Sunday, 2 October 2016

Golden Ale

I know, I know, the beer that I put in the fridge a few days ago and finally got out today because it as just so warm and sunny doesn't really deserve to be called an ale. I also know that, despite saying it was brewed in Tadcaster (where it very probably was) and Tadcaster being a place that I have driven through a lot, that this no local ale to, well, anywhere - least of all Tadcaster. I know that John Smith's is a brewery owned by Heineken and that it was one of the big beer combines that have conspired, sometimes very powerfully, to put smaller breweries out of business in the past. Yet, despite all of those things, this was actually what I wanted to drink and I've never had it before and so my autism demands that I must review it. I speak of their Golden Ale which is unimaginatively named but rather descriptive, all told.

I think I did a rather good job of the photo all told, given that I couldn't actually see the screen because the sun was so bright! Would you like to know more?

What can I say? This is a batch produced mega-beer that is clearly trying to seduce the less snobby to drink something that isn't lager or smooth tap pulled stuff from a cheap and cheerful happy hour down the local chain pub. And yet, for all of that, there is some character there. Okay, it's the generic almost dull character over in the corner that one sees at every party or place where more than two people meet regularly, but it is still character. A faint buzz of citrus, the barest hint of hops on the nose, and then it's all clear malt (not the smooth and soft kind) along with the kind of activity that creates a head even after it has been chilled for hours and days. I am put in mind of an old advert for some lager or other that had a head and two people who were conspiracy theorists expounding "not round, not lager" before they fell off the edge of the world. Coors? Anyway, I digress, this has little of interest on the nose and smells very much like, well, a lager with a head. Mind you, they have used some hops in the production and they have been dutifully added to within an inch of their lives so that there is a tang on the air and in the nostril like the sort one has with some fruit juice.

Once in the mouth there's plenty of activity, huge amounts of carbonation and froth but also a smoothness from that head (that comes back each time I note) and something roiling over the thin and, well, yes, golden liquid. Malt is definitely used in the production of this beer and there is something that reminds you that there have been hops invited, even if not a great deal of them showed up to make themselves known. There's a pleasant thinness to the quality of the mouthfeel that I do believe is trying to emulate the kind of thin golden wash from the more commercial lagers that one sees on sale in every chain pub ever - there's a clear lead being given by the Heineken lager range - but this is with hops. It reminds me of those Criminales in that this is beer for people who probably don't like beer and would much prefer a lager.

But for all of that, it goes well with my fish fingers and potato wedges (Farmfoods' finest) and lashings of BBQ sauce. No, it's called that, not barbeque. And in the heat of the evening as the sun is still high enough to catch the warmth but low enough to get in my eyes when I face the wrong way at the picnic bench, this is enough to allow me to cool down, enjoy the sunshine and not devote too much of my time to appreciation of actual ale. It's not flavourless but it does struggle with the meal that I have before me and doesn't do much in the way of ridding me of the need to drink some water to combat the heat, though it does rather keep the chill in the heat in a way that I've not noticed many other ales match this summer.

In short, this is actually a lager with a head. It's been tried before and I rather suspect it didn't do as well as the marketing types hoped. Noting the surge in craft ale (and who can't these days) there's been an attempt to sell this as a golden offering. It does the job, it's rather inoffensive and a tad bland, but it won't make any waves or have people bemoaning the evils of the Meta-National Corporations because it sits in the background and doesn't do much. Aftertaste exists, a little dry, but mostly this is just a well-packaged and cheap lager that can masquerade more or less effectively as a beer. It beats the 'smoothflow' I've once had in a pub and is a decent beverage to have in the garden on a warm evening. Can't say fairer than that.

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