Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Kent Hop Update

The bines have reached the top of the strings, 14 feet above the ground, (they'll continue to try to climb upwards for a few weeks yet, inevitably flopping over and growing back down a few feet). The ground is parched and we could do with a little rain to help nutrient uptake during this intensive growing phase (it's on the cards for next week). But this soil is clean, the ground managing to avoid the infections that decimated many Kent gardens in the 30's; verticillium wilt is unheard of round here and will remain so as long as visitors are few and respect the rules (never wear anything you've worn in another hop garden). Aspect is important and these East Kent Goldings are in hopheaven here - south-south-east facing in the south east of England; plenty of ripening sun and relatively long days. The cool on-shore winds have low humidity, keeping disease at bay, but on occasion can carry clouds of spider mite or aphid with them from lord knows where (the poor French often get the blame). It can be strong too, this wind, and that has a tendency to bash the flowers against each other, causing a little unsightly bruising. But all-in-all the terroir is, as ever, mixed: many good points, a few bad. We'll take it though, it's local and it's ours.

Flowers generally start to appear in the third week of July round here and in the first week of August lupulin production begins. Synthesis is almost complete by September but it's the final few days that really count - we need late summer sun shine and warmth to fully ripen the cones and keep 'em fit until harvest. There will be flowers next time I visit, and I'll show you them. And come September, on or about the 12th, we'll pop down early, bag ourselves 20 kilos straight off the picker and rush home to brew 'GADDS' Green Hop Ale'. I love the summer in East Kent.

We brew a lot of beer with the hops grown on this land and they lend a gently astringent bitterness and a humble but cultured floral, citrus aroma. It's unique to us and, for better or for worse, good times or bad, we're wedded to them.


Mark said...

Interesting that you say you use them for bitterness ... how do you work out the alpha acid? Is it a case of having to send them away for testing?

The green hop beer sounds like it'll be pretty special!

Eddie said...

You can guess the alphe by the variety but it isn't accurate - every year there are major surprises. But I'll use last year's for bittering and chuck this lot in late where it makes max flavour, min bittering contribution. The place will smell like an oast.

Mark said...

Right, that makes sense. Yeah, I guess you can have a rough stab at the AA based on the typical range for that variety but that could leave you quite some way off.

Any of this making it into bottles?