I'm generally an accidental hoarder. By that, I mean most times a beer gets hoarded by me, it's because I've forgotten about it, or it was left in a box between one of the two house moves we've made in the past 16 months. But, this little selection of Worthington's beers that I received from Kristy last year was purposefully avoided, till another of Andy and Mark's Open It weekends gave me the thin excuse I needed to clear some shelf space.
I'd been unsure about leaving something of the strength of Red Shield for over a year, but worries were generally unfounded, though it did open with a bit of a spray, which caused me to run, bottle in hand, thumb in neck, trying to make it to the sink with minimal coating of the walls. Lively, to say the least, but it looked attractive once coaxed into a glass. Delivering an aroma of doughy bread, light lime and a floral touch, the flavours were much the same story, with a tad more of a lemsip-y citrus twist, a suggestion of digestive biscuit saltiness giving way to a delicate, drying bitterness, the flavour of which, oddly, leaned in the direction of flat 7-Up. A little bland, and probably better on a hot summer day, and, I suspect, younger.
White Shield was an absolute pleasure last time I had it, and I was really looking forward to trying it with a year or so of age on it. Gone were the big, chewy caramel flavours, replaced by light fudge, a tentative sour bite, and a fuller, dried fruit backbone holding it all together. That tea-like tannic feel was still there, and with a lighter-feeling body, this made for a long, dry, puckering finish, with a little pepper and a distinct gin and tonic edge to close it all off. On reflection, I think I preferred the fluffy comfort of the younger, juicier version. With a year of aging, this felt a little more grown up, with those kinds of flavours that only adults should like, and it would certainly be nice to see how they could further develop. Incidentally, after some experimentation, I think I also prefer young Orval, despite the general consensus that it gets better (and then worse, and then better again) with age.
And so, to up the ante, Celebration Shield, a beer brewed to celebrate the opening (or should that be a reopening of sorts?) of the William Worthington's Brewery by Molson Coors in December 2010. At 8%, it should have stood the time quite nicely (although I didn't have a fresh comparison), but like the Red Shield, it was extremely gassy, and it took 5 minutes to pour a glass, such was the depth of the shaving-foam head. Despite the thick insulation, it pushed out a thick, sweet aroma which, I;m not sure I should say, reminded me of a good German Doppelbock, with big caramel cut with a fresh grassiness. The flavour loads on almonds, toasted rye bread, dried apricots and raisins. It's boozy, but in a refined, port-like way, perhaps with a shot of dark rum thrown in for good measure. The finish is juicy, fruity, with a longer, slightly toasted edge and a feeling of punchy contentment.