Made with British Hops
The buzz in the brewing world at the moment is about New World hops, drinkers and therefore brewers are demanding more and more exotic flavour in their beers. The British hop once grown across thousands of acres is now grown across hundreds seem to be falling out of fashion. I asked Ali Capper a hop farmer who is helping to promote British Hops a few questions to see how British hops are fairing in the world market.
Do British Hops have a chance considering the excitement around new world (American & New Zealand) hops?
British Hop varieties have predominantly been developed to impart the wonderful English best bitter, pale ale and mild flavours and aromas and over the last 100 years the hop breeding programmes have been focussed on developing hop varieties that replicate Fuggle and Goldings. The flavours are delicate, complex and most importantly produce commercially successful drinkable beers. With so much experimentation in brewing these days and the wonderful aromas that British Hops offer, every hop variety should be reconsidered for its aroma potential.
Aromas in British Hops include: orange, floral, grapefruit, blackcurrant, sage, citrus, apricot, minty, chocolate, marmalade, pepper, pears and lemon.
So for example, Target is traditionally seen as a bittering hop, it’s being used more and more as a late or dry hop addition as it gives wonderful sage and citrus flavour notes. Lots of brewers are revisiting British Hops for single hopping. It’s has been done successfully with most of the UK varieties in recent years and every brewer gets a different result.
In addition we have some varieties like Admiral, Bramling Cross, Pilgrim and Endeavour that create really powerful flavour if brewed in the right way. Overseas US, European and Asian craft brewers are getting very excited about the potential that British Hops can offer and there is a good export market opening up. British provenance is a very important asset to the UK hop industry. We also have some very exciting new varieties with great flavour potential coming through
What about Organic Hops, I’m finding that brewers are getting hops imported from as far
afield as New Zealand in order to get certified organic hops are there really that many problems with growing organic hops here?
New Zealand are very lucky. Because their plant health border controls are so tight they have no verticilium wilt and very little other hop pest or disease to contend with, so being organic is easier. In truth though their production is not entirely “organic” in the true sense of the world, but they do use less crop protection products than in the European or the US hop growing regions.
True organic hops are produced by a few farms in the UK, and various varieties are available including First Gold, Sovereign and a small quantity of Fuggles and Target. These are available through the hop merchants.
Are there many brewers that use just UK hops?
90% of Breweries would use some British Hops. And a majority of the volume will use British Hops as the large regional breweries would have British Hops at the heart of most of their recipes. Quite a lot of craft breweries are using British Hops as a majority or exclusively. And quite a few are very proud of their British Hops provenance.
As you can imagine though as brewers get more and more keen to experiment, introducing new beers, seasonals and trial beers, the publicity often goes behind the new hop that’s come in from New Zealand or the US. So the effort to promote British Hops is just about redressing the “excitement/publicity” balance.
Hops grown in different climates take on different characteristics, are there characteristics unique to the UK?
The British maritime climate is unique compared to all other hop growing regions in the world. Most other hop growing regions have a Mediterranean climate with hotter summers, colder winters and almost all other regions rely on irrigation to grow hops. These Mediterranean climates do produce different flavours but they do rely heavily on a natural resource to produce hops which with the climate change forecasts may become harder and harder to justify and to achieve in practice.
So the British climate suits hop growing and our maritime climate tends to produce gentler aromas that produce delicate, complex and deliciously drinkable beers. Beers that you can drink another glass of, that quench your thirst. No wonder we are renowned throughout the world!
It seems that there are always exciting new varieties coming from the states and New Zealand, but what of the UK do we have any coming from here?
Yes, lots. The most recent success from the Wye Hops programme is Endeavour which is a Cascade cross and has wonderful grapefruit citrus aroma but is gentler than US Cascade. On that theme British Cascade is now available and it too is gentler than its American cousin.
There are quite a few brand new varieties that we are assessing very carefully that hopefully will make it through farm trials. And we are revisiting the National Hop Collection to find old varieties that may be of interest to Brewers. The new and old varieties programme is a continual programme, predominantly funded by British Hop growers, run by the British Hop Association through its subsidiary company Wye Hops.
Tell me about the new “Made with British Hops” logo will soon be a familiar sight on beer bottle labels and pump climps?
The “Made with British Hops” logo came about because brewers who had heard talks or seen articles about British Hops got to in contact to ask if there was anything they could use to promote the British Hops in their beer. So we created something. And it was immediately picked up by Hook Norton, Hart Family Brewery, Wye Valley Brewery and many many more brewers. It would be amazing to think that we might see the logo on bottle labels, pump clips and on marketing materials in breweries, pubs and shops around the UK.