Thursday, 25 August 2016

Beer Review: Hop Garden Gold

So, I was down at the brewery before the weekend. Then we had adventures in Hampshire involving Birdworld and the Old A3. By the time we returned to the hotel it was gone 8pm. A swift walk to get Willow some ice cream and then some pootling and it was close to 9pm. The brewery was shut, there was nothing for it but to go to the hotel bar and hope they had something on. They did. I found Hop Garden Gold from Hog's Back Brewery, being the brewery I had hoped to stop in at this evening, and they had it chilled. It was rather hot so, of course, I decided to have it. And, okay, £4.80 is a lot for a bottle of ale. But it was damn' hot, the bottles I had with me (Montezuma's Chocolate Lager) were not chilled. And it was hot. So I bought it and sampled it. Wouldn't you?

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As it poured it was obvious from the texture that this had been well chilled and had been left to its own devices properly. Whatever other issues I can raise I feel I must point out that the hotel bar staff knew what they were doing when it came to storing their ales. Feels a little overpriced from the hotel bar but the brewery has to shut sometime. Poured without fuss but big head and plenty of fizz keeps that around. We had driven past the hop gardens on the way back from our evening meal and so had seen where they grow these fuggles, which is suitably different for me and a bit rustic. There was a mistake there though, I noticed the revival hop garden when we went back to the brewery, leading me to wonder where the other gardens supply, though given the sheer volume of just the bottles I saw (and the fact that Tesco stocks them) I suspect all the gardens I saw were in some way connected.

The aroma actually relies on the malt rather than the hop, which is an odd one, though it could be because it was so chilled and did I mention how hot it was? Having said that, I know my fuggles when I smell them and this clearly had them in spades. the whole thing, with its musty spice, put me in mind of the Thoroughbred Gold (here) from waaaay back. Not as delicate as most Goldens and gets straight down to business with good hop hits and a decent malt delivery system that is sparing enough to let the hops get on and do what they came here to do. Being chilled and drunk with me lounging on a sofa in a conservatory did wonders for the taste, actually, and the price helped me feel more decadent whilst so doing.

The taste is similarly uncomplicated, opening with a heavy hit of fuggles before rolling over that tidal wall like an incoming tsunami but without the death and destruction. There then follows a surprisingly long and soft malt interlude that neatly covers the mouth feel before the bitter edges can gain a foothold. Warm and fuzzy rather than tart and citrus, they then mingle for a long and drawn out finish, all fresh and crisp like the bedsheets in a posh hotel, funnily enough like the one we're staying in. The aftertaste is very much like the ale itself in that it doesn't muck about and keeps to the obvious path. At 4.4% ABV this isn't so hard on the head either but still packs enough of a punch to remind you that you're drinking ale. It's subtle enough to avoid dominating the taste but strong enough to be noticeable. I'm waxing lyrical, and I know it's not the best golden ale I've had this year, but it was the most welcome.

This is unapologetically a golden ale and sticks to the programme like a limpet on a bucket on a Welsh beach. Indeed, there's a touch of relaxation hanging about this one that grows as one continues to sup. I'm not saying that I think the marked up price is worth it, in fact I really don't think it is, but I am saying that it hasn't harmed my overall experience of the ale, which is saying something given how parsimonious I can be.

Enjoy best on a hot evening straight from the fridge, have outside and make sure there's a brace of them. Maybe you don't really like goldens and I say that you haven't tasted this golden which is not like most goldens. It is good, it is uncomplicated, and it is something you will enjoy!

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