Wednesday 29 February 2012

The beer gods taketh away ...

... and the beer gods giveth. Scant weeks after the crushing disappointment of the Westerham shop closing I found myself in a beer bottle oasis. I was delivering to Nobel Green Wines, and despite the unpromising fruit based beverage name I found it has an excellent beer selection. I had to get myself the bottle of Orval I'd been lacking, and despite having well stocked beer cupboards there was so much on offer I couldn't resist a few more goodies too.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

The Genesis of the Goldings

The origins of the Goldings hop varieties: The Main Event.

‘To a beginner desirous of obtaining definite ideas on the nature of hops, nothing is so puzzling or so annoying as the use of the term "Golding." The inquirer soon learns that it is sometimes employed to denote a particular variety, which every grower in the best districts says, and probably imagines, that he grows; and on other occasions, perhaps more especially in districts suited only to the coarser varieties, the term is extended to include a somewhat heterogeneous mixture of kinds possessing few discoverable characters in common, except that they are hops.’ (1)
Writing in 1901 John Percival’s observation on the confusion surrounding the term “Golding” still rings true today. Though there’s no doubt the original Golding came from a cutting selected by a gentleman of that name a wide range of hops have been, and still are, sold as Goldings.

The National Hop Collection has ten different varieties of Goldings, and Goldings are also sold on the basis of geographical location irrespective of which particular variety they are. The term ‘Golding’ has also been misapplied to hops that are no relation to true Goldings, no doubt in the hope a little gold will rub off on them. It’s no wonder that even an esteemed and widely respected publication like the Oxford Companion to Beer seems a little muddled!

A H Burgess (2) records that the old Hop Marketing Board sold eight varieties of hops as ‘Goldings’ and Peter Darby of Wye Hops Ltd has kindly informed me about the other Goldings clones in the national hop collection (3). The different varieties have come from clonal selection of bud sports and are very similar plants with differences in ripening times and disease resistance.

Back in the day it was important for hop farmers to grow a range of varieties which had staggered ripening times so they were able to spread the time of picking and drying. Increased disease resistance has obvious benefits and both mutants with different ripening times and disease resistance can be relatively easily selected from a population.

To try and bring some order to the chaos I’ll go through the different Goldings clones in the National Hop Collection chronologically as shown in a picture on Stan Hieronymus’s blog, followed by a brief note on locality.

Canterbury Whitebine

Percvial (1) states that the Canterbury Whitebine, Farnham Whitebine and Mathon Whitebine are so closely related in botanical character that the cannot be distinguished form one another and are, no doubt, one and the same variety. The Farnham White Bine was originally selected from a cutting by Peckham Williams around 1750 as I have detailed earlier. Though it has long been sold as a Golding variety this plant pre-dates Mr Golding’s famous selection as it is, in fact, the parent plant he took his renowned cutting from.

Canterbury Golding

This is the famous variety selected by Mr Golding of East Malling from a garden of Canterbury Whitebines shortly before 1790 (2).

It must have been a bud sport as

Percival (1) records that the Golding hop was:
1. a larger hop than the Canterbury Whitebine varieties, with
2. a bine more speckled with red, of less luxuriant growth, on which
3. the hops hang more singly than is the case with the Canterbury hop.
Growers differed in their views on whether or not it was more finely flavoured than Farnham or Canterbury Whitebines.

This was selected by a farm bailiff named Smith on Musgrave Hilton’s farm in Bramling near Canterbury. It was grown extensively by 1865. I don't know what it was selected from but presumably a Canterbury Golding.

The picture on Stan Hieronymus’s blog listing various hop varieties in the National Hop Collection shows the Mathon as being something separate from the other whitebines, even though Percival considered them to all be the same variety. As far as hops go “Mathon” is simply a shortening of “Mathon Whitebine” it could be that this is a bud sport with different characteristics from the Canterbury/Farnham/Mathon Whitebine clone already mentioned or possibly it origniated from the earlier Farnham Pale hop. I haven't asked Peter Darby if he can confirm this as it's good to have a bit of mystery in your life.

Mercers or Rodmersham Golding
Selected around 1880 by Robert Mercer of Rodmersham House, Sittingbourne from a hop garden reputed to be of the Golding variety.


Selected by James West, a hop factor from a garden of Canterbury Whitebines on the farm of John Cobb, Sheldwich near Faversham around 1881.

Petham Golding

There is no record of its selection but it was presumably from Petham, near Canterbury. Slightly more vigorous than other Goldings and less mottled with red.

Amos’s Early Bird
Selected in 1887 by Alfred Amos of Spring Grove, Wye from a garden of Bramlings.

