The Current State of the Hops Industry

Note: This was written live as the presentation was happening and posted as soon as it finished so I apologise for any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

Paul Corbett, Managing Director of Charles Faram, Charles Faram have been merchants of hops for over 100 years and sell over 50 varieties in the UK.

The hop plant, perennial plant, root stays in the ground and grows again in the spring, has a huge tap root that goes down as deep as two and a half metres. There are male and female plants, common perception that seeded hops reduce the foam on the top of the beer, but this is to be proven.

Cross-section of the hop cone, be careful that they dont over-press the hop cones as that would release the oils from the lupus in glands.

Hops used to be hand-picked, peak production level was in 1878 at 71,789 acres. Families would go hop picking as a holiday, Londoners to Kent, black country and south Wales.

Just four hop merchants left in the UK.

Recent developments have been in the introduction of hedgerow (dwarf) hops which were introduced in 1997.

Original varieties were First Gold, Pioneer & Herald.

Each variety is kept true to type by cloning (cuttings from the original). Each seed would produce a new variety.

  • January/February - weed control
  • March/April - stringing, putting up nets to allow plenty of growth area for the hops
  • March/April - training, trim off the extra shoots
  • June-August - weeds and pest control: aphid & caterpillars, red spider mite, downy & powdery mildew, unable to control verticillium wilt
  • September - harvesting
Hops arrive at the picking machine, hang the binds onto the bind track which enters the machine. Hops are combed off the plant leaving the hop cones and a few leaves. Special conveyor belts are used to catch the leaves as the hops just roll down but the leaves stick to the ramped belts.

Hops are then dried to preserve them otherwise they would rot. Must be dried down to around 10-12% moisture levels otherwise they would still rot.

Once dried they are baled into pockets and bales.

Every ten bales are sampled to ensure that they have the correct moisture levels, checking colours for when the hop was picked, ranging from green to brown.

Placed into storage between 3-7degC. They can spontaneously combust if they are not dried correctly, a compost-like action can occur building up heat which in turn can ignite the hop oil!

Hops grow between 35-55 degrees latitude, due to daylight lengths as hops are a very fussy plant. If they are grown too tightly together they won't form cones so lots of consideration is given to maximise daylight on the leaves of the plant.

Germany (18k hectares) is the largest hop producer in the world with the USA (12k).

  • Germany - varieties breed for noble flavour and aroma, newer versions have much more intense flavours
  • USA - Washington, Oregon & Idaho are the main growing regions. Varieties grown for both noble flavour and intensity
  • Slovenia - Savinja Valley & Smartno regions. Varieties produce unique Slovinian flavour of Styrian Golding hops
  • New Zealand - Motueka Valley, Riwaka, Wai-iti regions. Nelson Sauvin named after the wine grape due to its gooseberry flavours
  • UK - Kent, Hereford, Worcester are the main hop regions. Mild summers and winters mean the hops are a little more balanced in bitterness and aroma than the other countries. Might be bringing back some 1950s varieties which have some avert big intense flavours and aromas

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