Name – Canberra
Brewer – Windsor & Eton
Classification – Commonwealth Ale (Confused? Read on...)
Strength – 4.0% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Deep, lustrous chestnut. Like some gloriously implausible rum and molasses cocktail.
On the nose – Good God! Big hops with equal treacle (which should be a band name) underscored with delicious smoky liquorice (which definitely should not be a band name).
On the tongue – Rich, rewarding and complex with fabulously zesty hops, all kinds of complimentary sub-flavours and an overall punch far greater than its strength ought to allow.
On the subject – This is the final beer of three brewed by Windsor & Eton to commemorate ‘Jubilee 2012’, and it’s arguable they've saved the very best for last. (See one of them reviewed here, and trust me that the other was totally ace.)
On the market – Another ‘grab it while you can’ beer arrives on The Bottled Beer Year, with the safest bet of doing so being to purchase from the brewery direct.
On the whole – 9/10
As the inevitable 'end of year reviews' begin to clog up every last media outlet over the coming weeks, much will be said about what has been (in any UK-linked territory at least) the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s time spent having to shake hands with unwell, poorly paid taxpayers – otherwise known as The Diamond Jubilee.
What might not be mentioned during all this dewy-eyed hullabaloo – not nearly as much as it should be, at least – is the relatively small contribution made to these festivities by a certain UK brewery, in the form of three enormously lovely (and even more enormously diverse) commemorative beers.
Long before this year-long national party had started, the magicians at Windsor & Eton had been quietly impressing me and thousands of other ale fundamentalists with an ever growing roster of astonishing beers, each of which manages to combine cutting edge characteristics and flavour themes with an equally immediate sense of tradition – an elusive little trick which few other breweries ever quite manage to pull off.
Uniquely, Canberra is called a ‘Commonwealth Ale’, and whilst that’s probably just the brewery entering into the spirit of their own idea and having a bit of fun with the royal theme, it’s also perfectly fitting that they should essentially invent an entirely new beer style for this brew because in my experience there just ain’t nothing like it currently available on the open market.
From the moment of contact with the lips this stuff begins racing around the full flavour spectrum like the proverbial bat out of Berkshire, and before you can properly identify any specific notes – it’s already begun firing barrages of new tastes at you as though it genuinely intends to kill you.
And this pleasantly aggressive characteristic is one of the things that most impresses about Canberra. After you remind yourself of the relatively benign alcohol content (4.0% ABV), you realise it beggars belief how they've managed to empower this drink with such a wealth of robust flavours as well as its almost menacing sense of inner might.
Specifically, the flavours at play here are spiced orange citrus, ginger cake, green figs, fennel, restrained cocoa, delicate traces of maple syrup – and the malts underpin all of this with a super-unique roasted nut, char-grilled tree sap kind of a twang which, frankly, leaves you wanting to sit the hell down and contemplate the inside of your own mouth for a good old while.
This really is a genuinely dynamic and hugely rewarding concoction.
All in all, this three beer salute to the British monarch has been imbued with a majesty every bit as grand as the one it was intended to reflect. The only difference being that this Windsor brewery has taken just a few short years to generate the same glorious heritage which a certain other local resident needed half a century to acquire.
Sip it and see.