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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.
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; www.Hopunion.com.
— 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