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Adnams Wild Hop - a community collaboration beer

By Fergus Fitzgerald, also posted in News on

The response to our wild hop appeal has been far beyond what we imagined when we first suggested doing it. The original idea actually came about from a comment made several years back by the now late Robert Palmer, our former racking team leader. He loved the countryside and spent many hours walking through the fields of Southwold and beyond. After one of his trips he mentioned that there were a lot of wild hops growing locally and we should do something with them. Nice idea I thought, then went back to paying invoices or placing an order for labels or some such thing. Then this year we thought about doing a green hop beer - this is a beer using the newly harvested, fresh hops, rather than the dried hops we use throughout the rest of the year. There is only one harvest a year so only one chance to brew this type of beer. The fresh, wet hops contain all the oils from the hops so add something extra compared to the dried hops, which will lose some aroma when they are being dried. There aren't any hops grown commercially in Suffolk or Norfolk and for me part of the romance of green hop beers comes from using locally grown hops. Then Robert's comment popped back into my head. [caption id="attachment_15351" align="alignright" width="300"]Adnams Wild Hop gatherers gathering 2014 Adnams Wild Hop gatherers gathering, October 2014[/caption] It was just going to be a small volume beer, we'd pick some hops locally, we'd ask for help from other people to pick some too. A few of us had hops growing in our gardens, it would be a struggle but we'd get enough to brew a small batch. Then Emma Hibbert, our Corporate Affairs Manager, sent a press release asking for the hops, then Radio Suffolk ran a piece on it, followed by BBC Look East and before we knew where we were the letters and emails started arriving. As we got to harvest time the hops started arriving, by the carrier bag, by the bucket, by the storage box, by the hessian sack, by the bin bag, by the builders bag, and even by envelope, they came in. Fergus sports a hop garland picked from the Kings Head at LaxfieldSome were delivered in person to Margaret in reception, some to our stores and some came back on the drays from the pubs. We picked hops growing outside our whisky store, we picked hops from Southwold allotments, we picked hops from the Kings Head in Laxfield and I picked hops with my family, along with a few blackberries for sustenance. I don't want to get too sentimental but it has really been a great experience. We learnt a few things along the way. We learnt that the best wild hops always climb to the top of a tree and are to be found surrounded by nettles and thorns. We learnt that if you advise people to wear gloves when picking hops you should follow your own advice. We learnt that people genuinely care about what we do and want to be involved in it. We learnt that finding wild hop plants in May is next to impossible, but come September, when the cones are out , it's almost impossible to stop finding them once you've spotted the first one. Some of our hop gatherers for Adnams Wild Hop Amber BeerSo what about the beer? Well I'm not going to suggest I'm impartial, I was slightly in love with this beer before it was even brewed. It tastes fresh, lots of grass and spice on the aroma, earthy and spicy and crisp on the palate. Mark Dorber from The Anchor in Walberswick contributed a huge amount of the hops in the brew, so I gave him a sneak preview. He described it as having a very English taste, which I guess is the point, or more specifically it has a very Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge and Essex taste. So many, many thanks to the hop pickers and foragers,  I hope we repeat it next September and you come back again, with all your hops of course. Thanks to everyone who came to our 'Hop Gathers Gathering' at the Sole Bay Inn on Wednesday 28th October to share a pint of our Wild Hop beer with the team - cheers! You can view pictures from the evening on Flickr. The Hop Pickers: Ed Self, John Wolton, Peter Fizz, P T Kidner, Peter and Anita Broome, Stephen, Stanley Little, Stephen Girling, Derek Kett, Margaret Hall, David Nott, Adam Walker, Miss L Petch, Darius Laws, Tony Green, Oli Watts, Pat Knights, Tony Redman, Catherine Bain, Mark Dorber, Ed Razzell, Laxfield LowhouseJim Wilson, Mrs Grims, Ruth Goldsmith, Sarah Groves, Maggie Jennings, Emma Hibbert, Ben Orchard, Mrs Grange, Stuart Evans, John Witney, Bob Wilson, Clive Stonebridge, Richard Hall, Bob Arnott, Steve Gray, Clive Stonebridge, Antony Georgi, Bernard Segrave Daly, Dave Bryan, K B Hill and Sarah Fisk. Thank you. Adnams Wild Hop is available now in cask in selected outlets, and will be available in 330ml bottles in store and online from Saturday 1st November 2014.  

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Fergus Fitzgerald

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