Before we get started here, let’s get something straight. India Pale Ale (IPA) was NOT invented by Americans. Instead, the style originated in merry old England, and whenever I hear talk of “classic English IPA”, I expect a hoppy beer. I don’t expect, however, over-the-top hoppy ale as has become the American tradition.
That, I think, is a trap that far too many American beer geeks fall into. They sample a fine English IPA and immediately judge it by American IPA standards. Such an experiment is doomed to failure, since the one will never be the same as the other. Yet they’re both equally valid examples of India Pale Ale. It’s simply essential to keep in mind the standard that the brewer is aiming for.
Such is not at all difficult to determine when enjoying a glass of Fuller’s Bengal Lancer India Pale Ale. On their website, Fuller’s says of the beer:
Bengal Lancer is an exciting, classic India Pale Ale from Fuller's. Brewed to 5% ABV (5.3% in bottle), this ale has been inspired by the history and character of this traditional style of beer.
And on the label of my bottle:
India Pale Ale is a historic style of English beer that traditionally was always well-hopped. It was first brewed in the 19th century for the troops in India during the time of the British Empire-perhaps the most famous of these troops being the Bengal lancers; cavalry regiments whose dashing exploits have passed into folklore.
Our brew uses traditional English malt and Goldings hops to evoke memories of this pale amber, distinctively hoppy and superbly refreshing brew. ……
My bottle says it is best before July 17, 2014. Let’s give it a whirl, shall we?
Fuller’s Bengal Lancer IPA pours to a vibrant orange color with a thick and foamy head formation and a very inviting herbal hoppy nose. Taking a sip, I get a firm, slightly chewy caramel malt base underneath that is quickly and suddenly subsumed by the hops. At first, they attack you with aroma, as the beer is permeated by an herbal, minty grassy (and very wonderful) hop flavor. It becomes gently bitter in the finish, just enough to balance the beer and leave a lasting bitter impression on the tongue. It intensifies and leaves the beer long and dry as it lingers.
Some American hopheads might be disappointed in such a beer as this, since it is certainly far less hoppy (or at least bitter) than American IPAs. Still, this is a hoppy brew from start to finish, and one immensely sessionable at 5.3% alcohol by volume. This is lower than most American IPAs, but makes for better quaffability, I think. The beer does claim to be bottle conditioned, which would of course qualify it as real ale, though I saw little sediment in the bottom.
Did I mention the bargain basement price, always welcome in these days of ever-more expensive craft brews? At $2.99 for a half liter bottle, Fuller’s Bengal Lancer India Pale Ale is a treat not to be missed.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.