Thursday, 26 May 2011

English hops

In today's world of new wave radical brewing, English hops seem to have fallen out of fashion. Go back a decade or two and virtually every small, regional and microbrewery of the British Isles had the minty, grassy, earthy Fuggles and the mild spicy, peppery fruitiness of Goldings as the hops of choice for their portfolio of brands. I imagine some still do.

So what changed? Was it a combination of the development of the ever expanding array of new exciting hop varieties and the changes in attitudes and inspiration from the US craft brewing scene? Probably so, but the fact of the matter is that most trendy American and New Zealand varieties have more power, flavour impact and flare than their UK counterparts. Bred to hold heaps of aromatic oils and bittering (in some brews throat attacking) high alpha acid contents. But I'm not being no fanatical traditionalist in defending good old English hops, I'm just pointing out that they have their place and are not to be dismissed as bland and old fashioned.

Thinking back to those first cask ales I ever tried. The pints that drew me into beer geekism in the first place. Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Mordue Workie Ticket weren't loaded with IBUs (international bitterness units) from a charge of American hops. English hops are not just about balanced, drinkable and flavourful beer, they are fairly diverse. From the tangy orange and spice of First Gold to the sweet rounded progress to the woody-blackcurrant notes of Bramling X to the clean fruity-spiciness and versatility of challenger. English hops have their place, they rock!

So remember folks advocating English hops isn't all about growing a beard and banging the drum of tradition. To check out more check them out here.


Mark N said...

Well said that man. Two out of the three hops I'm using for my next brew will be British.

mentaldental said...

New world hops have some amazing flavours in them but I must say that being thumped around the head by them every time I try a pint of "new and innovatiove" beer is getting a bit tedious.

So yes Challenger, Fuggle, Goldings, Bramling Cross rock and these days a beer featuring them is more innovative the the run of the mill new beer!

And you missed out the best: those lovely, lovely spicy Styrian Goldings (OK I know they are not UK hops but they are traditional, and fantastic).

Ed said...

Charles Faram have just run out of Bramling Cross :-(

Rob said...

Mark N - good luck with that one

Mentaldental - almost complete agreement

Ed - thats bad. Tho I hardly ever use them.

Barm said...

God argument, though the use of Landlord as an example is undermine by the fact that its signature aroma comes from Styrian Goldings. They have been used in British beer for roughly as long as Maris Otter though.

Looking back it's amazing that brewers managed for so long with just a few kinds of hops. I've seen 1960s hop records. Fuggles, Golding, East Kent Golding, Whitbread Goldings, Fuggles, Styrian Goldings, Goldings, Hallertauer for the lager, Bramling Cross, Golding ... you get the idea.

Monk and Tuck said...

There's nothing wrong with trying something new, or pursuing the goals that most American brewers have set out to accomplish, namely taking an avant garde approach to an ancient craft that has become hijacked by soulless business pursuits.

That said, I find many American craft beers, and those by brewers inspired to do the same, overbearing or directionless. English hops, don't seem to have the unappealing qualities some of the American C-Hops have.

If anything, English Ales have the potential to be the most unique and approachable beers because of the excellent hop selection brewers may select from.

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