More hops for Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight

It’s official. The UK is growing 8% more hops than last year – with around half the extra acreage in Kent.

Last year the amount of hops grown had dropped back to little more than 2,200 acres but it’s now risen to nearly 2,400 acres. Some of the increase is made up of traditional British hops such as Goldings and Bramling Cross but newer varieties like Jester and the Kent variety OZ97a are also part of the rise.

It’s also been revealed that OZ97a finally has a name. It’s now known as Ernest after the man who bred it, Professor Ernest Salmon of the hop breeding programme at Wye College.

In other news, harvest season is upon us, which means brewers across Kent will soon be making their green hop beers.

According to the British Hop Association this year’s crop was running a bit behind because of a late spring but excellent weather conditions over the last few weeks allowed the hops to catch up so harvest can start as normal in the week following the August Bank Holiday.

Hop Harvest by Stocks FarmThe hop harvest is dramatic, noisy, frenetic and lasts for just a few weeks. Tall hops are harvested by cutting the whole bine and taking it to a hop picking machine where unwanted stems, shoots and leaves are separated from the hops. Low trellis, or hedge, hops are harvested mechanically using a machine developed from a blackcurrant harvester. The hop and leaf is taken to the hop picking machine where the hop is separated from the leaf.

The most important aspect of hop farming is the drying. Hops contain more than 80% moisture when picked. In order to store them this is reduced to about 10%. They are then made into bales of between 60-85kg.

Green hops are used fresh, within 12 hours of picking in Kent, instead of drying them.

Featured hop: Pilgrim

Pilgrim is a British hop variety bred by the Hop Research Institute at Wye College (we might have to do a post just about that at some point!). It became commercially available in 2001. It’s a tall variety but its parents, First Gold and Herald, are dwarf varieties. (Dwarf varieties or hedge hops were bred to be easier and cheaper to grow and pick as they only grow to around eight feet instead of up to 20 feet).Pilgrim courtesy British Hop Association

Don’t be put off, but one of the biggest users of Pilgrim has been Molson Coors who at one time (and perhaps still, I’m waiting for their press office to get back to me) used it as a bittering hop in Carling lager!

Pilgrim is what is know as a dual-purpose hop. Good for bittering, which means it is used early in the boil stage of brewing, and also used later in the boil as an aroma hop. It’s good news for growers too as it’s said to be a vigorous hop and is very resistant to wilt and mildew – two of hops great enemies.

Pilgrim means something to me because Tonbridge Brewery have green hopped their Capel Pale (4.5%) with it on more than one occasion (and will do again this year as far as we know). It gave a lovely citrus bitterness to the beer, with orange notes and a dry, earthy finish. Certainly much more memorable than a pint of Carling.

Pig & Porter have plans to green hop one of their core beers with Pilgrim this year so look out for Green Spider Rye later on in the Fortnight – as Pilgrim tends to be harvested later than some other varieties.

Not long till Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight!

In just over a month’s time we’ll get the chance to drink Kent Green Hop Beer again.

Apologies to all those of you patiently waiting for information on this year’s Fortnight. It IS happening and it starts on Friday 23rd September with our beer tent at the Canterbury Food & Drink Festival.

The East Kent brewers open day and bus tour will be on Saturday 8th October. Book tickets here.

The season finale, so to speak, falls beyond the official Fortnight but we’re always grateful for the support and enthusiasm of West Kent CAMRA who make a big feature of Kent Green Hop Beer at the Spa Valley Railway  Real Ale & Cider Festival (and Autumn Diesel Gala), which this year runs Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd October 2016.

Men enjoying KGHB 14

 

We’re working on the beer list right now and brewers are poised to start making this freshest of brews and the ultimate seasonal beer.

Over the next five weeks, in the run up to the start of the Fortnight, we’ll be posting news and features to whet your appetite.

 

So stay tuned, tell your friends and please follow us on Twitter (RTs, @mentions and use of the hashtag #KGHB much appreciated) so you don’t miss any Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight 2016 news.

Meet the (green) hop grower: Ross Hukins of Hukins Hops

This weekend is one of the last major opportunities to drink 2015’s Kent Green Hop Beer as around 20 are available at the 5th CAMRA Beer & Cider Festival and Autumn Diesel Gala at Spa Valley Railway, at Tunbridge Wells and other stations along the heritage railway. In recognition of this and as a sort of farewell news post for this years Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight we meet one of the growers behind the hops we all love so much.

