Golden Promise: The complete story of this heritage malt

Golden Promise ®™ was first released as a barley variety in the UK in the 1960s. Soon, it became revered for its distinct brewing and distilling qualities.

More than half a century later, Golden Promise®™ is still a name that is synonymous with brewing. As a base malt, it is coveted by some of the world’s leading brewers. It has helped them to produce some of the finest beers: from traditional British cask ales to hop forward, hazy New England IPAs.

It was our belief in the taste and flavour of Golden Promise ®™ that resulted in Simpsons Malt becoming sole maintainers of the variety in 2015. This was done through the company’s agricultural merchanting division McCreath Simpson & Prentice. Since then, its popularity has continued to grow across the world – particularly in the burgeoning craft brewing sector.

So, if you want to know more about Golden Promise ®™, we hope to this blog will help to answer any questions you have.

A brief history of Golden Promise®™

As stated in the intro, Golden Promise ®™ is a heritage barley variety that dates back to the 1960s. That barley then malted to become Golden Promise®™ malt.

Like Golden Promise®™, Maris Otter is also a heritage barley variety that dates back to the 1960s. However, Maris Otter is a winter barley variety, whereas Golden Promise®™ is a spring barley variety.

With constant advancements in plant breeding and technology, barley varieties tend to have a finite lifespan. This is because newer varieties that have better agronomic packages and better yields come onto the scene. Understandably, they then usurp the existing varieties as it is more profitable for the grower.

You can learn more about the agronomic differences between Golden Promise ®™ and modern varieties by watching the video below:

By the early 1980s, Golden Promise®™ was reaching the end of its commercial lifespan.

However, it was still immensely popular with many leading breweries, including Timothy Taylor’s. The Yorkshire brewery still uses Golden Promise®™ to this day, including in its favourites Landlord and Boltmaker.

A family fondness for Golden Promise®™

So at that point, Golden Promise®™ was still very much in-demand. Our Chairman, barley farmer and maltster Simon Simpson OBE, was also incredibly enthusiastic about the variety. As a result, he bought his arable farm in Eyemouth, Scottish Borders in 1983 in part to secure the long-term supply of this high-quality barley.

Now, fast forward 32 years to 2015. At this point, Simpsons Malt was expanding globally. Following many trips overseas – particularly to North America – Director Peter L. Simpson could see how popular Golden Promise®™ was. He especially saw this among craft brewers in the production of more modern beer styles.

As a result, a decision was made to become the Plant Variety Rights holder for Golden Promise ®™

Today, our in-house agricultural merchanting division, McCreath Simpson & Prentice, is responsible for its maintenance and is dedicated to the variety’s sustainability and continued growth.

Growing Golden Promise®™

Golden Promise ®™ is predominantly grown in the coastal areas of eastern Scotland. We have growers as far north as Wick in the Scottish Highlands, down to East Lothian and the Scottish Borders.

There’s also a small quantity grown in Northumberland. This is the most northerly county in England and home to our headquarters in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Golden Promise Field

A field of Golden Promise near Coldingham in the Scottish Borders.

The crop can be sown anytime from the end of February until the end of April and is usually harvested in the first two weeks of August.

Due to how old the variety is, it’s more costly to grow and manage as older varieties are more susceptible to disease. The yield for the farmer is also much poorer than that of more modern varieties, as highlighted in the photograph below.

In a good year, we can expect two tonnes per acre with Golden Promise®™. With some of the more modern varieties, it’s closer to three tonnes per acre.

Golden Promise Ear

Bere barley, left, Golden Promise, middle, and modern variety Laureate, right.

Why do farmers grow Golden Promise®™?

So, after reading the above, you’re probably thinking, what incentive is there for the farmer to grow Golden Promise®™?

Well, given what we’ve just mentioned, the farmer is paid a premium for growing Golden Promise®™. Without that incentive for the farmer, an older variety like this just wouldn’t be grown.

A field is only so big – it doesn’t get bigger each year and we pay per tonne.

That premium then translates through to the cost to brewers. These brewers generally feel that paying a little bit extra in comparison to malts made with modern varieties is warranted because of how Golden Promise®™ interacts with other ingredients in beer.

Other notable advantages for the farmer include the variety’s earliness of maturity. Golden Promise®™ is a short, stiff variety but it’s also very early. In fact, no other spring barley variety that has been bred since is as early to harvest as Golden Promise®™. This can be up to three weeks before modern spring varieties. Therefore, it can prove to be an advantage for the farmer when it comes to planning their crop rotations.

