07 April 2014

Invictus

The sheer dogged resilience of some some beers is staggering. Gold Label (formerly Whitbread Gold Label, before that Tennant's* Gold Label) is a prime example, normally to be found skulking in the corner of the Sainsbury's beer aisle, propping up another haggard old-timer Mackeson Stout, both forced shamefully into garish modern dress for the benefit of a target audience that cares little for them, or anything much else, I imagine. Thomas was kind enough to acquire this can for me: the fact that it comes in four-packs has always put me off, even though it sells for buttons.

So what have we got? 7.5% ABV -- "Strong as a double scotch, less than half the price" ran the strapline: an all-time classic of superliminal advertising -- it's a wholesome dark gold colour. The head doesn't hang around and the body is barely troubled by bubbles. It smells like a fairly typical pale bock: nettles and sugar, though there's also an edge of sherry in there hinting at something more dangerous. And yet it's surprisingly innocuous on tasting. There are no really strong flavours, no tramp-juice sickliness or overdone booze heat. Rather it's smooth, lightly sugary like candyfloss, and with some subtle mango and apple flavours in the background. No, I'm not taking the piss. The alcohol does get more pronounced as it warms, unsurprisingly, and some nasty marker pen and acetone begins to creep in.

Overall, not the disaster I was expecting. I can see how it survived the darker days of 20th century British brewing, offering something with a bit more personality than insipid canned lager or insipid canned bitter. Today it's deserving of some retro cred, I think.

*of Sheffield. Not be confused with Tennent's, of Glasgow. Thanks to Ron and NBW for the comments.

13 comments:

  1. I've a bizarre affection for Gold Label. A pity they've dropped the strength. I've a few recipes for it, both from Whitbread and Tennants. I keep meaning to get someone to brew the classic recipe.

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    1. That would certainly be interesting, Ron.

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  2. The badge on the tin shows the drink’s true heritage - that of Tennent Bros., Sheffield that brewed it long before Whitbread got its claws on the brewery and closed it in predictable fashion.

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    1. Ahh. I was going to comment that the badge shows its Whitbread heritage, and then realised: that's not the Whitbread logo! Thanks for clearing that up.

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    2. Tennant Bros of Sheffield. Tenent is in Glasgow. Very easily confused.

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    3. Missed an n off Tennent of Glasgow.

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  3. Oddly enough I saw Gold Label in bottles in a pub recently. Haven’t tried it since it came down to 7.5%. It used to be a mighty 10%, then 9.

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    1. Ooo, fancy! Is it meant for mixing or drinking straight, do you think?

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  4. Previously reviewed here when it was still 8.5%. I was correct in my prediction that it would be cut to 7.5% - although none of the "tramp juice" special lagers have been.

    I have since tried the 7.5% version which is basically the same, but a bit "less so" all round. It's also surprisingly dear in the supermarkets.

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  5. I had some in a blind tasting recently and quite enjoyed it.

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  6. Gary Gillman10:43 p.m.

    I actually remember when I last had this in London. It was about 20 years ago in a pub in Chelsea, facing the road which aligns the water, called 8 Bells, or 8 Bells and … something. Maybe some of the London old hands remember.

    It would have been bottled and I remember liking it, in fact your tastes rang an, er, bell.

    But it was 10% yes. 7.5% ain't no barley wine, that's just a DIPA.

    Jackson wrote that the bottled version was centrifuged and the tinned, pasteurized. So, we are a bit further afield from the original palate but still your notes rang a bell, or gong, or..

    Gary

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    1. That's nice to learn, Gary.

      Mind you, when I first worked in a pub 18 years ago, the barley wine (Smithwick's, natch) was 5.5% ABV.

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  7. "But it was 10% yes. 7.5% ain't no barley wine, that's just a DIPA."

    Cottage Norman's Conquest in 1995 was champion beer of Britain, it is a barleywine at 7%.

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