2019 Hops for Home Brewing

2019 hops for home brewing begin with stringing, getting it  in place ready for them to climb up in April.  Hop stringing is like the first page of a new notebook.   Who knows what 2019 growing season will be like, all we know is it is ahead of us, it’s a clean sheet and as always it’s exciting.

First coir yarn is soaked, it stretches slightly when wet, imperceptible over a short length but over a long distance it is noticeable.  By putting it on wet it tightens as it dries but prevents stretching in situ during rain.  The weight of the hops as they mature and get heavy encourages this too.

 

 

Stringing is soothing to watch, there is a gentle rhythm to it.  It’s a knack and like riding a bicycle once learnt you never forget how to do it.  Up down, knit one purl one, always careful not to drop a stitch.

2019 hops for home brewing

 

So preparations for growing 2019 hops for home brewing begin with stringing and just like each hop season before it, there is pleasure had working with the seasons. there are never two  the same.  This portfolio of photos was last month in mild weather, 2018 by contrast was cold.  Next job banding-in.

2019 hops for home brewing

2019 hops for home brew begin

pilgrim hops how they grow and their characteristics

Pilgrim Hops, How They Grow and Their Characteristics

Pilgrim hops, how they grow and their characteristics, was the beginning and it started off innocently enough. As a small craft hop grower I grow several British hop varieties, including several Heritage ones, which are hard to find elsewhere.   Hands-on time spent in the hop gardens soon reveal the vagaries of each individual variety, especially easily are Pilgrim hops, how they grow and their characteristics. Each variety can have very distinct and separate qualities or as I visualise them, personalities. This was the inspiration for my ‘if hops were people’ series.     

It started with Pilgrim hops, still one of my favourite varieties as they make me smile. Spend a couple of seasons in a hop garden working with these little ladies and you would understand exactly what I am talking about.  Pilgrim hops, how they grow and their characteristics are quickly sussed.  At twiddling time they produce slim dainty green bines which often climb the strings unaided if left to their own devises, the first teensy hint of their self-willed tendencies.  The bines have a short twist which means they naturally stay on the strings unlike some other stiffer varieties, again this appearing to be disciplined is a perfect juxtaposition of their true characters.   When you come to pick them at harvest time, they are definitely not fine and delicate, they are like wire netting, so much so when they go through a hop machine they have been known to literally stop it in its tracks.  These seemingly fine bines are tough as old boots, which is why we always pull them back hard at training.  If too many go up the strings on their accord, by harvest they are too thick and exhausting for everyone feeding them into the hop machine.

The hop cone at first also looks dainty with cute upturned tips like a miniature Chinese lantern, but beware, underneath this facade is hiding an uninhibited riotous and wayward character.

Deceptively pretty, but these are the wild girls and ladettes of the British hop family. Take a close look at the photo below again, can you see?  naughty not nice! On a night out they begin by looking deceptively feminine, but a few quickly downed shots before moving on to some more serious drinking and they rapidly become over boisterous.  They maybe fun, but things can rapidly get out of hand and they would frequently get themselves and anyone else with them into trouble.

pilgrim hops how they grow and their characteristics

In their favour, they look good as decorative bines as the hops cones crop along the length of the bines without excess leaves as they ripen to harvest.   As a brewing hops Pilgrim are a dual purpose variety with pear, berries, grass and autumn fruit aromas  mixed in with some spice and citrus notes. But if hops were people then you’d best beware of these wild undisciplined Pilgrim girls.  

I will be continuing with more in this series during 2019.

 

Goldings hop variety for brewing

Goldings Hop Variety for Brewing

Goldings hop variety for brewing dates back to the late 1700’s when Mr Golding found a hop he thought was something special. Today this variety is still one of the most famous and quintessential of English hops along with Fuggles.  Goldings is not one single hop variety but rather a family of almost identical sisters from Kent, with a strong family resemblance. Mathon is the exception in that this Golding heralds from the Hereford/Worcester hop growing region.  Each individually named Goldings hop variety for brewing generally got it’s name from the person who found it or the place where it was grown. 

