. Eye-catching bubbles. Eye-popping, even.
On the nose - Intoxicating sharp sweetness.
On the tongue - A massively impactful ale on almost every level.
On the subject - A very limited amount of these were brewed to mark the opening of Worthington's new White Shield Brewery in 2010. It's rather like a nuclear blend of Worthington's two other 'Shields' - 'White' and 'Red'.
On the market - Forget about it. Seriously.
On the whole - 7/10
Nobody likes a bighead.
Except, of course, in the world of beer.
But even on planet beer, heads can sometimes get too big, and I have to say I've never seen a head quite like the one produced by Worthington's Celebration Shield.
I'm convinced that this was yet another case of a bottle-conditioned beer protesting about being placed (gently) in the fridge for twenty minutes prior to being opened - in other words, a beer refusing to be served at optimum temperature - but whatever the reason, the result was a beer which actually came out of the bottle in bubble-form rather than the more commonplace liquid form.
The results were dramatic, to say the least. I had two glasses, two large spoons and a roll of kitchen towel on the scene long before these pictures were able to be taken. At various times during the attempted pour I felt somewhat like a paramedic. Or a storm chaser. Or a volcanologist.
The upshot of it is that I now officially have yet another reason to fear bottle-conditioned beers, and the way 'fear' usually manifests itself within the consumer's mind is in the form of a non-purchase, which is a sad state of affairs indeed.
As regular readers will know, I was already very wary of bottle-conditioned beers because of the apparent 50/50 risk of getting piles of congealed matter floating around in my drink, which I do not like and will never like, in spite of how breweries like to tell us how perfectly harmless it all is. I mean, nightmares about being chopped in half are ultimately 'harmless', but few people would enjoy having them.
But now I'm also realising that many of these beers can suffer from random temperature-related 'mood swings' which leave me with temporally unpourable beer and a certified guarantee of eventually getting yeast in my glass. The biggest shock here was that Worthington's have one of the best methods of achieving bottle-conditioning, which usually allows you to pour almost almost all of the drink without infecting it with grimy solids. But it now seems even their drinks will only do this if they're in the right 'frame of mind', and frankly that's just not an acceptable situation for me to keep putting myself in.
This is pretty decent beer, too, which only adds to the grief. And when it's also a very rare label like this one is – the sense of disappointment which bottle-conditioning instills is yet more potent.
But, this beer is called Celebration, so maybe they wanted it bursting out all over the place like fizzy wine. It seems fairly logical, if not massively enjoyable.
But let's try to focus on what there is to be jolly about. Because there's actually quite a bit.
It's a huge drink, no question about that. The alcohol content doesn't shy away in the corner by any means, but there are plenty of flavours here too, even though they don't disguise the booze level so much as match it punch for punch.
A strong-feeling strong ale is what this is, and the strength is in the taste as well as in the near-swooning effects of that no-nonsense 8%.
A part of me (the guy that took about 30 percent of the sips) found it all a bit overpowering and longed for something just a little more laid back, whilst the other part of me was getting all dewy-eyed and loved-up over it. And I think that's pretty much how it would be received in the wider drinking world, with the large majority lapping it up (slowly, I would advise) and with the rest fearing not to tread much further than a couple of mouthfuls. But the wider drinking world will never receive it, as it's very limited edition status dictates.
Subtle it is not, and yet it is nuanced - and you really can't say that about many beers in the known universe.
The various themes found in amongst that powerhouse booziness include orange, mango, gooseberry and even liquorice. Overall, there's a sense of aggressive sweetness, which is every bit as daunting as it is delightful.
All in all – especially given the trouble it caused me – I would probably not buy another of these, even though aspects of it were properly excellent. But my decision not to go in search of more is probably just as well, because only in the collectors market or the odd rare boutique would I ever find another one anyway. Well, except for that second bottle they sent me, which I will now cower in fear of whenever I see it.
Anyway, it's definitely worth trying if you somehow manage to stumble upon one, but for pity's sake – check that it's been having a good day before you even think about taking it's lid off!
And even then, make sure you've got a second empty glass, two large spoons and a full roll of paper towel standing at the ready.
I'm not even kidding.