The Brewers’ Year – Hopping into Spring
At The Grainstore Brewery, we pride ourselves on brewing our ales the traditional way and as such, we’re always in touch with the seasons.
Spring is a time for growing, both professionally and literally for British brewers. We’re busy developing new beers, booking events and creating new menus for 2017 while out in the fields, the hops are being trained for harvest later in the year and the barley is starting to sprout in the fields.
Hops have been used to flavour beer since at least the 9th Century, which is when the first use of them was recorded. They can add bitterness, take bitterness away, add citrus notes or give a beer its rich colour. Germany was the first country to cultivate them and in fact, it is still the biggest grower of hops in the world, producing 34,000 tonnes of flowers and making the UK ’s 1,600 tonnes look small-time.
However, as a small British producer, we like to support other businesses where we can so we’re proud to source all our hops from Kent, which is where most British hops are grown. But, it’s not a case of one hop fits all. There are many varieties of hop and not only do the flavours differ, but so do the colours and names. European brewers who prefer paler ales use Saaz, Hallertau and Strissel Spalt, whereas British brewers favour Fuggles or Goldings for a slightly darker brew.
Can you guess where Columbus, Centennial, Willamette or Amarillo hops come from?
Producing 1,600 tonnes of hops is not bad for a small island, and they’re not a rare sight in this country. The hedgerows are usually packed with hops in the late Summer/early Autumn. If you want to keep an eye out for them, they look a bit like green pine cones …
Traditionally, hops were used in medicine as they can be used as a relaxant, which is why we think people who drink real ales are always a jolly bunch. It was traditionally used as an aid for sleep and people would stuff them into their pillows, but now they’re just used in teas and tintures. To us, hops are a vital ingredient and one of the reasons why we’re able to produce such delicious multi award-winning real ales, so cheers!
If you’d like to know more about our traditional brewing methods, why not book a brewery tour?