load of cascade hops in the kiln

Traditional Charcoal Drying of Cascade Hops

In preparation for this first traditional charcoal drying of the Cascade hops,  locally made charcoal had already been sourced and collected during the summer.     All other hop varieties had been picked  and dried with an oil fired drying unit in the usual way used by growers today.   The late variety Cascade hops had been ear marked for this initial trial drying traditionally with charcoal.

When the hops were picked last weekend, the weather turned out to be perfect for this first trial drying, it was a dry and clear day with a light breeze running.     After the preceding wet week this felt like a good omen.

cutting the hop bines

There is only so much you can pick up from old books and hearsay from the very few remaining people who can remember  cascade hops being dried with coal and charcoal kilns. Basically it had to be a practical hands on, ‘go for it’ , learning on the job experience.   Of course it will take several burns before I become familiar with the many aspects of the furnace and the nuances of how the new oast behaves in different atmospheric conditions.

levelling the load of hops in the kiln

The hops were loaded very shallowly compared to their oil dried counterpart loads but carefully raked level in the same way.   I use a solid fuel rayburn to cook with so was hoping that this would stand me in good stead here.   The fire was lit and because this was a venture into unknown territory, the size and heat gradually increased until the correct temperature was reached.  Literally testing the temperature!  It was a surprise how quickly the temperature in the kiln responded to any alterations with the draft.

keeping watch of the charcaol kilnAs the hops were approaching being dry the fire was allowed to die down before unloading them onto the cooling floor then as for any other load left for a time before being pressed.

dried cascade hops cooling on the floorHave I already learnt masses?  Yes of course and would I try things a little differently next time?    Well again yes, I will make a few small changes,  but certainly nothing dramatic especially for another year yet.   And as for the finished article I am very happy with how things turned out with this initial trial drying.

pressing dried cascade hops by hand

If you’d like to try some of these traditionally dried Cascade hops in your next brew, visit the Hop Shop now as we only have a very limited quantity this year.

Beautiful but Sad

I have always loved old metal and always have to stop to take a picture if I have my camera with me – the rustier the better – beautiful but sad to see once treasured sewing machines abandoned.

beautifulI have been given the two most extraordinary gifts this weeks and oddly both are original prototypes.   I feel humbled by the workmanship that has gone into the making of both of them and both relevant to the new website.    I will be posting about them later this month, watch this space…

Brilliant ‘Topsy Turvy’ Business Ethics

The first picking of the ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ beans .

Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean from the Real Seed Company

The seed is from the Real seed Company. I admire their business ethos, as well as a seed company advising you why and how to save your own seed! To have a look at the story behind these seeds check out their website.

HOP TILE FABRIC

Hops in a Trug – Our New Hop Fabric Range

Here are some of the first pieces of my ‘hoppy’ fabric which have arrived hot off the Woven Monkey printer, so exciting to see them for real, it has been quite a journey.

Hop fabric designs

I will have time to have a play now before hop picking starts.

red and mustard hop fabric

They are in a sussex trug, these traditional baskets are not only beautiful but amazingly adaptable and strong.

Trug made by local craftsman Richard Bingham.

The Hop Farm in July

‘Till St. James’s Day be done and gone, There may be hops there may be none’

This year has been incredibly dry yet again in the south east and the hops were showing signs of suffering. On 24th July when we had the first good ground soaking rain fall, according to the old hop growing adage, that was perfect timing. St James’s Day being on the 25th July this was an 11th hour reprieve.

aerial view of hop arden

The Hop Farm from the air…