At long last, hops are back in fashion. After decades of struggle to find a good beer with more than the gentlest tickle of bitter hop essence, brewers can’t get enough of them. And, as with most beer trends, it’s America that has led the way with super-hopped IPAs, or their own A(for American)PAs.
Back in the UK, the heady hunt for hop-packing glory has led to a scramble for the newest, hoppiest varieties shipped in from America (and, increasingly, New Zealand). Even beer drinkers can occasionally be heard mumbling names such as ‘Citra’, ‘Cascade’ and ‘Nelson Sauvin‘ as they become familiar with these fashionable hops. But what about British varieties. What has become our own, native hops?
The British Hop Association is one organisation looking to give our home grown hops a helping hand. As the organisation’s Ali Capper tells us “The British Hop Association represents all UK hop growers and is working hard to raise the profile of British Hops and remind brewers of all the reasons that British hop varieties should be at the core of their raw ingredient repertoire.”
Traditional varieties such as ‘Fuggle’ and ‘Goldings’ may not have been familiar names to a regular beer drinker, but in years gone by they ruled the hop roost. And with new varieties being constantly developed the range of hops on offer is every bit as good as can be found in the newer brewing regions of the world.
And the reason Ali thinks British hops are so special? “Our maritime climate. No other hop growing region in the world has the same climate, most have much warmer summers and much colder winters. This together with our wonderful soils creates a unique ‘terroir’ that produces hops with wonderful, delicate and complex aromas. And these aromas produce highly drinkable and well balanced beers.”
To help boost the hop’s profile, the British Hop Association are hoping to make varieties more recognisable to drinkers. As Ali explains “British Hop growers would like to see every brewer support the home grown hop crop and name the hop varieties in every beer produced. After all a wine drinker chooses a wine because of the grape not the colour. They don’t buy a white wine, they buy a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio. We’d like to see the name of the British hop varieties on every beer so that beer drinkers learn to associate each British hop with its flavour attributes”.
To help promote this idea futher they’ve brought out a ‘Brewed with British Hops’ logo to support their campaign “There are a lot of beers that use British Hops. But we would like to see them all proudly using the ‘Brewed with British Hops’ logo”. So next time you’re in the market for a hoppy brew, check the label and see if it features one of our own, great British hops.
Our five favourite British hops
Goldings: There are few beer styles that won’t benefit from a burst of this quintessential English hop. Can be used to provide bitter flavours or aromas.
Fuggle: Disease has caused this Kent classic to become less common in recent years, but hopes are high for a resistant strain set for release in 2015.
Target: Ram packed with aroma and spicy, citrusy flavours that are the current hop vogue.
Bramling Cross: This variety was unveiled in 1927 as a cross between the English ‘Bramling’ hop and a Canadian variety, ‘Manitoban’. Similar in style to the trendiest of American hops.
Sovereign (pictured): Released in 2006 and an instant hit. Its complex floral aromas make it a popular choice for single hop beers
For more information visit www.britishhops.org.uk