BADGER’S reputation for outstanding bottles of ale remained intact yesterday with Badger First Gold. Hopes are high then, for this bottle of Badger England’s Gold.
The neck label of these Badger bottles is a good source of clues for what to expect. But this one baffles me.
What is “Quintessentially English” ale? I don’t know. But I’m looking forward to finding out.
The main front label, like the neck label takes English country imagery a step further.
The fields, rolling hills, trees, village and church are all very effective at creating an idyllic image of rural England. It certainly makes me want to get out of the city for a break. But what does it say about the ale? I’m still in the dark about that.
Certainly, the “England’s Gold” name is very appealing. And the 4.6% volume for the 500 millilitre bottle means it should be potent enough. But what is Badger’s take on a “Quintessentially English” ale all about? Time to consult the invaluable “Taste Profile” chart on the back label.
Once again, bravo to Hall & Woodhouse/Badger for the back label. They never disappoint with good descriptions, clear labelling. And, of course, that ever-so-handy “Taste Profile”. Let’s see how it rates “Bitter”, “Sweet”, “Hoppy”, “Malty” and “Fruity” on its one to five scales…
In case you can’t see from my photo (which you probably can’t, not even I can), we do learn what England’s Gold is about. That’s because it’s about “Fruity”-ness. At four out of five, “Fruity”-ness leads by a big margin. “Sweet” isn’t far behind on three, with “Bitter”, “Hoppy” and “Malty” down on two’s and one’s out of five respectively. It looks, then, that “Quintessentially English” ales are about fruitiness and sweetness. Yummy.
As always with Badger labels, they don’t stop there. We also get a proper description. This one goes with descriptions like “fresh”, “light”, “grassy”, “crisp”, “floral” and “subtle bitterness”. That sounds deliciously complex to me. We also learn that this bottle ale is “award-winning”, but what awards they were, we’re not told. They also advise that this goes well with chicken or pasta, but especially well with “fresh Dorset fly-fished trout”. Sadly, with no fresh trout, Dorset or otherwise, to hand, it’ll have to be tested on its own this time. Unless, that is, the instant lasagne I had an hour ago is the pasta they had in mind.
Down to the small-print now, and this bottle has 2.3 UK units of alcohol. For the paranoid, it contains malted barley and sulphites. Their Blandford St. Mary, Dorset postal address is on there. As is the web address of www.badgerales.com. And address that immediately re-directs you to http://www.hall-woodhouse.co.uk/. Never mind, a couple of clicks takes us to the England’s Gold homepage at http://www.hall-woodhouse.co.uk/beers/badgerales/englandsgold.asp. A page where we learn that the award it won, was the 2005 Tesco Brewing Awards. Good stuff chaps.
Now I’m really looking forward to trying Badger England’s Gold. I might be from Wales, but I want to like this one. The big question is will it be as shockingly floral and fruity as Badger Golden Glory? What will it taste like? And do I think you should buy a bottle? Let’s find out…
Once in the glass, it’s a deep, dark shade of gold. Roughly what I expected of yesterday’s First Gold actually. But this time, there’s no real head to worry about. Sure, it has one, but it’s just a thin layer of bubbles. And one that becomes patchy after a minute or two.
How does it smell? The label describes it as having a “zippy floral aroma”. I’d say it’s like sniffing some flowers that happen to be sharing a field with some citrus fruit. All very interesting, pleasant and unexpected. And not overwhelming either.
How does it taste? In a word; interesting. This is another complicated one, so I’m going to need a few more gulps to make sense of what’s going on with the flavour.
A few gulps later, and I would say that hoppy bitterness was much more noticeable than I expected. That said, it is still fruity and flowery, so those are what you’ll notice on the palate. Also in there are hints of tangy citrus-ness and various plants. Which, I think is where their descriptions of “white grape and melon” and “grassy”-ness come from. Whatever you thought you were expecting from the flavours and tastes, you’ll be surprised.
There’s much that I like about England’s Gold. The flavours and taste surprised me, even though I thought I knew what to expect. And that’s a good thing. The flavours and tastes were interesting and good. Even though they describe it as having a “subtle bitterness”, it has a tangy and hoppy bite to it. This, together with all the fruit and flowers in the taste take a little getting used to, but the Badger quality makes sure you will do. The strength is right. And tasting as it does, it offers something you don’t find easily elsewhere. And that gains it points for character and distinctiveness.
With anything that takes so many chances, there are going to be downsides. England’s Gold is no sadly exception. For the first time, out of all the Badger bottled ales, what they have on the label didn’t match what I was tasting. In all probability, that was down to my lack of lack of taste ability. But if you also happen to be a talentless beer reviewer, you too could be surprised by the bitter bite you didn’t expect. The flavour and taste is very good. But it did take some getting used to. And that’s going to put the less intrepid drinkers off. It’s also darn hard to find, with only one little shop near me stocking it by chance.
So, where does that leave Badger England’s Gold overall? I’m not entirely sure how to sum it up, let alone how to rate it. Nearly at the bottom of my glass now, and I’ve quite enjoyed it. It is similar to Badger Golden Glory, but toned down in the fruit and flowers department. And upped considerably in the hoppy bitterness.
England’s Gold then, is high-quality, interesting and complex. If you like interesting ales, definitely try it. On the other hand, you might easily hate it. Going by past comments though, this could be an ale for the ladies. Am I right? Quintessentially English? Conceivably.
Have you tried Badger England’s Gold? What did you think of this unusual ale?
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