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The Adnams Guide to Hop Spotting 2015

By Sarah Groves, also posted in News on

Suffolk-grown hops 2014Spot the hop

We're inviting everyone within reach of our Southwold store to bring us their hop cones for our community beer. There are hundreds of varieties of hop plants. Like grape varieties, each hop variety has its own distinctive aroma, flavour and bitterness. That’s what makes our Wild Hop brew so exciting; thanks to all the hop-pickers from across East Anglia, we'll have a real mix. Hops (Humulus lupulus) are herbaceous perennials that will climb up virtually anything that stands still for long enough. Hop plants can often be found climbing through hedgerows, up garden walls and houses, or through trees, searching for the sun. It’s the female flowers of the hop plant that brewers are interested in. If you see a climbing plant with long, twisting ‘bines’ with dark green vine-like leaves carrying light lime-green, multi-petalled cone-shaped flowers that look vaguely similar to little green and soft pine cones, then you’ve probably spotted a hop plant. Hops are usually dried in Oast houses before brewing, or turned into pellets, but for our Wild Hop beer we’re looking for freshly-picked, green hops.

How to tell if your hops are ripe and ready for brewing

Using the highly scientific ‘three bears principle of porridge’ we need hops that are not too small, green, moist and unripe, or too old, dry and brown – we need them to be just right. Unripe hops are bright lime green and feel soft and moist when you rub the cone between your finger and thumb. If you pull the petals apart, you should be able to see a small amount of bright yellow lupulin and if you rub the cone in your palm it’ll smell 'green' (vegetal) rather than hoppy. If you try and pull the cone from the bine, you’ll come up with some resistance and it will bend rather than break open if bent in half. Mark Dorber and his hops at The Anchor, WalberswickRipe hops will have petals that are more open and the cone will have lost its youthful bright green colour. When rubbed between the finger and thumb you should be able to hear a slight crunch or papery sound indicating that the cones are starting to dry out. Some of the tips of the petals will also begin to darken and brown and the yellow lupulin will be a richer, golden colour and you’ll be able to smell the lovely citrussy resinous hop aromas when the hop is rubbed in your palm. Over-ripe hops turn brown and fall apart in your hand – brown-coloured hops are no good for brewing, so please do not pick these. To pick your hops, just pull them off the bine as you would a plum or an apple, leaving the bine intact. Once picked, the oils in your hops will quickly begin to oxidise, so bring them to the Adnams Southwold store as soon as you can or pop them in a bag in your freezer if there’s room.

A word of caution for cat and dog owners

Please be aware that hops are toxic to both cats and dogs, so please do not let them eat your hops. Cats are unlikely to, but anyone who owns a labrador will know that nothing is out of bounds. If you’ve got any questions about your hops, please email our Brewer, Dan Gooderham. We’ll freeze the hops here at the brewery until we have enough to make our brew. Julie and the Fitzgerald family hop harvest 2014All hop donors will receive a bottle once we’ve made our Wild Hop beer in a few months' time. You can find out more about UK hops on the British Hop Association website We look forward to welcoming you and your hops into the Southwold store between the 5th and the 18th September!  


Sarah Groves