By Matt Hinch
As anyone that follows me on Twitter or Instagram knows, I’m a big fan of two things: metal and beer. But up here in Canada, unlike our neighbours to the south, where there are all manner of metal-centric microbrews, metal-themed beer is a scarcity. So I was literally vibrating with excitement upon hearing that “Trooper”, the Iron Maiden beer from Robinson’s Brewery in the UK was finally landing on Canadian shores. Then the painful wait began for it to show up in at the LCBO or Beer Store. I checked the LCBO app one day while I was in Kingston in hopes that a university town of over 150,000 would have at least one store with it in stock. Nope. But Trenton did! Hmmmm, 86km there, ~40 back to home. Damn it. Not enough time. Bruce Dickinson himself collaborated with the brewers. I must have this! Why must you mock me!!? AHHHH!
Fate brought me back to Kingston a few short days later and one store had it in stock! SUCCESS!
Now before I get to how the beer was, let’s introduce the other combatant. AC/DC beer from France’s Brasserie Licorne SAS. Why a French brewery would make a beer about an Australian rock band is beyond me, but oh well. Now this beer was met with much less anticipation. And AC/DC isn’t even metal. (My gawd how I flipped out when I transferred to a different HMV back in 2001 and they had AC/DC in the metal section! Rick Derringer too. RICK FUCKING DERRINGER IN THE METAL SECTION!! I digress.) I didn’t even know it existed until a friend of mine commented on my picture of Trooper and he had a can of AC/DC beer in his profile picture. Then when he said it was better than Trooper, I had to find out for myself. Not that I didn’t trust him, but his favourite band is Def Leppard so I was well within my rights to question his judgement. Tracking it down proved almost as tricky. 110km round trip to the Beer Store for 2 cans of beer. I booked a tattoo appointment too so it wasn’t all for the beer.
Ok. Tale of the tape time.
Style: English Bitter
Cost: $4.60 each
Brown glass bottle featuring the iconic Eddie as “The Trooper” from Maiden’s Piece of Mind album.
Style: Premium Lager
Cost: $2.55 each
Aluminum can, Canadian Edition with English and French printing. Black and grey with red AC/DC logo.
Round 1: Visuals
Generally speaking bottles are more attractive than cans due to their curves and long slender necks, but that’s not always the case. Cans have more space for visuals and my collection has some pretty cool cans in it. But in this case, Trooper takes round one without a fight. That image of Eddie is one of the most recognized all of metaldom. Just look at them. Do really think some letters would beat Maiden’s storied mascot leading the 600 into battle? No way. AC/DC’s big red letters do pop on the shelf though. But that’s not enough. They aren’t even sold in the same stores so it’s not like they’d be side by side on the shelf. Round 1 goes to Trooper. \m/
Round 2: Glass Appeal
I don’t know if that’s a real term or not but I like it. Trooper gets a decent amount of head when poured but it doesn’t last very long. But it does cling to the glass. AC/DC also had an okay amount of head (both do depending on pour technique) but it didn’t cling upon dissipation the same way. The Trooper isn’t quite as dark as some bitters but it is on the amber side of things. Approaching red but not quite. Even though it’s not as dark, there’s a depth to it. It scatters the light in a very pleasing way. The AC/DC on the other hand was quite transparent. I wouldn’t mistake it for urine though, so that’s good. Your basic yellowy lager. But in contrast to Trooper, it looked bland. Trooper takes Round 2! \m/ \m/
Round 3: Taste
The difference between the two as far as taste and mouth feel go is like night and day. The Trooper is an English bitter so it hits on different area of the tongue than a lager would. That tang and citrusy taste come from the hops used. Cascade, Bobec and Goldings. The flavour explodes across the whole palate. It’s very pleasing and not overly hoppy as some beers that emphasize the hops tend to be. It’s an excellent balance. The AC/DC on the other hand is far less attractive. It didn’t have any pop to it. Seriously. It was pretty flat tasting. Maybe I should have put a dash of salt in it. My dad taught me that. It is on the maltier side in so far as it’s not as crisp as the colour would suggest. Maybe I just got a couple bad cans but it almost tasted old. Not skunky, just old. It went down easy enough, and the colder the better, but it just didn’t have the same zing as the Trooper. Round 3: Trooper. \m/ \m/ \m/
By unanimous decision, the winner of the Band Brand Beer Battle is Iron Maiden’s Trooper!
Despite the slightly higher alcohol content and significantly lower price, I have to recommend spending your hard earned drinking money on Trooper. Hands down. As a guy with a collection of over 400 distinct beers in his garage (I can HEAR my wife rolling her eyes.) I know a good beer when I taste one. For myself, drinking a beer is more about the taste and experience than just getting drunk. I don’t drink beer just to drink beer. There’s a difference between drinking beer and being a beer drinker. I’m not sure how to explain that but you know what I mean. So if you like your beer with substance, go for the Trooper. But hey, if you want something with more “cool” factor than Coors Light, Canadian or whatever bargain beer your drinking that’s making you fat and giving you headaches, by all means, try the AC/DC Premium Lager.
If you think about it, the beers actually mirror the bands. Iron Maiden: Great, complex songwriting, Total package. Dynamic career. Leaders. AC/DC: Solid career with some classic albums, built on the tried and tested formula of being AC/DC. They do the trick but they’ve been treading on well trodden ground for a long time. Same old same old.
Now, I don’t have a passport, and Canada Post frowns on shipping alcohol to residences, especially across international borders, so next time you’re in the States can you get me a sixer of that Lips of Faith beer, the Clutch collaboration with New Belgium Brewing? Or least a couple of The Sword’s Iron Swan beer by Real Ale Brewing? Thanks a bunch. (Judging by appearance, that one should be a runaway too.)