Profiles Of Hoppiness: Goldings Hops

“The ‘Golding’ has, of late years, been in high repute. It was raised by a man still living, Mr. Golding, of the Malling quarter of the district; who observing, in his grounds, a hill of extraordinary quality and productiveness, marked it, propagated it, and furnished his neighbors with cuttings from its produce.”

-William Marshall, The Rural Economy of The Southern Countries, 1798

Since we are getting deep into the history of the IPA, it seems only right and proper (proper and right) to talk a little more about their signature ingredient. Namely, the hop. 

In my last segment, I talked about English bitters. In one of those strange convergences of history, pale malt began to rise in popularity right around the time of another discovery; namely the Goldings Hop.

Goldings Hops:

The above passage is probably the first mention of Goldings hops in history which makes them, at least, about a quarter millennium old. And yet, to this day, the Goldings is still considered one of the quintessential British Hops (along with Fuggles cultivated around the same time strangely enough).

Along with some of the ‘noble’ varieties (Hallertau, Saaz, Tettnang, or Spalt) Goldings are likely one of the oldest cultivated strains of hops still available today.

Hoppy History:

The snippet above pretty much has all the information we currently have about the origin of the Goldings strain. The man who gave his name to the hop was growing a type of hop known as ‘Canterbury Whitebine’, a semi-wild hop variety that seems to serve as a sort of ‘missing link’ between modern cultivated hops and their wild ancestors. 

Brewers in Burton Upon Trent specifically loved the hop’s floral, spicy, lemony flavor as well as it’s clean, earthy bitterness. A few sources point to the Goldings hop as the hop used by Hodgson in his pale ale as well as the hop he used as a dry hop in the barrels heading for India.

Goldings is also, literally, the mother and grandmother of nearly all British hop varieties and more than a few U.S. ones in including Brewers Gold, Chinook, Northern Brewer and the now much-loved Citra. In a sense, given the proliferation of the latter hop, modern hazy IPAs owe a cursory nod to this ancient ancestor.

Brewing With Golding

Home-brewers in the U.S. are likely to run into three varieties of Goldings hops. The first are usually simply labeled ‘Goldings’ Or ‘U.S. Goldings’ which, as one might assume, are grown in the United States. Hop growers in British Colombia began experimenting with British hops in the late 1800’s and found that Goldings fared especially well in the Pacific Northwest. The hop fields have since migrated southward and most Goldings hops are now grown in Oregon and Washington.

East Kent Goldings:

Goldings are, to date, the only hop that have a Protected Geographical Indication from the European Union. Meaning that like champagne and parmigiano-reggiano cheese, East Kent Goldings have to be grown in… well, East Kent. The distinction is due to the idea that Goldings hops grown on their home turf yield specific flavors and aromas that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. In other words, Goldings hops grown in East Kent are inherently better.

I’ll leave the debate as to the validity of that claim for home brewers deep in a drunken geek discussion. But it’s enough to know that there is at least a perceived distinction.

Styrian Goldings:

Are, strangely enough, not Goldings at all but a breed of Fuggles. Nobody seems to know the origin of the name other than it’s one of those things that we got wrong many many years ago and we’ve just refused to correct it. 

Flavors and Aromas:

Goldings are known for their earthy, spicy, floral characteristics. East Kent Goldings specifically are said to have an especial pronounced lemon-citrus aroma that may explain why a good deal of ‘citrus hop’ owe their lineage to this hop.

Goldings make for a good dual purpose hop. Its clean, understated bitterness makes it an good choice for traditional English-style porters and stouts. But, of course, it is also an essential ingredient when brewing a traditional English Bitter.

And next week, we will throw out a recipe for a traditional English Bitter.

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