Lupilin Love 2009
Looking out of my kitchen window this morning, pondering what I might write, I have the sight of a few bines of Fuggles and other brewing varieties. A normal harvest gives me something approaching 6 lb’s which when dried leave me with under a pound.
Hops are something of a pet subject, a zulu study for me. Ever since meeting Matt Brynildson of the excellent Firestone Walker brewing company (Paso Robles in California), this little interest has got more and more, correct selection for brewing the driver. Watching them grow, or more accurately shocking me how fast they grow, causing havoc in the neighbours garden and the amount of cones that individual plants produce is also fun! Even those that know me take the piss when they see the screen saver on my phone, a load of home grown Challenger from a few years back. So, you can see it’s something of an obsession that I wish I had more time to really have some fun with.
Those who read this blog should remember the little interview-esque thing that put up, with Peter Darby. I haven’t stopped there, I was put in contact with Tony Redsell, one of the premier growers of stock brewers hops in the UK. The short exchange of emails, he told me that he’s growing many of the classic varieties, his Bramling Cross, the tiny coned blackcurrant/citrusy hop that’s a modern-ish cross breed, are especially sort after as well as many of those varieties that many big British breweries have come to love and cherish.
When wandering around the excellent Harvey’s brewery not so long ago, I was able to browse the brewing logs, in comparison, a home brewer would request a Fuggle, a Golding or a cascade, they list the farm/hop yard and then the variety, Redsell’s featuring high on Ian the brewers loves. (If you can find a bottle or two please seek out the amazing Imperial Stout, from this year. Easily identifiable with a crown cap rather than a cork – it’s an incredible beer which as recently been recalled due to overcarbonation issues – please, though, if you do get some store it in the fridge)
Really, I suppose the easiest way to understand why I am spending time on this is the question of, why do Cascade, Centennial and Chinook; Fuggles and Goldings; Halertau and Saaz taste so good together. Are these the hard and fast rules that you have to abide by?
I have, like many of you dear readers bumped into these newer wave brews such as Imperial Pilsner and Belgian IPA’s… brews hopped with Saaz and Chinook and Amarillo, obviously fermented with entirely different yeasts. So, just there we’ve seen the “rules” bent a little, but obviously respecting enough to maintain the flow of flavour and origins maintaining one foot in their respective style camps.
Then when you spend time around the hop-lunatic that is Kelly Ryan of the excellent Thornbridge Brewery, you see all sorts of combinations, that even I go WTF? Sorachi Ace, Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Gem are staples of his portfolio of flavour, all southern hemisphere varieties. These hops are much like the flavours we’ve come to love from the now classic C’hop varietals that come from the Pacific Northwest of Oregon and Washington State, in the US; but they are still different. Sorachi, a Japanese hop cultivated to deliver alpha for the Saporo brewery that has a lemony zing to it or seemingly Stilton depending on how you use them!? Where as Pacific Gem and Nelson Sauvin are bright citrusy hops that many beer aficionados and homebrewers are clamouring over. Although I am sure he’s not adverse to using the quality British varieties too! Looking at Dobber from Marble, they have certainly nailed a good American IPA.
I am fortunate to have an outward looking brewery not to far from my home; the brewery is in Ramsgate in Kent, called Gadd’s of Ramsgate, (of course, available at Beermerchants.com). Eddie, the owner, brewer and chief mischief creator, has been a great source of information and encouragement when it comes to brewing – he’s always been keen to remind me of the beauty of locally grown hops. Yes, we’re fortunate to have some of the best brewing hops in the world grown around us here, this is my backyard. The A2 above Canterbury is banked with hop yards and from what I am lead to believe is that every year in Kent the total acreage is actually increasing every year.
Going back to Eddie, he’s a keen exponent of our classic local hop, Goldings. Which to really pedantic can actually be sub categorised into Canterbury Goldings, Petham Goldings and many other sub categories. Getting right back on track, the Golding is a heavily used hop in the Ramsgate brewery, as well as Fuggles: I am sure that the many fans of Eddies’ beers will be greatful that he uses so much.
I know that one of the best beers that I have ever tasted made from these hops was actually in Chicago, at the Goose Island Brew Pub, called Summer Ale. It was on 5% golden amber, malty but not cloying, and dry hopped with what they called East Kent Goldings, it was bally lovely! The speed that it sold, I only got two pints of it…Why oh why I couldn’t get a pint like that here…!?
According to local news “The combination of rain and sun which has hit the county this summer has meant the coming hop harvest is set to be one of the best in decades“- exciting stuff!
I have heard very effervescent comment against the use of C’hops, where my only repost was to walk away, scream and repair the wound from banging my head on the brick wall. Then again, there are those that expressly say that English hops are boring, some of the new varieties are too showy?! The way I have come to look at it is that it’s almost like a pallet of colour for a painter, could you paint with out green, or red? The limited time that I get to spend brewing, I really wish I could spend more time tinkering, but I for one know that the true artisanship of brewing will only benefit from any new varieties; I for one am very interested in the newer English varieties that are listed on the Charles Faram Catalogue. (a recent brew with First Gold all pale malt grist was tasty, which was brewed solely for research, of course)
Interesting English Varieties
ADMIRAL 13-16%.High Alpha, alternative to Target, less harsh but pleasant hoppy character.
