There’s a huge array of golden ales produced right now but few have the same reputation as Brain’s SA Gold or Old Speckled Hen’s Old Golden Hen. These two have built themselves as dominant brands – and for a reason. They’re both very well made and drink well throughout the year. But which is best?
Colour and smell
While SA Gold pours much like a lager with more of a thickened copp er hue, Old Golden Hen is very much a light gold. Both have a light fizz, SA Gold perhaps a little more so.
Where they differ more starkly is with the aromas. SA Gold is clean, wheaty and fresh – but not zesty – while Old Golden Hen is full of tropical fruit, sweetness and malt.
It’s a tight one to pick the winner at this stage because it’s so susceptible to tastes. My personal preference is towards the SA Gold smell, as I assume it to be associated with refreshment. Others may be enticed by Old Golden Hen’s complexity and fruity appeal.
Now here they are completely different ales. SA Gold is less fresh and clean and more bitter, full, and complex with hop flavours. There’s citrus that is mildly akin to pale ale, albeit on a lesser scale.
Comparably, Old Golden Hen is much lighter than you’d expect. The fruit is subtle yet refined and there’s pale malts that make the full mouthfeel defined and exciting.
On that basis, I would give the round winner to Old Golden Hen.
Before moving on to the overall winner though, I think it’s worth mentioning how good these ales are with food. SA Gold is an ideal match with fish, pairing those zesty notes with white fish in particular. Old Golden Hen in comparison is an excellent partner for roast chicken.
Everything but the smell pushes me in favour of the Old Golden Hen. At the end of the day the experience is about drinking quality ale, which these both are, but I have to say the Old Golden Hen edges ever so slightly ahead when crossing the finish line.
Written & photographed by Ben Franks, www.benfrankswine.com, @Writer_Franks