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?