I’m pretty sure I’m the target audience for Robinsons Brewery’s Trooper 666. For one thing, I instantly recognized the bottle label as part of the cover of Iron Maiden’s seminal 1983 heavy metal single “The Trooper.” Also, I enjoy a British ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, every now and then — as does Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson, who helped create Trooper at the brewery in Manchester, England.
You’re probably thinking this beer is nothing more than a gimmick to squeeze money out of the band’s loyal fans. It’s okay; I felt the same way. Several years ago, I bought the original version of this beer, which is just called Trooper. It’s an okay ESB, with fruity toffee notes and dark malt, though the flavors seemed as tired as the band’s 1990s output. (I assumed the bottle was dull from age; there’s no date code.) If it hadn’t been for the Iron Maiden connection, I would have completely forgotten about it.
Then, while perusing liquor store shelves last week, I found Trooper 666, a “limited edition” version brewed to get the alcohol by volume up to 6.6 percent instead of 4.7 percent. (The name refers to the new ABV as well as to the number of participants in what has been memorialized as the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Battle of Balaclava, the 1854 clash that is the subject of “The Trooper.”) Naturally, I picked up both the limited and regular editions for a taste test.
A bright copper-orange color and nose full of biscuity malt, grassy aromas and a touch of citrus make Trooper 666 more appealing than its compatriot right off the bat. It’s hoppier and livelier, with a sweet caramel malt backbone, some lemon from the hops and a dry, herbal bitterness. Despite the higher alcohol, it leaves you wanting more. I have a feeling that the artwork on Trooper 666’s bottle will turn off beer drinkers who don’t like heavy metal, but for fans of English ESB, this is more than just a pretty cool label.
Robinson’s Trooper 666. ironmaidenbeer.com. Around $7 per 500-milliliter bottle.