Make Your Best: British Golden Ale

This light, easygoing ale is ideal as a spring or summer beer or simply for brightening up your fall or winter.

Josh Weikert Sep 9, 2023 - 3 min read

Make Your Best: British Golden Ale Primary Image

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Question: If we were to take an American pale ale or session IPA and make it instead with British ingredients, what would we have? Answer: Not a British-style pale ale. If we want something closer to an American pale but with that British character, we’re better off with a glass of golden ale. Personally, I prefer it to any of the spring or summer ales that tend to hit the shelves Stateside around this time of year.

Style: For a start it’s … well, pale, which the English Bitter isn’t. We’re talking really pale. Even calling it “golden” is being a bit generous because its color range is closer to what you’d find in a pale lager. Less malty than a traditional bitter, golden ale features only a moderate amount of bread or biscuit flavor to balance a surprising amount of bitterness. The hops aren’t only for bittering, either—feel free to swing for the fences on hop flavor and aroma. The foundation of my recipe is a session IPA, amended for regional authenticity. So, it’s hoppy, and it’s light in alcohol—4.3 percent ABV, in this case. While some British-brewed golden ales have long featured English hops, many brewers there also embrace more citrus-forward New World varieties. Here, we’ll go for the best of both worlds, choosing a more modern, fruit-forward English variety.

Ingredients: It feels weird to brew a British style without my go-to British crystal malts, but this is a simple grist that doesn’t require them. To a base of Maris Otter and pale two-row, we add some white wheat malt—and that’s it. That gives us a pleasantly pale, lighter-bodied beer with a bit of grainy, doughy maltiness. Now, for those hops: Get some First Gold if you can, or some Pilgrim if you can’t get First Gold. (If you can’t get either of those, Target is a reasonable third option.) I like these hops for their great orange-marmalade aroma and flavor—they taste authentically English. They’re also reasonably high in alpha acids, so you won’t need a ton. For yeast, Wyeast 1318 London Ale III is a good choice here, and it flocculates well despite its more recent association with hazy IPAs.

Process: We’ll do a longer mash than usual to increase fermentability. No need to coddle this yeast with thorough oxygenation; let it struggle a little and produce some fruity esters to complement the hops. Ferment cool-ish the first week, then allow a free-rise up to 68–70°F (20–21°C); we don’t want any diacetyl here, so use a warm room if you need it until fermentation is complete. Then cold crash to clear and add your dry hops for two days before carbonating.