How To Brew British Golden Ale | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Updated: September 18, 2020


British golden ale is a hop-forward, highly drinkable and quite refreshing beer. Thanks to numerous wars, government regulations, altered consumer palates, industry trends adjusting, and corporate meddling, Great Britain’s brewing traditions have changed considerably over the years.

British golden ale goes by many different names.

Some call it English golden ale, summer ale, British blonde ale, golden bitter, summer bitter, and more likely many other similar names.

A History and Geography Lesson

Technically speaking, Great Britain is the land mass that contains England, Scotland, and Wales. The country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (or simply the UK). The groups of islands containing Great Britain and Ireland are those lands, along with other colonial assets.

This little history and geography lesson gives a better understanding of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) choosing the names for certain beer styles and categories.

Influences of the Style

The British golden ale was a modern take on the English pale ale. It was developed as a response to an increase in consumer demand for pale lagers. A more modern reason for this style might suggest the influence of the American pale ale. Afterall, American pale ale was developed from the English pale ale.

British Roots

British golden ale is a thirst-quenching refreshing beer that pairs well with warmer weather, but certainly can be enjoyed year round. Pale in color and hoppy, this golden ale showcases its British roots with its hop and grain selection.

Style Profile for British Golden Ale

Appearance

Color is straw to golden. Good to brilliant clarity. Low to moderate white colored head that may be low due to low carbonation.

Aroma

Hop aroma is moderately low to moderately high. Use of English hop variety will impart floral, herbal, or earthy hop aroma. Citrusy American hops can be common as well. Little to no malt aroma or caramel. Medium-low to low fruity aroma from the hops but not from esters. Little to no diacetyl.

Mouthfeel

Light to medium bodied beer. Low to moderate carbonation. Some stronger versions have an alcohol warmth, but never too high.

Taste

Medium to medium-high hop bitterness. Hop flavor is moderately high, with citrus hop flavor being increasingly more common. Medium-low to low malt character, usually bready with a slight biscuity flavor. Absent of any caramel notes. Pronounced hop bitterness. Low esters. Medium-dry to dry finish.

Food Pairing

Smoked chicken, smoked bacon with a summer salad pairs perfectly with a British Golden Ale. Pasta pairs well since the beer will not overpower the dish. A nice paella at your favorite Spanish restaurant can be a real game changer for your palate.

Tips for Brewing your own British Golden Ale

Grain

English ingredients are the real star here. Some argue that Maris Otter will make the beer overly biscuity. Cutting Maris Otter with something such as American 2-Row, Pilsner, or Vienna may be the way to cut through that biscuit overload. Golden Promise is an underrated favorite that could be considered, even at a high percentage.

The use of adjuncts should actually not be ruled out. Flaked corn and sugar can be considered. Crystal malts should be avoided, at a high color. A low color crystal malt can help with color adjustment, but should be kept low.

Hops

A hop-forward beer demands quality hop choices. English hops that are citrus forward, usually orange-like, can be selected. Such hops would be Admiral, First Gold, Progress, and Pioneer. Some German noble varieties such as Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Saaz can bring out nice floral/spicy notes. American citrusy hops and New World fruity hops are all the rage these days and have even made their way into a British Golden Ale. Hops such as Amarillo, Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic, Cascade, and Centennial are all possibilities.

Hops additions should include all three of the following: bittering hops, flavor, and aroma.

Yeast

Yeast utilization does not play an integral role when brewing a British Golden Ale. Some British yeast strains can be neutral and others can be more estery, others ferment dryer, and some leave some residual sweetness. You want to stay away from any yeast that will impart high esters. Some yeast to consider include:

Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley Ale, Wyeast 1318 London Ale III, White Labs Burton Ale WLP023

British Golden Ale By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 2 – 6 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.038 – 1.053 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.006 – 1.012 FG
  • IBU Range: 20 – 45
  • ABV Range: 3.8 – 5.0%

Martin Keen’s British Golden Ale Recipe

Grain

50% 5 lbs Maris Otter

40% 4 lb 2-Row

10% 1 lb White Wheat Malt

Hops

1.5oz Fuggle Pellets – Boil 60 min

1oz Target – Boil 10 min

1oz Target – Dry Hop

Yeast

1.0 pkg London Ale III WYeast #1318

Mash at 152°F (66°C) for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins

Transcript: If you’ve not tried the British golden ale, well, then you’re in for a treat. It combines all of the characteristics of a good British beer along with some of the qualities of an American pale ale.

