Contender #1: Dark Lord from Batemans
This one is a bit of a cheat since the Dark Lord for whom it is named is Thomas Fairfax, Third Lord Fairfax of Cameron. He not only is not royalty, he fought as a general for the parliamentarians in the English Civil War. His fame as a general was eclipsed by Oliver Cromwell (on whose side he fought against the royalists) during the same war. "Dark Lord" certainly sounds regal enough, so it makes the cut.
The brewers write it up thusly on the bottle's label:
Brewed to commemorate 'Black Tom' who fought in the English Civil War at The Battle of Winceby, Lincolnshire. It is RICH and SPICY and goes well with CHEESE AND RED MEAT. Gold Medal Winner World's 50 Best Beers International Beer Competition.It's a nice dark beer, neither exceptionally bitter nor exceptionally noteworthy. Did this really win a prize at a competition for the fifty best beers in the world? It tastes somewhat indistinct to me. I'm not sure I could pick it out of a line up.
Contender #2: Bad King John from Ridgeway Brewing
Named after John I, one of the most notorious kings of England. Yeah, he's the one who lost Normandy to the French. Yeah, he's the one who caused his barons to force Magna Carta on him. He's the one who's always bested by Robin Hood and Richard the Lionhearted in the movies. Even the BBC says he is a classic villain. Who better to represent a black ale? Sorry Black Tom, you've just been upstaged.
This is the bottle's write up:
Bad King John is black...bitter...intense...like the ruthless man it honours. Do not come here looking for subtlety!The ale is actually quite nice. It's very chocolaty/coffee flavor is not overwhelming. The bitterness is mild and only in the aftertaste. The beer is quite a good drink, especially after dinner. I would definitely drink it again.
Contender #3: King Goblin by Wychwood
Clearly this beer is about a fantasy king, not an English king. The brewers, Wychwood, have many similarly themed beers with witches, goblins, and other fantasy creatures. This is a special brew, but let's the the write up on the label explain:
Only ever brewed under a full lunar moon, with Crystal malts and Sovereign hops for a rich, smooth sublimity satisfying taste of pure beer indulgence.This is a very tasty beer, with a bit of toffee and a bit of bitter. The flavor is rich but not ostentatious. I liked it very much and will definitely drink it again when the moon is right with the world and the brewery. I just hope I can find it again!
Contender #4: Imperial Ale by Wentworth Brewery
The most regal-looking label so far is found on this ale. It almost seems like it was brewed for the Jubilee itself. Why haven't I found any special brews like that? Anyway, here's the bottle's write up:
Our new session bitter, a glowing tawny coloured ale with a refreshingly floral nose. Going down great guns on tap and now brought to you bottled.I can agree with the floral assessment but not with the refreshing description. Drinking it made me think they made it with potpourri water. Dried fruit flavors come through a little too strongly and the bitterness is barely there. Imperial Ale is a pretty big disappointment. It's as if it came from the Galactic Empire, who wants to oppress its citizens in any way it can, rather than the British Empire, home of the finest brewers I know.
Contender #5: Old Empire by Marston's Brewery
Claiming to be the "original export," this India Pale Ale is an ale sent to India by the pale Brits back in the day. Let the blurb on the label explain it:
Marston's Old Empire is a true India Pale Ale--it has a strong hop aroma and flavour, a rich malty, bitter taste and is pale in colour.Maybe this is the original IPA and that's why it seems so average to me. Certainly it is better than American counterparts, but maybe it needs a three-month sea voyage to slosh it around and bring out some distinctive flavors. Okay but not great in my book.
During the 19th century, Burton became famous for brewing the best beer for export to India. Sparkling spring water, a robust strain of yeast, high levels of hops and maturation in oak casks all ensured that the beer survived the three-month sea journey to India. The result was a beer with a tangy, clean bitterness and wonderfully refreshing character.
Contender #6: Green King IPA by Greene King Brewery
This IPA is a bit of a stretch to make it into the group, as the name is just a grouping of "Greene" and "King" as the two families involved in the brewery. Still, it makes the cut according to me. Here the blurb from the label:
Greene King IPA Export is brewed to a stronger 5% to truly bring out the flavour of this award winning beer. Brewed in the heart of the Suffolk countryside in Bury St. Edmunds, the characteristic hoppy taste and aroma comes from the use of Challenger and First Gold hops., which are combined with pale and crystal malts to create this perfectly balanced beer of exceptional quality and heritage.As I drink this, it is crisp and refreshing and just the right amount of bitter. It's flavorful enough to be drunk on its own but also seems like something great to drink with a barbecued burger. It's an outstanding IPA.
And the winner is...Bad King John. I guess he's finally made up for all the trouble he made in the past by inspiring a truly tasty beer. Maybe someday QE2 will inspire an even better beer!