Over the past few years I’ve become something of a beer connoisseur. I became interested in beer after relocating to St. Louis, Missouri a city that’s a major player in the beer industry. Besides nasty, corporate swill (St. Louis is home of the world-famous Budweiser) the city is home to some of this country’s greatest microbreweries. When it came time to move once again, I’d be lying if I said that Colorado’s fantastic brewing culture didn’t play a role in my moving decision.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: I love beer. Beer is something I have a great deal of passion and interest in. In fact, if I’d been a better chemistry student in school I’d probably give brewing a try. But enough about me, let’s get to the beer.
I’d seen the Iron Maiden-themed beer The Trooper at various liquor stores for the past few years but had never picked it up until last week. Does Iron Maiden need their own beer? I’m only a casual fan of the band, so perhaps I’m not the best one to answer that question. My gut tells me “no,” however. Don’t get me wrong, I get the mindless merchandising of classic bands…but why a beer? Most rock bands project an image of reckless debauchery, Iron Maiden is no different, but I don’t think of them as a drinking band. And “The Trooper” is not a song about drinking, so what gives? Mindless merchandising…
Anyway, I finally took the bait and bought a bottle of The Trooper. I took it home and got it chilled, but not super-cold, because that’s how they drink beer in England. Also, I’d had a particularly shitty day and just wanted to drink and write about Iron Maiden.
Upon opening the bottle I took a sniff, the beer smelled predominantly malty with a touch of sweetness. The beer poured clear and golden, with a nice frothy head. While I waited for the foam to subside, I started up “The Trooper.” It’s interesting to note that the song, off the band’s album PIECE OF MIND, is exactly three days older than me. Yes, The Trooper is a beer based on a 31 ½ year old metal song. The song is famously inspired by the Lord Tennyson poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” That poem, like the song, is about a famous battle of the Crimean War in which a colossal screw up in communication resulted in a bunch of British soldiers bravely (stupidly?) charging when their commanders actually wanted them to retreat. The symbolism weighed heavily on my mind when exactly two minutes into the song, I took a sip.
I was surprised at how the beer tasted more subdued than I thought based on the smell. Rather than a sweet, candy-like flavor the beer has an immediate undercurrent of hops giving The Trooper a tangy, somewhat bitter after-taste. The alcohol content is surprisingly low, only 4.7% alcohol by volume (ABV). Here in the U.S.A., we tend to value higher alcohol content, but in Britain session beers (read: ones that don’t get you fucked up) are quite common. The Trooper is an ESB, which stands for Extra Special Bitter; this is a style that has a malty flavor with a nice hop kick.
I won’t lie to you, this is not a style that is very common in this country. Nor is it one that I have much experience drinking. Is the Trooper a good ESB? I honestly don’t know. I’m guessing it’s not because it’s an Iron Maiden-themed beer and again mindless merchandising. Is The Trooper a good beer in general? It’s okay. I bought this beer specifically to write about it for this post, now that I’ve done that I don’t plan on buying it again. Would I turn this down if someone offered it to me for free? Hell-to-the-no.
“The Trooper” is a great song, but I don’t need to tell you that do I? It’s Iron Maiden’s most well known song and with good reason. The song has a fantastic, highly memorable guitar hook and it’s based on a famous poem about a famous battle. I’m sure if I were British all of this would make my heart swell and mean even more. The truth is: Maiden’s a classic band, the song is fantastic, and this beer is just okay.
I get that they went with a traditional British beer style, but I’m deducting points for the low ABV. Truly the marketing geniuses at Robinsons Brewery missed the boat on this one. The Trooper should have had an ABV of 6.66% (the most metal of all ABV’s). I mean, come on how did no one think of this? I’m a shut-in music blogger and even I have the sense and savvy to know that would have made more sense. I can forgive the band for selling out because it is pretty metal to have your own beer. But having that beer come in below 5%? Well that’s just weak.