M A I N S
he edible flower market may be blossoming (ahem), but it would be a huge oversight to forget the original form of culinary flower power: the hop. Okay, it may not be as pretty as a few rose petals floating on a Martini, or as colourful as nasturtiums peppered over a plate of food, but it’s been working bloomin’ (these gags are just writing themselves) hard behind the scenes at breweries for thousands of years. The hop is the cone-shaped flower of the hop plant, and is one of the core ingredients of beer – alongside barley, yeast and water. Hops are stripped from the bine (the climbing vine-like stem from which they grow) at the very end of summer – meaning we’ve just seen the hop harvest here in the UK. The majority of these fresh hops will be dried in a kiln ( just like the pottery projects of schoolchildren) and then can be pelleted, stored and used all year round to create beers. These dried hops are added at the ‘boil’ stage of the brewing process, releasing their flavour into a lovely beery jacuzzi. They’re an integral part of the beer making process; hops provide the ‘body’ of the beer and that unmistakable bitterness. Beers jam-packed with hops – such as Indian pale ales – have strong, distinctive flavours and, right now, are more popular than ever. Why? Perhaps it was the rude awakening from decades British hops are becoming of fizzy lager that this lovely hoppiness gave us, more popular; smacking us in the chops and inspiring the craft especially with beer movement... the emergence With this strong hoppiness often comes of new strains, citrus or tropical notes, which can overshadow like the ones Moor Beer have other flavours in the beer. These big flavours been working on are common in hops from New Zealand and the United States, where the climates produce a potent crop. The provenance of beer ingredients can often be overlooked – the product is seen to originate from the place it is brewed – but our penchant for New World hops is meaning that import levels are higher than ever. That said, we’re seeing a resurgence in British hops too – led by breweries like Moor Beer in Bristol. Moor have been experimenting with native hops for a number of years, creating new strains that are more powerful than any previously. As well as helping to kick off the unfined beer movement in the UK, Moor worked with hop merchant Charles Faram on a hop development called Jester. This was an entirely new strain of hop that was created to try and impart a stronger flavour to beers, and create something closer to the New World varieties that are so popular. Moor were the first to use this turbocharged English hop in a beer fittingly titled Return of the Empire. Another beer, called JJJ, is also in the works, with this second iteration promising to be even better than the first. (As it happens, another local brewery, Wiper and True, has also just launched a new beer brewed with entirely British ingredients – check out Yorkshire Square on p18.)
Hops don’t have to be dried, though – and herein lies our reason for this timely litte foray into the world of this crop. In fact, some of this year’s harvest is bypassing the kiln altogether, as Moor take on a brewing project involving fresh hops, in order to create a unique bew for this month’s Bristol Beer Week (14-21 October).
Published on Sep 29, 2017