Hops have been grown in Britain since around the 1500s but the exact details of when they arrived and cultivation began are a matter of some debate – which we won’t go into here and now! Instead each week in the run up to and during Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight we’ll bring you ‘Hop of the week’ – featuring some of the most popular and interesting hops used in Kent Green Hop Beers.
Our first Hop of the Week is: East Kent Goldings (also known as EKG).
East Kent Goldings are the first and only British hop to have a protected designation of origin or PDO. This means if a hop says it’s an East Kent Golding (because obviously hops jump up and tell you what they are all the time!) it must be grown in a specific area of east Kent: to the east of the A249 Sheerness road, to the north of the M20 between junction 7 and Folkestone with the rest of the boundary being the coastline. It must also be able to prove itself an EKG through a ‘chemical fingerprint’ as the variety has certain unique characteristics that set it apart from other hops – and other types of Goldings.
It’s no mean feat to secure PDO status. The EKGs grown today are derived from collections made by hop researchers at Wye College in the 1890s and 1920s and East Malling Research station in the 1940s – with both institutions having verified their origins. The physical description and structure of the EKG also exactly matches accounts of the variety by growers, scientists and agronomists (people who study how best to cultivate and utilise plants) since the early 1800s.
The history of EKGs can be traced back as far as the early 1790s and a hop, then known as Canterbury Whitebine, selected by a Mr Golding and which proved to be a much superior hop when grown in East Kent.
The soil and conditions of East Kent, brick earth over chalk and cold, salt-laden winds, give the EKG its characteristic flavour and aroma. Its fragrance is said to be a mixture of citrus, lemon and floral notes and once dried the hops bring a rich marmalade flavour to the beer. A ‘mineral quality’ is also spoken of and is said to give backbone and structure to the finished brew.
Of course, fresh, green East Kent Goldings (in common with all fresh, green hops) taste and behave differently to dried hops – but that doesn’t stop it being one of the most popular hops used in Kent Green Hop Beer.
● Look out for East Kent Goldings in green hop beers from: Canterbury Ales, The Foundry Brewpub, Goachers, Goody Ales, Kent Brewery, Mad Cat and others to be confirmed!
● KGHB news: don’t forget the Fortnight starts on Friday 25th September at Canterbury Food & Drink Festival. Details on our updated Canterbury F&D page.