Chris Hall reviews Bengal Lancer IPA.
ABV 5.3% (Bottled)
The problem with IPAs is they can be defined in so many ways. The sheer number of beers wearing the term ‘IPA’ on their labels is staggering, not least of all because it is a style that has been mutated and, some would argue, perverted over the years. It is easily the most popular craft beer style, especially in the USA, where the fruitiest and zestiest hops add a tropical character to this most English of brews.
Bengal Lancer is a very English interpretation of the style, and it wears its history proudly. Galloping horsemen adorn the purple-and-gold label, whilst the blurb speaks of adventure and tradition like a beery Boy’s Own writer did it. It’s a lovely pale amber colour in the glass, glowing with mischief. The head is thick and tight, lacing the glass up nicely as you work your way down. It is worth noting too that there is surprisingly little yeast sediment for a bottle-conditioned beer, though this does not hamper its flavour. In the nose department, you can expect a fierce, zesty thrust of grapefruit, woven into layers of rich malty goodness.
So how does all of this land on the tongue, then? Not quite as you would expect. Bengal Lancer is aggressive, yet deceptive in its assault. You expect a big shot of rich marmalade up front and echoes of hops softening a big, boozey bite. Not so. That first sip is soft, almost not sweet at all. A tingle of ginger guides the liquid over your tongue, when suddenly you are ambushed. Hop-bombs of bitterness and spice crackle like musket fire, and you’re run through by a finish as sharp and as long as a spear. Rich, spicy and mouth-filling, every subsequent taste is just as satisfying.
As you drink it down, it becomes harder to define the order of things. It’s exactly as complex as it should be, and rewards a considerate sup over a gulping.
This is not the best IPA I have ever tasted. It’s not even close. What it is though, is a great example of deciding on a recipe and a method and sticking to it. Do not think for a second that the eccentric flavour profile of this IPA is an accident. I doff my hat to the folk at Fuller’s for surprising me with a beer whose style I thought I knew inside-out.