For those wishing to know what India pale ale was in the 19th-century, Worthington’s White Shield might be the best hope. It originally appeared as Worthington’s East India Pale Ale in 1829. According to a former brewer, “it has remained pretty much unchanged ever since.” While changes in ingredients and brewing systems over the years make it impossible to recreate a beer from 200 years ago, White Shield at least offers a singular, continuous connection to the heyday of the Burton pale ale brewers.
I had heard much about this beer before it became available locally. British beer writers that I read and respect, including the late Michael Jackson, have penned thousands of words of praise. Hyped beers are always suspect. Will they live up to the talk?
Here’s my notes:
Worthington’s White Shield
MolsonCoors/White Shield Brewery, Burton-on-Trent, England
Style: English IPA
Serving Style: 500 ml bottle
Aroma: Aromatics are mild overall. Nutty, grainy malt is the dominant note with some English biscuit overtones. Hops are light, giving an herbal/orange impression that is supported by subtle fruity esters. Maybe the lightest touch of earthy Brettanomyces. There’s something earthy way back there anyway.
Appearance: Copper colored with a slight haze. Pours with a full, fluffy, off-white head that stands tall atop the glass and sticks around forever.
Flavor: This is a super-balanced IPA. The malt is delightful – rich caramel, biscuit, and toasted cereal notes. I get the sense of oats even though I don’t believe oats are part of the mix. Moderate sweetness is balanced by stony, pithy bitterness. It’s bitter, but not excessive. Hop flavors blend with fermentation esters to bring lemon and orange marmalade with touches of herbs and earth. Again there is a suggestion of earthy Brett. This well-attenuated beer goes out with a dry finish. Bitterness hangs pleasantly after swallowing.
Mouthfeel: Medium body and medium carbonation. Very well attenuated but smooth. I get that slick sensation of oats again.
Overall Impression: I have heard much about this beer from respected beer writers. Beers with too much hype generally make me nervous. They so seldom live up to expectation. This one does. The flavors are extremely well articulated and layered. You taste everything. A true English-style IPA, it’s not all about hops. Balancing malt is equally important and it is exquisite. It’s also only 5.6% ABV. Although it probably won’t satisfy American hopheads, this just became one of my favorite IPAs.