Last night a couple guys from my homebrew club put together a nice tasting comparing different English hops. They made a simple bitter with Maris Otter and some crystal malt and single hopped 3 gallon batches to about 50 IBU at 60 and 10 min with 0.25 oz at flameout. It was a great way to taste how different and similar these hops are (without doing any work). Up for comparison were East Kent Golding, First Gold, Brewers Gold, Glacier, Challenger, and (to mix things up) Nelson Sauvin. The tasting was done blind, and cups of each hop were also provided for reference. This was a great format to form an unbiased opinion of each hop.
While I was tasting these, I kept asking myself “How would I uses this hop?” They all were very good bittering hops, but I think the Brewers Gold, First Gold, and EKG make very good bittering hops since they all have a very smooth flavor even when added at late additions. There was no vegetal flavors or harsh hops bitterness in any of these samples.
Any of these three would make a good English Barleywine, as they provide a low flavor profile that would let the maltiness shine through, while providing a firm bitterness to balance any malty sweetness.
The Brewers Gold inspired me to make an English IPA. The spiciness and hay-like flavors would be perfect to add that English Hop character to an IPA.
I think I found a new favorite hop for English bitters. While had the classic English hop spiciness/earthiness it also had a nice citrus flavor to give something extra to an “ordinary” ordinary bitter. I think using this at 1 oz at 10 or 15 min and another ounce at flameout will give a bitter a nice, pleasant hop profile.
I highly recommend taking several similar hops, making some single hopped beers, and tasting the differences. It’s a great way to really understand what exactly the hops are contributing to your beer.