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Green Man (2014) Pumpclip

 

On Wednesday 3rd September 2014 the 8 Sail Brewery brewers, Tony and Steve, and Dave (our local CAMRA representative) visited the hop farm of Julia and Martin Powell-Tuck for the 'Hop Walk 2014' (courtesy of Charles Faram & Co. Ltd.). Pridewood Farm is situated in Herefordshire near the village of Ashperton.

Hops are a perennial crop and the plants grow back from the rootstock every year. The “stringing” of tall hopyards starts in March and natural Coir string is used to create the framework for the hops to climb, supported by the permanent structure of the poles and wirework. The stringing is done by hand with the aid of a long pole called a “monkey” and is taken from the permanent “peg” in the ground up to the hooks on the top wirework above, up to 6 metres off the ground.  

  Pridewood Farm
Harvesting the hops

 

 

 


The hop shoots grow in the spring and by July the plants are fully grown - the tall hops will reach the top of the lines, some 5 to 6 metres in height. The hop shoots grow very rapidly, the bines wrapping clockwise around anything within reach, and at the peak of growth can grow 20 to 50 centimetres per week.

In late July/early August the plants come into “burr” and 3 weeks later they come into hop. Harvesting begins in the first week of September and hop picking tends to take 4-5 weeks to complete.

On this years visit Goldings hops were being harvested. Goldings are a traditional and very popular English aroma hop first grown in Kent around 1790. A tall hop, they tend to have a smooth, sweet flavour.

The harvesting team cut the hop bine, top and bottom, and the whole bine, including string, is then taken by trailer to the barn to be loaded onto the hop picking machine.

 
Loading the hop picking machine
 

Once at the barn the hop bines are loaded into the hop picking machine which separates the hops from the bine, laterals and leaf.

Originally hops were picked by hand and each hop flower was taken off the bine and put into a 'bin'. This process required hundreds of hop pickers and casual workers from the cities would travel out to the hop fields each September. However, the introduction of hop picking machines, in the 1950s, rendered the hop pickers redundant.

  Hop Picking Machine
 

Once clean of leaf, the hops are distributed into 'baskets' and put into the hop kiln or oast to dry. Pridewood Farm uses a modern kiln rather than a traditional oast house. Modern kilns bear little resemblance to traditional oasts.

The hops are dried to reduce their moisture content. Hops contain over 80% moisture when picked and in order to make them store, this is reduced to 6%, although the moisture content would subsequently rise to 10% during storage. Drying is arguably the most important aspect of hop farming.


  The Kiln
 
Hop Pocket  
After drying the hops are spread out on the stowage floor to cool, and then pressed into large jute sacks, called pockets, with a hop press. Each pocket is stenciled with the growers details, a requirement under The Hop (Prevention of Fraud) Act, 1866, and shipped to the hop merchants. The hop merchants vacuum pack the hops for storage so the hops are available to brewers throughout the year.  
 

The hops usually used in brewing are the dried, vacuum packed hops available from hop merchants. However, on the day of the 'Hop Walk' we were given the opportunity to purchase 'green' hops' fresh from the bine - after passing through the hop picking machine and prior to entering the kiln. 'Green hops' are only available during the hop harvest and have a characteristic fresh taste because the hops still contain many of the oils that are normally lost when hops are dried. To brew with 'green hops' the brewer has to use 5-8 times the amount of hops and the hops must be used within 24 hours of being picked.

Our 'Green Man' Harvest Ale was brewed on Thursday 4th September 2014 using the fresh 'green hops' for flavour and aroma.

 
The Green Hops
 

 Adding the hops
Tony adding the 'green' Golding hops to the boil.

 
Kettle
The hops in the kettle.

British Hops logo

Report on the HOP WALK 2013

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