Eastwell Golding and Late Eastwell Golding
The Eastwell Golding was originally grown at Eastwell Park near Ashford in Kent before 1889. Similar to Petham and Rodmersham Goldings but slightly later ripening. The variety now sold grown and sold as Eastwell Golding by the Redsell Farms group is however an early season variety so the National Hop Collection maintain two selections with different ripening characteristics. (3)

We can see the classification of Goldings is based around hops propagated from Canterbury Whitebines and Mr Golding’s famous hop, which was itself propagated from a Canterbury Whitebine. It’s clear that there’s something anachronistic going on grouping these hops under the name of ‘Goldings’. Percival notes that Canterbury Whitebine and Goldings were considered quite separate hops initially and it was not until after the middle of the 19th century that they were merged into one group. In 1901 he said it’s “customary to apply the term ‘Goldings’ to the best class of hops, such as the Canterbury and Farnham Whitebines, the Bramling and Mathon hops, with Cobb’s and the Rodmersham varieties, and stretched occasionally to include others of less repute.” This practice was continued by the Hop Marketing Board and carries on to this day.

Classification of hop varieties is complicated by the fact that hops were often sold on the basis of where they were grown, as East Kent Goldings still are today irrespective of which Golding variety they are.

The Encyclopædia Britannica of 1911 (now there’s an auspicious year) states how hops in Kent were sold:

“The hops grown in Kent are classified in the markets as "East Kents," "Bastard East Kents," "Mid Kents" and "Wealds," according to the district of the county in which they are produced. The relative values of these four divisions follow in the same order, East Kents making the highest and Wealds the lowest rates. These divisions agree in the main with those defined by geological formations.”

This regional division affected how well the plants grew, and which varieties were grown, as for example, the chalky soil of East Kent is good for growing Goldings but on the clay and sand of the Weald Goldings won’t grow well so the coarser Fuggles were preferred.

Which hops can now be sold “East Kent Goldings” is now protected under European law with a tightly defined geographical area and the hop varieties required to have the typical essential oil composition of Goldings (4).
I've got in touch with my hop supplies (Charles Farams and Botanix) to find out which of the true Goldings varieties are sold today and they told me Cobbs, Mathons, Early Bird and perhaps a few Canterbury Whitebines, though both companies sell them as 'Goldings' and 'East Kent Goldings'.
Here ends a chapter, but a chapter only in the history of the origins of the Goldings varieties. If you think I've gone on for far too long already at least in part three: the epilogue there will be sex.
1. Percival, John. The Hop and its English varieties, 1901.
2. Burgess, A H. Hops, 1964, p39-44.
3. Personal communication, 4 Jan 2012

Monday 27 February 2012

Open it weekend

It was declared that the weekend just gone was time to open a bottle hiding at the back of your beer cupboard. And who am I to argue?
I didn't drink much bottled beer over the weekend but with Monday morning looming I knew something was called for. A timely tweet from ‏@robsterowski helped me decide what to have:
"I urge all homebrewers to make a beer with 250g of Goldings in 20L"
As I've had just such a beer maturing away for over a year it seemed like an excellent time to try it again. The excessive bitterness has faded and the beer went down far too easily. It's still got that spicy Goldings hop taste but with a mellower bitterness level it was a delight to drink. I need to make some more of this...

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Ye Olde Ship Inn, Guildford

On Sunday the lovely Lisa and I had a trip to the Surrey Alps. We were following a route in a Surrey Pub Walks book.

Our epic trek was over four miles, which those you familiar with Naismith's rule will realise it took us well over an hour. Oh yes, there were even slight hills and everything.

Fortunately our careful guidebook selection meant we started and ended at Ye Old Ship Inn just outside Guildford. The beers were from Greene King, not something I'd seek out but the Old Spec was pleasant enough (in fact I prefer its new weaker version) and the lovely Lisa had a rugby themed beer from Belhaven which had a good hoppy taste.

It's a pleasant looking pub close to the river and in a nice touch they had free pork scratchings on the bar, I think we might come back to this one.

Monday 20 February 2012

The rumble in Stone Street

Whilst any sensible person will have spent Friday night knocking back the pints I was stone cold sober and hard at work. I was in a pub though, but when you're not drinking it's not the same.

I was in the Padwell Arms for the Battle of the Brewers. It seems I'd got the wrong end of the stick and no fisticuffs were involved, the outcome being decided by people voting on the beers. Just as well really, pub fights are usually very scrappy affairs.

The first round was golden ales and lack of preparation let me down. The beer hadn't had enough time to condition properly so was flat and sweet. If you haven't got the conditioning right when you go to a fight you've only got yourself to blame when you gas. Or don't gas in this case. The vote was still close across the four breweries competing but I can't complain that I didn't win the round.

