What is golden ale? No really. I’m not convinced that many beer folk could tell you with anything approaching a unified voice. I’m reasonably certain it just cowboy swapped its way into the beer vocabulary one day, totally unnoticed. I had to look it up not long after starting the brewery, panicking that I’d get caught out. You could have told me it was a beer developed by Winston Churchill in his grandma’s bidet and I’d most likely have stroked my chin knowingly, claiming to have heard that myself once too.
Since then I’m still not sure, despite reading up. Despite drinking many. But I suppose I’m closer to knowing so I’ll try to shed some light. The colour seems to be the main sticking point. It should be golden. That is until we get our first black golden ale (someone’s brewing it I’m sure…). But how does that differ from the even more loosely defined style, the pale ale? Not greatly as it turns out. Both seem to be keen exponents of citrus hops, so no daylight there. I must say I’ve never seen a kegged golden ale (though I’m sure one exists), so yeah, it’s a real ale thing.
The only thing that sets all golden ales aside from most pales is the malt character. They tend to be fairly biscuit-y and sweet bread-y, something that’s only sometimes true of a pale. So there we are. A golden ale is a cask-only pale ale, best served cold, with an emphasis on sweet malt character. A bit of swatting up and I learn they were introduced by brewers hoping to entice young drinkers away from lager in the 80s. That explains the cold thing. And it’s true, they are the perfect gateway beer when you think about it. More so than the traditional pale ale stepping stone. The gateway to the stepping stone? Some people just need too much ushering.
So on to Bexley’s Golden Acre (4%). Well it’s all of the above. Very drinkable. Some undeniable citrus. It’s bitterer than most golden ales I’d say. All the better for it in my opinion although perhaps less conventional as a result. It’s refreshing, which again is what it should be. It’s a beer that’s keen to remind you that the main ingredient is cereal in this game. Besides water that is. It’s got a sweet, grainy thing going on, with a hint of spice. It’s perfectly good. A beer that represents golden ale well, the latter being a style that was never intended to make waves, just set people on the right path.