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Style Matters - Golden Ales
In each issue, CBQ spotlights a particular beer style and provides tips from an ingredient and fermentation perspective. In this issue, we look at Golden Ales.

Malt Notes: Of all the beer styles brewed in the US, perhaps none is as common as Golden, or Blonde, Ale. Simple, unassuming, and easily approachable, Golden Ales are the most popular beer at many breweries, and serve as a gateway beer for drinkers on their way to more robust beer styles. To a brewer they, like all the lighter styles, present unique challenges. The subtle flavors associated with this style allow any error in fermentation, sanitation, brewing technique, or raw materials, to stand out. On the other hand, when crafted well, the balanced elegance of this style can be very rewarding.

Because Golden Ale is a very malt prominent style, the choice of base malt is very important. Any of the base malts Cargill currently malts or distributes would work well in a Golden Ale, but the different barley varieties used in the different malts as well as the kilning process will influence the final beer’s flavors. As a starting point Cargill Two Row, a blend of Kendall and Metcalfe barleys, will provide a moderate malt flavor, pale color, and make readily quaffable Golden Ale. If a beer with more of an herbal, grassiness is desired we would suggest Europils. Malted from Copeland barley, a Golden Ale brewed from this malt will be crisp with a strong continental pilsner note. On the other hand, if a deeper, more British pale malt flavor is desired, Cargill Special Pale would be our suggestion. Special Pale is Harrington barley kilned to a 3 - 4 L color, giving a fuller, richer flavor.

Another direction would be the use of European base malts. Two base malts come quickly to mind. Pauls Pale Ale, malted in the UK, will give an ale a full flavor with under tones of dried fruit and a hint of dryness. This pale malt is also a favorite in English style Pale Ales and ESBs. Our second suggestion would be Warminster Maris Otter. This one hundred year old barley variety, floor malted in the UK, produces a Golden Ale of excellent depth.

Many exceptional Golden Ales are brewed with base malts alone, but often a small amount of specialty malts are added. The use of specialty malts must be watched however, because dark malts, or an amber malt for that matter, will quickly darken the beer bringing it out of style. A low color caramel, like Dingemans Cara 8, can be added to increase body and head retention. If you would like more bready flavors, we would suggest Muesdoeffer Vienna malt. Finally a small addition of Gambrinus Honey malt, or Dingemans Biscuit, will add nuisances to both a Golden Ale’s flavor and aroma.

— Cargill Malt

Hop Notes: The hop bitterness for this style should be low to medium with IBU levels of 10-24 depending on the bitterness preference of the region where the beer is being sold. The hop flavor and aroma should be low to medium and should have either a spicy or citrus note to enhance the drinking experience. The use of domestic or import hops with low to mid alpha acid level and good spicy or citrus notes are preferred. Some hop suggestions are for imports, Czech Saaz, Styrian Golding, GR Perle or GR Spalt, and for domestic hops such as Cascade, Sterling, Santaim, US Perle, Liberty or Crystal come to mind. A good dual hop can cover both the IBU’s and the desired aroma.

Of beers called Blonde Ale, Summer Ales, and Mild Ale a couple of examples would be Red Hook Blonde, New Belgium Skinny Dip and Bridgeport Pintail, to mention a few. We at Hopunion do like our "hoppy" beers but we do realize there is a place for more subtlety hopped beers. We do have to have something to enjoy for the morning after or after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day. It seems there is more demand for these lighter styles of beers as the range of beer drinkers expand and more are incorporated under the craft brewing umbrella. As a matter of fact it is 97 in Yakima today so I think a Skinny Dip sounds really good about now. LOL …. You can see more hop variety information on our website at;

— Hopunion LLC

Yeast and Fermentation Notes: Many breweries making a Golden Ale use their house yeast because they are probably making a lot of it, as this style is often one of the favorites of customers. It a great source of yeast. You can continually harvest yeast from this beer to be used in others because it is generally low gravity and, as I mentioned earlier, you are making a lot of it.

You want to ferment this beer to dry to make it more drinkable. I would suggest mashing a little lower to create more fermentable sugars for the yeast. Consider using adjuncts because they will be very fermentable for the yeast. You may want to ferment at cooler temperatures, as this style usually de-emphasizes yeast flavor.

Consider making a Helles style, if you do not want to use your house yeast. A yeast choice for this style is the WLP080 Cream Ale Yeast Blend. Another example of a good golden ale is a kolsh; we are seeing a lot of that in Australia. It is exotic enough for the beer aficionado and approachable enough for the new people.

As for the style in general, I encourage all breweries to make something along the lines of a golden ale. You want a beer that everyone who walks into your place of business can enjoy. If new customers come in and choose golden ale, take heart that they are drinking your beer with your yeast made with your equipment. If they like it, they will move on to other styles that may be more interested both for the customer to drink and for you to create.

— Chris White, White Labs