If aliens landed tomorrow and announced that they were going to eradicate one of Earth's beer styles you wouldn't hear me piping up in defence of British golden ales. They're an inoffensive bunch (the ales, not the aliens) but mostly very very dull. They were created, I assume, to draw the lager fanatics into proper beer, but when the Belgians tried this they created Duvel; the Brits gave us Discovery.
One beer gives me pause in my condemnation, however: Black Sheep's Golden Sheep. This is a rich dark gold colour and is properly malty with a lovely bitter bite at the end, accentuated by the powerful carbonation. It reminds me of nothing so much as the better class of Czech lager. This is how to ape lager with an ale.
Of course, when it comes to slightly darker ales, the English are world class. Take Emmerdale -- also from Black Sheep -- for example. This amber beer has the understated bitterness of English hop varieties but more than makes up for its lack of bite with a rich and satisfying warmth. No other nation's brewers can create this kind of flavour at such low levels of alcohol.
I tried the Emmerdale next to Betty Stogs, from the Skinner's brewery in Cornwall. This is a dark red-amber ale with a fresh hoppy aroma, redolent of an American pale ale. Sadly, it doesn't follow through to the flavour. The beer is labelled a quaffer and is light on gas and light on taste, disappearing quickly without doing much on the way.
I'm not a fan of Rick Stein. I think he has very preordained ideas about how food ought to be which lead him to make repetitive and often quite patronising television programmes. When I happened across another Cornish beer (in England: those are not my doilies) to which he lends his late dog's name, I was apprehensive. Reading on the label that Chalky's Bite is an attempt to recreate a Belgian tripel put me immediately on the defensive against Steinish little-Englanderism. So I'm pleased to report that the beer is rubbish. It has none of the spice and power of a real tripel, it's just bland and English and golden.
Hey, aliens: start the sweep at Cornwall.
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