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).


  1. "there are subtle differences in flavour between the traditional Goldings clones"

    Talking to a brewer of Kent about his green hop beers, he preferred Early Bird in the copper and then I think Eastwell as a dry hop, based on the differences in flavour.

    I also have a vague memory of Petham being mentioned - might be the sort of thing that farmers maintain for historical reasons but only sell direct to local brewers rather than entering the wholesale supply chain.

    Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene that is one of the major components of hop oil. So measuring minor components relative to beta-caryophyllene means you end up measuring what proportion of the oil is substance X (which is more relevant to the overall flavour of the oil); otherwise you're just measuring whether a variety produces a lot of oil or not (or produced a lot of oil in that vintage).

    And since I came here via you getting picky on typos, I have to point out that the table should say farNEsene...

    1. Fascinating. I think the only Golding clone I know for certain when I've had it is Farnham Whitebine in the Hog's Back beer. It did have that Golding's spiciness, but I doubt I'd be able to pick it out from any of the other clones and Whitebine/Mathon is the clone most different from the others.
      And thanks for pointing out the mistake, it's always best to have someone else doing the proof reading.

  2. Just passing by here again, I noticed the comment about Redsell's Eastwell. That refers to an Eastwell clone selected by Wye when they were trying to get clean viroid-free propagation stock in the late 1980s. They took it from the farm of Tony Redsell, the doyen of Kent hopgrowers who was a major force behind getting the PDO for EKG.

    I've also seen reference to a Nottingham clone of Eastwell, which I assume was selected at Sutton Bonington in connection with the work they do for the Burton brewers, but I'm not sure. I see you've discovered Calais Golding! :-)

    1. Yes, I another one from Tony Redsell, though I must admit I couldn't believe it when I first spotted the Calais Golding, I thought the confusion would never end! I suppose I'll just have to accept that a bit of mutation is a fact of life.

      I did briefly look into how many Fuggle clones are out there but "Fuggle N" and "Fuggle 37" didn't seem to have the exitement of Goldings.