Friday, April 6, 2012

First Gold Bitter Tasting

I've been wanting to do a tasting of this beer for a while now, but the keg just keeps getting better and better. For those of you who may remember, sometime in early February I bought a pound of UK First Gold hops on a whim, having never used them in any quantity. What's more, there didn't seem to be much information about the hops or people's experiences using them. English hops don't tend to get people that excited. Anyways, the recipe I used was loosely based on Tim Tayor's Landord - Golden Promise and 2% extra dark crystal - and all First Gold hops, with additions at 60, 15, 5, and 0 min with a seven day keg dry hop. I was aiming for more of a golden ale or summer bitter type of flavor profile; light, clean malt with lots of floral and citrusy hops. And amazingly, I had the immense privilege to have had the president of one our country's oldest and largest breweries over for a personal tasting of my homebrew last night. Let's just say he really liked this one...

First Gold Bitter: Extra Special Bitter

Appearance – From the tap it pours a lightly hop-hazed, honey color with a thin head and decent retention. Clarity could be a bit better.

Aroma – Clean, light malt followed by a ton of floral and citrusy hops. The hop aroma has a definite Seville orange - marmalade character with notes of apricot, lemon, and floral herbs. When the beer was young, the hop character had a strong candied orange type of thing going on - similar to that of a Belgian wit - although it has mellowed considerably since then. While the hops are quite citrusy, they have the same herbal and floral aroma found in good quality EKG's. 

Taste – Again, the hops lead the way with the same citrusy-orange, apricot, and herbal hoppyness. Maybe it is that I'm not very familiar these types of English hops, but the citrus flavor I'm getting here is really quite surprising. The malt profile is very clean and lager like. Not much crystal character besides a light sweetness and the esters are restrained. No diacetyl. The hop bitterness is medium-high and lasts into the finish. The beer finishes dry and crisp. 

Mouthfeel – Carbonation is medium-low and about right for this type of beer

Drinkability & Notes – To be honest, I am floored by the amount of citrus character found in these hops. Definitely one of those varieties that has completely surpassed my expectations... and knowing it is a UK variety makes it all the better. I'll be brewing with these again for sure. As for the beer, I really can't complain about anything. The clarity could be better, but the flavor is spot on and my guests thoroughly enjoyed it, along with my other beers. It is good to get such positive remarks from people who have been in the brewing industry longer than you've been alive. And lastly, I can't say enough good things about the Bedford Bitter yeast. Between this and wy1318, I might have found the only British yeasts I'll ever need.... eh, maybe. 

O.G: 1.048, F.G: 1.009, 5.1% ABV, 40 IBU, WhiteLabs 006 Bedford Bitter.


  1. Congratulations on the excellent tasting. Yet again you post about a delicious sounding beer that I one day hope to taste. Keep up the great brewing.

  2. Sounds like a great beer! If I may ask, are the hop additions of equal size? Would love to give this recipe a try, but it will have to wait until late summer when the yeast is available again.

    And also I have to complement you on your blog. Really informative and inspiring.

  3. Here is the recipe, though the dry hop was 1.5 oz. Next time I brew this, I'll leave the hops in for the duration of the keg.

  4. Great man, congrats. You've got me dying for WL to release that strain again. WY 1318, which you turned me on to has been awesome though.

  5. So, in your opinion thus far with all of your experience with UK hops, is First Gold the most citrusy non US hop you've come across yet? Reason I ask is that it might be a nice hop to use in place of the tougher to get varieties for both American and UK style beers. I've also heard pilgrim, challenger, and northdown have a citrus character to them, but I haven't used them yet. Your take?

    1. It certainly is a 'citrusy' hop by UK standards, but it is a long ways from the intensity of "C" hops. As a subsitute for things like cascade and amarillo, they don't really compare, but they have a unique enough aroma/flavor that would be nice in a pale ale or a lighter IPA. As for other hops, I am not familiar with pilgrim or northdown, but challenger is one of my favorites (which sadly I don't get to use much). It is a lot like a bigger EKG and lends a very nice herbal-marmalade type flavor when used in quanitity. Again, great hop, but not a sub for US hops. Probably best to look to Australia and NZ for that...

  6. Thanks for the reply, I was thinking the same, but was hoping maybe some UK hops would work out. Either way, I'll still try them. I've got another iteration of Kris England's Crouch Vale summer bitter coming up and will likely give First Gold a chance with that recipe. Thanks again.



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