Stuffed Full of Goldings

Hops

Traditional hop varieties such as Goldings and Fuggles are seen by many UK beer enthusiasts and brewers as a key signifier of ‘the bad old days’.

Self-consciously ‘craft’ brewers tend not to use them, or at least not to advertise their use, just as they tend not to brew mild, bitter or best bitter.

But talking to people like Sean Franklin and Brendan Dobbin, both of whom helped to kick off the widespread use of pungent ‘new world’ hop varieties such as Cascade in the UK, we began to wonder if the baby hadn’t been thrown out with the bathwater. Neither man subscribes to a simplistic ‘foreign hops good, British hops bad’ point of view, and both described memories of great, flavoursome, highly aromatic beers made with Goldings.

Then, last week, we saw this from Ron Pattinson:

I’m really happy that the 1839 Reid IPA has been brewed. Even happier when I taste it. There’s that magical effect of a shitload of Goldings. It’s a flavour I’m learning to love. When will a professional brewer pick that up? OK, Dann has done in the past with the 1832 XXXX Ale. But where is a regularly brewed beer stuffed full of Goldings?

That helped to crystallise our thinking. The problem isn’t Goldings, or traditional hop varieties in general, but their absence: because they are associated with ‘balanced’, ‘classical’ brewing, when they are used, it is often not in sufficient abundance to really make an impact on the palate of the modern beer geek.

We’re sure there are exceptions. For example, Meantime’s India Pale Ale (link to annoying age protected website) has US-style ‘oomph’ and a huge, juicy aroma, achieved, as we understand it, entirely using Kent hops. We’re going to track down a bottle as soon as possible and get reacquainted.

We have also been asked to suggest a recipe specification to Kirkstall Brewery in Leeds, whose beer we don’t know at all, so that they can brew a beer to coincide with our appearance at North Bar in May. After racking our brains, we’ve asked for something with lots of Goldings designed to evoke the Young’s Ordinary and Boddington’s Bitter in their supposed 1970s prime. Let’s see how that goes.

A revival of British hops and British styles among British brewers who have, for the last decade, been looking to the US and Europe for inspiration… well, that would be ‘post craft‘, wouldn’t it?

30 thoughts on “Stuffed Full of Goldings”

  1. I’m pretty sure that Thornbridge Colorado Red (http://www.thornbridgebrewery.com/product.php?s=colorado-red) is brewed using only British hops (The ‘Colorado’ in the name comes from that it was originally brewed with Doug Odell and it still uses the grain bill he designed.)

    I think this is a great example of what you speak of because the use of the word Colorado is one you’d associate with a huge, US hop forward flavour and it does have this only without any US hops.

    It fooled me and I loved it.

  2. Now, I could be wrong about this but I think Goldings is often the basis for Yorkshire golden ales, usually heavily used as a late aroma hop – characteristically they’re pale, 3.5 – 4.2%, low bitterness but high in flavour. I’ve certainly been considering doing one for a while.
    Don’t know if you’ve come across US brewer Shipyard, who have an import deal with Marstons and therefore find themselves on the token craft shelf in some supermarkets and off-licences, but they produce a single hop ‘English IPA’ that uses Fuggles, which is utterly counter-intuitive to the style, and unsurprisingly doesn’t work as such although it’s drinkable and is based on a out of date US perception of British beer.
    Kirkstall are an excellent brewery, their brewer is an expert with grains as well as hops and they produce what are essentially traditional English beers with a lot of consideration for flavour.

    1. That Shipyard Fuggles IPA is awful. (Somehow made it into Protz’s ‘300 Beers’ book though….)

    2. I don’t follow the comments of the Shipyard beer, which I know and consider a first class pale ale. It is very reminiscent of the excellent English bitters of the 1970’s and 80’s, the kind that seems in danger of disappearing. I don’t see how it is out of date when it represents an earlier, and to some, superior palate as compared to New World hops.

      1. I’ve only had it on a couple of occasions. They were bottles from the supermarket so I guess they might not have been kept in brilliant condition, and not as you would find in the US. I just didn’t get that much from it. There’s far more flavour in lots of bitters of 4%, which don’t use new world hops. The Meantime IPA mentioned has far more to it.

        Traditional bitters aren’t yet in danger over here, though they are facing some stiff competition from golden ales.

        1. It might be a question of freshness. I just had it in Montreal, where the Liquor Board brings it in from close-by New England and it was excellent. (I’m not referring to their Monkey Fist IPA, which is a new-generation pale ale or in that direction, but their regular IPA, it’s just under 6% ABV. I’ll you though, draft St. Ambroise Ale, a Montreal-brewed pale ale, tasted much better than any I’ve had in Toronto! It’s probably true that one advantage to the New World hops is they stand up better to export. The too, as Ron says, you have to use a lot of the English hops (which have low alpha acids) to really get out of them their full potential: with hop rates having fallen so much in the 20th century until the craft beer era, the reductiveness just compounded itself..

          1. is it freshness, or are we talking about some sort of brewed under license beer,as my automatic assumption when seeing a US beer in a bottle thats sitting on a shelf in Tesco’s,and Im told its very difficult and expensive to import US beers ;) is its similarity is in name only.

            but Im curious as to why English hopped beers would be considered “the bad old days”, there were some exceptionally good beers made with English hops, and we are continually told its the taste of good beer, not the particular process involved, that counts.

  3. Over here in the Colonies, the best IPA being made in Virginia is St George’s English IPA, stuffed with Fuggles and fantastic it is.

    When we made Session 42 with Three Notch’d, we used 100% Goldings to get a higher IBU rating that the venerable Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (38 to 37, and at least 1% less abv in the 42).

