Stuffed Full of Goldings


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 ( 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..


    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).


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