Out here in East Kent the hop harvest is due to begin on Tuesday: the bines are cut down and schlepped to the picking shed by trailer where they're hoisted on a rail and dragged through a series of nasty, dangerous agricultural cutters and thrashers. Two pairs of human hands remove the last remaining leaves and strigs from the final conveyor before it discharges it's sticky, pungent load into a high sided trailer. These gorgeous, bright green hop cones are hauled over to the oast and tipped into 10 foot high wooden bins, craftily manufactured to allow hot air from great gas burners to rise up through the bed of flowers within. The high moisture content (80%) needs to be reduced (10%) to avoid moulds growing during storage and it's the oasties responsibility to judge this, switch the burners off and begin discharging the hops to the pressing machine, where they're forced into tightly packed pockets or bales. After analysis and repacking into handy, vacuum packed mini-bales we finally get our hands on them around the end of November.
|From Hop Gardens
But this year we're trying something different. Next Friday morning, at sunrise, Skinny and I will head out to the hop gardens with a very large sack. Our mission is to intercept the East Kent Goldings before they're sent to the drying bins; we want 50kg of bright green, tacky and highly aromatic hoppy goodness to brew a gorgeously fresh beer with that very same day. It's our own little harvest celebration.
More on that adventure later, when I have a recipe.