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Classic Beer of the Month July 2016: Exmoor Ale

Exmoor Gold, 4.5%

There are many ways to define a classic.

Exmoor GoldIn one sense, it refers to something of the highest quality. In another, it suggests venerable age. On both fronts, Exmoor Gold now more than qualifies.

This bright golden beer from Somerset first saw the light of day thirty years ago. It was developed in 1986 as a celebration beer to mark 1,000 brews at the Golden Hill brewery, as Exmoor Ales was then known.

If the brewers were hoping to produce something special for the occasion, they succeeded. The beer was a revelation.

It was extremely rare for British ales at that time to appear shiny and golden in the glass. The decision to skip crystal malt when it came to filling the mash tun and just focus on pale malt paid off when customers – many of them hardened lager drinkers – were enticed by its dashing blond looks.

Export Strength

Three decades on, the company is now approaching its 10,000th brew in a new larger home just down the road from the original site at Wiveliscombe, and it will be with Exmoor Gold that the brewery will be celebrating this milestone.

An Exmoor Gold Export Strength at 5.5% ABV will be produced for this summer’s Great British Beer Festival, hoping to recapture the success this special edition enjoyed last year when it premiered in a Wetherspoon beer festival.

I look forward to trying that stronger beer. If it is as refreshing and well balanced as the 4.5% original, with its sherbety-hop aroma, faintly floral hop flavour and smooth, almost honeyed malt base, it will be a treat, especially if it mirrors the delicate development of the finish, from bittersweet to smoothly bitter as the hops – a combination of Fuggle, Golding, Challenger, Perle and Bobek – linger on the tongue.

Exmoor Ales remains the company’s flagship brew and has inspired hundreds of other brewers to adopt this style of beer. A recent survey showed that golden ale is now the most-brewed style among UK breweries, with nearly 95% of them offering at least one blond ale, as opposed to just 83% producing traditional brown beer.

In that sense again, the beer is undoubtedly a classic – an outstanding example of its kind and an inspirational setter of trends.

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