I am just now emerging from a two-week cold that I feared would end my beer-ranting career. It’s hard to taste straight when your throat is in flames and your nose is a double-barreled snot faucet, and after the first week with no improvement, I started to consider that maybe this cold would simply never go away. I tried just about every possible remedy during the very phlegmy fortnight of my despair—whiskey before bed, store-brand decongestants, whiskey in the afternoon, complaining to the cat, whiskey in the morning, you name it—and nothing worked.
After a while, it’s irresponsible to assume things will ever revert back to their previous norm. It’s part of aging and evolving (mostly aging). Everyone who’s lived long enough to realize that a 26-year-old’s hangover is a stronger enemy than a 21-year-old’s knows that the longer you’ve been out of the womb, the longer it takes to bounce back from any physical tribulation. The good news is that it gets correspondingly easier to shrug off psychological injury—we old folk either lack the energy to care about yesterday’s insults, or else we just forget them altogether—but that doesn’t do anything for hangovers or head colds.
The slime cloud finally lifted this morning, thank goodness, but in retrospect I appreciate that it forced me to consider a future without the ability to detect meaningful differences from one beer to the next. I figured I’d be fine faking it for a while—I eat real mango maybe twice a year, yet still confidently identify it in three beers a week; I recently referred to something as having a “white pepper” aroma despite the fact that I have never smelled white pepper, nor am I certain if it’s supposed to be a spice or a vegetable, if it even exists—but I knew that eventually I’d lose this gig if I couldn’t taste beer.
I did a variety of odder jobs to support myself through my first century on earth, but I no longer have the talent, ambition, or grammar skills to re-engage with that life. So if my beer hustle ever expires, I’ll just sit around the house until I run out of money for Slim Jims and medicine, and then I will die. Fair enough, especially since I can now breathe out my nose and therefore expect to live at least another couple of decades. But over the weekend, when death seemed imminent, I took some time to reflect on life, and how I would have lived mine differently if I’d known it would be so short.
It was a short list; I’ve had a pretty fun go of it overall. But two things stand out for sure: If I’d had my head on straight during my teens, I would have gone to public college, and I would have listened to more heavy metal. As for college, private school’s a ripoff, and as for metal, I didn’t embrace it during my formative years, because during those dipshit days your music preferences are tied too closely to your entire identity, and I wasn’t into cars and denim jackets and cool shit like that. Because I was an idiot. And now I’m too tired to learn new musical tricks, so all I’m left with is my wimpy affinity for New Wave and my recently acquired Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook (try the Stew of True Doom).
I disclose this by way of admitting I’m not the best man for the job of reviewing Trooper, a collaboration between Iron Maiden and Robinsons Cheshire Family Brewers. The beer is named for “The Trooper,” one of the few Maiden songs that even squares like me can sing along to.
The song is an ode to the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War— You’ll take my life but I’ll take yours too / You’ll fire your musket but I’ll run you through—and the beer is a “premium British beer” that is most commonly classified as an extra-special bitter.
I like ESBs a lot, even though they’re not bitter by modern American standards—we’d call them “balanced” or even “malt-heavy,” because we’re overhopped clods. Trooper features what Robinsons calls a “unique blend of Bobek, Goldings, and Cascade hops,” and I’ll admit that I’m not aware of having had these three in the same beer before.
Trooper opens with a light lemon smell, then you get caramel and a bit of fruity, pear-ish ester character. There’s also a slight floral tinge and a touch of orange. This is a pretty good beer, even though there’s not a ton going on. But, at 4.7-percent alcohol-by-volume, is it really metal enough to be Iron Maiden’s signature beer? I’m all for low-ABV beers, and some of them are extremely flavorful, but Trooper falls a bit short of face-melting in both the taste and power departments.
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Image by Jim Cooke.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.