The patriotic pint: 10 best beers made with British hops – By Sophie Atherton
Broaden your taste horizons by seeking out one of these 10 brews made with British hops, says beer sommelier Sophie Atherton
In the run up to the General Election expect to see a raft of politicians photographed with patriotic pint in hand – but how many of them have the first idea about the ingredients of our national drink?
While British barley is a brewing essential, growing numbers of brewers have turned to foreign imports when it comes to hops. It’s true many varieties from the USA, New Zealand and Australia pack a delicious tropical fruity punch, but the fashion for zesty mango, melon and grapefruit-flavoured brews threatens not just more traditional flavours but also the British hop.
From a peak of 72,000 acres in the 1870s – and despite some 1,400 breweries in the UK (the largest number since before the Second World War) – the amount of hops grown here has dwindled to just 2,500 acres.
That’s not to say the industry is resting on its laurels. The British Hop Association campaigns to raise awareness of the versatility of our hops and has created a labelling scheme so brewers can boast about using them and also runs a successful development programme to find new varieties.
In any case, there’s more to British hopped beers than pints of bitter and more to hops than bitterness. They bring all kinds of fruity flavours and aromas and often provide the sort of tangy character and dry finish that makes beer so quaffable.
Broaden your taste horizons and do your patriotic duty – seek out and sup one of these 10 beers made with British hops:
1. Adnams Broadside (Cask 4.7%; bottle 6.3%) A classic strong English bitter which is actually two different beers both featuring restrained fruitcake sweetness tempered with a delicious tang from First Gold hops.
2. Gadds’ Ramsgate Brewery No.3 Pale Ale (5%) Traditional, yet modern pale ale with citrus aroma and satisfying bitterness from hops grown not far from the brewery.
3. Cheshire Brewhouse Cheshire Gap (3.7%) Relatively new brewery committed to using British hops to great effect. Varieties East Kent Goldings and Boadicea produce a hugely drinkable, thirst quenching beer with proper bitter finish.
4. Goddard’s Fuggle De Dum (4.8%) Named for traditional British hop variety, Fuggles. Typically British earthy, peppery hops give this beer from the Isle of Wight a beautiful dry finish that makes you want more.
5. Brains Dark (Cask 3.5%; bottle 4.1%) This dark mild beer deserves to be much better known, not least as it’s usually a big hit with the ladies. Expect a chocolatey brew lifted by tangy Challenger, Fuggles and Goldings hops.
6. Fuller’s Bengal Lancer (Cask 5%; bottle 5.3%) A modern British IPA with stunning orange marmalade bitterness.
7. Bellringer from Baths own Brewery Abbey Ales (4.2% ABV) Classic best bitter featuring Challenger, Fuggles and Goldings grown in Worcestershire.
8. Goody Ales Goodness Gracious Me (ABV 4.8%) Brewed just once a year as part of Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight (where brewers use fresh local hops instead of dried ones) its flavour varies – one year it tasted remarkably like lemon puff biscuits – but is always delicious.
9. Coniston Brewery No 9 Barley Wine (8.5%) Dark, malty, caramelised sweetness is often the prevailing flavour in barley wine, but a balancing bitter tang – as provided by East Kent Goldings hops here – makes them all the more drinkable and a perfect partner for strong cheeses.
10. Sixpenny Brewery 6d Black (4.4%) This porter from Dorset tastes like cocoa-dusted chocolate truffles. Its rich flavour is balanced by a refreshing, astringent finish provided by a combination of Challenger, Bramling Cross and Goldings hops.