J.W. Lees Moonraker

J.W. Lees Moonraker
J.W. Lees Moonraker
Brewery: J. W. Lees
Abv: 7.5%

So, after last week's rather special but also rather hard to obtain beer, it seemed right to go to the other extreme. While it's hard to find any strong beer in supermarkets, a visit to my local Morrisons did turn up one candidate.

This is Moonraker, which just about qualifies at 7.5% ABV. It comes from a Manchester brewery called J.W. Lees – not a brewery I've encountered before, but apparently they've been brewing this particular beer since 1950, so you have to think they know what they're doing!

It's a dark ruby in the glass, without much of a head to it and some distinctly soft drink-like big bubbles rising. The nose isn't particularly inspiring either; there's a little sweetness, a hint of biscuit but nothing exactly leaping out of the glass screaming "drink me!"

Things get a little more interesting in the mouth; it's overcarbonated, but there's that sweet syrup tang to start, slowly and smoothly balanced out with some burnt sugar bitterness. The body is, if anything, a little light considering that sweetness – there's a curious, almost watery aspect to it. It's nice enough, and perfectly drinkable, but there's not really anything that makes it stand out from any number of other, generic strong ales.

This series of Monster Beers, you may remember, started out with the arrival of the absurd High Strength Beer Duty which dramatically increased the tax on beers of 7.5% ABV and above(*). As well as having an excuse to try some properly special beers, I wanted to show that High Strength beers weren't all just Special Brews made to get you drunk quickly and cheaply. I like to think that just about every beer so far in this series has shown that there are plenty of really special brews that just happen to be strong.

This beer falls a little short of that ambition. It's tasty enough, but it doesn't really deserve a Monster label.

(*) Actually, it looks like the HMRC definition is "above 7.5%", so it's possible this doesn't count as a Monster beer even by my own definition. Bugger.

This review was originally published 13th January, 2012. It was last updated 1st June, 2023.