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Fuller's gets bitter with U.S. style beer

Added: Saturday, June 16th 2012

Fuller’s, the London-based independent brewer, has broken with tradition and used four American hops in a new draught beer, Wild River. The Chiswick brewer, famous for such leading cask ales as London Pride and ESB, has been a firm believer in all-English ingredients in its beers, blending pale and coloured malts with such hop varieties as Challenger, Fuggles, Goldings, Northdown and Target.

But head brewer John Keeling was intrigued to discover when he was researching old recipe books at the brewery that in 1891 Fuller’s imported American hops from Oregon and barley from California. At the same time, he was considering introducing a new seasonal draught beer to his range and was impressed by the craft beers brewed in the U.S.

“I wanted my own interpretation of full-flavoured, hoppy beers,” he says. “American micros, when they started, were influenced by British beer and now British brewers are being influenced by American craft brewers.”

For Wild River, 4.5%, John uses pale malt only, with no darker crystal malt for colour or flavour. The four hops are Cascade, Chinook, Liberty and Willamette from the West Coast of the United States. They are added at different stages of the copper boil and also in the fermenting vessel. John Keeling says he uses Cascade sparingly as a result of its extreme bitterness and citrus character: “I use a lot of Liberty as they are more subtle. I use just pale malt as that allows the hops to shine through.”

It has taken three years to design and develop the beer. It has 51 units of bitterness: London Pride has 30 units, ESB 34. The pale gold beer has a big citrus aroma of grapefruit, orange peel and fresh lemons, with tart hop resins and biscuit malt. There is massive bitterness in both the mouth and the finish with tangy citrus fruit and a quinine-like bitterness from the hops. It’s finally dry and superbly refreshing.

John Keeling describes Wild River as “the gin and tonic of the beer world”. It’s available in the Fuller’s pub estate and free trade until the end of August. If it’s well-received, it could become a regular member of the brewery’s portfolio and Fuller’s will consider producing a bottled version with a higher level of alcohol. The brewery hopes to have the draught version available on its stand at the Great British Festival at the beginning of August.

In Lancashire, the fast-growing Moorhouse’s of Burnley has launched a seasonal golden ale called White Mist (4.2%). It’s described by managing director David Grant as “gold with a creamy head, a luscious hint of honey and hops, with a full mouth-feel of citrus fruit and honey and a refreshing dry finish.”

The opening of a £4.2 million new brewing complex in Burnley in 2011 has trebled production at Moorhouse’s, with 1,000 barrels a week now brewed – that 15 million pints a year.

In Kent, Westerham Brewery has launched Spirit of Kent (4%) with a remarkable nine English hops: Bramling Cross, Finchcock's Hop X, First Gold, Goldings, Northdown, Pilgrim, Progress, Sovereign and Whitbread Goldings Variety. The beer is a permanent member of Westherham's range and its first new regular beer for four years.

One brewery artefact that won’t be re-launched in retro style is the beer tray discovered in a store room at Marston’s brewery in Burton-on-Trent. Probably dating from the 1950s, it shows a bottle of Pedigree Pale Ale and a hand holding an untipped cigarette. The atmosphere must have been rich with sulphur.

Moorhouse's White Mist
Marston's Pedigree tray