Monday, 28 May 2012

The Goldings varieties in the modern age

The origins of the Goldings varieties part three: The Epilogue.

Having covered the pre-history of the Goldings and the origins of the ten cultivars it's now time to look at the Goldings hops that are available to brewers today, including one born on the wrong side of the blanket.

Clonal selection is used to improve traditional hop varieties whilst maintaining the desired aroma characteristics. Selecting the best plants of a hop variety should also protect against the problems found in some of the Oregon State University hop collection where weeds and hybrids have been cultivated in error.

Four Goldings clones with a range of maturity times were selected and released, and later virus free stocks were made available for growers. These were called Wye Cobb, Wye Early Bird, Wye Eastwell Golding and Wye Mathon (1). They seem to have been widely adopted as the Goldings varieties my suppliers have available are Cobbs, Early Bird, Mathons, possibly some Canterbury Whitebines and Early Choice.

It would appear Eastwell Goldings are still in production too, though they're listed as Redsell's Eastwell not Wye. Canterbury Whitebines are the oldest of the Goldings varieties, being the same plant as the Farnham Whitebine and it's good to see that, at least to a small extent, they're still worth growing. Petham Goldings, Mercers, Canterbury Goldings and Bramlings seem to have dropped out of production, though the last of these still has a role our story yet.

The Goldings varieties I've details so far came from clonal selection but Early Choice is a different matter entirely. In fact it's a different variety entirely. The other well established method of improving hop varieties apart from clonal selection is to breed from them. Early Choice comes from a seedling of Bramling (2) and an Italian male, from which it obtained the all important Verticillium wilt resistance. It was raised by Professor Salmon in 1927 and named and introduced in 1948 (3).

Selling Early Choice as Goldings seems to be carrying on the long tradition of being a bit free and easy with the term. And as in Pervial's time it seems not everyone is happy about this. Goldings are not routinely sold by variety, at least not by my suppliers, being called either "Goldings" or "East Kent Goldings". The latter is now a Protected Designation of Origin, which specifies not just the area in which the hops can be grown but also the traditional varieties and typical composition of essential oils, which excludes Early Choice.

Of the five compounds listed in the PDO documents I've found an oil analysis for four of them for Early Choice, and Eastwell Golding for comparison (4).

 A case of close but no cigar: a good start but the selinene level is distinctly different. I don't know to what extent this affects the flavour. I've been told there are subtle differences in flavour between the traditional Goldings clones, but the difference between them and Early Choice will clearly be greater. Though having said that the flavour is not necessarily inferior: another great English hop, Challenger, has high selinene levels and I'm quite partial to a pint of Coniston Bluebird.

That brings us up to date with modern Goldings hops, which those of you who've got this far will be glad to hear leaves only the hilarious outtakes for part four.

  1. Neve, RA, 1986. Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol 92, p22.
  2. Bramling is perhaps best known now as the mother of Bramling Cross, fathered with a different male. 
  3. Burgess, AH. Hops, 1964, p45. 
  4. The individual oil components are quoted in relation to beta-caryophyllene (no, that means nothing to me either).

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