Rhythm and Brews – The Ridge and New Gold Dream

ridgeGiven the fashion within the craft brew industry for over-hopped, bitter, resinous pale ales – great as they are – it’s refreshing to encounter a pale ale that comes on all light, bright and fresh before revealing its bitter finish.

Harvestoun’s origins go back to 1983 when founder Ken Brooker’s garden-shed based home brews began to attract more and more interest from his ever-expanding circle of friends. By 1986, Ken had firmly outgrown his shed and had secured planning permission for a brewery. Over the next few years the brewery grew from a homespun affair brewing just one beer – Harvistoun Real Ale to a modern brew house with an extensive range of beers to its name.

Most famous of these is perhaps its Ola Dubh range, rich thick stouts matured in barrels that have previously cradled whiskies ranging from 12 to 40 years old. I’m looking forward immensely to reviewing the Ola Dubh range but I’ll wait until winter for that. Right now I want to get to grips with more of a summer style of ale – The Ridge.

Simple-Minds-New-Gold-Dream-421616The Ridge is described as a ‘mid-Atlantic’ beer, combining American and British hops. Light, bright and golden in the glass, it pours with a clean, white head that settles to a thin foam. On the nose there is sweetness with a hint of new mown lawn then a citrusy sharpness. The initial taste is sweetness and lemon with a grassy undercurrent. Hops emerge slowly bringing a mouth cleansing bitterness and a satisfying finish. A perfect ale for a long, hot, lazy summer’s day in the garden.

The Ridge’s bright, golden glow made me think of Simple Minds’ 1982 album New Gold Dream (81, 82, 83, 84). Like The Ridge, New Gold Dream has a freshness and clarity that is perfectly suited to summer reveries. The album – Simple Minds’ fifth – signalled a change of direction for the band. From their beginnings as punk band Johnny And The Self Abusers, Simple Minds had evolved through the angular pop of their first album Life In A Day to an increasingly experimental European sound of Sons And Fascination/Sisters Feeling Call for which they formed an unlikely but highly effective partnership with former Gong guitarist Steve Hillage. The band and Hillage shared a love of Krautrock and married this influence to the contemporary European sound of bands like Deutsch Americanische Freundshaft (D.A.F.) and Die Krupps.

New Gold Dream took the best elements of the previous albums and evolved them into something new. The songs have an abstract, almost hallucinatory quality but retain a pop sensibility. Opening track Someone Somewhere (in Summer Time) sets the tone for what follows. Chiming guitar and melodic bass drive the song forward. Keyboards counterpoint and drums underpin as singer Jim Kerr emotes obliquely.

The album spawned three hit singles in the UK and two in the US, opening the door to bigger things. Kerr described the album as the band’s “Holy Grail”. “There was a depth to it” he said. “It created its own mythology. It stood out”.

Simple Minds’ next album Sparkle In The Rain embraced the big gated drums and all the glossy artifice that ‘80s production techniques could offer. Reluctantly, they recorded Don’t You Forget About Me for the soundtrack of Brat Pack flick The Breakfast Club. The song was a massive hit and world domination beckoned. The music got bigger, the drums louder but New Gold Dream (81, 82, 83, 84) remains their perfect moment. 

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