Not long ago we were given a bit of a gift, that is, my father took our two eldest for a day at Chatsworth House. I'm not complaining! They thoroughly enjoyed their time away, playing on an adventure play park and climbing walls and such, and Willow and I sort of bodded about the house actually having the time and space to do... nothing. And it was glorious. I digress, the point is that when they returned they brought a lovely ale for me: Chatsworth Gold from Peak Ales and now is the time that I get to have and review that ale on this here blog.
More to the point, I've not really been on the golden ales as much as I was this time last year and so this is a hole that needed to be filled. Again, not a bad thing, I have been having lots more stouts and porters instead, but goldens are, I believe, a necessary part of a balanced beer diet in the summer. Would you like to know more?
This sat in my fridge being chilled from the moment I gained it until the moment I opened it in the garden, to avoid being tainted the same way as other ales I've had this summer by the heat and some light in the pantry. There sadly wasn't space under the cupboard to keep any ale for that length of time. However, it was all for the good as, on opening, I was not faced with a monstrous amount of carbonation causing the whole thing to froth out like it was trying to take over the planet. A pleasing maltiness marked the nose, with a sharp hit of honey, and stayed there like a buzzing insect making its rounds to gain the nectar required to make that honey. Good colour on the pour, exactly as one would expect from a brew that used honey (taken from hives in Chatsworth House's grounds no less) and looking not a little unlike the better meads that I recall from my University days. In fact, it's not a little unlike the rather lovely A-Hop-Alypse Now (see here) from last year.
That honey aspect on the nose grows stronger as you lean into the top of this brew, that white head retreating rather quickly to the edges and leaving a good tide mark around the glass as you take your sips. Malt is heavy and thick on the tongue, full and strong, with a good stark hops atop that honeyed feel that exudes luxury and sweetness through the mouth. Bit of spice in the middle of the mouthful from the yeast, actually, but that is swiftly taken up by the honey of the brew across the board. A warming hit from the 4.6% ABV as the brew reaches the back of the throat and teeters for a moment on the edge of oblivion. It's good, nice and soft on the malt and not too strong on the hops allowing that yeast to make a brief appearance and the honey to do its work without too much interference. Willow was similarly struck by the honey in this one.
In all, yes, there is an element of the mead about this. Alright, it's weak for a mead, but the taste is very close and the warming hit is definitely borne of the honey as well as the strength of the ABV. Being chilled it worked really well on the day that had felt quite heavy and humid, truth be told, and was threatening me with a headache. The aftertaste is very much like the warm sweetness of honey, coupled with the slightly damp effect of a decent golden ale. Very quaffable and not one to sit and savour nor one to knock back without thinking. It's a conversational brew, the sort that would sit you down to share a passion for Capability Brown or steam trains of the Midland Railway Company without making you feel uncomfortable nor that the speaker was being obsessively geekish. For all of that, this is a proper summer ale that does the job it set out to do without complaint and with plenty of good stuff going for it.
I liked it, obviously, but I had it after some rather big and clever ales and that plays a role. Had I had this last year I suspect that it would be a big player in the golden ales I was having. I mean, given the paucity of golden ales year, it still is a big player in the goldens. However, in the context of some of the excellent quality ales that I've been having this does rather suffer. It's not a disappointment, certainly not, nor is it a 'nothing ale' but it doesn't have the subtle interplay of some of the other offerings I've been having of late. This is an outdoors ale that is remarkably well-suited to barbequed meat, or even field mushrooms, and the buzz of conversation among a small group brought together by a love of food cooked outdoors. It would work well with beef in particular or a pepper stuffed with hummus and halloumi cheese.
Yes, would definitely have again. I'm not sure I'm going to sit here and pine for a world where I have more than one of these but if I saw it for sale I would probably snap it up and keep it around for a time with company and decent smokey food. I had it as a reward for mowing the lawn, as it happens, and it was very welcome for that. Work up a sweat and take your time with it, let it breathe, and just enjoy the moment as it stretches out before you.