Why Not Norfolk Honey Ale

Why Not: Norfolk Honey Ale (England: Golden Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Yellow gold. Massive yellow white head. Massive carbonation. Leaves sud rims around glass.

Nose: Custard. Dry honey. Wheaty. Orange fruit sugars.

Body: Sour grapes. Dry honey. Some bitterness and hop oils. Quite dry overall. Light earthy and pepper backing. Dried apricot. Toffee. Chestnuts.

Finish: Tart grapes and honey. Custard. Bitter hop character. Dried apricot. White wine.

Conclusion: There are a lot of pitfalls on the path to making a honey beer. If you make it too honey sweet then you basically have a sugary alchopop. Now, if that is what you want, no worries, enjoy whatever you enjoy, however for me I’m looking for something that shows the benefit of the craft of working with beer. Personal taste and all that. Anyway, on the opposite side if you use too little honey sweetness then you might as well not be using it. This is doubly so when honey is listed as the main element of the beer as it is here.

Initial impressions show a lot of range for a honey beer. Custard notes come out on the sweet end, and sour grapes and hop oil character on the other side. While the honey is the prevalent character, the beer hasn’t sacrificed the base ale character to push the honey front and centre. I have the feeling even without the honey it would be a fruity and slightly earthy touched ale.

So, I’ve been beating around thus particular bush for the entire set of notes, so let’s get to it – how well do the do with the honey? How do they use it? Dryly. The flavour is full on honey, but it feels like a lot of the sugar has been used up with little residual sweetness. This is what I imagine has led to the grape character to the beer which feels a tad white wine like.

For me this beer is, well, I have to admit that i prefer them when they lean more towards the beer side and less on the honey side, but that is personal preference showing. Attempting a more general observation, this balances itself very well for the honey emphasising side of the style. The sweetness is there, but very much controlled, and there are enough other elements that it doesn’t become single note. Not quite to my tastes but I can respect it for being a well done take on the style.

Background: Last of the Norfolk beers had up North over Christmas – a gift from the family, many thanks! Decided to go with something a bit different for the last one, a honey ale. Often honey ales are not my thing, but like most styles there are nice ones tucked in there amongst them so I am often up for giving them a go.

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