HILARY 9 – 10.5%Robust full and rounded with refreshing spicy aroma
HERALD 9 – 13%Less harsh alternative to Target, mild grapefruit/citrus aroma
JAYNE 8 – 10%Untried Aphid resistant variety
JEANETTE 6%Delicate, clean and refreshing, slightly floral
JENNY 9.8%Aniseed/liquorice combine in a well balanced hop.
JOAN 9.8%Powerful and fruity lovely citrus notes with a hint of liquorice. Naturally seedless
PILOT 11 – 12%Very new high alpha variety
PINA 10.0%Traditional WGV type with hints of lavender. Very low co-humulone.
SUSAN 9%Fresh flowers with hints of lemon spices clean and aromatic
PIONEER 7 – 11%Unusual pleasant lemon/grapefruit citrus aroma distinctively hoppy
FIRST GOLD 6 – 10%Well balanced bitterness with fruity, slightly spicy and orangy/citrus notes
taken from Charles Faram’s Website
These little green nuggets of gold get the mental juices flowing, I wonder what Jenny would be like in a stout/porter type brew. Pioneer, First Gold, Herald and Susan in an IPA? I just wish that they’d named them with slightly different names, hardly sexy, they sound like a bunch of Womens Institute folk?! Jam and Jerusalem anyone? Perhaps we could name hops after our famous Royal Naval Ships… Imagine a nice big brassy IPA to UK styling, properly, hopped with Invincible, Intrepid and Victory; perhaps Single Hop Victory Pale Ale… Perhaps it’s my silly ideas it’s just a mater of establishing those names at the forefront of people’s minds, rather than the somewhat “Victoria sponge cake” named. I know I have spoken to Peter Darby as to how he’s named his varieties, he works through the alphabet, perhaps consult this excellent list of names (I think Vanguard is a hop though.)
The American craft beers that we’ve come to love and cause me to head there often have come to such plaudit with their advocacy of big bold brassy hops. Funny when you read heirloom brewing books, they often refered to the cattiness of American hops, funny how far they have come… perhaps, only perhaps the same could be hoped of our hops!
Looking at Admiral, not to long ago, the Reluctant Scooper and I, with another friend opened a bottle of something that was brewed in the US with this said hop. It was intended to be an Oaked English Style IPA (something of an inspiration for this brew at Triple Rock, with GABF Gold Winner and Hop addict Rodger Davis). The original was a great beer and certainly caused Mr Reluctant to get a fluster, memorably blurting out, perhaps in a suggestive tone, that why aren’t British Brewers trying this? I think somewhere in the dim distant past I remember that Adnams brewed an Admiral hopped ale, it was a raspy number. I also have been and picked a load of these very aromatic hops. I recall that they were very scratchy, I do wonder if there is a correlation between that and what they offer to the drinker. Talking of Adnams, I am very impressed with their Innovation, one beer that I will be seeking out again; talking of big brewers making interesting beers, I know Shepherd Neame can brew exciting innovative styled beers -
Drinkability – there was a brewer locally to where I grew up, who was very keen to impress on me Drinkabilty, just how many pints you can drink in a sitting without forcing it down you. I am sure you can re-read that sentence a million ways and our dear drinking police will have raised one eyebrow, whatever. If you have read Garret Olivers fine book, the Brewmasters Table, he talks about the 4 pint rule. A sign of a great drinking beer is that you can drink 4pints with little or no interuption in thought or conversation. I like… A recent conversation with Dave Mclean, a staunch English Ale fan, who’s Magnolia brewery and restaurant in the Upper Haight in San Francisco is one now growing number of places that you can cask ale in the US, his excellent Branthill series a clear homage to the UK brewing scene, going out of the way to source micro-parcels of malt, as would a fine wine maker source parcels of grape. His menu highlights an interest set of numbers, I presume from Ray Daniels excellent book Designing Great Beers, that there are little ratio’s you can work on to show that a beer is hop forward or malt forward, or perfectly balanced. I have been using this numerical ratio for many years to best identify balance in any beer that I have been afforded time and brew space to create. Believe me, it works! So, beers can be hoppy, and really drinkable, it’s just a matter of how you use them, not just a matter of buying a big back’o'US hops and making whoopie… there is method in the madness…
I am going to carry on down this road, I am currently reading up about Humulone and Co-humulone levels, and their effect/drivers of bitterness.
I have started looking at different Malts, the Weyermann, Dingeman and more local Maltsters as to what they offer the brewer in altering their malt profile or better still hitting styles accurately.
Enough! it’s friday… I need a beer!
Have a great weekend…