Name - First Gold
Brewer - Badger
Classification - Traditional, 'country' ale
Strength - 4% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye - Copper sunset. Lovely.
On the nose - Smoked fruits. High toned hops.
On the tongue - Simultaneously traditional and unique. Wonderfully nutty, with some extraordinary use of hops.
On the subject - Badger have an almost unrivalled bottled beer presence in the UK. For such an elusive creature to have been chosen to represent them seems a little inappropriate these days!
On the market - Everywhere. Seriously.
On the whole - 8.5/10
This is a very sophisticated drink.
There's a breadth of flavour themes surging through every mouthful, which both bedazzles and soothes to extreme effect.
It's distinctive, too. Without being eccentric or overly experimental, Badger have concocted a beer which I'm certain I would be able to identify with no trouble at all in a blind tasting. It really does have a character all to it's own.
It's an odd mix of super-traditional and utterly unique. I'm sure that's an entirely illogical statement, but it identifies this ale all the same. It's richly nutty, satin/velvet in the body, and is possessive of around seven separate floral and citrus 'twangs' in the rapidly arriving finish.
Midway through the glass, I became convinced that it was the hops that were chiefly responsible for the uniqueness of the taste, and at that very moment (most unusually for a Bottled Beer Year taste test) I reached for the bottle's label, which dutifully informed me that 'First Gold' is actually the name of the low-growing dwarf hops which are solely used in the brewing of this beer. For a brew to be named after the hops which it contains reveals quite a lot about their acknowledged influence.
I'm sure there's much more to this ale's fabulous flavour than just well selected hops, which cannot possibly take the credit for that deliciously firm consistency, or for that fiendishly fulsome nutty base - but they really do add the most wonderfully ethereal bitterness to the mix, a bitterness which sets about delighting the mouth quite relentlessly from the very start.
I quickly grew to adore this beer.
Frankly, I defy anyone not to.