The Goldings family range across the harvest season, from early, mid to late season hops, this extension is very useful for the growers, but whether they are early or late, they all have one thing in common and that is their amazing aroma. It’s a distinct but very pleasant spicy bouquet underpinning the rest of the Golding aroma’s top notes,  which will give smooth sweet honey, earthy, spicy flavours to a brew.  Add in a little citrus with some floral notes, an occasional waft of lavender, to see why this superior hop variety is so delicious.  In this article on his blog Martyn Cornell gives a more in-depth article about them and lists some of his favourite beers using Goldings hop variety for brewing.

East Kent Golding (EKG) is the most well known and sort after member of this Golding family.  It stands slightly apart because it has also been granted a Protected Designation of Origin.  The EKG is the only British hop variety to be granted this honour so far.  They are the archetypical go to English hop, along with Fuggles and used world wide for late hopping as well as contributing a respectable bittering to the brew.  However, EKG is a distinct variety and considered just a bit superior when grown and harvested within this compact designated area of East Kent. The soil type and climate there provide the ‘terroir’ to produce this world class hop. It is mainly used to brew Pale Ales, American Pale Ales, Porters, Barley wines and and as I understand it, they are used in many Belgium Beers as well.

Kentish Ale and Whitstable Oysters have also been granted this same Protected Designation of Origin, so Kent then is Oysters, Hops and Beer!  Close enough to Charles Dicken’s quote – ‘Kent, sir—everybody knows Kent—apples, cherries, hops, and women’.

Goldings hop variety for brewing

Continuing the ‘If hops were people’ series, then Goldings are the refined girls with naturally lovely characters. ‘Classy’ probably best describes them and nothing to do with being upper or lower class, they’ve just have charm!  If they went to Finishing school then they excelled, they are socially confident.  These are truly lovely girls are genuinely ‘nice’, so even if you tried, there is nothing to dislike.  They are positively not sweet sycophants.  Of course East Kent Golding is Queen Bee of the Goldings, her pedigree like other Goldings can be traced back to the late 1700’s to the Canterbury Whitebine but the Protected Designation of Origin has helped secure her status. 

However, this Goldings charm belies a tougher inner core, that refined Goldings hoppy spice character gives us a clue to this inner no nonsense sparkle, after all they are Mother’s to some better known offspring.  How many people have specifically brewed with Petham Goldings, but they will be sure to have heard of her infamous daughter Chinook.  Other examples of this extraordinary family group, Canterbury Golding is mother to Northern Brewer, Bates Brewer to WGV, Bramling is the mother of Bramling Cross and Eastwell Golding is the Grandmother of Target.

Examples of these kind natural charmers, well Holly Willoughby certainly, Mel Giedroyc absolutely and Joanna Lumley pure EKG!

Drying Hops is Where a Golden Alchemy Happens

Drying hops is where a golden alchemy happens. To be completely accurate hops are preserved, they are not dried right out.  The final moisture content at between 8-12% will dry each cone enough for it to store well, and not go mouldy.  Drying takes time, it cannot be rushed, hops are not a fast food and the less heat used the better for the essential oils. The other factor is hops are sold by weight so if they are dried right out, which can happen, then a grower would be at a disadvantage, this is apart from the obvious storage needs of the hops. 

But for me it’s this process from green hops to preserved hops, this magic of drying hops is where a golden alchemy happens, even their colour becomes more golden. The green hop aromas of the herbal based fresh scents change dramatically to the moreDrying Hops is Where a Golden Alchemy Happenssoporific complex aromas. Spicier, piney, citrussy, fruits and honey, depending on the variety but too many to list straight off.

