Range Ales Brewery

Month: August 2017

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Green Hop

Why a green hopped beer? (the story so far)

June 2017

The story begin in early June 2017 when Jon, from Canterbury Brewers and Distillers send us an email asking if we would be interested in taking part in the green hopped beer competition at the beginning of the green Hop Beer festival fortnight at the end of September. To be honest we had dabbled with green hops at the end of the picking season last year, it was only a test run and it had turned out to be a disaster.  So we had no firm plans for this season, but we were always open to ideas or suggestions.  For the next three weeks David and Jim thought about the possibility of green hopping a beer, how this could be achieved and what sort of reception it would likely have from the usual outlets. (Lets face it, a green hop beer is a specialty beer and not really something one should lead with when cultivating new customers)

We finally jumped on the band wagon in early July and Jim started the research into hops, producers and processes for green hopping a beer.

In the mean time Jon produced this years green hop beer map for the festival.  The website for the festival is here https://kentgreenhopbeer.com/

August 2017

At the beginning of August Jim got in contact with Christopher Nicholas, the chap in charge at Sandhurst Vineyards and hop gardens and they started chatting about green hopped beer, the availability of hops and when harvesting would be.  Christopher was very enthusiastic about his hop Epic, as it was a very good crop this year and the harvest was on schedule to be a bumper one.  Jim hadn’t heard of or used Epic before but took the chance and agreed to have ten kilos of the hops wet.  Christopher thought that the harvest would be during the first week in September and so all was left fine and dandy.

Epic Hop research

Jim then went about finding out what he could about Epic:

Found in 1987 as a chance seedling in a hedge adjacent to a hop field at Bourne Farm, Sandhurst, Kent by Chris Nicholas. The field, although growing ‘Wye Target’ at the time, had previously grown ‘Alliance’ and the oil composition of ‘Epic’ strongly suggests that it is a seedling of ‘Alliance’.

This grower selection was grown as an ornamental garden plant until 2004 when it was propagated to give a small trial area. A consistently good yield has encouraged the planting of a larger commercial area during the winter of 2014-15.

Brilliant, just what we were looking for.  A unique hop, grown locally that probably not a lot of people would be using, at least to green hop a beer.  Slight problem was that the Alpha acid is only 3.5 to 4%!  Bother thought Jim. Then he ran the calculations for the proposed brew through the brewing software and treble checked the calculations by hand. The phrase, ” we’re gonna need a bigger sack” sprung to mind.  So we reordered our hops and upped the order from 10kg to 50kg.

Artwork

Emma at Gempro Designs was asked if she could come up with a few ideas for the pumpclip and a cask end for the green hop beer which David had named “Special ‘Ops”.  The end results were, as usual quite stunning.

 

Harvest

Over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August Jim noticed a tweet from Nicola, Christopher’s wife and manager at the vine yard and hop gardens, which outlined that due to the very good weather we have had this year the hops are in top shape.  But given the bumper crop and the localised weather some of the hop gardens had dropped, under the sheer weight of the crop and the high winds.  Jim contacted Nicola and found out the Epic was one of the hops that were now being harvested, the time window for the green hops was closing fast, so arrangements were made for Jim to attend and collect the wet hops on Tuesday 29th August.  The photos of this can be seen here.

Nicola took Jim down to the where Epic was in the process of being harvested and as you can see from these images

 

 

 

The hops have sunk down from their trellis and are very nearly gone.

 

 

 

 

Following that Nicola very kindly took Jim for a guided tour of the oast house, where the Epic hops were currently being stripped, dried and processed ready for onward shipment to Charles Faram hop merchants.

Two Hop pockets of Epic, a total of 50kg had been taken out after the stripping off the bine stage and were awaiting Jim at the end of his tour.  These would have to be in the brew within 24hrs.  The clock was ticking

 

 

Once back at the brewery, it’s only a 40 minute twisty drive through the Kent Countryside and Jim only had to stop twice for tractors, Epic was housed safely overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mash was in and we were underway before 0730hrs the next morning.  Jim had opted for a slightly higher than normal start gravity for this brew due to the high water content of the green hops. Fingers crossed this would even out to the target gravity in the brew kettle.  The target being 1.045

 

 

 

 

 

The sparge and transfer went without incident…

 

 

 

 

 

 

….and whilst this was happening Jim got the yeast underway.  We used an English Ale yeast which has a fairly high flocculation and tends to leave a clean tasting beer.  With a 5 litre sugar starter the yeast was soon trying to climb it’s way out of the brew bucket!

 

 

 

And so to the hops.  These were sorted through, weighed and placed into buckets ready for the brew kettle.

Following the hop additions the brew was transferred into one of our fermenters and the gravity taken before any yeast was pitched.  it seems Jim’s calculation proved to be correct again and the original brewing gravity was achieved.  The yeast was pitched and left to do it’s thing.

Twenty hours after pitching the yeast it was bubbling along nicely and frankly the smell was amazingly good.

Four days later the yeast had just about finished doing it’s magic, a wee sample was dropped out of the fermenter and tasted, the verdict was WOW!

It’s still quite yeastie, as one would expect at this stage, the aroma is quite floral and the taste is one of Lemon Zest.  It really is quite a flavour burst at the moment. Certainly very hoppy, but this should calm down a bit during the next few weeks of conditioning.  And true to form the Epic hop has given a very mild smooth bittering balance to the malts.  This should drop crystal clear in the glass and smell devine.

Now it’s a case of waiting to see what the end result is going to be like.

 

 

The End Result

The afternoon of Thursday the 14th September 2017, Jim took a sample of the green hop ale from the test barrel.

It looked pretty good, smells clean and fresh with hints of Lemon grove and tastes like kiwi fruit over lemon juice.  A smooth bittering makes for easy drinking with a slight dry after taste on the palate.  Very Moorish.

The Green Hop Festival in Canterbury

 

The green hop festival in Canterbury got underway on Friday 22nd September 2017 as scheduled.

And in the strong beer category Special Ops took second place.

Not bad for a first proper attempt at a Green Hop beer.

 

 

 

 

 

So with the lessons learned this year and the systems all in place, who knows what will happen.  We shall just have to wait and see……..