Ross Hukins with some of his hops!

Ross Hukins with some of his hops!

Ross Hukins’ family has been growing hops in Kent for more than 100 years. He’s the fourth generation to grow them at Haffenden Farms in Tenterden. Kent Green Hop breweries who have sourced their hops from him include Old Dairy, Caveman, Wantsum and Hop Fuzz.

“Being a hop grower begins with passion for both hops and beer!” says Ross. “Hops are notoriously difficult to grow to a high grade with consistent year on year yields so detail and understanding of every step in the process is vital. A mistake at any stage in the season knocks on and can cost you later on.

How it’s done

“The year starts with the hand and pole stringing of every hop hill [a small Hop stringing Hukinsmound of earth from which each bine grows] on the farm – 1,000 to the acre! Then, each individual hill’s hop shoots must be trained up the strings. This takes six weeks in April/May. After this the hops need constant crop husbandry to assess nutrient, pest and disease problems and requirements. We also regulate water intake with trickle irrigation allowing us to cope with increasingly dry summer conditions. Once the hops are full and ripe we have team of more than 20 people to pick, dry and press our hops,” explains Ross.

Varieties old and new…

“We grow heritage British aroma hops [used later in the boiling stage of brewing as opposed to bittering hops which go in earlier]. These include Fuggle, Challenger, Bramling Cross and Bullion. We have just re-introduced Bullion and I’m currently testing two other varieties on the farm.”

Do hop growers drink beer? Of course they do!

“My favourite beer style is IPA,” says Ross enthusiastically. “Although I like all styles depending on the occasion or food. I like to pair beers and if possible hops to food. My favourite hop is Bullion at the moment because of the orange peel and lemon notes which are fantastic in IPA and other hoppy beer styles.”

But it’s not all roses (of course it isn’t – we’re talking about hops!)

“Our biggest challenge is getting re-investment into the hop industry to ensure the existing 50 growers can survive, flourish and encourage new entrants. We need to ensure we get the message out about how fantastic British hops are both to our rapidly growing craft brewing scene and also on the world stage.”

Find out more about Hukins Hops – and how to buy hops, including hop garlands as decorations from them – on their website: http://www.hukins-hops.co.uk 

Full details – including a link to the beer list – of the CAMRA/Spa Valley beer festival which takes place (starting today) 23 – 25th Oct inclusive can be found here

Pic by Keith Ennis

Pic by Keith Ennis of West Kent CAMRA @thebrewingman

If you’re quick you’ll be able to sup a pint from Hop Fuzz, Bexley Brewery or Wantsum Brewery all featuring Hukins Hops as well as many other Kent Green Hop Beers.

Don’t forget to tell us about your favourites and tweet what you’re drinking @KentGreenHop.

Hops of the week/West Kent Green Hop Festival/What’s on

It’s hard to keep up once the Fortnight is under way so here’s a catch up for you including two hops of the week, Fuggles and Challenger, and a quick look at some upcoming Kent Green Hop Beer events.

Fuggles Charles Faram picHop of the week 1: Fuggle. This traditional British hop has been around since the 1860s but it would take almost a decade and a half before it was grown commercially when it was introduced by Richard Fuggle, the man who gave the hop its name. Used as an aroma hop (which means it is added late on in the brew as a finishing rather than bittering hop) it’s said to have an earthy, grassy and even minty character. You’ll often find this hop, along with Goldings, in traditional British bitter or darker beers.

Although tolerant to ‘downy mildew’ which is one of hops’ enemies, Fuggles are sadly susceptible to wilt and a particularly nasty kind, Verticillium Wilt was responsible for devastating Fuggle crops in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. Work is ongoing to find disease resistant variant of the variety.

At least two other hop varieties owe their existence to Fuggles. The US variety ‘Willamette’ is descended from Fuggle; and Styrian Goldings, from Slovenia, aren’t Goldings at all but are identical to the original Fuggle!

Bexley Brewery, Musket Brewery and Wantsum have made Kent Green Hop Beers with Fuggles this year.

Hop of the week 2: Challenger. Wye College – historical home of British hop development as mentioned in a previous hop of the week post – is responsible for Challenger. It was developed by Dr Ray Neve and became a commercial hop in 1972.