Hops have been grown on the family farm since 1600’s.  In all this time each hop dryer has passed on his craft to the next dryer in waiting.  Each dryer would have undergone a long apprenticeship before naturally progressing to No 1.  As the hop harvest only takes place once a year for a few weeks, unlike almost every other job, so the apprenticeship was normally combined with growing the crop throughout the year.  This continuity has sadly changed today as most people come and go.   

Nowadays moisture metres, and gauges are requisite for growers but nothing can replace living this hands on apprenticeship, learning directly from another experienced grower.  It takes time for a person to instinctively see and understand the small tell tale signs on a kiln. Whether the hops need another 1/4 hour or the heat needs to be altered or when a certain kiln may blow a hole.  Each kiln has it own peculiar anomalies, as does each hop variety.

So what looks like nothing much happening when a dryer puts his hand into the hops on the kiln nothing could be further from the truth.  He will instinctively be reading the load, he will feel the bottom of the load, the top of the load and how many fat strigs are present, registering how pliable they are etc. There are many little signs he will automatically be assessing.

A whole year’s crop can be spoilt if the hops are not dried properly, the dryer’s job is critical to success.  You can read more about hop drying here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hop Garden to Beer Glass

A huge big thank you to everyone who has bought hops this year.  And to those who have taken the trouble to write saying what they plan to brew or have brewed, thank you, for me it is what makes growing hops truly worthwhile. It competes the circle.  All those possible combinations from the hop garden to beer glass, ours is a truly amazing craft, whichever part we play in it.

The shop will be closed until 14th January. Like this winter hop garden we are enjoying some down time too. Wishing you a happy brewing and peaceful 2019

British Hops Tea Towel

Beer Lover’s Gift Ideas for Christmas

Stuck for beer lover’s gift ideas for Christmas.  We have our second run of the British Hops tea towels which means we can pass on the lower price of £9 each or £24.00 for a pack of 3.   If you want a little stocking filler for the beer lover or home brewer in your life, this could be ideal, just right to hang up in the brewing room,  shed or polish your glasses.  Wrap up that bottle of beer to make it an even more special gift. Sustainable wrapping paper, nothing to throw away! They are 100% cotton, printed and made in UK and even better a donation from each sale goes to British Hop Research. 

British Hops Tea towel

100gm vac packed hops

British Hops Tea Towel

Other beer lover’s gift ideas for Christmas are our of course our home grown hops.  Available direct from the farm, in 1Kg blocks, these vacuum packed blocks are ideal for the keen home-brewer or a brewing group who wish to share.   So hurry if you want one of these, they offer great value and we only have few left.  We also have a 500gm pack option available in a few varieties, if you have a favourite hop variety then these too offer better value. Then of course there are the 100gm vacuum packs perfect for popping in a freezer ready for 2019.

Remember this year our shop closes on 21st December for the Christmas break so if you are wanting to brew over the Christmas holiday then do please order in good time.   

  British Hops Tea Towel

Bushel of Hops Shop is Open With 2018 Hops 

Bushel of Hops Shop is Open With 2018 Hops 

The Bushel of Hops shop is open with 2018 hops. First a really big thank you to everyone who has purchased hops; your custom is truly appreciated. Some varieties are selling out fast, so please be quick if there is one you particularly wish to brew with.loading dung

A brief follow up to my September post on the website. That was written right at end of picking, yields were generally lower than

average, which was expected but nevertheless disappointing. Yes it was a testing growing year, especially with very young plants in the ground and no irrigation, they did not thrive but did not die either.  But the sunshine and dry weather seems to have put condition into the mature hops, which have been very sticky to package.   As always the wonderful scents at packaging are a very pleasant perk of the job. As farmers we are philosophical about the weather, each year brings something different, it’s pointless stressing about something you can not do anything about.  However, we are also pragmatic so have already take positive action towards next year’s crop.   

 

It looks as if climate change is a reality, so in September, straight after hop picking we gave some well deserved TLC to the young hops by spreading well rotted manure on the two hop gardens with the young plants in.