We’re going to brew one up and I’m going to talk about dry hopping using this gizmo here. In addition to that, I’ve got some exciting news about how you can follow along with the recipes right here on this channel. We got a lot to cover. Let’s get to it.

Hi, I’m Martin Keen. I’m taking the Homebrew Challenge to brew 99 beers in 99 weeks. And no, it’s not tasting time yet. Oh, I wanted to spend just a moment talking a little bit about dry hopping.

Now, what is dry hopping?

Well, dry hopping is where you add hops in after fermentation is complete. So this is something that goes into a fermentor or a keg after the beer’s done fermenting and its intention is to really add aroma and flavor to the beer. You’re not going to get much bitterness from a dry hop.

Now I have brewed 37 beers so far in my Homebrew Challenge, and this is the first one that I will have dry hopped. So let’s talk a little bit about the process.

Now, back in the day, the way I used to do this was I would ferment in carboys and I would let the fermentation finish. And when it was done, I would rack to secondary fermentation. So this is a five gallon p.e.t. carboy. I direct the beer into here, so it was off the troop. And then I would add in my dry hops.

These days, I’m not even using carboys. I am brewing in SS brewtech brew buckets. Now this is a brew bucket. And when I want to dry hop in here, there are a couple of issues. Now, the first issue is this is a closed fermentation chamber when you put this on, but when you open it up, my goodness, there’s a lot of opportunity for oxygen to get into there.

Homebrewers' #1 Choice
Ss Brewtech Brew Bucket Fermenter; Stainless Steel (7 Gallon)

With rotatable racking arm and ball valve spigot assembly, this fermenter prevents any airlocks you might encounter. Conical bottom allows trub to settle out nicely, 304 stainless steel construction, 6.95 gallon maximum capacity, is easy to clean, is stackable during ferment, and stackable for storage.

Detail Page

So when you are adding in your hops, after fermentation is complete, you really are introducing a lot of oxygen into the beer. The way that I get around that is well using something else. This, which is a tilt hydrometer.

I put this in when the beer is fermenting and what this does is it gives me a constant reading as to what my gravity is. And when my gravity gets to within a few points of my final gravity, that is when I crank open the top and drop the dry hops in.

Now, you don’t need a tilt hydrometer to do this. Of course you could just watch the bubbler and watch until it slows down, or you could take measurements every now and again, but this is kind of a high tech easy way to do it.

Now, the advantage of doing that, of getting almost to your final gravity, but adding the dry hops at that point is that fermentation is still ongoing a little bit. So any of the air that I’ve introduced, the oxygen that I’ve introduced into this fermenter will hopefully be eaten up by the yeast and come back out the airlock again.

So I’m minimizing the amount of contact I’m going to have with oxygen in the final beer. Now, the second issue with adding hops into any sort of fermenter like this, where the beer comes out the bottom, rather than it’s siphoned out. Is well, there is definitely the opportunity for the dry hops that you put in here to get stuck at the bottom, and then clog this thing up. And look, when you add hops to beer and leave it there for a little while they really do soak up the beer and they can just take up a lot more space than you think they really would do. And it’s very easy for this stuff to get blocked.

So that is where I have another gadget and that is this hop sleeve. So when it’s time to dry hop, all I will do is unscrew this sleeve, I will trip put my hops into the sleeve here and then screw this up and drop this in just before I’ve reached my final gravity. I’ll also sanitize it as well.

Now this is a, a mesh around it. So the hops are able to get in contact with the beer, but most of the hot matter is going to stay inside of here. And it’s not going to be blocking up my fermentor. So that is the plan for this brew. I have one ounce of hops that I will be dry hopping with and they are going in this bad boy.

Now, before starting the first beer in my Homebrew challenge, I brewed a British golden ale quite recently, and it wasn’t a style I was all that familiar with, but when I made it, it turned into one of my very favorites.

