Thirty years ago Exmoor Ales (then called Golden Hill), created a special one-off beer to celebrate its 1000th brew. That beer was Exmoor Gold and it has been brewed ever since, winning many of awards on the way and it has now become the company’s flagship.
In a move that was rare for its time, it only used one variety of malted barley, and as a consequence the beer was bright gold in colour and stood out from the many copper- and bronze-coloured beers that ruled the bar-top.
Nobody at the brewery knew that this gleaming beer was starting a new beer style, Golden Ale, which has since been replicated in hundreds of brew houses up and down the country.
‘Its appeal is that it has always had great drinkability,’ says Exmoor Ales’ Managing Director Jonathan Price. ‘There’s also its golden colour, which in the beginning helped with converting lager drinkers. It has also been known nationally almost since its start and as the well acknowledged first Golden Ale it stands out from the crowd of other golden beers.’
World-renowned beer writer Roger Protz is also a firm fan of the beer, having acknowledged this his best-selling 300 Beers To Try Before You Die!
‘It was the early 1990s and I was editing What’s Brewing,’ he recalls, ‘I was at the printers in Bicester and went for a quick lunch in a pub where I had Exmoor Gold sitting in the garden. I was astounded by its rich aroma and palate — juicy malt, lemon fruit, earthy Fuggles and peppery Goldings. It was wonderfully refreshing and only my extreme professionalism tore me away from the pub and back to the proofs.
‘It was — to use the modern jargon — a game changer, one of a tiny handful of golden ales that attracted younger drinkers away from mass marketed lagers to the delights of ale bursting with rich and pungent hop character. Just about every brewer has a golden ale in their locker, but Exmoor Gold helped revive and boost the cask ale sector and made it attractive to a new generation of drinkers.’
As well as being a firm favourite with beer-lovers, both at home and in the pub, Exmoor Gold has also been a serial award-winner; its latest accolade came in 2015 when it landed top prize in CAMRA’s Southwest Regional Champion Beer of Britain Golden Ale category. This award was particularly sweet as it occurred just as the brewery moved into its new home some 50 yards from its original site where brewing began in 1980.
‘Wiveliscombe has always been an integral part of Exmoor Ales,’ says Price, who bought the brewery in 2006. ‘When we realised that we had to move from our site at the old brewery on the hill, remaining in Wiveliscombe was terribly important, even though shifting to industrial estates in other parts of the county were much cheaper. When the opportunity came four years ago to purchase a good factory site some 50 yards from the brewery, it had to be taken and in 2014 the big step to invest in the new brewery began. Altogether around £1.5m has been invested. It’s wonderful to be associated with the brewing heritage of Wiveliscombe and it’s also great that our 10,000th brew is taking place at the same time as Gold hits 30!’
Even though Exmoor Gold is 30 years old Price reveals that he still has plans for it.
‘Last year we produced a limited edition of a stronger and more hopped Gold in cask for the Wetherspoons beer festival. It was called Exmoor Gold Export Strength and was 5.5% as opposed to the regular 4.5%. It was also late hopped. It was exceptionally well received and this summer it will make its debut at CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival. As for the future this brand could also form the test bed for the kegged and canned versions of Gold we are thinking of. Here’s to the next 30 years of Gold!’