Tag Archives: Kent Green Hop Beer

Last chance to drink Kent Green Hop Beer?!

If you’re downhearted about not being able to drink Kent Green Hop Beer for a whole year I have good news for you. Although officially only a Fortnight, which finished last week, the unofficial ‘season finale’ happens in the west of the county next weekend. West Kent CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) in association with the Spa Valley Railway (SVR) in Tunbridge Wells hold their annual beer festival from Fri 21st to Sunday 23rd October and it will feature a dedicated bar serving some 25 green hop beers.

We always enjoy a pint with Simon Scott of West Kent CAMRA at Canterbury Food & Drink Festival and this year we strong-armed him into writing a piece for us about the delights of the beer festival that offers drinkers one of their last annual chances to drink Kent Green Hop Beer. Here’s what he had to say.

We held our first beer festival in association with SVR in 2013, which was the year after the first Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight. We stocked just over 30 real ales but we decided to embrace green hop beers and served a dozen during the October festival weekend. They proved extremely popular, and as the number of KGHBs brewed has steadily increased each year, this time we’ll have about 25.

During festival planning, we quickly realised such a showcase of KGHBs deserved its own prominent place to stand out from the dozens of other beers (the whole festival has grown over the years so the beer list is now at 100+) and ciders. The KGHB bar is located near where festival-goers pick up their beer glasses, and we usually decorate it with hop bines from local producers. Last year the SVR staff even illuminated the barrels with green lights!

KGHBs really seem to capture the imagination of drinkers. People comment on the interesting aromas, tastes and even mouthfeel and love the fresh, local produce idea. Some folks even travel quite long distances to sample these unique ales. Last year I met people from Cardiff and Derby who had specifically come for the Kent Green Hop Beer!

Inside the Engine Shed, which is the main site for the beer festival

Inside the Engine Shed, which is the main site for the beer festival

In 2014 the public vote for Beer of the Festival went to Larkins Brewery Green Hop Best and it made us think KGHB deserved a separate competition to highlight the style. So this year KGHBs will be judged by a special panel in a blind tasting on the eve of the festival.

If all this beer talk has tempted you to come along to our festival, let me tell you a little more about the event. Firstly, the venue. Originally Tunbridge Wells had two railway stations, Central and West. Services from the latter ceased in 1985 and the station building is now a restaurant. But enthusiasts saved the Engine Shed and this is the main festival site. If you’re arriving by train at Tunbridge Wells (Central) you can catch a bus to the festival (get off at Sainsbury’s/Tunbridge Wells West station and exit through the car park). If you want to walk, it’s a pleasant 15 minute downhill stroll. This will also take you through the old shopping area, including the famous Pantiles which is home to the Chalybeate Spring – the spa from which the railway takes its name. A couple of minutes beyond the Pantiles (follow the roadsigns) brings you to the impressive old West Station and nearby Engine Shed, home to Spa Valley Railway. Look out for the distinctive green SVR livery on the building – which is somewhat reminiscent of the Kent Green Hop Beer logo!

Once you’re through the iron railing gates, you’ll be confronted by gleaming trains at the buffers directly outside the ticket office. Entrance to the main beer festival is free. Passing the ticket kiosk you enter the cavernous Engine Shed, and beyond the railway memorabilia you will spy CAMRA volunteers ready to furnish you with a beer glass, tokens and Beer Tasting Notes leaflet. Glasses are available in either third, half or pint sizes. There’s a £3 deposit (or groombridge-beercan be kept as souvenirs – this year’s glasses even feature the KGHB logo so they’re a must for collectors!). Tokens take the form of coloured plastic discs, representing various coin denominations – which helps speed things up at the bar. With glass, tokens and all-important Tasting Notes leaflet in hand you’re ready to quench your thirst. The section of the bar next to the glass stall is where you’ll find most KGHBs. All the green hop beer leaflet information is printed in green – so it’s easy to spot.

As well as the highlight that is Kent Green Hop Beer, we serve different beers (and ciders) at each of the two railway stations along the SVR line (Groombridge and Eridge, on the national rail network). There are also different beers available on various trains. The station location of each beer/cider is indicated in the Tasting Notes. Part of the fun of the weekend is to travel up and down this restored railway line on heritage trains (steam and diesel), but for that you need to buy a ticket. Tickets for trains after 6pm are discounted if you fancy a bargain. There’s also hot food and snacks at the stations, live music in the Engine Shed and roving morris dancers. What more could anyone want?

The Kent Green Hop Beers at Canterbury F & D Fest

Our tent at Canterbury marks the official start of Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight, but I have the feeling that for some it is the Fortnight. There’s always such a good atmosphere and plenty of familiar faces year-after-year.

kghb-tent-2016-cropped

This year it seems you loved the beer more than ever. You got through 800 pints on the Friday! Gadds’ Green Hop Ale (4.8%) is always the first cask to sell out – which is why we always have several casks of it – but the next to go this year was Old Dairy Fuggles (4%). Everyone seemed to agree it was delicious. You’ll have to seek this one out in pubs across the county now, or one of the brewery’s KGHB events, as we only had one cask of it for Canterbury. I’ll whet your appetite by telling you it’s a light, delicate and very drinkable brew with honey and lemon hop flavours against the restrained sweetness of a malt backdrop reminiscent of brown sugar. Absolutely worth hunting for.