I hesitate to call it even well rotted manure because it is so well rotted it is now a soil conditioner, no longer dung!  It is  almost black, a crumbly dark Bourneville  plain chocolate brown, with an superabundance of worms and no dung smell whatsoever.  This is for improving the soil by adding more humus, feeding the worms of course and as a mulch to help protect the roots as well as preserve the soil moisture content in any future prolonged dry spell.   It is not for nutrients that may or may not be an unintended secondary benefit.  For feeding the hops I will use a good quality fertiliser during the growing season as usual. which will be applied as normal next year.

When the rain came the hills shot lots of new very fine shoots with leaves, I am hoping these leaves gave just a little bit back to the plant and any worm action with the mulch helped the roots.   With the young plants this year every little helps and even if it did not do much good, it made me feel better by doing something positive!  I have yet to cut off the lower bines or ‘straps’ left after harvest.   I looked this morning and the sap has now gone, so I will do that in the next fortnight, but again it felt kinder to leave them to sear right back before cutting them off.    

So now the Bushel of Hops shop is open with 2018 hops.  We have moved on positively planning for next year and already looking forward to spring and seeing new shoots appear. 

Old Ferguson dung spreader in action

original gravity magazine

Original Gravity Magazine

I am tickled pink and honoured to be included in the new issue of Original Gravity Magazine.  This fantastic  magazine has articles by prominent beer writers, so you can keep informed on all that’s brewing.  And better still you can read it free here.

Our Bushel of Hops shop will be reopening very soon with a short update of our 2018 hop harvest.

British Hops T-Towel

British Hops T-Towel

The British Hops T-Towel is now available.

 

British Hops T-Towel

Love craft beer, love British hops, or simply looking for a  gift or a little something unusual  for the home-brewer in your life?  Are you a micro-pub selling craft beers which use lots of British hops?  Could this be the t-towel for polishing up your glasses? Then look no further AND you can help the British Hop industry too!

Designed by Dorothy of A Bushel of Hops, The British Hops T-Towel names 94 British hop varieties…. but better than that…. £1 from the sale of each t-towel will be donated to support the research work done by Wye Hops Ltd on behalf of the whole British hop industry.

For further information about their work visit www.britishhops.org.uk/hop-breeding/

The British Hops T-Towel is available in pale green, white or old linen and all have black text.

British Hops T-Towel

They are designed, printed and made in England and are 100% cotton.

Measurements are – 18inches x 29 inches approx or 41cms x 73cms

For prices please go to our Hop Gift shop

Trade enquires welcome, minimum order of 15,  contact us for prices and postage.

A Bushel of Hops would like to  thank  Peter Darby not only for his dedication to British Hop research, but his vast knowledge of British Hops which he is so willing to share.  Importantly for his support of the small brewer, home-brew groups and the little grower.  This t-towel is in acknowledgement and gratitude for his support.

British Hops T-Towel

2018 Hop Crop Update

2018 Hop Crop Update is Thumbs Down

2018 Hop crop update.  The hops did not like the extreme hot weather and dry conditions this year, nothing more to be said.

The old rhyme –    ’till St James’ day be done and gone, there may be hops there may be none’
has well and truly been proved correct this year. The long awaited rain finally arrived days after St James’ day and the hop crop is 2018 hop crop updatewell down this year. There is another old saying, here in Sussex anyway, ‘You can see them but they’re not there’! It may seem like silly Sussex logic, but again it has been proven true this year.

Same amount of work,  the same growing costs and identical harvest costs but generally 25-35% down on normal expected yields.  Probably this will be the story of the year for all UK growers.  We have drawn a line under this year and now we move forward. Goodbye to Hop harvest 2018!

So home brewers, more than ever, get your orders in early for any special hop varieties you want this year. Our shop will be open mid-October when I have completed the packaging into 100gm vacuum bags.

On a more upbeat note we have some exciting news to share later in the week!