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Classic Beer of the Month September 2013: Crouch Vale Brewers Gold

Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, 4%

If it takes a special beer to win CAMRA's Champion Beer of Britain contest, a beer that wins it two years running must be remarkable. That feat has only been achieved twice. The first time by Timothy Taylor's Landlord in 1982–3, the second by Crouch Vale's Brewers Gold in 2005–6.

Crouch Vale Brewers GoldIn a sense, Crouch Vale's achievement is the more impressive, coming in an era when Britain boasted thousands of cask-conditioned ales, as opposed to the 500 or so when Taylor's rightly-lauded beer was top dog.

It was also significant in confirming the early 21st-century dominance of the golden ale as a championship beer.

Crouch Vale's masterpiece was created in June 2000. It's a simple beer in most respects, with the soft straw colour evidence of the use of only lager malt in the mash tun. Similarly, there's just one hop involved – the one that gives its name to the beer.

Hop Origins

Brewer's Gold was developed at the Wye hop research centre in Kent towards the end of World War I, by pollinating a wild Canadian hop with an English hop. It became commercially available in the 1930s but it's not commonly (if ever) grown in Britain any more.

Instead, you'll find it lapping up the sun in the USA or enjoying the warm climate of southern Germany instead. The German (Hallertau) variety is typically more understated than the American but, as it reveals in Crouch Vale's beer, is beautifully fragrant and lush.

Delicate grapefruit and other citrus fruit notes hover around the rim of the glass as you raise the beer to take a sip. A good swig brings sherbet lemons, passion fruit and grapefruit pith to the palate, a bittersweet burst of zest that is instantly appealing but by no means aggressive or demanding.

The finish is mellow and, as you sit savouring each mouthful, a soft, slightly peppery bitterness slowly develops, running alongside a dryness that makes you want to reach for another taste.

If anyone ever tells you that balance in a beer equates to blandness, steer them in the direction of this beer. Here the nominal hop is showcased brilliantly but never allowed to run riot at the expense of drinkability.

It's easy to see why the CAMRA judges were so impressed – on both occasions.

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