So, for tonight, I review a favourite of mine: Brakspear's Oxford Gold, an organic ale.
At 4.6% ABV it shouldn't smell or taste as strong as it does upon opening. There is a depth to the flavour that suggests a much stronger alcohol content and this is probably down to the fact that it's an organic ale. Most of the beers that I've heard about or tasted that are organic have this quality, they also seem to have a much more fiery sense of the hops, regardless of mix, that allows the whole thing to go right to one's head. In this case there's also a strong sense of the ale being 'honeyed' - in that I can feel the viscous nature of honey in the liquid and there's a sweetness to it that is neither over-powering nor artificial. The sweetness here is deep and rich and languid, with hops playing lightly over it and masking the malt enough that it comes and goes without making too much of an impact. Like a nice guest it brings with it a sense of security and pleasantness but leaves without making a mess.
It claims to have a zesty aroma and, sure enough, there's something citrus in it that carries through and balances out that honey sweetness with a proper beer style hop. For once the promise of a fruity flavour is carried through with something approaching oranges, but these are candied and then rolled in some clear honey, summer honey with a strong flavour of rose and sunflower, before being added. In many ways it's a sweet beer but that shouldn't be a bad thing. There's enough citrus tang and bitterness to it that it is not knocked sideways or too sugary, it would go well with some strong beef or a particularly nutty roast without being in danger of being lost in the meal. Equally it would stand on its own and play nicely around the jaw on an evening when the sun is low and the air is warm. As it is, it plays well in the depths of autumn and brings a reminder of the hot long days of summer when there wasn't much to do.
Drink this to recall long weekends and long lazy evenings, have it with a heavy meal if you must and expect slow moving, carefully considered conversation about topics that are intractable and full of mystery. Make sure you can see some tall trees if its winter, you want to watch that weak sun go down as you sip. Don't be uncouth and drink this at speed, take you time and let the flavours work their magic on you - it's a languid beer and probably not best served with too many people. Certainly avoid chilling it, room temperature does the honey a favour and the colour will work well with candlelight and close company. If ales can be romantic then this does the job very well indeed.