    Many a time I would stand at the tasting room bar drinking a pint or three, and have to listen to the latest applicant for the position of Grand Wizard of Beer Rating Advocate Ignorami waffle on about how you could tell there weren’t enough hops in the beer because hoppy beer ‘should taste like grapefruit’. The people that loved 42 were people that worked in the industry, brewers mostly.

    I get the sense there is a disconnect at times between brewers and a certain, rather vocal, segment of the drinking public. In order to generate the kind of buzz that shifts units, breweries are almost hoodwinked into ignoring the wonderful flavours of Old World hops, and have to pander to people who don’t know what they are talking about.

    I may be a tad cynical on this.

    1. I’ve seen exactly the same reaction to some beers I’ve done with Pretty Things: people can’t recognise hops in a beer that’s getting on for 100 IBUs because it doesn’t taste like grapefruit.

      Goldings are truly magical in huge quantities, which is exactly how they were used in the 19th century.

    1. I imagine the present day Kirkstall Brewery folk might be interested to see them. Bet you’d quite like to go to Leeds and brew something historic, wouldn’t you?

        1. Hi Ron, one of the present day Kirkstall brewers here. We chatted at the Beermoth event a while back, although a fair quantity of mild (and brett aged imperial stout) had been consumed by that point. Just to say again we’d love to see what you’ve found in the records. I’m desperate to brew a Burton but need a better name than Kirkstall KK.

          Bailey – There is presently a small scale test brew happily fermenting in the brewhouse. After reading this I think i’ll be a touch more extravagant with the dry hop. Any excuse.

  4. I agree completely and the truth is, English pale ale/IPA tastes better with traditional English hops if you use enough of them. The taste just complements the sweetish crystal-influenced malt taste (but is great with pale malt only too). You can use all-Fuggles and Fuggles for bittering and Golding for aroma as was common. This is “the” pale ale flavour and its apparent eclipse by citric-tasting new world hops is to be deplored. I have no problem with APA as a style, it is a valuable addition to the palette of beer styles, but to consider English pale ale made with traditional varieties as in some ways lesser is not correct at all. As Velky Al said, it is really fashion that accounts for this more than anything else. Just as for a time, the new keg beers (early 70’s) seemed superior to cask-conditioned beer when in truth the reverse was true.

  5. Landlord still has a pretty big Goldings character, I think. The much-missed Ind Coope Burton Ale was full of it.

  6. Has Ind Coope Burton come a cropper? What a shame, that was one of the best of the English pale ales. Old Hooky, which I know is still out there, is another excellent example of the traditional English taste. Good to hear Landlord is still tops and that many other beers are still made of this character.

    Good of B&B to raise this point and their last sentence sums it all up..

    Gary

    1. Ind Coope Burton Ale is still limping on I believe, but I haven’t seen any in years. But it’s flavour was from Styrian goldings. I’ve heard Summer Lightning’s full of East Kent Goldings though.

      I’ve had very mixed experiences with Shipyard IPA, some bottles brilliant, some very dull.

      I’m a big fan of the Fuggles/Goldings combination too. Despite my love of Goldings I think the combination may be even better. As ever more research is called for.

  7. Stonojr — a lot of people view pre-c.2005 as a wasteland of watery, toffeeish, ‘twiggy’-tasting bitters and not much else.

  8. Interesting comments re: Yorkshire. yes, Landlord still uses lots of Goldings (Styrians) and i find it really interesting that some people associate it with the region here. Might have to look into that! in respect of IPA’s, for some reason I’ve got it into my head Shepherd Neame’s excellent IPA is Goldings – but a quick look on the site doesn’t back that up. I once had a conversation with Stewart Ross (ex-Ilkley, now Wharfedale) about the versatility and excellence of the Golding; the impression I get is that they are there, in more beers than you think, but perhaps not heralded as such (the post-craft bit). Hops are sexy; the ingredient that ‘Craft’ has certainly hung it’s hat on – and with so many sexy, new hops about, I can see why some would choose to highlight those rather than the humble bittering Golding that’s been used in the same beer. Anyway, I see these things as circular to some extent; I’m already noticing (as you point out) refreshed interest in UK hops, including the Golding, and I’m sure thier time in the sun will come again. Or is happening already. Quietly. The british way… Looking forward to tasting the Kirkstall beer in Leeds.

        1. But it doesn’t taste much like Fuggles either. It’s (to my mind) the signature flavour of Landlord and also Deuchars (in the days when Deuchars had hops).

  9. My neighbour in the Weald of Kent grows Goldings-they all go to America, apparently.

  10. I’m sure that first beer by ‘Bitches Brew Co’ was an all British hop IPA called ‘Graduate IPA”.

    Which, if my memory serves, was made with Fuggles or could even be goldings. Definitely just British hops though and an unbelievable flavour. I was sure it was Sorachi Ace when I tastes it.

    @nmbcoBri (Brian Dickson, a manager of The Grove pub in huddersfield) brewed it at Gadds so he’d be the guy to ask!

  11. GG – where do you actually live that you can only find US-style IPAs and Imperial saisons and can’t get a pint of traditional brown bitter? I still have to plan the night around it (ie go to one of a couple of quite specialist pubs) if I want to find any decent draught beer that isn’t in a traditional British style around here!

    1. It’s true — fans of traditional bitter <4% ABV with restrained hop levels are reasonably well catered for in Britain today.

      1. I know this, I don’t live in England as Ray knows and my comments are partly cautionary, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater in B&B’s words. However, a couple of years ago spending a week in the west end in London, I was struck by how many cask beers had the American taste. A ton of them. And now it must be many more, and I am saying, watch that a useful trend doesn’t overpower a traditional taste which is actualy superior (IMO and that of many).

        Gary

Comments are closed.