I consider myself fairly well educated in hops and their tastes, but as readers will have realised I tend to lean towards the more aggressive hops of the Northern USA or the South Island of New Zealand, rarely mentioning the wonderful hops that England produces. Anyway the beer at the centre of this controversy was Holdens ' Shaft Spragger'.
I am not generally a fan of Holdens beers, I find they are too biscuity or caramel-tasting for my liking so I just took a half. Suddenly, after just a couple of mouthfuls, the wonderful aroma of fresh apples took over and I found a beer I really liked. Not malty, but just light, with a subtle hop bitterness, and not only did it smell of green apples, it tasted of them too. So, armed with a pint, I set about doing some research.
'GOBBS' guide destroyed my first assumption. It wasn't a new beer but had been about for a good few years, just being brewed occasionally. My second assumption has also caused me a bit of consternation. 'GOBBS' showed it brewed with Bramling Cross hops. Now I was quite prepared to accept this until I checked up on the hop this morning as a basis for this article.
Bramling Cross is shown on various websites as being low in alpha acid, (between 5 and 7) so it does not have the astringent bitterness often found in hops from the New World. What they also say is that it produces tastes of summer fruit such as blackcurrant, but definately not apple. I do recall other beer brewed with the hop that produced the blackcurrant flavour, Dark Star 'Winter Solstice' being one, Otley '08' being another, but the Holdens did not fit the taste I recall from these. So I set about working my way through hop lists to find one that produces an apple taste, but could not find one.
A check of the Holdens brewery website provided the answer. It is brewed with Bramling Cross, and is their June seasonal beer. They do not mention anything other than a fruity taste and the malty undertones I would have expected. Maybe with it being fresh on the bar the true nature of the beer had not developed or maybe Holdens have used it to provide a different result to that which the hop usually produces. I will now obviously have to keep checking it for quality control purposes and see if it does change.
However, I consider it to be a really fine beer and in my opinion one of the beers of the year. Get it while you can as it won't be out there long - not if I have my way anyway!