We have many other delicious brews at Canterbury Food & Drink Festival this Saturday (24th Sept). Here’s a flavour of what’s on offer.2016-kghb-casks-canterbury

*Bexley Brewery Berry EKG pale ale (4.1%) has an enticing perfumed, floral aroma threaded with lemony notes leading you in to a zesty beer with honey notes. One that really evokes the summer sunshine.

East Kent Green Hop Collaboration (5%) This collaboration between Gadds’, Canterbury Brewers/The Foundry, Canterbury Ales, Wantsum and Goody Ales tastes stunning. It’s super zingy, light and lemony. A juicy sherbet lemon of a beer! It’s hopped mostly with EKG along with a smidgen of Bullion – which here exhibits stone fruit notes rather than the blackcurrant it can offer up. Because it’s a green hop the flavour is delicate but the taste will please fans of American craft beers (but won’t put off traditional/British ale fans).

Wantsum Brewery Bullion (4.5%) poured much darker than I was expecting and has a pronounced spicy blackcurrant aroma and flavour with hints of chocolate. I bet it would taste great with a nice bit of venison!

Boutilliers Green Hop Saison (4.2%) Joining KGHBF for the first time Boutilliers have made a rather traditional saison. The aroma is of saison yeast with a hint of lemons. It’s a dry, snappy beer with more lemony notes emerging as you drink. I think it would be a good one to have with salmon or a dish like lemon chicken.

Pig & Porter Strangely Brown (4.8%) is much the same dark but light delight as it was last year. The green hops lift the malts so you get all of the flavour and body in a exceedingly drinkable beer. Expect lots of chocolatey flavours with a hint of lime.

We’re back at Canterbury today. The Food & Drink Festival is in Dane John Gardens. It’s free to get in. Opening times, 10am – 6pm. Find us at the foot of the mound – more directions here.

See you later for a beer! (See below for a couple of corrections to the beer list).

Beer list corrections – for Canterbury F&D

Bexley Brewery  *Instead of those listed we have – Berry EKG pale ale 4.1% (see tasting note above).

kghb-beer-board-cby-2016Pig & Porter Instead of Purest Green we have Green Spider Rye.

Wantsum In addition to what’s listed we have their Bullion.

The great beery bake off?

Young woman pouring KGHB 2013 LOW RESWith just a week to go until the official start of Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight I’m sure we’re all hoping the heavy rain and storms won’t still be with us as we take our first sips of green hop beer.

But as we’re likely to be cooped up indoors this weekend here’s the perfect distraction. Genuinely easy-to-make beer bread. (Recipe follows below). Damper style bread hails from Australia, is made without yeast and was traditionally cooked in the coals of campfires which had been damped down a little to allow the bread to bake.

We have Jane Murphy of Bexley Brewery to thank for sharing this recipe, which she says she likes because,  “I’m still a throw it all in a pot kind of cook from my student days.”

Jane, I like your style.

The nation seems enthralled by the phenomenon that is the Great British Bake Off, but not all of us are capable of pulling off a ‘showstopper’ bake. Almost anyone will be able to make a success of beery damper bread though. So why not think of this as the great beery bake off. Choose your beer, make your bread and compare with friends to see whose tastes best!

We’d love you to send us a note about – and pictures of – how your bread turns out. See our contact page for Sophie’s email address or Tweet us @KentGreenHop.

 

Bexley Brewery Jane’s

Cheesy ‘damper style’ beer bread

Ingredients

making-cheesy-beer-bread

  • 500g SR flour
  • 500ml beer (Almost any kind of ale will work, Beer Husband – who tested the recipe for us – opted for Woodforde’s Nog. Bottle conditioned will boost your bread with yeast. Why not use Kent Green Hop Beer once it’s available!)
  • 100 – 250g Grated mature Cheddar cheese (Or another cheese of your choosing. Use more or less cheese depending how cheesy you like it.)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • You could add herbs at this stage as well (When Beer Husband tested the recipe he thought a spoon of honey might be a tasty addition).

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 C. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and spoon into a pan to make a big loaf or into a cake tin or muffin cases. (Beer Husband baked his damper in a loaf tin but he thought it might be better made in the traditional way, shaped into a circular loaf and baked on a tray).
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes.
  • Serve warm with chilli, soup etc. (Or if weather is hot serve with charcuterie, cold cuts, perhaps a tomato and a nice cool beer).
  • If you don’t eat it all and it begins to dry out, rub a garlic clove on it, re-heat and you have cheesy garlic beer bread.

cheesy-beer-bread

Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight officially begins next Friday 23rd Sept at Canterbury Food & Drink Festival. We’ll be publishing the beer list early next week.

 

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.

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.

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!