AFTER my faultering start looking at super-extra-high-strength beers and lagers with Duvel, it’s time to move to my next target. Keeping up the theme of increasingly hardcore brews, this time it’s Gold Label Very Strong Special Beer.
I chose this as my next foray into super-strong beers and lagers because it looked to be classier than the tall and notorious cans. Yet rougher than the elegant and European Duvel. We’ll see soon enough whether I’m right with that guess or not.
These are available in four-packs from Tesco or individually from some corner shops. At between £4-5 for the four-pack, they’re not cheap. They’re also not big. One of the reasons these cans stand out, is for their size. They’re the same as ordinary soft-drink cans. Here’s a regular Dr. Pepper next to them for scale…
The front is puzzling. It says “The No. 1 Barley Wine”. Yet doesn’t say anywhere on it what it is “No. 1” for. The Number one most confusing label perhaps? And barley wine. What the hell is that? It says right above it “strong beer”. If you know the answer behind this mystery, do please leave a comment.
Rotating the can around doesn’t answer many questions. But it does give you the basic facts. The “Alcohol 8.5% vol.” for instance is very clear. It’s also fractionally less than Duvel‘s 8.6%, but less than the ASBO inducing tall cans of lager.
Also on that ‘side’ of the label, we learn where this came from. And that place is InBev UK brewery in Luton. Not somewhere you usually associate with fine beverages. But an excellent place to catch an Easyjet flight to Spain. Back to the can, just above the labels warning you to drink responsibly, the ingredients are given as including malted barley and wheat.
Over on the barcode side of the can, things are kept equally simple. The can is recyclable. It crams in 2.8 UK units of alcohol. It is best stored in a cool dry place. And…. That’s it. No lengthy articles about awards won or tales from the head brewer. Clearly this is a beer to be drank, not read. So let’s not delay that any further.
I should have learnt this by now… 330 millilitres does not fit a half-pint glass. Not that this will bother most buyers of this drink who are likely to swig from the can before pestering passers by for change.
The colour is where the “Gold” of the name makes its appearance. It reminded me somewhat of Irn-Bru. Or a light bitter. Not much head on it though.
Normally when I do these, the smell doesn’t warrant much of a description. But in this case, it does. Gold Label has the strongest barley smell I’ve yet witnessed. And it’s not pleasant. It is almost like a warning of what is to come.
The taste is strong. There was no false advertising on this can. This is a strong beer in every sense. The pungent barley and wheat smell carries straight over to the taste. And the sour aftertaste is the sourest and strongest I’ve had so far.
As I worked through the small but powerful can, I found myself wincing and cringing. In the way you do after you’ve had a drink that’s stronger than you’re used to. The whole experience reminded me of what it was like trying beers as a youngster. When everything you try is the strongest and most revolting thing you’ve ever tried. Yet, you keep coming back to it. That is what it was like for me with Gold Label.
This is not an easily drinkable drink. I was glad the cans weren’t the normal gigantic size. But I liked being reminded of what it was like trying beers years ago.
I’m not far into this test of the strongest beers and lagers, so I don’t have much to compare it too. But right now, if I wanted something potent, I’d want either the beautifully drinkable Duvel or a strong Scottish ale. Gold Label is strong. But my hypothesis was right. It’s a rough, tough drink. Not for the faint hearted.
Rating: 2.25 but higher if I were an alcoholic or used to strong beers and lagers.
Have you tried Gold Label? What did you think?
Any recommendations of your own? Or suggestions for anything you would like me to review next?
Comments, compliments and insults in the usual place…