Nick Carr on March 6, 2020 0 Comments First Gold was the first commercially available dwarf variety. Bred at Wye College, it’s the daughter of a Whitbread golding female and a dwarf male. This dwarf male is also the father of both Pilgrim (a non-dwarf variety) and Herald. The program at Wye was established in 1906 and there’s written evidence that dwarf traits had infiltrated the program’s breeding lines as early as 1911. However, the dwarf plants were written off as interesting, but with little benefit to the program’s goals at the time. The establishment of Wye’s dwarf breeding program took its first steps in 1977 — about 66 years after the discovery of a female seedling with dwarf characteristics. However, this female-only had 1% alpha acid. A subsequent discovery of another dwarf plant — this time a male in a different, high-alpha, breeding line— made the possibility of breeding an economically viable dwarf variety a reality. By 1985, a plan was in place and the dwarf breeding program was launched. By 1992 three dwarf varieties had been selected to be put into farming trials. These trials were able to further establish the economic viability of dwarf varieties by showing a yield potential of at least 80% of other non-dwarf hops. First Gold was the first of the three released, though there is some discrepancy whether it was released in 1995 or 1996. The other two, Herald and Pioneer were released in 1996. First Gold was granted protection through European Plant Breeder’s Rights when it was released, but those expired in 2003. Soon after, First Gold was re-released to the public under the name Prima Donna. In 2002, some British hop farmers transitioned their First Gold yard to fully certified organic. First Gold continues to be one of the most popular hops in England. The number of acres dedicated to it was only second to the Golding variety in 2015 and 2016, while its total yield ranked 4th in both years due to its slightly lower yield as a dwarf variety. How To Brew With First Gold Hops If you plan on growing hops in your backyard, here are a few recommendations to help you in your endeavors. Before you choose the variety you want to grow, it’s a good idea to talk to other local growers or possibly someone at your local homebrew supply store. They may be able to point you toward varieties that grow well in your area. The First Gold variety was protected at one time, but it has expired and is now available to the public for home gardens, as both whole plants and rhizomes. However, it’s near impossible to find in the U.S. It might be possible to order from a UK nursery, though you’ll likely have to go through the paperwork to import the plant material. Another possibility is seeds, but with hop seeds, you’re always rolling the dice. What you get can be far removed from the parent plant. If you’re not married to the idea of finding a dwarf variety, check out our other hop profiles to get an idea of some hop planting possibilities. General Characteristics: Origin: Wye College, UK Year Released: 1995/1996 Growth Rate: Moderate; Dwarf variety Yield: Good; 1100 to 1700 lb/acre Cones: Large number; medium sized; Compact Maturity: Medium Early Susceptible to: Downy Mildew Resistant to: Wilt Tolerant; Resistant to strains of Powdery Mildew Ease of Harvest: Moderately Difficult Storage: Excellent; Retains 80% of alpha acid after 6 months storage at 68oF Patented or Public: Public Acid Composition Breakdown Note: Hop oil composition will vary between harvest years and where the hop was grown. The numbers below are meant to be an average only. Alpha Acid: 6.5 – 10% Beta Acid: 3 – 4.5% Co-Humulone: 32 – 35% Oil Composition Breakdown Total Oils: 0.7 – 1.7% Myrcene Oil (% of total): 30 – 38% Humulene Oil (% of total: 30% Caryophyllene Oil (% of total): 6 – 7% Franesene Oil (% of total): 1.5 – 3% B-Pinene Oil (% of total): Linalool Oil (% of total): 0.4 – 0.6% Geraniol Oil (% of total): Aroma & Sensory Description: First Gold is described by some as having much the same aroma and flavor characteristics as its mother, Whitbread Golding. Its aroma is somewhat typical of Golding and other UK varieties bringing a good amount of earth, herb, and spice to the brewpot. It often has a slightly citrusy orange peel and orange marmalade character, along with whispers of red berries and dried apricot. The spicy/earthy character is often described as having elements of pepper, cinnamon, wood, and marjoram. Availability: First Gold is a widely available hop variety. It’s easily found in pellet form at most larger homebrewing stores online and possibly at your local shop. First Gold in Leaf (whole cone) is harder to find. Use: First Gold is an extremely versatile dual-purpose hop with enough alpha acid for bittering, but with an attractive aroma that begs for its use in later additions, including dry-hopping. It’s especially attractive for those brewing English beer styles. Its bitterness is considered clean, well-balanced, and pleasant. Can Substitute With/For These Hops: Willamette East Kent Goldings Crystal Whitbread Golding Common Beer Styles Using First Gold Hops: English Bitters Pale Ales Golden Ales British Strong Ale Old Ale English Barleywine English IPA Dark Mild British Brown Ale Porter Stout Saison Commercial Examples To help you gain a better idea of this hop’s aroma and flavor I would recommend you sample as many of these as you can find. This “research” will deepen your understanding of how First Gold works in different beer styles and give you a better idea of how to use it in your own homebrewing. Uses Only First Gold: Adnams Broadside from Adnams Brewery (UK) ALBA from Williams Brothers Brewery (UK). It uses First Gold in many of its beers On The Beach Saison from Dark Place Brewery (UK) Grizzly from Dark Place Brewer (UK) Uses First Gold With Other Hop Varieties: Best Bitter from Machine House Brewery (UK)- Also uses Nugget, Progress, and Aurora Anvil from Allendale Brewery (UK)- Also uses Bramling Cross and Galaxy IPA from Greene King Brewery (UK)- Also uses Challenger and Pilgrim Dark Island from Orkney Brewery (UK)- Also uses East Kent Goldings Five O’Clock from Next Level Brewery (UK)- Also uses East Kent Goldings and Fuggles Golden Sheep from Black Sheep Brewery (UK)- Also uses Challenger First Gold is a versatile dual-purpose hop with enough alpha acid for bittering, but with an attractive aroma commonly used for brewing English beer styles. Cheers!