Friday 12 March 2021

It's ALL about the hops


Being a brewer in East Kent is a rare, and mighty, privilege – it isn’t just that we’re in the home of British hop growing, where recorded, licenced, cultivation has taken place for 497 years[1] (though this would be cause enough for celebration), it’s more to do with a particular variety of hop that prefers to grow around here above any other place on the planet. We’re talking about Goldings, that noblest, balanced and most magnificent of hops known to brewers. The brick earths running from Faversham, through Canterbury and out towards Sandwich, and the fresh, briny sea breezes coming from the north, east, and south, seem to be the very stuff of life for the Golding, so much so that it yields at twice the rate in East Kent, with a finer, more structured character than anywhere else in the world. In fact, it’s the only hop variety to be so particular about where it grows that it has a Protected Geographic Indicator (PGI) attached to it – if you grow a Golding south of the A249, and east of the M20, you may call it an East Kent Golding, or EKG for short. EKGs are so good at making English pale ales that brewers have been paying a premium for them for a couple of hundred years, hence the PGI: to protect its reputation and the fortunes of our local growers. For the brewer, these hops bring a feisty bitterness and a lemony, slightly perfumed, slightly spicy, and exquisitely balanced character to the beer, quite unlike anything else. This is why the brewers of East Kent are the luckiest of brewers.

Our first beer, brewed in April of 2002, was GADDS’ Number 3 – “a pale ale to speak for modern Kent” as it says on the brew sheet. Great Pedding Farm in Shatterling (on the way to Wingham), is the nearest hop garden to the brewery, and Humphrey has been growing the most easterly of EKGs there all his life. The relationship between the brewery and the hop garden, the brewer and the grower, and the hops and the beer, has grown vigorously and fruitfully for the last two decades, and those hops have become the very bedrock of GADDS’ itself. From this has spawned not only GADDS’ Number 3, but Number 7, Number 5, Green Hop Ale, Seasider, High Tide, Chairman of the Board, Ship of Fools and Blend 17 to name just a few. And, as the years go by, more and more GADDS’ beers are built on these hops and these relationships. As one of the lucky brewers to brew in east Kent, I think I’m probably the luckiest.

Sadly, however, this too will pass, and rather sooner than I wanted or expected. One result of lockdown has been plummeting beer sales, resulting in plummeting hop usage. And since hops are grown seasonally, in advance, the world hop markets are now stuffed to overload, contracts are getting ripped up and prices are teetering on the edge of financial disaster. And all this came barrelling home yesterday with the devasting news that our local hop grower, and dear friend, is shutting down and ‘grubbing out’ his plants. We’re all in a state of shock, and the very soul of our brewery is taking a battering.

As a GADDS’ beer drinker though you need not be overly concerned – we have enough hops from last year to see us through until 2022, and can secure more if needed. We also have decent alternative local growers to go to, so whilst we’ll feel a seismic change at the brewery, in all probability you won’t notice a lot of difference in the beer.

But let’s spend some quality time thinking about the amazing relationships that exist between the land, the weather and the beer in our glass, and all those fabulously rich relationships along the way. And let’s do this the only way we know how, with a glass or two of Humphrey’s beer, GADDS’ Number 3 Premium Kent Pale Ale. It just so happens we have a fresh batch in, so grab this discount code “HERESTOHUMPHREY”, jump in the store ( and fill your basket with the true taste of East Kent.


[1] Brewery History Society 118, pp. 21-26


John H said...

That is v sad news. They're part of the fabric of Kent.

Eddie said...

You're so right.