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31-10-2010, 17:00
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Directors (http://www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk/home/our-beers/ales/courage-directors#) (in the past known as Directors’ Bitter) allegedly took its name from a special beer set aside for the directors of the Courage brewery at Alton in Hampshire, which was then released to the public. In the late 1970s it became Courage’s contender in the “premium bitter” market, competing with the likes of Ind Coope Burton Ale, Ruddles County and Eldridge Pope Royal Oak.

For a few years in the early 1980s I lived in Surrey, where most of the pubs were tied to either Courage or Allied Breweries, so I became quite familiar with Directors. To be honest, in that section of the market I tended to prefer the drier, hoppier Burton Ale, but recognised Directors as a good beer that, while predominantly malty and fruity, did not allow itself to be overwhelmed by sweetness.

It was then brewed at the Courage brewery in Bristol, but after that closed in 2000 went to the John Smiths plant at Tadcaster, a rather unlikely location for an essentially “Southern” beer. As the international breweries sought to divest themselves of their cask beer interest, the Courage brands, including Directors’ lower-strength stablemate Courage Best, were sold to Wells & Youngs in 2007 and are now brewed at Bedford.

Directors has a strength of 4.8% ABV and comes in a brown bottle with the characteristic Wells & Youngs wide shoulders. The label is dark red, which leads you to expect a reddish beer, which indeed it is, mid-brown with a copper-red tinge. Again the picture makes it look paler than it actually is.

It has a shallow but lasting head, rather thicker and creamier than the other W&Y beers, and noticeable although not overpowering carbonation. The initial aroma is fruity, and its basic character is malty and fruity, but with a hoppy note too and a surprisingly dry aftertaste. It’s certainly not a sweet, syrupy beer and, while it drinks its strength, you can imagine having more than one.

While it won’t appeal to lovers of pale, heavily hopped beers, it’s a good example of the traditional English robust, malty strong bitter. Although I haven’t tried the current cask version, Wells & Youngs have succeeded in recreating in bottle something that retains much of the character of the beer I remember from the 80s. It’s also a distinctive beer that you might well be able to identify in a blind tasting.

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