Just to recap… most English Ale is known as Bitter, and the good stuff as ‘Best Bitter’ and is served in pubs on draught. Bottled Bitter is known as ‘light ale’ or ‘pale ale’.
Then, of course, back in the early 19th Century a hoppier version was brewed for export to British troops in India and India Pale Ale (IPA) was born… this was this inspiration for American Pale Ale (APA) which tends to hoppier still. Now the wheel has turned still further with British brewers brewing ‘American Style IPAs’ – one of my local breweries brews a ‘Yankee Pale’.
One of the new generation of India Pale Ales actually comes from one of England’s oldest breweries – Fuller’s. While the Fuller’s brewery was founded in 1845, there was a long and troubled history of brewing on the site for around 200 years prior to that; totaling over 350 years brewing in Chiswick, West London. We’ve already reviewed a few Fuller’s beers in the past here at The Brew Club, and they’ve been well received by both Scott and yours truly.
The name ‘Bengal Lancer’ harks back to the famous Anglo-Indian cavalry regiments, founded in the 1700’s and adopted into the British Army in the middle of the 19th Century. So it’s quite likely that the original IPAs shipped to India would have been enjoyed by said Lancers.
The brew, rich with Golding, Fuggle and Target hops, was first launched as a draught seasonal brew at 5% ABV back in February 2010, but has become so popular that it’s now available as a bottle conditioned 5.3% version, in bottles all year round.
Before you even open the bottle you’re left in no doubt that the brewery is pushing the ‘Empire’ heritage; lancers on horseback thunder towards you across an Indian plain. It’s rather nice, with rich red and purple highlights.
The first thing you notice when you pour this is the colour, a rich burnished copper, it’s really quite pleasing, particularly when topped by a rich creamy head.
The nose is pleasing too, yes it’s hoppy, as you would expect, and while it hints at marmalade, it’s not the astringent citrus hops of summer ales – I confess to becoming a little bored of the grapefruit ‘nose’ that’s become widespread of late.
The hops in Bengal Lancer are ‘old’ varieties, well blended to give a rich hop experience. And, as you would expect, those hops translate into the taste, underlined with subtle malts to give a toffee flavour with tannin notes that hint at breakfast tea.
It’s surprisingly full bodied, almost chewy, overall a really satisfying drink. I was tempted to open a second, but have decided to save it for my next Indian take-away.
4 Stars – a new classic
Rating: ~Bob the Brit