The lad and I were over in Tunbridge Wells earlier this evening, for a spot of late night shopping. Actually it only involved popping into a well-known camera shop to collect a pre-ordered compact camera. That was enough shopping as far as I was concerned, but mission accomplished it was time for a bite to eat.
The town’s Wetherspoon’s outlet, the Opera House, is just a few hundred yards from the shopping centre, and today being Curry Night it seemed rude not to pop in for a quick ruby. We timed our visit well, arriving shortly after 7pm, as although the pub was starting to fill up, we still managed to find a table.
Food selection made (lamb rogan josh for me; chicken balti for the boy), it was up to the bar. Matthew opted for a pint of Carling (don’t say anything!), whilst I fancied a pint of the Dark Star American Pale. I hadn’t noticed that old JDW trick of the “Coming Soon” sticker on the pump-clip, so had to opt for something else. There at the end of the row of pumps, was a clip advertising a beer many of us went out of our way to drink back in the late 1980’s; Exmoor Gold.
I can’t remember the last time I drank a pint of it, but it must have been several years ago. However, I was glad of my choice and the beer went down very well with my curry. At 4.5%, this pioneering golden ale tasted every bit as good as I remember it. Its floral hop notes pitched against a soft underlying maltiness, reminded me as to why this beer was such a sensation when it was launched back in 1986. Straw-coloured bitters, such as Boddingtons, Stones and Shipstones had been around for many years, but most bitters back then were brown in colour. A golden ale was a real revelation, and Exmoor Gold set the bar for a whole host of imitators to follow.
Nowadays, Golden Ale is a recognised style, but if it hadn’t have been for Exmoor Ales bold experiment, we might not have seen the likes of Hop Back Summer Lightning and all the other beers which followed. I am rather glad that the Dark Star beer wasn’t ready earlier; otherwise I would not have renewed my acquaintance with an old favourite from my younger days.