Monday, 24 September 2012
Apples and Hops
Following on from the Gala orchard we looked at one of the hop fields. there are only 50 hop growers left in the UK, mainly in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Kent. The plants are grown over the framework of wires and posts. These annual plants have a life cycle of about 25 years. The hop plants are manually strung in April and then need constant training up the wires until they get established. High winds can blow them off the wires and so the process needs to be repeated! The hops are usually ready to harvest in August and different varieties are grown for different aroma's and alpha acids. The aroma is what gives flavour to the beer and British varieties (there are over 20), are becoming more and more popular with small micro-brewery's, specialising in niche markets rather then mass produced beers. The strung system of growing hops is very labour intensive with up to 14 people being involved in the harvest. Each of the bines are cut down and laid on on a trailer before being taken back to the farm where the hops are removed form the vine and dried in a kiln, before being packaged up in sacks, once called pockets.