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By Fergus Fitzgerald , also posted in News on 23/04/20
It’s a strange time to be talking about our 2019 Wild Hop beer for a couple of reasons, firstly it’s a very strange time for us all and secondly, it’s arriving much later than normal. We would normally package the beer in October but due to some issues with getting packaging slots this past winter, we had to delay it. So we took all the lovely hops people had picked in September and October last year and froze them until we could brew the beer, we also decided to move it into can and it eventually got it packaged it in late February.
We were then going to launch it in late March but …well you know what happened next.
Wild hop is a beer we first started making in 2014, the idea is simple, if a little chaotic. We ask people to pick hops growing in their gardens or in their fields, or wherever they have permission to pick them and we add them all together. Harvest is generally in September, whenever the hop cones crinkle like tissue paper when you rub them between your fingers.
We always ask that the cones are picked off the bine rather than just cutting off the bine and sending the whole plant to us. This is less about the plant, as the root stock will recover, regrow again and crop again the following year, and more about the space a box of hop bines takes up, and about the many hours spent picking the hops off at the brewery. That said, no donations are refused by our team. We also ask that the hops are picked where the picker knows that no pesticides have been used on them (we do get it tested as well, can’t be too safe). And finally it’s always good to leave some hops on the plant, although bees are usually not interested in the hops, some caterpillar species do like them and the bines and leaves provide a habitat for other insects to hide amongst.
As well as being wild/garden hops, the beer is also what is often called a wet, or green hop beer. Usually to help preserve hops after harvest they are dried in a kiln. This heating process, although controlled, will also change some of the flavours in the hop. For Wild Hop, the hops aren’t dried. Depending on the time between when they are delivered and when we brew with them, we do freeze them, but that still preserves that green hop character.
The reason we first started doing this beer was to celebrate the new harvest and to get people involved in the ingredients and the brewing process, and we’ve been overjoyed that so many people wanted to donate hops. For that reason alone, it's one of my favourite beers. But I also enjoy it for another reason.
For most of our beers we are trying to make the flavour consistent from batch to batch, so you know what you’re going to get when you taste each beer. But the raw materials are different from batch to batch, yeast will react differently due to minute variations in those raw materials and the variations in temperature, oxygen levels and even light intensity will change beers in varying ways. Usually these changes are small, but we spend a lot of time looking for those changes and working out how to control them too.
For this beer we simply take your hops, and let the season shine through. We let go of that, ultimately foolish, belief that we can control everything, concentrate on the bits we can and embrace the unknown. Once the beer is packaged, we have always held a party for our hop pickers to come together and taste what they have helped us brew. We can’t do that right now, so we are sending out a case to our hop pickers to enjoy. If that’s you please send us a picture of you enjoying what you helped create to firstname.lastname@example.org. If that’s not you then maybe get involved later this year when we can celebrate hop harvest for all sorts of new reasons.
Adnams Head Brewer
Wild Hop is avaible online in 330ml cans here
Above are some pictures from our 2014 and 2016 harvest.