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For immediate release: Monday 10th September 2012
New Kent beer event backs UK hop industry
Experts fear British hop farming could die out within a decade
Breweries behind the launch of a new annual two-week beer festival hope the event will boost the UK’s hop industry amid fears the traditional Kent crop could become a thing of the past.
In a departure from the norm Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight will see more than 20 brewers dispense with their usual dried hop recipes and instead use only fresh, locally grown hops which will go into the beer less than 12 hours after being picked.
They hope their efforts and a two-week celebration of drinking the fruits of their labours will help raise the profile of British hops and lead to more brewers using them.
At its peak in 1872 British hop farmers grew around 72,000 acres of the perennial climbing plant but over time demand for the flowers, traditionally used as a flavouring and preservative in beer, has decreased to the point that last year only 2,500 acres were grown.
Despite a record number of breweries in the country and although beer is, to many, a typically British drink an increasing number of brewers are turning to hops from overseas rather than using UK varieties. Hops from locations including the USA, New Zealand and Eastern Europe are favoured by many microbrewers for the stronger flavours they can produce, but hop farmers and merchants feel the fashion for using imported hops could mean the end of the industry in the UK.
“Some growers have been idling crops this year because there haven’t been enough sales and if they can’t sell the hops they pull them out. Our fear is that if demand falls any further then the infrastructure not just for growing, but for picking and processing hops will disappear,” says Paul Corbett, Managing Director of hop merchant Charles Faram & Co Ltd.
“If we don’t stick up for the UK hop industry now there will be no industry in a decade’s time,” he added.
Where once hops were grown at a number of locations defined by where labour was available for harvesting them the only major hop-growing regions in the UK now are Hereford and Worcester in the West Midlands and Kent in the South East.
Despite this the UK is at the forefront of efforts to develop new hop varieties – including dwarf or hedgerow plants thought to be more sustainable than higher climbing hops – and the revival of old ones.
“Although historically hops are not the only plant that’s been used to flavour beer they have become an integral part of how it tastes, but many people don’t realise what an incredible range of flavours and aromas brewers can create by using different varieties of British hops in different ways,” says Eddie Gadd of the Ramsgate Brewery – and a green hop enthusiast.
“We hope Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight will flag this up to a few more people and in turn raise the issue of what’s going on with the UK hop industry and that if we don’t use it we’ll lose it.”
Green hops are said to give beer a characteristic light and fresh flavour because they retain oils usually lost in the traditional drying process which preserves them for use long after they have been harvested.
The beers can only be made once a year, at the tail end of summer, and brewers say they are truly unique because you literally can’t make the same beer twice.
Eddie Gadd added: “We want the Fortnight to be a success not just for ourselves but for the UK’s hop industry. It would be a national tragedy if this part of our history and heritage was allowed to just disappear.”
- Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight begins at the Canterbury Food & Drink Festival on Friday 28th September and continues at the county’s pubs through to 12th October, or until the beer runs out. Further details: www.kentgreenhopbeer.com
For further information, image requests or to arrange an interview contact
Duty Press Officer, Lois Gadd on 01843 868 453 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For out of hours enquiries contact Eddie Gadd on: 07967 660 060.
- The breweries involved in Kent Green Hop Beer fortnight are:
Abigale Brewing Black Cat Brewery
Canterbury Ales Canterbury Brewers
Tir Dha Ghlas Goachers
Goody Ales Hop Fuzz
Kent Brewery Millis Brewing Co
Nelson Brewing Co Ltd The Old Dairy Brewing Co Ltd
Old Forge Brewery Shepherd Neame
Swan on the Green Ramsgate Brewery
Ripple Steam Royal Tunbridge Wells Brewing Company
Tonbridge Brewery Wantsum Brewery
Westerham Brewery Co Ltd
- Green hops are fresh, undried hops used within 24 hours of harvesting – although Kent Green Hop Beers use them within 12 hours of harvesting. Because of the nature of the hops it is also recommended that the beer is consumed while ‘young’ rather than attempting to keep it for drinking over the winter or beyond.
- Hops are normally dried immediately after harvesting to preserve them for use in the coming months and to retain their flavour and aroma qualities. If they are not dried they MUST be used promptly. Any delay between picking and use (or picking and drying for dried hops) will ruin the flowers as they can quickly deteriorate and start to compost.
- There are 20 varieties of hops grown commercially in the UK, each of which offer different flavours and aromas to brewers. The most common varieties in Kent are:
- East Kent Goldings – which has spicy, honey and earthy characteristics.
- Target – which can bring elements of pine, cedar and liquorice to a beer.
- Challenger – which offers spicy, cedar and green tea elements.
- To qualify as an official Kent Green Hop Beer, brewers must only use hops from Kent and brew with them within 12 hours of picking. The only exception to this is use of some dried hops for bittering – which must also be from Kent.
- Each of the beers brewed for The Fortnight will be a unique, one-off not just because they will be made to each brewer’s own recipe using hop varieties of his or her choosing, but also because the flavour of fresh hops can vary even if they are the same variety and from the same farm.
- According to CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) there are some 840 breweries in the UK today, more than at any time since the Second World War.