Beer lovers quite naturally are most interested in how hops taste in a brew, but the reason so much work goes on behind the scenes with hops has a lot to do with creating varieties that are resistant to disease. If a hop can keep pests and disease at bay it’s good news for growers who depend on crops for their Challenger Charles Faramlivelihoods and brewers who want to maintain recipes for successful beers. Challenger was bred to be disease resistant and have a high alpha acid content – which makes it a good bittering hop – and became a hit with big regional brewers like Shepherd Neame and Greene King. It’s said to provide a rounded bitterness and also to offer a fruity, earthy character. Hop merchants describe it as offering spicy, cedar and green tea flavours.

It tends to ripen late in the season but this year Whitstable Brewery, Old Dairy Brewery and Wantsum told us they’d be making Kent Green Hop Beer featuring Challenger.

Where to drink Kent Green Hop Beer…

This weekend (Fri 2nd – Sun 4th Oct) is the first West Kent Green Hop Beer Festival, which is being held at The Poacher and Partridge pub, Tudeley near Tonbridge. There should be more than 1o Kent Green Hop Beers on offer here as well as music, food and craft stalls.

You can download the West Kent Green Hop beer list here: Poacher Green Hop Beer List

The Poacher & Partridge, Tudeley near Tonbridge is hosting the West Kent Green Hop Beer Festival

The Poacher & Partridge, Tudeley near Tonbridge is hosting the West Kent Green Hop Beer Festival

Broadstairs Food Festival is also on this weekend 2-4th Oct and should have Kent Green Hop Beer.

Next week hop along (groan!) to Fuggles Beer Cafe, Tunbridge Wells for a meet the green hop brewer and grower tap takeover event featuring Tonbridge Brewery, Pig & Porter, Caveman Brewery and Shepherd Neame. When? Tuesday 6th Oct from 7pm – email hello@fugglesbeercafe.co.uk to reserve a place.

Thanks to Charles Faram Hop Merchants for the images of Fuggles and Challenger.

Meet the Kent Green Hop Brewers: Michael Meaney of Mad Cat

On the eve of the start of Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight (Fri 25th Sept is when it begins!) we visit Mad Cat Brewery, near Faversham, which will soon be celebrating its third birthday. Here we meet Michael Meaney who became a brewer partly as a result of falling in love with real ale while at university and who describes his Dad Peter’s decision to open a brewery (and thus offer him a job) as ‘pretty flipping convenient!’

“I had a moment shortly after I’d graduated from Uni, sitting in one of Cumbria’s finest pubs, The Golden Rule in Ambleside, when I realised I cared more about real ale and [proper] pubs than I did much of the content of my degree,” says Michael going on to explain that it would take another year before fate heard the same call he heard in the pub that day.

The brewery is a family business and Michael’s worked there since the start, mostly with his Dad, but with help from his Mum and siblings when they have time. In common with many other Kent brewers he gets swept up with the buzz around green hop beer.

“People get really excited about it, which permeates all the way through Kent’s ale community,” he says.

“Normally when brewers meet there’s a lot of cursing of VAT rates and talk of the rising cost of casks, but during KGHBF we’re excited and rejuvenated and it’s all about the craft of brewing, rather than the graft of brewing.”

Designing Green Hop Beers

Michael Meaney cooking up some beer!

Michael Meaney cooking up some beer!

As with cooking brewing requires recipes. Green hop brews are much like cooking with fresh herbs instead of dried ones and thought needs to be given to how that might alter the flavour of a finished beer.

“When I design green hop beers I try and keep the malt in a supporting role,” says Michael.

“I think malt should be the vehicle which delivers the hops and I try to use malts which are going to highlight aspects of the hop variety used. This year we’ve used East Kent Goldings in both our brews. It’s one of the hops which gets harvested early in September, which is perfect timing, and it’s also an amazing aroma variety.”

The first of Mad Cat’s green hop brews is a version of their spring special beer which was called Oat-rageous: Oat Pale Ale. Michael explains that oats help form a ‘full bodied backbone’ for the hops and adding a decent amount of Vienna malt boosts the malt character to help balance the acidity and spiciness of the hops.

“The oats are a softener of the spicy character of EKG, but help enhance the earthy, floral tones,” he says.

Their second beer is the ‘second generation’ of last year’s Rye Pale Ale.

“I tweaked this recipe quite a lot [because] the dryness of the rye malt was totally overwhelming last year. Some people loved the lip-smacking nature of the beer, but others complained of feeling dehydrated after every sip.

