Big Drop: Field Hopper Golden Ale (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold. Thin white head.

Nose: Fluffy hop character. Orange skin. Vanilla. White bread.

Body: Slightly chalky. Light crusty white bread. Some bitterness, which grows in scale quickly. Slightly musty. Light orange zest. Vanilla. Quite dry.

Finish: Some bitterness and hop prickle. Hop bitterness rises quickly. Lemon and orange notes. Dry cake sponge.

Conclusion: I’m on the fence about this one, it flits between a decent golden ale, and a fairly rubbish beer, and I’ve yet to settle on which side of it dominates enough for me to make a call. So, let’s examine it and see where this takes us.

Let’s start with the best side of it. This has a good hop character, bitter and very much showing itself in a golden ale style which is recognisably different from other IPA or Bitter low abv beers. It has the refreshing prickling character, slightly dry but with good bitterness that can kick out at you.

Behind that hop kick is a reasonably evident citrus orange and lemon set of notes that again call to the quintessential golden ale style.

It is always pretty dry, a tad more than I would expect from a golden ale, which can already be a quite dry style in some expressions, but not generally terribly so. The extra dryness is probably a tell of the low abv and lower malt, but apart from that there aren’t many low alcohol give away elements.

That dryness , while not bad in itself, can be the gateway to the weaker side of this beer though. Sometimes the beer can feel like it isn’t putting enough weight against the bitterness, and comes across harsh and quiet chalky which hurts the beer and hides most of the lighter citrus elements of the beer. The beer can come across quite empty like this, with just the rough edges pushing through the quiet.

This rough style happens more early on ā€“ I didn’t overly chill the beer so I don’t think it was from that. Maybe I just acclimatised to the bitterness, or maybe it just benefits from some time to air, but it is definitely more friendly in the later half of the beer.

With that I’m going to lean towards this being generally good, but with weak moments early on. When it is off it is a pain, but it spends more time as a reasonable if not exceptional golden ale. So, not bad, but could probably do with a few tweaks in the recipe and brewing to get it right.

Background: Big Drop were one of the first low abv brewers that made me think that there was a genuine future for good low abv beers. Over the years they have had hits and misses, but generally always happy to check them out. So when I saw this one I had not tried when I put in my light drinks order, I threw in a bottle to see how it was. Went back to Bikini Kill – The First Two Records collection for backing music as I’ve been on a bit of a punk kick recently again.