Golden Ales are a variety of Ale developed in hope of winning the younger people away from drinking lager in favour of cask ales. In a way quite similar to pale ale yet there are some notable differences- it is paler, brewed with lager or low temperature ale malts and they are served in colder temperatures. The strength of Golden ales varies from 3.5% to 5.3%.
Fairly simple beers they are balanced and not too complex. They are often very drinkable and refreshing which comes in handy during the summer months. They typically have a clean crisp flavor, light color and good balance between hops and malt. Malt base is primarily pale ale malt while some use malted wheat, which is also light in color and adds to the crispness and head retention.
History: Modern golden ales were developed in England to take on strongly-marketed lagers. While it is difficult to identify the first, Hop Back's Summer Lightning, first brewed in 1986, is thought by many to have got the style off the ground.
Aroma: Hop aroma is moderately low to moderately high, and can use any variety of hops – floral, herbal, or earthy English hops and citrusy American hops are most common. Frequently a single hop varietal will be showcased. Little to no malt aroma; no caramel. Medium-low to low fruity aroma from the hops rather than esters. Little to no diacetyl.
Appearance: Straw to golden in color. Good to brilliant clarity. Low to moderate white head. A low head is acceptable when carbonation is also low.
Flavor: Medium to medium-high bitterness. Hop flavor is moderate to moderately high of any hop variety, although citrus flavors are increasingly common. Medium-low to low malt character, generally bready with perhaps a little biscuity flavor. Caramel flavors are typically absent. Little to no diacetyl. Hop bitterness and flavor should be pronounced. Moderately-low to low esters. Medium-dry to dry finish. Bitterness increases with alcohol level, but is always balanced.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium body. Low to moderate carbonation on draught, although bottled commercial versions will be higher. Stronger versions may have a slight alcohol warmth, but this character should not be too high.
Overall Impression: A hop-forward, average-strength to moderately-strong pale bitter. Drinkability and a refreshing quality are critical components of the style.
Comments: Well-hopped, quenching beer with an emphasis on showcasing hops. Served colder than traditional bitters, this style was originally positioned as a refreshing summer beer, but is now often brewed year-round. Although early on the beers were brewed with English hops, increasingly American citrus-flavored hops are used. Golden Ales are also called Golden Bitters, Summer Ales, or British Blonde Ales. Can be found in cask, keg, and bottle.
Characteristic Ingredients: Low-color pale or lager malt acting as a blank canvas for the hop character. May use sugar adjuncts, corn or wheat. English hops frequently used, although citrusy American varietals are becoming more common. Somewhat clean-fermenting British yeast.
Style Comparison: More similar to an American Pale Ale than anything else, although it is often lower in alcohol and usually features British ingredients. Has no caramel and fewer esters compared to British bitters and pale ales. Dry as bitters but with less malt character to support the hops, giving a different balance. Often uses (and features) American hops, more so than most other modern British styles.
Commercial Examples: Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, Fuller's Discovery, Golden Hill Exmoor Gold, Hop Back Summer Lightning, Kelham Island Pale Rider, Morland Old Golden Hen, Oakham JHB
Source: 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines - http://www.bjcp.org/, Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ale#Golden_ale, BeerAdvocate - http://www.beeradvocate.com/articles/369/