“This year I’ve tried to find a balance so you’ll still get the dry, lip-smacking, but less of the Sahara mouth!”EKG Green Hop Rye PA

To achieve this Michael says he used less rye malt, but added a little crystallised rye to bring some biscuity sweetness to the beer. He also used fewer green hops than in the ‘Oatrageous’ so as to reign in the dryness that hops can also contribute to beer

“Fingers crossed they turn out as hoped,” he says. “I’ll be really excited to try them!”

Look out for Mad Cat’s green hop brews in the same places you’ll find its regular range – including The Long Pond micropub, Eltham; Kipps Alehouse, Folkstone and various other places all along the A2. They’ll post details of other places to sup their green hop ale on their Facebook page when they’ve delivered the beer.

Mad Cat Brewery is based at Brogdale Farm, Faversham, Kent. Find out more at www.madcatbrewery.co.uk

Find the full 2015 Kent Green Hop Beer List here. The Fortnight gets underway at Canterbury Food & Drink Festival tomorrow Friday 25th Sept – where we’ll have a bigger, better tent, green hopped meats (for you to eat!) and more beer than ever.

Kent Green Hop Beer List 2015

Drum roll…. trumpets… buntings hung out. It’s the 2015 Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight BEER LIST!

NB: We do our best to make sure beer details are correct and up to date BUT they are subject to change! All beers subject to availability – please note that not all of these will be available at Canterbury Food & Drink Festival. Those unlikely to be there are marked with **.

Attwell’s Brewery

Attwell’s Green Hop (5%) Golden ale hopped either with EKG* or Northdown.

Bexley Brewery

Gushmere Fuggles Pale Ale (4%) Pale ale hopped with Fuggles.

**Hukins Bullion Pale (4%) Pale ale hopped with Bullion.

Brew Buddies

Bramling Cross Honey Ale (4.3%) Green hopped honey beer with Bramling Cross and local honey.

Canterbury Ales

Gold (5.5%) Golden ale hopped either with EKG or Northdown.

Beer name tbc (3.8%) Pale ale hopped with Early Bird – a variety of EKG.

Green and black (4.2%) Black and unfined (so may be naturally hazy), hops tbc.

Canterbury Brewers/The Foundry

Simply Saison (4.5%) Saison hopped with EKG and using Belgian saison yeast adding an earthy sweetness and toffee-banana flavours.

East Kent Red Rye (4.4%) Red rye beer hopped with EKG. Hefty malts provide caramel and biscuit-sweetness to balance massive herbal and marmalade hoppiness.

Single Hopped Pale Ale (4.7%) Pale ale hopped with EKG. Simple, clean and crisp pale ale allowing the hops to shine. Less malt more hop!

Harvest Night (5.6%) Black IPA hopped with EKG.

Green Chapel Ale (4.6%) Collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University.

Caveman Brewery

Hunter Gatherer (3.5%) Pale ale hopped with Bramling Cross and made with Oats for added mouthfeel.

**Barnfield Red (4.5%) Red ale hopped with Challenger

**Swanscombe Woman (4.7%) Brown ale hopped with Bullion.

The Four Candles – micropub and brewery

**Four Candles Pale Green (4.5%) Pale ale hopped with Northdown.

**Four Candles Golden Green (3.8%) Golden ale hopped with tbc.

Gadds’ Ramsgate Brewery

Gadds’ Green Hop Ale (4.8%) Pale ale hopped with tbc. Crisp, zesty and bitter!

**Gadds’ Green Hop Export (6.5%) Stronger, hoppier keg version of Gadds’ green hop favourite. (Limited Edition – available in London and the north of England and The Montefiore Arms, Ramsgate).

Goachers Brewery

Goacher’s Green Hop Ale (3.9%) Pale ale hopped with EKG.

Goody Ales

Genesis Green Hop (3.5%) Ruby ale hopped with tbc. Lots of flavour for its low ABV and an extra fresh, lasting, green hoppy finish.

Good Harvest (3.8%) Amber ale hopped with EKG. Clean tasting amber ale with a unique taste of autumn. 

Goodness Gracious Me (4.8%) IPA hopped with tbc. Robust and citrus flavoured green hop India Pale Ale evoking the taste of an Indian summer.

Hop Fuzz

Green zinger (3.7%) Hopped with Bramling Cross.

Kent Brewery

Green Giant (6%) IPA hopped with colossal amounts of EKG.

Larkins Brewery

Green Hop Best (4%) Best Bitter hopped with Goldings and Bramling Cross from the brewery’s own hop garden.

