Two years ago I entered a room dripping with the most memorable aroma in all my experience of beer (and brewing as an industry doesn’t lack memorable aromas both good or bad).
We had been invited by Ali Capper of the British Hop Association, on a tour of her farm in Worcestershire and our senses had already been overwhelmed, incrementally, walking through the unharvested hop gardens, past the harvesting crew on their tractor trailer and into the processing barn, where bines were attached to the ancient, but still very effective hop separating machine. This locally built wonder is a cast iron maze of hooks, shakers and conveyor belts which took up all the space in the building and made just about as much noise as a jet engine or two.
Ali guided our group around all the stages, following the bines as they were stripped we climbed up and around the machinery, seeing individual hop cones magically rolling over separated leaves and stems until we were led over the gangway and into the drying room.
Describing the smell in that room is a futile exercise but I will try to give you an idea. As beer drinkers you will already be aware of ‘hoppy’ but add on top of that the smell of freshly cut grass and multiply by warm air pumped up and through these giant hoppers loaded with tonnes of freshly harvested green gold.
The initial thought, as a brewer, that sprung to my mind, was that all of the wonderful and volatile aromatics were heading straight out of the vents at the top of the room never to be enjoyed by anyone else.
Well there is one time of year when brewers get to try and capture this elusive flavour and on the 2nd Sunday of September members of the Stroud Brewery hop club come together to get our hops harvested and into the beer as quickly as possible.
This annual event has now become a test of our organisation and hop picking speed. Hop club members start to arrive as we mash in and the clock is ticking to get every last cone picked before tipping the whole pile into the boil for the final five minutes (boiling for any longer would only diminish those fresh flavours).
It was a gargantuan effort this year from our hop clubbers and we managed to pile in just over 69kg of fresh green (probably Fuggles but might be Goldings cob). We have fermented it at a relatively cold 19 degC to reduce the volativity of fermentation and was racked after 10 days.
I haven’t tasted the finished beer yet but the gradual development from samples during has given me a good indication of how it will taste. It definitely has a strong and woody bitterness to it but that freshness and ‘greenness’ has stuck with it throughout the fermentation. Upon racking the foam looked noticeably thick which bodes well for mouth fullness. As we haven’t used any non barley malts such as Oats or Wheat all of these foam positive elements will have come directly from the hops.
I really can’t wait for my first pint of Brewer’s Garden 2017. Richard (Brewer)
If you’re interested in trying more green hopped beers then the Teme Valley Brewery have an annual beer festival dedicated to fresh hopped beers at their pub, The Talbot, Worcs, at the end of September every year. Click here for more details