So a couple of things to mention then about this beer. One is the recipe I’m using today. There’s not veer very far away from that wonderful success from last time. And secondly, I’m abandoning my two and a half gallon brews for today and brewing a good old five gallon batch.

Now British golden ale, clearly golden implies. It’s a light beer. We’re going for an SRM of about 4 here. And we’re looking for original gravity of 1.051, which is going to be about a 5% beer.

So in terms of ingredients, the main base malt is surprise, surprise at Maris Otter. And that makes up 50% of my grist. The other 40% of the base malts that comes from regular old 2-row malt. So this is just American 2 row. That makes up 40%.

The style guidelines do say you can also add sugar or corn or wheat to this style as well. So for the remaining 10% of the grist, I am going to add white wheat malt.

I’m mashing in it one 52 Fahrenheit for 60 minutes, looking for a pre boil, gravity of 1.040

Now, as I alluded to a bit earlier, this is quite a hoppy beer. The style guidelines allow for the IBU to go as high as 45. I am going to go to 42, approximately with this beer, my bittering hop is a UK fuggle hops. So this will give me 27 of those IBU, uh, for my batch size of that happens to be one and a half ounces and for flavor and aroma it’s Target hops. So I have one bag of target hops, which is going in with 10 minutes to go. And then this bag, which is going for the dry hop.

I get all of the ingredients for my beer at my local Homebrew store, which is Atlantic brew supply in Raleigh, North Carolina. Now Atlantic Brew supply and the home brew challenge are going to partner up. And here’s what we’re going to do; for each beer that I make. Atlantic brew supply are going to make the recipe available in a kit form.

So you can either go into the store if you’re local to Raleigh, or you can go online and with a single click, you can order all of the grains, the yeast and the hops that you need to brew one of my beers. So if you want to brew this British Golden Ale, you can go and find the exact kit to be able to replicate that. If you’re interested in doing that and you want to do that online, I’ve included a link in the description.

We’re down to a 68 Fahrenheit. Now, at which point I’m going to add my yeast. That is Wyeasts London ale III yeast. This is the same yeast that I’ve been using in my English Bitters as well. I really liked the characteristics from this one.

I’ve moved a bit into my fermentation chamber. Now it did hit the expected gravity of a 1.051. So now I’m going to let it ferment a little bit before I add in the dry hopping charge. This beer is expected to drop down to about 1.013. So when I get a few points above that, that’s when I’m going to crack open this lid and put it in the dry hops.

It’s been a few days now, fermentation has come down to a crawl. So it’s time to take my sleeve, which, which I’ve been sanitizing. And add in the hops. So just a case of a screwing, this guy, what am I going to sanitize it for a sec? And then just, yeah, just pull these guys in and then screw on the lid. I’m just going to drop this into the fermenter.

Pretty cool to see that thing open, right? So now I’m just going to leave it in there. And hopefully the remainer few points of fermentation that I’m going to get will clean up all of that oxygen and we’ll try the beer.

How To Brew British Golden Ale Homebrew Challenge 5

It is tasting time. I have with me Oliver, this is my 10 year old son to help me with this beer. Now Oliver using all of your beer expertise, could you tell me what you’re thinking about the appearance of this beer?

What I see here is this Golden Ale color, which what’s makes a beer look incredible.

Well, I really appreciate that. I, I agree. It is a, a nice golden color. Um, it’s not full on all that clear yet, which may be because of the dry hopping. Yeah, of course. Right. But yeah, no, it looks, it looks an appealing beer and now for the aroma. It’s a herbal and earthy smell, yes, I believe it is, which is exactly in line with the BJCP guidelines, floral herbal, earthy.

That’s for tasting, sir. I don’t believe you’re 21 years old. So that’s better. Some orange juice for you. Cheers!

Take two. It tastes a bit like orange. Well, that is curious. That’s what this relates to. This does have quite a fruity fruity taste to it too, which is obviously a little bit of the result of a dry hopping. There’s definitely a citrusy quality to this beer. So unlike some of the recent English beers, there really is none of that sort of Amber or pale ale tastes. This is very much a citrus forward beer as it’s yours. You’re just very citrus forward. Right? True.

Well, thanks for joining me on this tasting session, Oliver. Very nice job. Cheers.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.