Mad Cat Brewery

Green Hop Rye PA (4%) Rye ale ale hopped with EKG. Low colour pilsner malt, combined with the dryness of rye malt are balanced against the floral lemon scents of fresh EKGs.

Oatrageous Oat Pale Ale (3.9%) Pale ale hopped with Challenger. Oatmeal and Vienna malts offer a full bodied backdrop to the lemon scented essence of fresh EKGs.

Musket Brewery

Flash in the Pan (4%) Golden ale hopped with Goldings and Fuggles.

Old Dairy Brewery

Green Hop (4%) Pale ale hopped with Challenger.

Pig & Porter

**Purest Green (4.5%) Pale ale hopped with EKG.

Strangely Brown (4.4%) Porter hopped with Fuggles. Features a marriage of roasted and flaked barley to give a traditional porter flavour.

Ripple Steam

Farmhouse (4.2%) Pale ale hopped with Admiral.

Rockin Robin’

**Hop Rock It (4%) Old English green hop ale. Dark malts and delicate hop bouquet.

Shepherd Neame

Green Hop Ale (4.5%) Golden ale hopped with EKG.

Tonbridge Brewery

Capel Pale (4.5%) Pale ale hopped with Pilgrim. Light honey malts and zesty citrus hop finish.

Wantsum Brewery

Bramling Cross (4%) Best bitter hopped with Bramling Cross. Increased hop resin projects a fruity blackcurrant overtone into this ale with a spicy yet floral background.

Fuggles (4.5%) Best bitter hopped with Fuggles. Amber best bitter with hints of citrus. Brewed slightly lighter this year to delicately showcase the nature of this fine Kent hop.

Bullion (4.5%) Best bitter hopped with Bullion. Spicy, blackcurrant and floral. Light in colour with reduced dark malts to showcase this exceptional hop.

Challenger (4%) Best bitter hopped with Challenger.

Westerham Brewery

Scotney Green Hop Harvest Ale (4.5%) Bitter hopped with Goldings from Scotney Castle Hop Garden. Mid gold bitter with sweet, sappy hop bitterness balanced with malt flavours.

Whitstable Brewery

Grafty Green Hop (4.8%) Pale ale hopped with Challenger. Expect an invigorating burst of fruity, hoppy flavour, a full-bodied mouthfeel and a floral and cedar aroma.

Nelson Brewery

Conqueror (4%) Hopped with Admiral.

END of beer list.

Printable beer list available for download here: 2015 KGH Beer List FINAL

*EKG stands for East Kent Goldings

**Probably NOT available at Canterbury F&D Festival – but will be available later in the Fortnight.

KGHBFMap2015RGBLoRes

Take a look at the KGHB map to find your local brewery

Meet the Kent Green Hop brewers: Toby Simmonds of Kent Brewery

Like many a good and auspicious plan Kent Brewery was founded after a ‘bloke I met down the pub’ conversation.

Paul Herbert and Toby Simmonds got chatting about how Paul wanted to start a brewery and they decided to join forces. They produced their first beers in October – so Kent Brewery will soon be celebrating its 5th Birthday.

Toby Simmonds of Kent Brewery looking a little serious.

Toby Simmonds of Kent Brewery looking a little serious.

There’s a few names in the British brewing scene that automatically make those in the beery know nod appreciatively – one of them being Dark Star (from over the border in Sussex) – Toby began his brewing career as a trainee there.

Before becoming a brewer he’d gone to agricultural college but when farming didn’t work out as a career he made the move into the sciences working for Cancer Research UK.

“I’ve never looked back since becoming a brewer,” says Toby. “One of the things I’m most passionate about is new hop varieties that can compete with the more vibrant and aromatic varieties produced in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

“Paul and I encourage research into developing these new hops, and look forward to the day when they help revive the hop industry in Kent.”

They practice what they preach when it comes to big flavours to compete with imported hops. Sixty kilos of East Kent Goldings are packed into their Green Giant IPA (6%) and the beer has quite a following – with pubs placing orders for it weeks in advance.

Green Giant will be available at the Green Hop Beer tent at Canterbury Food & Drink Festival this weekend (Fri 25th – Sun 27th Sept) at pubs throughout Kent and select pubs in London.

For more about Kent Brewery visit their website: www.kentbrewery.com

COMING SOON: The Kent Green Hop Beer List 2015 will be published this Tuesday 22nd September at around 12 noon!