Name – The Governor
Classification – 'All malt' beer/Bitter
Strength – 4.1% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Rich, vivid amber.
On the nose – Buttery nuts and lemon zest.
On the tongue – A tale in itself. Possibly the most courageous beer in history... (read on)
On the subject – Manchester based J.W. Lees are one of northern England's most established and most esteemed breweries. This team-up with Marco Pierre White (one of northern England's most established and most esteemed chefs) makes perfect sense on almost every level.
On the market – The Morrison's chain leapt on this one early, but for those without the inclination to leave the house can try the brewery's own online store.
On the whole – 8.5/10
On the whole – 8.5/10
Okay, so this is the highly regarded J.W. Lees brewery in collaboration with one of modern cuisine's most celebrated maestros Marco Pierre White.
Basically, what I'm saying here, is that it's hard not to have some very specific expectations growing in your mind when you sit down to review a product such as this. It's so easy to fall into the trap of anticipating something ultra-this or hyper-that which will fly at you with all kinds of bells, whistles and la-di-dah.
Try as I might not to fall victim to this trap, there's no question that I did – and as a consequence, the lid on this bottle was opened with the very same kind of excitement that the younger version of myself would have opened a parcel at Christmas.
But I have to say that things didn't quite turn out as I'd expected.
In fact, by the time I'd taken my first two sips, I was left wearing a similar expression to the one I wore on Christmas Day 1983 when I learned that my biggest present was a giant framed poster of E.T. and not a small snooker table.
Not exactly disappointed, but not exactly blown away.
This beer's initial impact was so remarkably understated, that in those first few moments I could even have claimed that I found it 'lacking'.
There was certainly nothing wrong with it, and the essential 'feel' of the drink was exactly as you would expect from a brewery of such standing. But where was Marco Pierre White? Where were all those years of attention to flavour detail, the diligent assemblage and construction of themes, and the playful interaction of one nuance pitted against another?
Where was the signature of a great artist?
Simply put, I was somewhat bemused. But finding myself convinced that this couldn't be the full story, I downed tools (I put my pen down) and I just sat with the drink for a while – in exactly the way I would have done if beer reviews were not a part of my life.
And, it soon transpired that both the beer and I were greatly appreciative of this unscheduled tea break, because what should begin to emerge after a few extra sips...?
Nothing less than the scrawled, flamboyant autograph of a truly great artist.
What began to dawn on me during these further sips, was that this beer had been subtly tinkering with the workings of my mind. Instead of allowing me to dictate the circumstances surrounding this taste test, the beer itself had taken charge. We were going to do this it's way – not mine – and in the first instance, this required me to kick back and take some proper time.
This beer is not a drink which sets out to bedazzle you upon first contact. In fact, it has no interest whatsoever in tickling your fancy or providing a quick thrill. This beer is in it for the long haul, and it wants to be your friend for life.
By the time I was just over halfway through, I looked back at the bottle and reminded myself of the relatively benign 4.1% ABV, and suddenly the whole thing made sense. I could go on drinking this beer not just all evening, but pretty much forever more.
It plays the long game, skilfully giving you just the right amount of each of its characteristics to maximise the enjoyment of a series of glasses – instead of sweeping you off your feet in an instant, only to become irksome or overwhelming shortly afterwards. (A problem which a great many contemporary 'impact beers' have in spades.)
For a new beer to have the confidence to take this slow burn approach is seriously impressive. Though, I gather 'confidence' is not something Mr White is massively short of, so perhaps it should come as little surprise.
Nutty, lightly fruited by pear, peach and apple, with some lovely sponge cake and caramel undertones, this is a light-bodied, refreshing beer which I simply cannot imagine myself ever tiring of.
I can think of very few beers that I could so confidently make such a claim about.
Some beers are for life, not just for Christmas.
This is one of them.