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The Adnams Guide to Hop Spotting

By Sarah Groves, also posted in News on

Adnams hops growing in SouthwoldSince we launched our appeal for wild or garden hops growing in East Anglia to help make our new ‘Wild Hop’ beer, we’ve been inundated with hop pledges – thank you! Don’t stop though, as the more hops we receive the more beer we can brew! Here’s a quick guide on hop-spotting for those keen to forage for their own and a few tips on when to pick them.

Spot the hop

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 this brew so exciting, we’ll have a real mix. [caption id="attachment_15093" align="alignright" width="184"]Picture of hops sent in by Paul Chandler Hops pic sent in by Paul Chandler - thanks![/caption] 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, tendril-like ‘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 principal 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. [caption id="attachment_15096" align="alignleft" width="300"]Hops growing at Adnams Sept 2 2014 These hops growing in the Adnams Whisky Dunnage yard are not quite ripe, but should be ready in a few days (pic: 2nd Sept 2014)[/caption] Ripe 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. There’s a good guide to picking hops available on YouTube pointed out to us by Darius – thanks! To pick your hops, just pull them off the bine as you would a plum or an apple, leaving the bine intact. Unless, of course, the hop plant is yours and you’d rather cut the bines down to keep your vigorous climber under control! Once picked, the oils in your hops will quickly begin to oxidise, so bring them to the brewery as soon as you can. Before you begin to pick though, please let our brewer, Belinda Jennings, know by email: We’ll freeze the hops here at the brewery until we have enough to make our brew. All hop donors will receive a bottle once we’ve made our Wild Hop beer in a few week’s time. Thanks to everyone who’s been hunting for hops, and we look forward to welcoming you and your hops into the brewery. You can read more about our search for hops here.


Sarah Groves