Matt Cottom reviews White Shield, a heavy-weight pugilist of the English IPA scene, with a recipe going back to the 19th century.
White Shield is a living, breathing example of an early 19th century English India Pale Ale (IPA). It is also multi-award winning and with good reason. Worthington’s flagship brew, White Shield, is both a drink and a history lesson all rolled in to one. IPAs were traditionally brewed to a higher gravity and heavily hopped. This acted as a preservative and gave the IPAs a greater shelf life than other beers, making them perfect to be shipped on long journeys to the far flung British colonies, notably India.
White Shield is bottle conditioned. Dual brewer’s yeast is left in the bottom of the bottle which allows the brew to continue maturing for anything up to 3 years after bottling, the result being that no two bottles of White Shield are ever really the same. It also makes giving an accurate full sense review quite difficult, but we’ll certainly give it a good go…
As an IPA, the White Shield is unusually dark in colour. It is a bright toasted malt orange almost copper colour, with a dull, grubby white head. The initial smell seems to sign post the overall palette: it is complex and almost hard to decipher. It changes from whiff to whiff, the individual flavours blending to create something completely different.
There are hints of a stronger alcohol, of orange liqueur or an almost whisky edge. Also, there is a slightly tinny, metallic quality. This is probably to be expected from a Burton brew, the waters of the Trent River giving it a strong mineral hint, though stopping short of the archetypal sulphuric smell which is present in other Burton beers.
The first sip is a true mish-mash of taste. To start with, a rich blast of bonfire toffee and treacle is sat on a smooth honeycomb carpet. The initial sweetness of the malt is, as with the smell, shunted out of the way by another slightly metallic note. Following behind, almost under the radar, is that same liqueur-style flavour usually found in much stronger brown liquor, which was present in the nose.
The powerful IPA hops then begin to take over. All other flavours dissipate to leave a tingling mouthfeel. The fiery finish is almost reminiscent of a good quality ginger beer; it coats the lining of your mouth and lingers with slight notes of coriander and ginger.
Worthington’s White Shield is best served at room temperature or cellar-cool only. Refrigerating the beer will have a detrimental effect on the quality and will detract from the overall flavour. Try White Shield with a sirloin steak or a hearty fresh stew.
If you like this, try:
Marston’s Old Empire
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale