Hearing that the heavy metal stalwarts have released an ale might make you run for the hills, but it's actually a quality ale that should stand the test of time...
Let’s be honest. There’s always been something of a real ale quality to metal. Maybe it’s the general blokeishness, the constant references to goblins and witches, the unrelenting dedication to the lost art of sew-on patches or the frankly questionable hygiene, but weird-beards everywhere have long understood the delights of full-flavoured cask ale as much as they have a thundering guitar solo.
Of course, if any metal band was going to brew their own, it was going to be the Maiden. They’re a unique and intrinsic part of British culture and the pub trade is in their blood, they began their career playing residencies in East End boozers before headbanging their way to global success. Hell, Dead Eddie even looks custom made to appear on a pump clip.
Expert fencer, pilot, writer, wit and raconteur par excellence, the Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson is known as much for his extra-curricular activities as he is for screaming throatily about barren wastes and daughters being brought to slaughter. That he is also something of a connoisseur of cask ales should come as a surprise to precisely no one. He’s certainly the rock singer you’d most like to go for a pint with.
Dickinson is the driving force behind the Maiden’s debut brew, Trooper, a mid-range ale named after their 1983 Charge of the Light Brigade hit. A chance meeting with a marketing guru led to the obvious suggestion that there should be a Maiden-branded beer. Dickinson approached several brewers, effectively ‘auditioning’ them before settling on Robinson’s. This Stockport-based brewery has form in this regard; having already worked with Elbow to produce their own session bitter, Build a Rocket Boys! in 2011.
Available to order from Robinson’s directly, Trooper is also available on tap at pubs around the country. I stepped in to my local in Leicester to try some of this metalhead mead for myself. Eschewing the expected flavour of motorcycle oil and man sweat, Trooper is actually rather a pleasant ale, golden russet in colour, delicate and dry with a pleasant aftertaste. At 4.8% ABV, it’s got a reasonable kick, but not so much that you can’t hit a good session on it. If you go in expecting a heavy punch akin to a galloping Steve Harris baseline, you’ll be disappointed, Trooper isn’t about a quick hit, it’s been brewed for longevity, just like the Maiden themselves. In an effort to test this theory, I had five in succession. Every single one deserved its encore.
Dickinson’s hope is that Trooper is not merely a one-off gimmick, but a long standing stalwart of the real ale scene. On the strength of his first effort, if the screaming at crowds and flying jumbo jets thing ever gets old, he can always fall back on the brewery business.
Run to the bar –what kind of brews could we expect from other bands?
Led Zeppelin. Ragnarok. A strong Weißbier. 11% ABV
Served: in an authentic Viking drinking horn carved with occult runes that probably make more sense the more of it you drink. Potentially lethal to bearded Brummie drummers.
Mumford and Sons: Giddy Thing. A posh craft cider. 6% ABV
Served: Warm, in a plastic glass. For a tenner. At some god-awful festival in the Home Counties during half hols.
Muse: Threnody Eschaton (Transhuman) Pts I-IV. An English session bitter. 4.3% ABV
Served: In a custom made electric schooner with neon lights around the rim. Not as heavy as it likes to think it is.
Boards of Canada: Spay Cop Ale, A strong pale ale. 9% ABV
Served: In decades-old dimple mug you discovered when clearing out the attic. Can cause you to wake up feeling like you’ve somehow been here before.
Coldplay: Joyless. Non-alcoholic wheatgrass and goji berry smoothie 0% ABV
Served: Smugly, in a 100% biodegradable beverage receptacle. Return it to the depot to get 10p back.