Written by hywel
THE Bethnal Green Food Center has been useful lately. Over the last few weeks, theyve sold more bottle conditioned British ales than I knew existed. Here is my most recent purchase. A 1.99 pence bottle of Youngs Kew Gold.
This is the same Youngs that brought us Special London Ale and Luxury Double Chocolate Stout. And part of the same Wells & Youngs behind Banana Bread Beer and Bombardier Satanic Mills. As such, hopes are high and the bottle looks very familiar.
Why do I like bottle conditioned ales? Who wants yeast floating around in their drink? Simple. It turbo-charges the flavour, and its divisive. And that makes for interesting comments at the end of this post.
Back to this particular bottle, and the neck-label is where a lot of the detail lives.
It informs us that it was inspired by hops grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. And that some of the money from each sale of this bottle, goes to support Kew. I like that fact, because it muddies the waters for people who like to take a moral stand on beer.
Lastly, they describe it as Light, golden & full-flavoured with a refreshing bite. And that it is Perfect with grilled marinated chicken or pasta. That all sounds very run-of-the-mill for an ale. Wheres the quirkiness and imagination?
The small-print lives on the back of the neck-label.
And its almost identical to the small-print on every other Wells & Youngs bottle of beer. Is has their full, Bedford postal address. It has their web address of www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk. But this one has one more. Because of the Kew connection, it also has the address of www.kew.org. (See post previous to this- Prof. GA) If you want to know about the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, it is a very good website, indeed. Ill have to re-visit it when I stop being young.
With the neck-label done, its onwards and downwards to the front-label.
Although, frankly, theres not much reason to look down here. Its pleasant and green looking. Theres a simple picture of a bunch of hops. And the live, bottle conditioning is the main marketing point. Bottle Conditioned Ale takes pride of place above the Youngs 1831 rams head logo.
Along the bottom of the label is the main selling point: Matured live in the bottle for a fresher taste. Along with the vital statistics either side. That this is a typical 500ml bottle (why not a proper pint?) with a modest 4.8% alcoholic volume.
Next is the back-label. Again, much the same as the back-labels for most other Wells & Youngs beer, so I wont waste your time by going through every tiny detail.
Helpfully, the back-label opens with a bit more detail. Their choice of words for the benefits of bottle conditioning are that its for a fresher taste. They talk about how you can pour it slowly if you dont want it cloudy. How you should store it upright. And that its best served between 10 and 12 degree Celsius. By chance, thats exactly how chilly my flat is.
Sadly, its nowhere near strong enough to help me get over the cold of my flat. At a moderate 4.8% alcoholic volume, and in a standard 500ml bottle, Kew Gold comes in at 2.4 UK units of alcohol.
The only other details worth mentioning are the ingredients. Well, maybe not. But here they are anyway: natural mineral water, malted barley, hops, yeast. Nothing suspicious. Just good, normal, ale ingredients.
So, what does Youngs Kew Gold taste like? Will I like it? And will I think you should buy it? Will the yeasty goodness be worth it? Lets find out.
It poured easily enough. Certainly much easier than the European wheat beers. It wasnt cloudy at all until I gave the bottle the old Bavarian-swirl near the bottle. That livened up the glass. All without overflowing it.
True to the label description, the hue is golden. The head quickly collapsed to a network of white patches. Its cloudy, but not overly opaque and looks well carbonated.
What does Youngs Kew Gold? Smell of? Not that much, and not very strongly. You need to give it a good sniff to detect that its all hops. A couple more sniffs, and you realise that it smells good, in a pleasant, hoppy way. Fruity, spicy and a bit malty are the words Ill go with on the smell.
What does Youngs Kew Gold taste like? The first gulp started easily enough. As soon as the aftertaste kicks in, your mouth is swamped by the hoppiest taste Ive had out of a bottle. And that brought with it that familiar hoppy bitterness. It still caught me off-guard.
A few more sips and Im starting to make some sense of the flavours and tastes in Youngs Kew Gold. On the flavour side of the equation, theres not much to say. Its got a light, savoury, slightly leading bitterness. No flavours really stand out. At least none that my tongue was aware of.
The aftertaste is what Youngs Kew Gold is all about. It has a very full, hoppy, agricultural taste. At first, I was overwhelmed by it and the bitterness, but a third of the way through now, Im not so sure. Its turned into a light, smooth and strangely refreshing beverage. Almost a complete 180 degree from where it was on that first gulp.
Nearing half-way through, and what am I enjoying about Youngs Kew Gold? A admit it. I wasnt expecting any surprises when I cracked it open. So Im genuinely happy to have had a couple. I like how immensely hoppy it tastes at first. I like how that will put off the less intrepid beer drinkers, meaning youre in an exclusive club if youve got this far. It also scores it points for distinctiveness. I very much like how easy it is to get used to it, and how well it becomes drinkable and smooth. I like how its taken the light and refreshing summery ale and put a very hoppy twist in it. And I like how it gives money to the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, even though Id rather experience mild electrocution than learn about foliage.
What arent I enjoying about Youngs Kew Gold? That massive, initial hoppiness isnt going to win it any lager or alco-pop friends. Personally, Id like more interesting flavours, not just pure hoppiness. With such a hoppy beer, it would be good if the labels told us what hops and malts they used in the brew. Its a little on the gassy side. Its expensive and hard to find. And, here, now, in a cold flat, in winter, its just not right. Summer, or at least spring, is where Youngs Kew Gold belongs.
To sum up, Youngs Kew Gold is one of the hoppiest tasting ales Ive ever tried. Do I like it? Yes, but despite myself. I didnt want to, but its grown on me. Was the bottle conditioning worth it? For the distinctive, hoppy quality, yes. Should you buy it? In the right season, if you like strong, hoppy ale, if you can find it and afford it, then yes. Definitely.