Beer: Trooper Brewery: Robinsons Brewery Style: Extra Special Bitter ABV: 4.7 percent
Ever wanted to brew a commercial beer, but don't want to go through all those tiresome steps like investing in equipment, buying ingredients or, you know, actually learning to brew? Well you're in luck, my friend! These days, there's an easy-peasy workaround for getting your name on a beer bottle: join a band.
The results of this approach can't be denied. Australian rockers AC/DC have their name on a 5-percent ABV lager brewed in Germany. Motörhead makes Bastards Lager. KISS makes Destroyer. Slayer makes wine, but we're willing to let that slide because the name they chose for their Cabernet Sauvignon is -- of course -- Reign in Blood. Even one-hit wonders can play, as the once-popular Hanson bros. did with their entré into craft beer, Mmmhops.
So it should be no surprise that Iron Maiden, British thrash rockers of yore, have gotten into the beer game. Their brew, Trooper, came out in England just in time for this summer's Maiden England World Tour (coincidence? YOU BE THE JUDGE!) but has only just crossed the pond to hit our shelves.
To their credit, Maiden played a bigger role in this brew's creation than most band-brands do. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson, a fan of cask ale, actually travelled out to Robinsons Brewery in Stockport, England to meet with brewers and give input on how he wanted the beer to turn out. Robinsons is no pisswater purveyor, either -- the venerable family brewery has been around since 1838 and has 340 pubs across Northwest England and Wales.
The beer's name was taken from the Iron Maiden song The Trooper, itself inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade, a gallant/insane assault that occurred during the Battle of Balaclava in which 600 British cavalry armed with sabres and hope decided to charge a Russian artillery battery. Now, after listening to the song (sample lyric: "You'll take his life but I'll take yours too / You fire your musket but I'll run you through") and taking into account Iron Maiden's oeuvre, you'd expect a beer that would thrash your taste buds -- a brash IPA, perhaps, or an alcohol-laden imperial stout. NOPE. Trooper is an extra special bitter, a mild English-style ale known mostly for its drinkability and balance. Additions of Bobec, Goldings and Cascade hops add some interest, but overall the beer's fairly standard.
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Take the appearance: brilliantly clear; apricot-orange in color; half finger of off-white fuzz on top. Nothing to see here. The aroma: caramel, honey, almond, apple, biscuit, sunflower seeds, earthy hops and a splash of resinous citrus from the cascade. Also normal. Even the flavor, with clean, balanced notes of lightly toasted biscuits, woodsy hops, baked apple, almond and a touch of orange with mild lingering bitterness, is nothing special, though the flavor does, as you'll find with most English ales (or any beer, really), truly emerge the closer you get to room temperature. But it's balanced, flavorful and drinkable enough to please a lot of palates. Iron Maiden may not be for everyone, but this beer could be.
Trooper's approachability may explain its sales -- Morrissons, a national supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, recently revealed that Trooper was its fastest-ever-selling new beer. But this probably has much more to do with the label art and the band's name recognition, which is why I'm quitting this writing job and taking my band, Dr. Z and the Malty Backbone, on the road until we get a beer of our own. See you at the bank, suckers.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.