Next was session beers, and again it was close but this time I was out pointed by a single vote.

Without winning a round I was facing an uphill battle going into the back end of the fight. I was in the trenches, I was having to dig deep, I was running out of boxing clichés. The third round was premium bitters and this time my beer was definitely on form. I got a big thumbs up from the pub landlord so I felt confident but again a close vote went against me.

No clear winner had emerged yet but going into the last round without a win I knew I needed a knock out to be sure of victory. When the votes were read out my stout was up last. You could cut the air with a knife the tension was so great. OK I made that bit up. Most people must have been pissed by this point and didn't really care, but I was getting edgy.

The first beer got a hesitant single vote and the second beer managed only two. Things were looking up. The third beer fared little better getting three votes and finally when the last vote for my last beer was called a sea of hands went up. A few people must have drifted off before the vote but I got well over twice what all the other beers put together had got. My beer was on the button and my opponents were on the canvas. I'd got enough votes to win not just the round but the whole competition. Victory was mine!

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Itchy Jimmy

The lovely Lisa picked up a bottle of Meantime's London Porter from M&S yesterday.

It's a cracking beer but looking at the label I felt an irresistible urge to start rubbing my chin. "Using 7 malts to create a historic recipe from 1750" it says. Now I know enough about beer history to know that doesn't sound right. Surely early Porters were made entirely from brown malt?

So I had a look at what Ron has to say on the matter and sure enough it's all there: the first porters were brewed from 100% brown malt but use of the hydrometer in 1770 showed that pale malt was much more efficient and lead to changes.

The black colour of the beer suggests to me that one of the malts is black malt, which was first produced in 1817, and the caramel flavour suggests crystal malt. Now I don't know when crystal malt dates from but I think it only became popular in the 20th century so it looks out of place to me in a 1750 recipe. Fortunately for me my taste buds aren't interested in beer history so they didn't make any fuss and just got on with enjoying the beer.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Battle of the brewers

I'm going to be competing in a 'battle of the brewers' on Friday. Sadly, I'm woefully ill prepared.
I don't know what rules we'll be fighting under, though given the number of times 'cage fighting' cropped up on brewer of the year Stuart Howe's blog I'm guessing it will be MMA.

Fortunately when I was in Edinburgh studying brewing and distilling I took the precaution of joining an MMA club but I can't get away from the fact that thai boxing is really my thing and if it goes to the ground it won't be looking good for me.

To compound my problems I don't know who I'll be up against so I can't study the tapes, my fitness is not what it should be and my deputy is off meditating so I won't have anyone in my corner.

But enough of this whinging, I knew the risks when I took on the job of Head Brewer. It's up to me to uphold the honour of the brewery, so lets hope I put on a good show.

The bout starts at 8pm on Friday (17th Feb) at The Padwell Arms, Seal near Sevenoaks, more details here.

Monday 13 February 2012

Niet Djavol!

The Westerham Brewery shop has bleedin' well shut. Looking at the twitter feed on their website it seems the shop's landlord put the rent up by 43% so they were forced to close it.

Where am I going to get Orval on my way home from work now?

Wednesday 8 February 2012


Yesterday I went to Reading to pick up some empty casks. Kegwatch keep track of errant casks that draymen from big companies have uplifted in error. For us they eventually end up in Reading (when all goes well) but we'd also had a load that ended up at 'KNDL Thatcham' which is close to Reading so I went there first.

Though the satnav gave me enormous grief making me play 'press the dot' before I could get going eventually I was directed to a large industrial estate. Having learnt a thing or two about satnavs I get wary when I've almost arrived as it's when you're close that you start to realise post codes can cover quite an area.

So as I couldn't see any sign of KNDL and the building I was being directed to said 'Kuehne and Nagel' with an anchor logo underneath so I pulled up before the entrance and started looking for the KNDL phone number. Fortunately before I could phone then and tell them I was sat outside Kuehne and Nagel and ask them how to get to them I noticed a security guard on the gate leaning out of his window and waving at me. I then noticed that behind the gatehouse was the biggest stack of casks and kegs I've ever seen in my life. Yes, I felt like a right 'nana. KNDL stands for ' Kuehne and Nagel Drinks Logistics' it seems.

Oh well, without much further ado I had 14 casks picked up and was soon on to the Kegwatch depot in Reading for the rest. You live and learn.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Another craft beer conundrum

When I came in from work the lovely Lisa was creating one of her lavish curries. And she'd got beer to go with it. She asked me is Dark Star a craft brewery? Thinking I know a thing or two about beer I didn't hesitate to answer "yes". But when she flourished the bottle and said "does it still count if it costs a quid?".

Since then I've been beset by doubts and I fear my sleep will suffer so can anyone help me out here?