Furthermore, a lot of the farmers we work with take great pride in growing Golden Promise®™ because they know it has a destined market. We have a very good group of farmers who are contracted to grow Golden Promise®™ for us. They have been carefully selected because we know they are going to meet the specifications we set and look after the crop properly.

Grower Insight

“In the UK, I get to work with wonderful brewers such as Timothy Taylor’s; it’s also very exciting to be part of the craft beer market in the United States – the Americans seem to be pioneering some really interesting developments in this area.”

Will Hamilton, Farmer, Coldingham, Berwickshire


Malting Golden Promise®™

In order for our maltings in both Berwick-upon-Tweed and Tivetshall St Margaret to intake Golden Promise®™ barley, it is analysed in our laboratory. This is to ensure that it meets the tight specifications that we set regarding its moisture and nitrogen levels.

Once approved, the barley is placed through a dresser and screens. This is in order to remove any part of the barley that’s not suitable for brewing. This includes things like thistle heads, straw and undersized or broken corns.

After that, the grains are dried for storage by being circulated with warm air. When doing this, the air temperature must be tailored to the barley’s moisture content, otherwise it won’t be dried properly.


The next step is to hydrate the grain to a point at which the embryo will begin germination, known as steeping. This is done in large cyclindroconical steep tanks. The grains are immersed in water then drained through a cycle of ‘wets’ and air rests, with the cycle being specific to that batch of barley. The key is to ensure that the grains begin the germination phase at the same time.

A Germinating & Kilning Vessel (GKV).


Once the grains of Golden Promise®™ have been steeped for two days, we cast them onto one of our large germination and kilning vessels (GKVs). Here, we keep the grains in temperature-controlled conditions. During this time, the endosperm of the grain is modified. Its cell walls and proteins also get broken down, so that enzymes are produced and starch becomes accessible.

When it comes to the mashing process during brewing and distilling, the starches will be broken down by the enzymes and converted into fermentable sugars.


After four to five days of germination, we turn off the cool, humidifying air in the GKV and switch over to warm air. This removes most of the moisture from the malt. It goes from around 45% moisture content to 4% in the finished Golden Promise®™ malt.

Managing the Golden Promise®™ Seed Supply Chain

With our agricultural merchanting division, McCreath Simpson & Prentice, being the sole maintainer of Golden Promise ®™ in the UK, we undertake all higher-grade seed certification in house and hold a batch of certified pre-basic seed safely in store as the starting point for our all-important multiplication process.

The multiplication process is carried out under the watchful eye of farmer Ken Lindsay at his farm in Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland. This ensures a secure supply of pure first-generation Golden Promise®™ stock seed (C1 seed).

Some brewing customers meeting Ken Lindsay, left, and seeing the seed crop of Golden Promise in 2019.

Each new generation of Golden Promise ®™ seed takes a full harvest year to produce. Each seed crop is also inspected by officials to ensure that the necessary standards of species and varietal purity are met.

The seed crops are then inspected again in the field and after harvest. This is to ensure that our barley meets all the quality standards required of Higher Voluntary Standard Certified Seed.

Once it has been inspected and passed, the Golden Promise®™ seed is supplied to a select group of contract growers throughout the UK. It will be grown up in larger volumes and later supplied to our farming customers to grow on commercial malting buy back contracts.

Brewing with Golden Promise®™

Golden Promise ®™ is chosen by brewers for its taste, quality, diversity and processability. It provides excellent body for traditional session beers and cask ales. It also brings exceptional balance to beer styles with the gutsiest of hops, such as a New England IPA.

With its light malty flavour and beautiful mouthfeel, in addition to its versatility across many styles, Golden Promise ®™ gives the biggest base of any malt without adding colour, resulting in exceptional beers.

“No other malt gives the same exceptional flavour to our beers that Golden Promise provides, and that’s why we’ve used it for more than 40 years.”

Andy Leman, Head Brewer, Timothy Taylor’s

How to buy Golden Promise®™ malt

If you work for a brewery in the UK or Ireland, please get in touch with our Order Office team. Email:

If you’re a homebrewer in the UK or Ireland, we work with a number of companies who sell smaller quantities of our products. These include: Murphy & Son, The Malt Miller, Brewstore and Brew UK.

If you’re a brewery or homebrewer located overseas, head to Our Distributors page. There, you can get in touch with the Simpsons Malt distributor operating in your territory.

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